Dutch East Indies Campaign, Java
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Battle of Makassar Strait
4 Feb 1942
On 3 Feb 1942, the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) Command gathered a sizable task force to stop a Japanese invasion force sailing down the Makassar Strait. On the morning of 4 Feb, Japanese reconnaissance aircraft discovered this Allied fleet, and two-engine bombers were sent to attack. Without air cover, the Allied fleet suffered two damaged cruisers and was forced to turn back to Tjilitjap without making contact with the invasion fleet. Makassar fell shortly thereafter.
Battle of Badung Strait
19-20 Feb 1942
The invasion of Bali was carried out by a relatively small advance force of Japanese warships covering a pair of transports. The transports successfully disgorged their troops in Sanur Roads, but were attacked during the day by Allied airpower. One of the transports was severely damaged. The Japanese withdrew the majority of their force to the north, detailing one pair of destroyers (Michishio and Arashio) to escort the cripple, and another pair (Oshio and Asashio) to bring up the rear with the undamaged Maru. Just as this latter pair was getting underway, the first of two Allied squadrons charged with breaking up the landings appeared. Composed of a Dutch and Australian light cruiser and three destroyers, it heavily out-gunned the Japanese force. However, the Japanese bravely gave battle, first driving off the light cruisers through the channel northward, and then turning to attack the Allied destroyers. A successful torpedo attack resulted in the sinking of one of the Allied destroyers, which then shortly drew off to the south.
Shortly afterwards, however, the second Allied squadron of four U.S. destroyers and a Dutch light cruiser came up the Strait from the south as well. Oshio and Asashio again returned to defend the damaged transport against a second superior enemy force. In short order they had attacked the U.S. destroyers so fiercely as to force them to withdraw through the Strait to the north, leaving only the Dutch light cruiser Tromp to be dealt with. This they quickly did, hitting the cruiser eleven times in the superstructure in rapid succession. She, too, fled.
The final act was played out as some of the Allied warships retreating northward ran into Michishio and Arashio. A sharp fight developed, in which Michishio was heavily damaged. However, the Allied ships continued on their way without giving a serious fight.
The final result of this rather confusing action was that two superior Allied squadrons had been manhandled almost single-handedly by a lone pair of audacious Japanese destroyers. It was a most embarrassing performance by the Allies, who were admittedly heavily fatigued, but who possessed more than enough firepower to deal handily with their Japanese adversaries. This was the first of the impressive night-fighting performances the Japanese Navy would turn in throughout the war.
Battle of Sunda Strait
28 Feb 1942
Australian light cruiser Perth and American heavy cruiser Houston survived the Battle of the Java Sea and reached Tanjung Priok. On 28 Feb, they received orders to sail for Tjilatjap via Sunda Strait. On the night of 28 Feb, to both sides' surprise, the two Allied cruisers ran into the main Japanese invasion fleet for West Java at Bantam Bay off Batavia. At least three Japanese cruisers and accompanying destroyers engaged the two Allied cruisers, but because they were so widely dispersed that they could not converge on the Allied ships quickly. Houston and Perth immediately charged at the exposed transports guarded only by destroyer Fubuki. They were unable to sink any Japanese transports before the Japanese escort fleet closed in. Perhaps a bit trigger-happy as a result of the surprised engagement, the escort ships fired a total of 87 torpedoes against the two Allied ships, followed up by a hail of gunfire. The two Allied ships sank in short order. With torpedoes swimming in all directions, two Japanese ships, a minesweeper and a loaded troop transport, were struck and lost. Three other transports were also damaged by friendly torpedo fire.
Battle of Java
1-12 Mar 1942
With the waters near Java secured after Battle of the Java Sea, the Japanese ground forces arrived at the island of Java in two groups. The Eastern Force, with its headquarters at Jolo Island in the Sulu Archipelago, included the 48th Division and the 56th Regimental Group; the Western Force, based at Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina, included the 2nd Division and the 230th Regiment of the 38th Division. The two groups totaled about 35,000 men.
