The date of Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941 - is etched into collective memory in America. It is less widely remembered that the Japanese had other targets in their sights on that day of infamy. Within hours of the devastating bombing of the US fleet in Hawaii, Japan attacked targets in the Philippines, Malaya - and Hong Kong. The British colony on the edge of China awoke on the morning of December 8 (across the date line from Hawaii) to the sound of Japanese planes bombing Kai Tak airport. The aerial attack was quickly followed by a ground invasion across Hong Kong's border with mainland China.
My father, Max Oxford, was an air intelligence officer working out of Hong Kong's emergency battle headquarters - a rabbit's warren of underground bunkers known as the Battle Box. 'Of course it was hopeless from the start', he wrote of the battle which Hong Kong fought with determination, but no hope of reinforcements from Britain or its allies. Thousands of civilians and soldiers perished but the colony held out until Christmas Day, when the Governor Mark Young accepted his commander's advice that 'no further military resistance was possible' and surrendered to the Japanese invaders.