View Full Version : The War of the Running Dog

04-23-2007, 04:26 PM
Malaya Emergency

Brief History
The British signed treaties of protection with Malay rulers from 1874 to 1930. In 1896 some of these states were grouped together as the federated Malay States. Malaya was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. All the Malay states, together with the Straights Settlements except for Singapore, were incorporated into a new federation in 1948. This was the basis on which Malaya achieved independence in 1957. In 1963 Malaya joined with Singapore (which seceded in 1965), North Borneo, and Sarawak to form Malaysia.

As a fairly successful colony, Malaya was wooed by both the Chinese Communists and Nationalists for many years before World War II. In general, the Malayan Chinese did their trading with little regard for politics. The British were strongly anti-Communist and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had little to offer the average Malayan. There was a Malayan Communist Party (MCP), but it was small with a negligible membership. This changed in 1937 when the Empire of Japan invaded the Chinese mainland. The Communists could now claim that they needed membership and funds to protect the homeland, and using theses such as 'the National Salvation Movement' and 'Save China' organizations, the MCP increased its membership from 1,000 to about 5,000. Japan then invaded Malaya in December 1941. The communists took to the jungle where they fought a guerrilla action against the Japanese as the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) until 1945. This army became a well organized underground resistance force with regiments established in the various Malayan states. It was these troops that later formed the nucleus of the guerrilla movement during the insurgency. And, like the Vietnamese who would also fight for their freedom, the jungle warfare taught the communists how to survive in a hostile environment, and enabled them to establish contact with the population along the jungle fringes.

Just as the American OSS helped to train the Viet Minh, British Commando Force 136 helped to train and supply the communist guerrillas in Malaya. Like Mao in China, they plotted and planned to take power once the victorious Allies had beaten the Japanese. Upon the end of the war in August 1945, the guerrillas took retributive action against Japanese collaborators while enlisting the aid of Japanese soldiers who were expert in the making and designing of mines and booby-traps. The British returned to Malaya in September 1945 expecting business as usual. They would be surprised.

Source: psywar.org

04-24-2007, 12:33 PM
The Malayan Emergency was declared on 18 June 1948 after three estate managers were murdered in Perak, northern Malaya, by guerrillas of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), an outgrowth of the anti-Japanese guerrilla movement which had emerged during the Second World War. Despite never having had more than a few thousand members, the MCP was able to draw on the support of many disaffected Malayan Chinese, who were upset that British promises of an easier path to full Malayan citizenship had not been fulfilled. The harsh post-war economic and social conditions also contributed to the rise of anti-government activity.

The Malayan government was slow to react to the MCP at first and did not appoint a director of operations to counter the insurgency until March 1950. The new director planned to address the underlying economic, social and political problems facing the Chinese community while at the same time bringing government control to the fringe areas where the MCP received much of its support. Before this plan was fully implemented, however, the situation deteriorated further with the assassination of the British High Commissioner in October 1951. The attack galvanised British resolve to meet the threat posed by the MCP, and the Malayan government, in turn, stepped up counter-insurgency measures. Prolonged operations were undertaken against the communists in an effort to destroy their base of support in local communities and to drive them into the jungle, where it would be difficult for them to receive supplies from supporters.

Rising Sun*
04-25-2007, 04:20 AM
I'm interested in the comparisons between the Malayan Emergency and Vietnam subsequently.

(I don't know much about the Malayan Emergency, although I have read Virgin Soldiers :) , which gives me free rein to offer comments completely uninhibited by any knowledge. What others may see as my blank mind, I prefer to see as a blank canvas just waiting to be filled in by my ape-like brushstrokes. :D )

My limited understanding is that it in some respects the Malayan guerrilla movement was doomed from the start, assuming it met an effective response, because it was comprised mainly of ethnic Chinese who lacked the same sort of support that indigenous movements, such as in Vietnam, had. Conversely, without an effective response, could it have produced a very different result?

My limited understanding also is that the British response was ultimately very effective, not least because it was somewhat more restrained and better targeted in a military sense than the American response in Vietnam a few years later; ran an effective 'hearts and minds' campaign; and did not antagonise the wider populace to the same extent. Or were there other reasons for British success?