The Allied forces were headed up by Royal Netherlands East Indies Army General Hein Ter Poorten, with 25,000 Indonesian under his command; although the number was impressive, most of the men were poorly trained. The Dutch forces were divided up so that two regiments guarded the Jakarta region, and one regiment guarded each of the north central, southern, and eastern regions of the island. A garrison of 7,000 men, British, Australian, and American, under the command of British Major General H. D. W. Sitwell, was available to assist. The 3,500 British were predominantly anti-aircraft units, though one armored unit, the British 3rd Hussars, was present. The 2,500 Australians were of Blackforce of Brigadier Arthur Blackburn. The 1,000 Americans were of the 2nd Battalion of the 131st Field Artillery, a Texas National Guard unit, was attached to Blackforce.
The Japanese troops landed at three points on the Java shore on 1 Mar 1942. The victors of the Battle of the Sunda Strait delivered the Western Force, and the victors of the Battle of the Java Sea delivered the Eastern Force.
One group of the Western Force landed at Bantam Bay near Merak at 2320 on 28 Feb. Captain F. A. M. Harterink's Royal Dutch Indies Army 12th Infantry Battalion raked the beach with machine gun fire, but the overwhelming invasion force quickly wiped aside the resistance. Landing operations completed at 0200 on 1 Mar. After daybreak, the Japanese set up headquarters at Serang overseeing three detachments. The Nasu Detachment under Major General Yumio Nasu was ordered to capture Buitenzorg to cut the escape route from Batavia (where Jakarta was located) to Bandoeng, while the Fukushima and Sato Detachments, under Colonels Kyusaku Fukushima and Hanshichi Sato, respectively, attacked Batavia through Balaradja and Tangerang. On 2 Mar, the Nasu Detachment arrived at Rangkasbitung and continued to Leuwiliang, 24-kilometers west of Buitenzorg. The Australian 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion were positioned along a riverbank at Leuwiliang and put up a vigorous defense, pinning down the Japanese tanks and trucks for D Company of the 2nd Battalion of the American 131st Field Artillery to destroy. The Blackforce managed to delay Japanese advance for two days before withdrawing to Soekabumi. Meanwhile, Fukushima and Sato Detachments maneuvered their troops for Batavia, but progress was delayed by blown bridges. On 4 Mar, the main Dutch defense moved from Batavia to Buitenzorg, and the remaining pockets of resistance surrendered to the Sato Detachment by that evening. At the dawn of 6 Mar, Japanese troops attacked Buitenzorg, wiping aside the 10th Company of the Royal Dutch Indies Army 1st Infantry Regiment and the 10th Company of the Royal Dutch Indies Army 2nd Infantry Regiment, occupying the city by the end of the morning. As the Allied units fled for Bandoeng, the Nasu Detachment gave chase.
Meanwhile, Shoji Detachment under Colonel Toshishige Shoji of the Western Force landed at Eretan Wetan near Soebang on the northern coast of West Java, also on 1 Mar. On that morning, 12 Dutch aircraft and 12 British aircraft attacked the beachhead, though to little effect. The town of Soebang, the Kalidjati airfield, and the road connecting Kalidjati airfield and Batavia all fell on the day of the landing. In the morning of 2 Mar, 20 Dutch tanks commanded by Captain G. J. Wulfhorst and 250 men of the Dutch 5th Infantry Battalion commanded by Major C. G. J. Teerink counterattacked near Soebang, but the attack was repulsed by the afternoon. Later that day, the Japanese 3rd Air Brigade arrived at Kalidjati airfield. As Shoji's units arrived at Lembang, only 8 kilometers from Bandoeng, he dispatched a small unit to assist the Nasu Detachment in eliminating the Dutch troops fleeing from Buitenzorg. At 1000 on 8 Mar, less than a day after Shoji's troops arrived at Lembang, Major General Jacob J. Pesman surrendered Bandoeng to Shoji at the Isola Hotel in Lembang.
