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IJA 35th Infantry Brigade with 124th Infantry Regiment, led by Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi operated independently of its parent IJA 18th Division as the Kawaguchi Detachment, and was still at Camranh Bay, at the start of the Burma Campaign of World War II.
Embarking at Camranh Bay, French Indochina, on 13 December, the Kawaguchi Detachment (three infantry battalions) plus No. 2 Yokosuka Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) almost unopposed at Miri, Seria and Lutong and quickly captured Miri's airfield and oil fields, in northern Borneo. The detachment, moving by sea, took Kuching on 23 December. Brunei, Labuan Island, Jesselton, and Tawau were taken in subsequent operations.
On April 10, 1942, one day after the fall of Bataan, the Kawaguchi Detachment landed in Cebu. The unit was supposed to reinforce the Japanese forces fighting in Bataan but was diverted to Cebu when Bataan’s resistance was starting to collapse. By May 17, 1942, all organized resistance in the island had ceased and shortly afterward the Kawaguchi Detachment was pulled out and sent to Mindanao. From there they were sent to Guadalcanal.
By September 4 the bulk of the Kawaguchi Force (including the Aoba Detachment's three infantry battalions from the 2nd Division) had landed on Guadalcanal. On the night of the September 13 Kawaguchi's forces, involving the main force of the Kawaguchi Detachment (about five infantry battalions) and the remainder of the Ichiki Detachment (about 100 men), assaulted the U.S. Marine defenses around Henderson Field. After a series of frontal attacks by the Japanese forces the decision remained in doubt for several hours while chaotic confusion gripped the fighting lines. Part of the Detachment once penetrated a corner of the air field, but could not hold on to its gains because American reserves were thrown into the battle and a furious enemy bombardment was unleashed. As a consequence, this second Japanese attack also ended in eventual failure. Kawaguchi's forces were defeated with heavy losses and forced to retreat from the battlefield. Kawaguchi was subsequently relieved of command during the Japanese preparations for the Battle for Henderson Field in October, 1942 and he was eventually evacuated from the island.