Did Britain have an advantage or disadvantage because of its pre-war colonial connection with Malaya? I seem to recall that the ?Sultan of Johore? was very pro-British and accommodating during the Japanese advance in WWII. Was there much support for Britain during the Emergency in Malaya, and at what levels of society? Given the large Muslim population, where did they fit in?

Did Britain as a pre-war colonial power have an advantage in Malaya compared with Vietnam, because the British were defeated by and continued fighting the Japanese during WWII, and aided the eventual liberation of the Malays from the Japanese, where the Vichy French effectively surrendered Vietnam to the Japanese and pretty much collaborated with them during the rest of the war in Vietnam?

I assume that the Malayan guerrillas were at a significant disadvantage compared with Vietnam as they lacked the significant advantage of the VC in Vietnam of having heavy external support, both from NV and the major communist countries, not to mention the distraction of Korea in the early part of the emergency.

What were the policies and practices of the British that enabled them to succeed so well in Malaya where the Americans, and really the South Vietnamese, failed so badly in Vietnam?

Rising Sun*
04-25-2007, 04:31 AM
P.S. Unlike Churchill's famous requirement, you can use more than one page to answer these questions, assuming you're minded to, and can spread the answers over the next few days or weeks.

Or you could take a few years and write a book comparing the Emergency with Vietnam, which is pretty much what I've asked you to do.


04-25-2007, 06:57 AM
P.S. Unlike Churchill's famous requirement, you can use more than one page to answer these questions, assuming you're minded to, and can spread the answers over the next few days or weeks.

Or you could take a few years and write a book comparing the Emergency with Vietnam, which is pretty much what I've asked you to do.


A book would be interesting!

This is basically the ethos behind ‘Hearts and Minds:

"The guerrilla must move among the people as a fish swims in the sea," said Mao.

The idea is to remove the people so that the guerrilla fighter has no sea to swim in.

The people must be won over to the side of those fighting the guerrilla or, if guerrilla, then the converse is true. Sometimes the guerrilla can resort to terror to intimidate the people, which can be counter productive (Che Guevara comes to mind). If the people are being intimidated, then the security forces must protect them.

Also, in the war of ‘Hearts and Minds’ the protagonists should be trying to win the people over by demonstrating how life is better if they win (as mentioned in the comments regarding Denis Healey and Claret Patrols). Governments will normally do this by improving infrastructure: hospitals, schools etc. The guerrilla must do all in his power to prevent this happening, but he must also offer a viable alternative.

Of course, another way of removing the people from the guerilla, thus, foiling the guerrillas’ chances of gaining sustenance, is to relocate the people. This was done by the British in Malaya (and the Americans in Vietnam). The idea being to force the guerrillas into the jungle where they would be hunted and destroyed, or they would starve, and if not starve, at least be rendered impotent as a fighting force.

In order to succeed in the above, one must take the moral high-ground. Therefore it is futile to fight terror with terror, as this only serves to alienate the people.

04-25-2007, 07:33 AM
In Malay, the Communist Terrorists (CT's) were generally known as 'Bandits'.

A friend of mine led his platoon of the Loyals (North Lancashire) Regt. against a Bandit base. As they had had to advance through dense, secondary jungle, they had no heavy fire support with them beyond their Bren guns and 2" mortars. That being so, the base was bombed by the RAF (using Lancasters) prior to the attack 'going-in'. Unfortunately, the jungle being what it is, the bombers missed the target and only succeeded in warning the bandits that the attack was imminent. When the troops hit the camp, the bandits had beat a hasty retreat.

Rising Sun*
04-25-2007, 07:59 AM
A book would be interesting!

Do you know if anyone has done a serious comparison of Malaya and Vietnam?

04-25-2007, 11:05 AM
I couldn't honestly say.

I'm sure various training manuals would have been produced and updated. For instance: when some members of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment had completed their tour of duty in Vietnam, they were seconded to the British Jungle Warfare School to pass on any relevant operating techniques, and to assist as instructors there.