The Eastern Force, consisted of the Japanese 48th Division under Major General Yuitsu Tsuchihashi landed at the village of Kragan, approximately 160 kilometers west of Surabaya. Dutch troops of the 3rd Cavalry Squadron of the 1st Cavalry Regiment resisted the landing, but were quickly defeated despite assistance from American horizontal and dive bombers and British torpedo bombers. After the beachhead was secured, the Japanese 48th Division was divided into the Imai Unit under Colonel Hifumi Imai, Abe Unit under Major General Koichi Abe, Tanaka Unit under Colonel Tohru Tanaka, and Kitamura Unit under Lieutenant Colonel Kuro Kitamura. The Tanaka Unit occupied Tjepoe and secured the oil fields there, while the Kitamura Unit occupied nearby Bodjonegoro, with the conquests completing on 2 and 3 Mar, respectively. The two units continued to move east and defeated Dutch defenders at the Ngawi Regency, Tjaroeban, Ngandjoek, Kertosono, Kediri and Djombang. At the city of Porong, near Surabaya, Dutch and American troops gave fierce resistance, but could only hold the line for so long before the numerically superior Japanese forces overwhelmed them. After destroying the city's infrastructure, they fled to the island of Madura on 8 Mar. On 9 Mar, Major General Gustav A. Ilgen surrendered eastern Java to the Japanese at Madura.
A smaller group, the Sakaguchi Detachment consisted of three battalions, landed in eastern Java as well in early Mar 1942. After landing, they occupied Tjilatjap by 8 Mar to prevent the harbor being used to evacuate Allied troops to Australia. On 9 Mar, Major General Pierre A. Cox of the Dutch Central Army District surrendered at Wangon near Tjilatjap.
At 0900 on 8 Mar, Ter Poorten surrendered all of Java to the Japanese. The Dutch Governor, Jonkheer Dr. A.W.L. Tjarda Van Starkenborgh Stachouwer, along with Lieutenant General Ter Poorten and Major General Pesman, met with Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura at Kalidjati in the afternoon to finalize the surrender. At 2300, the Dutch radio station NIROM broadcasted for the last time from a temporary transmitter at Ciumbuluit, with Bert Garthoff ending his broadcast with "Wij sluiten nu. Vaarwel tot betere tijden. Leve de Koningin!" ("We are closing now. Farewell until better times. Long live the Queen!") On 10 Mar, Imamura was named the military governor of Java and Madura and remained in this role until 11 Nov 1942. On 12 Mar 1942, at Bandung, the British, Australian, and American commanders joined the Dutch government in the official surrender ceremony; Lieutenant General Masao Maruyama accepted the Allied instrument of surrender.
At the end of the land campaign at Java, the Allies suffered about 5,000 casualties, with the Dutch and Indonesian troops making up the bulk of that number.
Invasion of Christmas Island
31 Mar 1942
Christmas Island was a British possession 300 kilometers south of Java. It was a strategic location for the control of the northwestern approach to Australia. On 14 Mar 1942, the Imperial General Headquarters issued orders for Operation X as the concluding operation for the conquest of the Java region. The island was defended by a garrison of 32 men (most ethnically Indian) commanded by 5 British officers and non-commissioned officers, with the only heavy weapons available to them being one WW1-era 6-inch naval gun and two or three anti-aircraft guns.
Although the Japanese knew they wielded a force that could easily wipe aside the defending garrison, a propaganda campaign was mounted to make the invasion even easier. They announced that the arrival of the Japanese in South and Southeastern Asia would be the liberation of Asian peoples from western imperialism, and many of the Indian troops believed it. On 10 Mar 1942, the Indian troops murdered their British superiors and jailed the few European inhabitants on the island.
