Seventy one years to the day, on the 27th of April 1941, a report was signed by representatives of American, Dutch and British forces following the ADB discussions held in Singapore during that month. This document can be viewed at:
What strikes me most about this report is how close the guesswork of those at the conference came to what followed a few months later - it almost appears incredible, as if written after it all happened. The only major exception being the attack on Pearl Harbor which had not been anticipated.
The situation in the Far East is perfectly described, identifying Japan's expected course of action, her objectives, her expected movement of ships, aircraft and land forces, where she was likely to strike first (the reduction of Manila and Hong Kong) and her ultimate goal of capturing the NEI, Malaya and Burma. Even how Malaya was expected to be attacked - not by taking Singapore from the sea as history books lead us to believe but first by political domination and possible occupation of Thailand, then by advancing down the Kra Isthmus, and/or if conditions were favourable, followed by landings on the East coast of the Malayan peninsula and a march through the "impenetrable jungle" with the obvious intention of taking Singapore from the North. Although it describes it as unlikely, the report does recognise the possibility of Singapore falling. The report also recognises the likely phases of Japan's assault on territory of the "Associated Powers", the initial assault on the Philippines, Hong Kong and Malaya to be followed by a thrust southward into the NEI and into Burma and beyond. It mentions the possible use of airborne troops for the seizure of the oilfields of the NEI and the likely scenario of a sustained attack on sea communications in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, including attacks by armed merchant raiders, cruisers and submarines, likely in concert with attacks by German raiders. (Trouble to be expected by the Manila convoys!)
Sensible recommendations follow, such as calling for increased economic pressure, increased military preparedness and specifically the bolstering of defences on Luzon along with the build-up of submarine and bomber forces in the Philippines. These measures were also intended for offensive purposes against Japan and to deter her from attacking Malaya, the NEI, Australia and New Zealand. More assistance to China was called for as well as for organising subversive activities in Japan.(Huh?) Much detail is given on how air, naval and land forces were to be dispersed, escorting and evasive routing of sea traffic (Did this report have any influence on the routing of the Manila convoys later that year?), the establishment of a central command structure, liaison and communication systems, including codes and ciphers.
Above all, a collective effort was called for from the United States, the NEI and Great Britain as it was estimated that if the situation in Europe deteriorated further, Japan almost certainly would move against them. The collective action would have been immediate military counter-action if Japan should commit a direct act of war or threaten ADB territory, particularly by the "movement of a large number of Japanese warships, or of a convoy of merchant ships escorted by Japanese warships, which from its position and course was clearly directed upon the Philippine Islands, the East coast of the Isthmus of Kra or the East coast of Malaya, or had crossed the parallel of 6° North between Malaya and the Philippines, a line from the Gulf of Davao to Waigeo Island, or the Equator East of Waigeo"
As it happened the situation DID deteriorate and Japan DID act almost exactly as she was expected to (except for Pearl Harbor). Despite all the timely warnings and recommendations of the report, the "Associated Powers" still found themselves unprepared and unable to take the kind of collective action that the report called for.
I know that the answer to the question "Why did no one listen?" is more complex but one could start by looking at the way the report was written - overwhelmingly from a British point of view. The language used in this report reflects the British Empire's desires, with not enough attention given to how it would be received in Washington. In the introduction it reads as a condition that applies: "A State of war between Germany, Italy and Japan on one hand, and British Empire with its present Allies and the United States of America (referred to herein as the Associated Powers) on the other" and insists "that WE are not diverted from the major object of the defeat of Germany and Italy" It also refers to "OUR forces in the Middle East" and "OUR forces in the Eastern Theatre" - but hold on, America was not at war with Germany and Italy! The US did not have troops in the Middle East!
Although the British did get their point across black on white, it was probably not really the high level conference that they had hoped for, as the representation from the USA was disappointingly lightweight. How was Captain Purnell and Colonel McBride, the senior members of the US delegation going to have a proper conversation with the likes of Air Chief Marshall Sir Brooke-Popham, Vice Admiral Layton and Major-General Ten Poorten?
The Dutch had their own reasons for not immediately falling in behind the British but could it be that those in Washington did not take the report seriously because of their limited participation at the conference or did they see this as nothing more than an attempt to draw the US into a war in order to protect the interests of the British Empire?