04-25-2007, 11:17 AM
I would suppose that a more realistic comparison, given the time-lines would be to compare French Indo China/Vietnam with Malaya and Borneo.

It would also be difficult to make a realistic comparison on methods of warfare alone. Given the different political scenarios, they would have to be used to explain the difference in military thinking between the two and, of course there is the actual geography of the two campaigns. Malayasia has a long border with Thailand - which wasn't particularly sympathetic to the cause of the CTs - but it doesn't have a common border with China. And then there is the technology available to the various forces. For exampe, helicopters were much more evolved in the sixties than they were in the fifties - which isn't always a positive, depending on how they were employed.

Some easy comparisons.

in Malaya -

Bivouac - Basha (Inidan for hut or shelter)

Jungle - Ulu

Chip Butty - Chip Banjo

Beer - Tiger

Favourite rice dish - Nasi Goreng

Favourite noodle dish - Mee Hoon Goreng

Machette - Gollac (sounds like...:) )

Laundry - Dobie

Hurry - Jildie

proper or excellent - Pukka

Village - Kampung (Malay) Campong (CHinese)

Some of these are obviously from the Indian Army and others are Malay. :D ..
....and some might be mis-spelt. :)

If anyone would like to enlarge, please feel free to do so.

04-25-2007, 12:15 PM
The Beginning

In Phase One guerrillas would attack lonely estates and mines, police and government officials in small towns and villages, forcing the British to evacuate - This was classic Mao Tse-tung approach.

In Phase two areas evacuated by the British would be re-named "Liberated Areas." In them guerrilla bases would be set up and the army expanded.

In Phase Three the army would attack towns, villages, railways - Then the guerrilla army would take the field against the British, backed by the might of China if necessary, and the moral weight of Soviet Russia.

Due to the quick British response, the Communists were forced to quickly relocate their movement to the jungle. Worse, for them, the economic subversion and sabotage had not been successful and the people had not rallied to their cause. On the positive side, they saw the victories of the Communist Chinese against the government of China and had reason to believe that they could also successfully fight a guerrilla war against a powerful organized enemy.

When the communists took to the jungles they had every reason to be confident in their ability to survive. They had fought the Japanese for four years and the 53,240 square miles of Malaya is made up of more than four-fifths evergreen equatorial forests and undergrowth. The remainder is rubber plantations, mines, rice fields and population centers. The thick vegetation provides good concealment and protection against detection. The deployment of a large body of troops for operations is difficult and ineffective. Engagements mostly occur as a result of chance encounters unless prior intelligence has been acquired about the enemies' movements or base camps. Ambushes and fighting patrols are the normal mode of military activities in jungle warfare. Jungle bases require food and water so most bases are located at the jungle fringes.

It is notable that PSYOP was being used from the beginning as the British Colonial Government called their enemy Communist Terrorists (CTs) instead of Malayan Communists. It is always good strategy to call the enemy 'terrorists' and depersonalize them. Another frequently used term for the insurgents was 'bandit.' The term invokes negative reactions and denies the legitimacy of the opponent. The British were also careful not to call the insurrection a 'war'. It was always to be identified as 'the emergency.

About relocation in Malaya:

British efforts to suppress the insurgency militarily were unpopular, especially their relocation of rural Chinese into tightly controlled "New Villages"; when the British addressed political and economic grievances, the rebels became increasingly isolated.

source: psyops.

04-25-2007, 12:36 PM
Also, in the war of ‘Hearts and Minds’ the protagonists should be trying to win the people over by demonstrating how life is better if they win (as mentioned in the comments regarding Denis Healey and Claret Patrols).

What I am referring to here, is that the tribes of Iban people of Borneo straddled the border between Sarawak and Kalimantan. The Indonesians forbade any trade accross the border, which was rather silly as these tribes people had families on both sides. By treating the Iban well, offering them medicoines and helping with various small concerns, the British were able to recruit them from both sides of the border and employ them as trackers, and, naturally, as a source of intelligence on enemy movement.