On 31 Mar 1942, the invasion force arrived. Nishimura was the naval commander for this operation, with his flag on the light cruiser Naka. Light cruisers Nagara and Natori and destroyers Minegumo, Natsugumo, Amatsukaze, Hatsukaze, Satsuki, Minatsuki, Fumitsuki and Nagatsuki, supported by three smaller craft, made up Nishimura's fleet. The invasion force was made up by the 850 men from the 21st Special Base Force, 24th Special Base Force, and the 102nd Construction Unit. At dawn, 12 Japanese bombers destroyed the radio station on the island as a safety precaution, and at about 0800 Japanese troops landed at Flying Fish Cove without opposition. At 0949, American submarine Seawolf fired four torpedoes at Naka, but they all missed. At 0949 on 1 Apr, Seawolf launched three torpedoes at Natori, missing again. That evening, with the final two torpedoes, Seawolf managed to hit Naka on her starboard side, requiring her to be towed to Singapore by Natori for temporary repairs.
Christmas Island never held an important role for the remainder of the war, despite some Japanese Army reconnaissance flights originated from the island to gather intelligence on Australia's northern and western coasts. On 3 Apr, three days after the invasion, the Japanese garrison was reduced to 20 men, and the only valuable natural resource, in the form of a large phosphate deposit, was taken back to Japan on a transport. After the war, the Indian troops who aided the Japanese were prosecuted by a military court in Singapore in 1947; five were given death sentences, though they were commuted to life imprisonment after protest from India and Pakistan.
Aftermath of the Campaign
The termination of the Java area battles saw the Japanese securing the vast resources of the Southwest Pacific and establishing a defensive perimeter along the arc of large islands stretching from Singapore south and east through Sumatra, Java, the northern shore of New Guinea, and Rabaul in New Britain. The Japanese Navy proved itself as equals to their western counterparts, but in retrospect Captain Mitsugo Ihara, staff officer of the Japanese 3rd Fleet, lamented that the
Sources: Interrogation of Japanese Officials, Nihon Kaigun, Wikipedia.
Dutch East Indies Campaign, Java Timeline
|18 Dec 1941||Dutch and Australian troops occupied Portuguese Timor to establish a defense against advancing Japanese forces.|
|24 Jan 1942||Battle of Makassar Strait: Off Balikpapan, four Japanese transports were sunk as the result of this battle.|
|2 Feb 1942||Japanese warships began to patrol in waters near Java, Duth East Indies paving way for the invasion fleet. Ahead of the warships were Japanese bombers, which attacked Surabaya, Java and other military targets. Meanwhile, cruiser USS Houston, cruiser USS Marblehead, and 7 Dutch and American destroyers departed Surabaya to intercept a detected Japanese troop convoy sailing toward Java.|
|3 Feb 1942||Japanese naval land attack planes bombed ABDA operating base at Surabaya.|
|4 Feb 1942||The American-Dutch fleet which departed Surabaya, Java, Dutch East Indies on the previous day was detected by the Japanese aircraft at 0949 hours in the Bali Sea. The Japanese aircraft, originally flying to bomb Surabaya, attacked the fleet instead, hitting US cruiser USS Marblehead with 2 bombs (killing 15), US cruiser USS Houston with 1 bomb (killing 48), and Dutch destroyer HNLMS De Ruyter (7 killed); 4 Japanese aircraft were lost during the attack. The Allied fleet abandoned its original plans to intercept a Japanese invasion convoy due to the damage suffered.|
|5 Feb 1942||Japanese aircraft attacked Allied shipping off Sumbawa Island and Bali Island in the Dutch East Indies; several P-40 Warhawk fighters of the USAAF 20th Provisional Pursuit Squadron were destroyed at Bali.|
