On 8 December 1941, shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, Japanese landings began in northern Malaya and southern Thailand. As a major resource of tin and rubber, Malaya was a key target, along with the British jewel of Singapore. The Japanese advanced quickly down the east and west coasts of Malaya, seizing British strongholds and outwitting the Allies by moving faster than expected on bicycles. HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse were sunk, more troops landed and airbases were established. As the Japanese rapidly advanced south, the Allies were pushed back. On 15 January 1942, they received the official order to retreat to Singapore, allowing for a final Japanese advance. Singapore, under Japanese attack from 1 February, fell on 13 February; over 80,000 British and Commonwealth troops spent the war in captivity. The Allied focus on Singapore had proved fatal and, with the Japanese benefitting from air, sea and land superiority, Malaya was captured in just 54 days.
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