Rising Sun*
04-26-2007, 01:34 AM
Confrontation and Vietnam

The unrivaled British authority on Vietnam was Sir Robert Thompson, who had served in Malaya during the insurgency in the 1950s as the civilian in charge of Malayan defense. From 1961 to 1965, he headed the British Advisory Mission to Vietnam, which was created in 1961 and consisted of four British officers, all with Malayan experience. 86 Thompson eventually had the ear of three American presidents—Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon—and won friends in the CIA, the Department of Defense, and the State Department. He came into contact with numerous American journalists and academics. 87 His acquaintances in Washington were interested in the lessons of counterinsurgency in Malaya and how the idea of the reconstructed rural villages, now known as "strategic hamlets," might be adapted to Vietnam. 88 In Vietnam itself, Thompson met with mixed success both with the American military advisers and with the South Vietnamese Army, even though his influence was widely acknowledged and to some he represented a sort of evil genius guiding American efforts. Noam Chomsky, one of the most prominent critics of the war in Vietnam, referred to him with inimitable irony as "one of Britain's gifts to the Vietnamese people." 89 41

Thompson's fundamental idea, based on his experience in Malaya, was that the police were just as important as the army, and that the preeminent function of the police was to protect the public, rural and urban. In Malaya, one of the keys to British success in the insurgency had been the gradual assertion of state control over all parts of the country. Regardless of whether people stayed where they were or were relocated, officials continued to record births, marriages, and deaths. 90 The villagers came to believe that they were being protected in all vital respects. No less important were Thompson's doctrines and techniques of counterinsurgency for which he became famous, but he always returned to the underlying premise of civilian control exercised by one supreme authority. In Malaya, there had been "one plan and one man." In Vietnam, the Pentagon, CIA, and State Department formed, in his view, an unholy trinity. The rivalry between them often prevented effective action. There was an acute deficiency of institutional memory. There was no American equivalent to Gerald Templer. Nor could there be, since South Vietnam was an independent country and not, like Malaya, a colony. 91 42

Thompson's thought reflected gradual disillusionment and despondency. At first, he genuinely believed that the war in Vietnam could be won, but he began to think that the Americans were too warm-hearted, impatient, and impulsive to be sufficiently single-minded and pitiless. "Fighting communist terrorism is a tough, dirty, ruthless business," he once wrote. 92 The heart of the problem, however, did not lie with the Americans but with the South Vietnamese. "We are stuck with the legally constituted Government," he lamented. 93 The aims of the South Vietnamese were incompatible with those of the United States because the South Vietnamese government intended solely, in his view, not to reform but to perpetuate itself. By 1965, the principal element of public safety—police protection—still did not exist. When the American bombing of North Vietnam began in the same year, Thompson despaired. 94 He did not think that the bombing raids would have any positive effect at all. As in the United States, there were many views on the prospect of American defeat, or victory, but among those who gave serious thought to the subject in Britain, Thompson's ideas probably expressed a consensus as far as one existed. His thought fluctuated, but from 1965 onward Thompson essentially believed that the United States had lost the war. 95 The arrival of American ground troops, and therewith the Americanization of the war, deflected the incentive to reform the South Vietnamese government. 43

As a historian of the British Empire, I see a connection between the ethical code of conduct of the British district officers in Malaya and the idealism of the Americans in the civilian and military pacification programs in Vietnam. The job of the district officer was not only to collect taxes and administer justice but to help with purification of water, to improve crop production, and to build schools and hospitals. These were also the duties of the American pacification officers, who assumed, whether implicitly or explicitly, that the American presence would be the equivalent of a benevolent colonial power. This was Thompson's point: after 1965, pacification programs were eclipsed by the intensification of the war. 96 Even if the Americans might emerge militarily victorious, which he privately doubted, they had forfeited the chance to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese peasantry through an American-sponsored social revolution. But there is a paradox. If there were ever any chance of Americans functioning as district officers, it disappeared in the mid-1960s with the escalation of the war. Nevertheless, the largest U.S. investment in quasi–district officer programs came after 1965, with Robert "Blowtorch Bob" Komer driving them. 97 The commitment to pacification manifested itself in initiatives of the U.S. Administration for International Development, the CIA, and not least the Marine Corps. The attempt to win hearts and minds continued to the end of the war. 98 And the idealistic commitment manifested itself in another way, which forever left its mark on the consciousness of the American public. According to the British embassy in Washington, the young American journalists—"including David Halberstam of the New York Times"—had "made it their sacred duty to reveal the truth" about the conduct of the war. 99 44 http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/107.1/ah0102000001.html