|14 Feb 1942||The British Royal Navy riverboat HMS Li Wo, evacuating military personnel from Java, ran into part of the Japanese invasion fleet and was blasted to pieces by destroyers. In a last desperate show of defiance, the little boat rammed one of the enemy transports (which would sink on the following day) before going down. Only 13 of the 120 aboard Li Wo survived. The commander, Lieutenant Thomas Wilkinson, who went down with his vessel, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross in 1946.|
|15 Feb 1942||An Allied troop convoy consisted of four transports (with Australian and American troops aboard) departed from Darwin, Australia for Timor, escorted by cruiser USS Houston, destroyer USS Peary, sloop HMAS Swan, and sloop HMAS Warrego.|
|16 Feb 1942||46 Japanese aircraft based in Kendari, Celebes, Dutch East Indies attacked an Allied troop convoy (carrying Australian and American troops) intended for Timor; although the attack was driven off, the convoy was turned back in fear of further attacks.|
|17 Feb 1942||9 Japanese troop transports departed Ambon for Timor in the Dutch East Indies at 0800 hours. Later in the evening, Japanese transports Sasego Maru and Sagami Maru departed Makassar, Celebes, Dutch East Indies with invasion troops for Bali.|
|18 Feb 1942||Japanese aircraft sank Dutch coastal defense ship Surabaya and Dutch submarine K7 at Surabaya Harbor, Java, Dutch East Indies.|
|19 Feb 1942||Japanese troops landed at Denpasar, Bali in the Dutch East Indies unopposed before dawn. At 0700 hours, as the Japanese troops transports departed Bali and began to sail for their home ports, 20 American aircraft attacked the convoy, damaging transport Sagami Maru. At 2200 hours, as the Japanese convoy sailed through the Badung Strait, it was engaged by Dutch cruiser De Ruyter, Dutch cruiser Java, and 3 US and Dutch destroyers; Dutch destroyer Piet Hein was sunk by Japanese torpedoes in the battle, killing 64.|
|20 Feb 1942||At 0130 hours, a fresh ABDA force consisted of a Dutch cruiser and four US destroyers attempted to intercept a Japanese transport fleet in the Badung Strait in the Dutch East Indies for the second time. Dutch cruiser Tromp (10 killed) and American destroyer Stewart were damaged on the Allied side, while Japanese destroyers Asashio (4 killed) and Oshio (7 killed) also suffered damage. At 0220 hours, Japanese destroyers Arashio and Michishio joined in the action; Michishio became the target of all four American destroyers, suffering several hits and 13 killed, but was able to be towed away from battle. Elsewhere, at dawn, Japanese troops landed at Dili, Portuguese Timor and Koepang, Dutch Timor. Portuguese defenders at Dili was overrun and Portugal accepted the Japanese occupation for the duration of the war; Australian defenders at Koepang resisted, however. At 1045 hours, 323 Japanese paratroops were delivered to Koepang airfield, but most of them did not land in the drop zone, and 245 of them were killed by the Australians.|
|22 Feb 1942||US 5th Air Force bombers attacked de Pasar airfield, Bali, Dutch East Indies, destroying a number of Japanese aircraft. On the same day, Japanese bombers attacked Allied airfields on Java, destroying 4 US B-17 bombers on the ground at Pasirian airfield and 1 Liberator bomber at Jogjakarta airfield.|
|23 Feb 1942||Japanese aircraft struck Allied airfields on Java, Dutch East Indies. Meanwhile, Colonel William Leggatt's Australian troops surrendered at Koepang, Dutch West Timor at 0900 hours, while the Australian troops outside of Koepang were bombed by Japanese aircraft at 1000 hours.|
|24 Feb 1942||At Java, Dutch East Indies, the headquarters of the Allied ABDA Command was relocated with intention of dissolution. On the same day, Japanese aircraft attacked Allied airfields on Java, destroying 3 US B-17 bombers on the ground; the remaining US 5th Air Force aircraft were evacuated to Australia.|
|25 Feb 1942||In the Dutch East Indies, the second of two Japanese invasion fleets for Java departed from Balikpapan, Borneo; the fleet was consisted of 41 troop transports and escorted by 5 cruisers and 16 destroyers.|
|26 Feb 1942||Allied ABDA Command warships departed Surabaya, Java, Dutch East Indies in search of a detected Japanese invasion fleet; the search would be uneventful.|
