On this day in 1942, in one of the greatest defeats in British military history, Britain's supposedly impregnable Singapore fortress surrenders to Japanese forces. Singapore, located off the Malay Peninsula was considered invulnerable to attack because of its big defensive guns. However, the weapons, which used armor-piercing shells and the flat trajectories necessary to decimate an enemy fleet, were not designed to defend against a land attack on the unfortified northern end of the island.
After steamrollering down the Malay Peninsula, the Japanese infiltrated Singapore from the north and pushed toward Singapore City, capturing key Allied positions and splitting the British-led defenders into isolated groups. With supplies severely depleted, the British were forced to surrender control of a major waterway connecting India and China. Many thousands of the 130,000 Allied troops captured later died in Japanese captivity.