Rising Sun*
04-26-2007, 01:39 AM
Hearts and minds during Confrontation at pp. 137-39 in link below, which also seems to be a good overview of British strategy, tactics and operations (I haven't read it in full yet) and compares Confrontation with the Emergency.


Rising Sun*
04-26-2007, 04:17 AM
The Australian involvement summarised.

04-26-2007, 06:41 AM
Of course one cannot discuss the success or failure of British Forces operations without considering the avialability of a 'pukka cuppa. Tommy likes his tea when dealing with adversity. :D

04-26-2007, 12:27 PM
It is notable that PSYOP was being used from the beginning as the British Colonial Government called their enemy Communist Terrorists (CTs) instead of Malayan Communists. It is always good strategy to call the enemy 'terrorists' and depersonalize them. Another frequently used term for the insurgents was 'bandit.' The term invokes negative reactions and denies the legitimacy of the opponent. The British were also careful not to call the insurrection a 'war'. It was always to be identified as 'the emergency.

Fascinating, how these people sit down and Brain-storm about these things and come up with such a result. Always leaves me with a sense of awe.

04-26-2007, 12:36 PM
Because of the perceived success of the British Malayan counterinsurgency campaign, the United States Department of Defense asked the Rand Corporation to prepare a study of the British methods. America was deep in the Vietnam quagmire at the moment. That project became the 1964 Winning the Hearts and Minds of the People: Malaya, 1948-1980 by Riley Sunderland. It was issued as the 57-page Memorandum RM-4174-ISA. In fact, Rand published five such research memorandums on the Malayan Emergency, but this fifth study concerns the campaign of public information, civic action, and other persuasive measures. The study used classified British and American documents and interviews with participants of the campaign as reference material.

Much of what Sunderland says is mentioned in other segments of this article and will be quoted. In regard to the Civil Service he points out that the British were careful to get the best possible people that were flexible and would be able to adapt to the Communist insurgency:

The few hundred British subjects who served in the Malayan Civil Service were an elite group, so carefully chosen as to be known locally as "the heaven-born." It was clear that Britain had discarded the eighteenth-century notion that colonies and protectorates were meant to provide jobs for citizens of the mother country.

C. C. Too talks about this period between the defeat of the Japanese and the return of the British in an article entitled 'Defeating Communism in Malaya', Military Review, August 1967. He says in part:

"During the period of the Japanese surrender, the Communists carried out 'mass trials' before the return of the Allied forces to the Malay Peninsula. Many alleged collaborators were executed during the mass trials which the local population was forced to attend. During a period of three to six months, the Communists were in complete control of the smaller towns and remote villages before the Allied forces completed the process of taking over."
One of the most attractive propaganda lines of the Communists was land reform which had already proved popular and extremely effective to the landless peasants in China, and the MCP was not slow in exploiting this line.

Too Chee Choo AKA C. C. Too

Every book written on the Malayan Emergency credits C. C. Too with being the mastermind behind the British psychological operations that destroyed the Communist insurgent movement. Probably the best biography of Too is The Story of a Psy-Warrior, Lim Cheng Leng, Malaysia, 2000. The author points out that Too was not recognized during the Emergency and it was many years afterwards that he finally received public recognition. The author describes him as a student:

A clear and fast thinker, with photographic memory, magnetic gaze and oratorical skills.

He met many Communist Party members as a scholarship student and President of the student body of Raffles College. He was regularly recruited to join them but declined. He said that the Communists were:

"A gang of half-educated, swollen headed, power-mad adolescent demagogues trying to take over the country. I told them many facts which, as self-claimed leaders, they should have known but did not. What they were really trying to carry out boiled down to nothing but a gigantic swindle."