|27 Feb 1942||American seaplane tender USS Langley with 32 P-40 fighters aboard, en route to Java, was sunk by Japanese Navy land-based aircraft. On the same day, at the Battle of the Java Sea, Japanese fleet sank Allied 2 cruisers and 3 destroyers without any losses.|
|28 Feb 1942||In the Dutch East Indies, Allied cruisers USS Houston and HMAS Perth were ordered to sail through Sunda Strait to Tjilatjap, where they would participate in the Battle of Sunda Strait, and USS Houston would sink with the loss of 693 men. Meanwhile, Japanese troops landed at Bantam Bay and Eretan Wetan, west and east of Batavia, respectively; another force landed 100 miles east of Surabaya.|
|1 Mar 1942||HMS Encounter, HMS Exeter, and USS Pope were sunk at the Second Battle of the Java Sea; the ships suffered 7, 54, and 1 killed, respectively. Meanwhile, at the Battle of Sunda Strait, Allied cruisers USS Houston and HMAS Perth intercepted a Japanese invasion force but were both sunk as they attacked; four Japanese transports and a minesweepers were sunk, but two of the transports were later refloated. Also on this date, Japanese troops landed on Java and immediately began marching for Batavia, with the Japanese 2nd Division capturing Serang and the 230th Infantry Regiment capturing Kalidjati airfield at Soebang en route. Finally, Japanese air raids at Surabaya damaged destroyer USS Stewart and Dutch destroyer Witte de With.|
|2 Mar 1942||Japanese troops advancing toward Batavia, Java, Dutch East Indies were halted by Australian troops at Leuwiliang. At Soebang, 250 Dutch troops with 20 tanks attacked Kalidjati airfield, but the attack was repulsed. East of Batavia, Japanese troops captured the oilfields at Tjepoe (now Cepu). As the Japanese troops approached, the Dutch colonial government relocated to Bandoeng, US personnel began evacuation by aircraft, and the Dutch Navy continued to scuttle destroyers, submarines, minesweepers, and other warships at Surabaya to prevent capture.|
|3 Mar 1942||Australian troops continued to hold against Japanese attacks at Leuwiliang west of Batavia, Java, Dutch East Indies. In eastern Java, Japanese captured Bojonegoro.|
|4 Mar 1942||All Dutch troops evacuated Batavia and Leuwiliang, Java, Dutch East Indies after sundown for Bandoeng 70 miles to the southeast.|
|5 Mar 1942||Japanese 2nd Division captured Batavia on the island of Java, the capital of Dutch East Indies.|
|6 Mar 1942||Japanese aircraft attacked Surabaya, Java, Dutch East Indies, damaging Dutch minesweeper Jan van Amstel, killing 23. Dutch sailors scuttled minesweepers C and Pieter de Bitter, also at Surabaya, to prevent capture.|
|7 Mar 1942||Japanese troops reached Tjilatjap, Java, Dutch East Indies during the day and captured Lembang in the evening, which overlooked Bandoeng. Dutch sailors scuttled minelayer Gouden Leeuw at Surabaya, Java to prevent capture.|
|8 Mar 1942||Dutch troops at Bandoeng, Java, Dutch East Indies surrendered at the Isola Hotel in Lembang at 1000 hours between Dutch General Jacob J. Pesman and Japanese Colonel Toshishige Shoji. In the afternoon, Dutch Governor Tjarda Van Starkenborgh Stachouwer, General Hein Ter Poorten, and Major General Jacob Pesman surrendered all Dutch forces on Java to Japanese General Hitoshi Imamura.|
|12 Mar 1942||British General Sitwell, Australian Brigadier Blackburn, and US Colonel Searle formally surrendered to Japanese General Maruyama at Bandung, Java, Dutch East Indies at 0730 hours.|
|11 Apr 1942||American submarine USS Searaven evacuated 33 Australian Army personnel from Timor Island.|
|17 Apr 1942||American submarine Searaven began evacuating Australian troops from Timor, Dutch East Indies.|
|27 Apr 1942||Troops of the Australian Sparrow Force on Portuguese Timor, now waging a guerrilla war against the Japanese, received supplies by Australian aircraft.|
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General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944