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Total Defense Day – February 15, 2023

Total Defense Day is observed annually on February 15, the day that Singapore surrendered to Japan in 1942, during World War II. Total Defense stands for Singapore’s national defense concept, emphasizing that every aspect of society contributes to the defense of a nation. Total Defense Day is observed as a reminder of what could happen if everyone failed to play their role in upholding the Total Defence strategy.

History of Total Defense Day

In 1965, Singapore broke away from Malaysia and became its own independent state. The following year, in 1967, the mandatory enlistment of all able-bodied males 16 years and above was implemented. By 1983, a five-point total-defense strategy was underway. The leadership recognized the need to make civilians a part of the creation and awareness generation of this strategy and founded the civilian-led Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord).

On January 22, 1984, Total Defense was officially declared to be Singapore’s defense strategy. It consisted of five elements: military, civil, economic, social, and psychological. Much later in 2019, digital was added as a sixth element. In fact, there is even talk of adding climate as the seventh element, taking into consideration Singapore’s vulnerability to climate change.

Following the proclamation, campaigns were launched by the Ministry of Defense to promote Total Defense among schools, businesses, and people. The older population that had witnessed the fall to Japan firsthand was reportedly enthusiastic about this strategy. There was even a competition held for the creation of the Total Defense logo and song to get the community involved.

Total Defense has gotten the nation through some dire circumstances, even pulling them through the COVID-19 pandemic efficiently. The first national Total Defense Day was observed on February 15, 1998. It was marked by the Singapore Civil Defense Force sounding the Important Message Signal through the island-wide Public Warning System sirens and local radio stations for a minute. It has been observed on that date every year since then, serving as a reminder to be stronger together.

Total Defense Day timeline

August 1965
Independent Singapore

Singapore becomes an independent state.

January 1984
It’s All Civil

The civilian-led Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defense is established.

January 1984
Total Defence is Official

Total Defense is proclaimed as Singapore’s defense strategy.

February 1998
Total Defense Day

The first national Total Defense Day is observed.

Total Defense Day FAQs

Is Total Defense Day a public holiday?

No, Total Defense Day is not a public holiday. Normal business hours are followed and organizations host events for T.D.D.

What is the theme for Total Defense Day 2022?

The theme for Total Defense Day 2022 is “Together We Keep Singapore Strong.”

Is there a Total Defense song?

Yes, the Total Defence song is called ‘There’s a Part for Everyone.’ It was composed in 1984 by Gerald Png.

How to Observe Total Defense Day

  1. Show up for Total Defense

    On this day, attend the memorial held at the War Memorial Park honoring those who lost their lives during the Japanese occupation. Many schools and businesses also host Total Defense Day events.

  2. Learn about Total Defense

    Take this day to learn about what Total Defense is, why it came about, and what it stands for. There is much to learn even about its six individual pillars.

  3. Get prepared for Total Defense

    Since everyone has a role to play, learn what you can do to be an asset and play your part. This could mean participating in fire safety drills, learning C.P.R. and First Aid, etc.

5 Original Pillars Of Total Defense

  1. Military defense

    This involves armaments, training, and equipment for the Singapore Armed Forces, as well as an emphasis on reservist troops maintaining their physical strength.

  2. Civil defense

    This includes civilian participation through training in first aid, managing food, blood, and water resources, volunteer work, being a medical frontliner, etc.

  3. Economic defense

    This refers to the government's efforts to sustain and develop Singapore’s economy, and conserve essential resources such as water.

  4. Social defense

    Given Singapore’s diverse population, this aims to maintain social cohesion through government efforts such as interfaith sessions through the Inter-Religious Organization.

  5. Psychological defense

    This involves efforts to improve mental health in Singapore and strengthen resolve and resilience among its citizens.

Why Total Defense Day is Important

  1. It keeps us grounded in history

    Decades of turmoil, hard work, and sacrifices have gone into the making of the world as we know it today. A day like this reminds us of those who lost their lives in the fight to ensure a better future.

  2. It is a reminder to play our role

    Thinking of the nation’s fall to Japan and the loss that followed nudges those who forget why they have to show up for their country. This reminder of purpose and what's at stake is necessary to ensure accountability.

  3. It encourages preparation

    With emergency preparedness drills and other defense preparation events being conducted nationwide, there is no excuse to not participate. T.D.D. activities make it easy and accessible to show up and strengthen your skills.

Total Defense Day dates

YearDateDay
2023February 15Wednesday
2024February 15Thursday
2025February 15Saturday
2026February 15Sunday
2027February 15Monday

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