Ohwa! Tana! Siam!
During the playtest of Great
Pacific War in 2002 and early 2003,
one unit quickly became our favorite: the
Siamese Navy. We like to include exotic game
pieces in our historical games, and Yul Brynner’s
fleet is one of the most unusual.
Siam had avoided foreign colonial rule during
the 19th century, and as war drew near in
the 1930s nationalists were determined to
not only avoid this fate, but to re-gain the
provinces lost to foreign control. Britain
had seized several along the southern border,
adding them to Malaya, but Thai hatred focused
primarily on the French.
Siam’s maximum leader
Siam’s King Pradjadhipok abdicated
in 1935 in the face of popular revolution,
giving way to a regency council led by Col.
Luang Phibul Songkhram. Songkhram, a nationalist
dictator in the East European manner, directed
his countrymen’s rage on the French
colonialists next door in Indochina, and demanded
a feverish pace of modernization to prepare
Siam for a war of revenge.
defeated France in June 1940, the Siamese
saw their opportunity. Siam began making territorial
demands on the Vichy colonial government in
Hanoi. With a defiance fueled more by racial
arrogance than military confidence, the French
rejected the claims. On 20 October 1940, Songkhram
The Siamese Army of 1940 that went to war
with Vichy France numbered six infantry divisions,
plus one armored and three cavalry regiments.
The divisions had three infantry regiments
each and between one and three artillery battalions.
French and Japanese military missions had
assisted in training, and the Siamese had
purchased a variety of fairly modern equipment:
Vickers 6-ton tanks, Krupp and Bofors artillery,
Mauser rifles, and Madsen and Browning machine
The Navy was built around two armored coast
defense ships, with two more armored gunboats
and a number of small torpedo boats. Four
small submarines had also been acquired. A
major naval buildup began in 1938, with four
more submarines ordered from Japanese yards
and two cruisers in Italy.
sailors take delivery
of the coastal battleship Sri Ayuthia
in Kobe, Japan, 1938
The Army advanced into French-ruled Cambodia
and won a meeting engagement at Battembang
on 16 January 1941. But the next day the navy
met with disaster at Koh Chang roads, as an
outnumbered French squadron sank both coast
defense ships (one would later be repaired)
and three torpedo boats against no losses
of their own.
Siam now accepted a Japanese-brokered peace,
and soon afterwards Indochina came under Japanese
occupation. Siam received only a sliver of
the demanded territory.
Japanese troops crossed into Siam on the
morning of 8 December 1941, and the British
from Malaya followed a few hours later. Siamese
soldiers resisted both. Soon afterwards Songkhram
ordered resistance to the Japanese to cease,
and on 21 December signed an assistance treaty
with Japan. Three Siamese divisions invaded
Burma alongside the Japanese, and on 25 January
1942 Siam declared war on Britain and the
Siamese tankers on parade
Siamese forces conducted their biggest offensive
of the war in May 1942, taking Kengtun in
northern Burma from the Chinese 93rd Army.
As the war ground on, the Thai population
came to dislike the Japanese presence more
and more. In June 1944, Phibul was overthrown.
The new civilian government tried to distance
themselves from the war effort but did not
expel the Japanese. After the war, American
influence prevented Thailand (as the state
was now known) being treated as an Axis nation,
but Britain demanded 3 million tons of rice
as reparation and the return of areas annexed
from Malaya during the war. Thailand also
had to return the portions of Burma, Cambodia
and Laos that had been taken. The American-born
King Rama IX ascended the throne after his
brother’s mysterious death in 1946,
and Thailand has been a staunch American ally
Gamers always want more, of course. So we’ve
got more, in a free
download here for Great Pacific War.
Included we have a Siamese submarine unit,
a second SURF point and a TAC unit to represent
the 290 combat aircraft of the Royal Thai
Air Force. The air unit is probably justified,
especially with the delivery of 93 Japanese
planes in late 1940. The submarine is at the
edge of our calculations in this game system,
but delivery of the second division of four
boats would clearly have justified the piece’s
inclusion in the game. Place the TAC unit
in Siam’s At Start forces in all scenarios,
and the SUB and second SURF point in the Force
And because we know that many Thai nationalists
play our games, we have two 3-3 INF pieces
representing Songkhram’s plans for the
army’s eventual expansion. Siam had
purchased modern weapons for its existing
divisions, but forging an army of that quality
would not have been easy. We’ll let
you decide what to do with them.