Borneo Campaign file photo [4209]

Borneo Campaign

11 Apr 1945 - 15 Aug 1945


ww2dbaseBattle of Tarakan
1-25 May 1945

ww2dbaseTarakan was a small island located in the northeastern corner of Borneo. The town and its oil fields were primary objectives when the Japanese invaded in 1942, and again was deemed important when it came for the Allies to invade Borneo. Although its 350,000 barrels per month production could no longer reach Japan due to the Allied occupation of the Philippines (oil so pure that the Japanese could pump them directly into warships without refining, some claimed), Operation Oboe One still provided key airfields that the Allies could use to aid the upcoming campaign against Borneo. The Allies, of course, could use the additional oil production capability that the oil fields could provide.

ww2dbaseBefore the invasion, air forces softened defensive positions between 11 and 29 Apr, and between 27 and 30 Apr minesweepers cleared way for the landing craft. On 30 Apr, commandos and engineers landed to clear beach obstacles. In the morning of 1 May, the Australian main assault force landed west of Tarakan, suffering only light casualties, and set up a beachhead for delivery of heavier machinery and vehicles to land later that day. The 26 Infantry Brigade met fierce resistance against the Japanese garrison at the Tarakan airfield, and could not capture the airfield until 5 May; the town of Tarakan fell the next day.

ww2dbaseLosing Tarakan, the Japanese troops fled into the rugged interiors of the island. Though well dug in, heavy artillery and air bombardments made short order of the Japanese garrison position by position. By 15 May, Tarakan was declared secure, but pockets of Japanese resistance continued to harass Australian troops. On 14 Jun, the remaining Japanese forces made a break to Borneo. Those who remained on the island made a last organized counteroffensive on 19 Jun, which resulted in failure.

ww2dbaseAlthough the primary objective of Tarakan was the airfields, they were so heavily damaged during the pre-invasion bombardment that Australian engineers of the 1 and 8 Airfield Construction Squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force took much longer to restore usage. By the time the airfields were ready on 28 Jun, it was too late to provide the air umbrella for Borneo landings as originally intended. Aircraft from Tarakan, however, did have a role in supporting ground troops during the campaign.

ww2dbaseBattle of Brunei and Northern Borneo
1 Jun-15 Aug 1945

ww2dbaseAustralian 9th Division augmented with American troops landed in Brunei on 1 Jun. Expecting a landing much further down the coast, the Japanese defenders were taken by surprise. They offered little resistance before fleeing southward. Douglas MacArthur was aboard cruiser Boise during the initial landing at Brunei, observing from the sea. He noted the lack of Japanese aircraft and submarine that previously threatened all forms of Allied shipping; "just peace and quiet", he wrote, "such a delightful contrast to the savagery of the past months."

ww2dbaseBattle of Balikpapan
7-21 Jul 1945

ww2dbaseThe Australian 7th Division made a landing a few miles north of Balikpapan after heavy air and naval bombardment. The Japanese garrison fielded fewer troops than the invaders, and offered only sporadic resistance. By 21 Jul, Japanese resistance was considered defeated, though small groups of Japanese soldiers fled into the jungles and continued to harass Allied troops for the next couple of weeks (some did not learn of Emperor Showa's (Hirohito) intention to surrender for some time). MacArthur noted the "skill and courage" of the Australian troops that made the push for Balikpapan a success.

ww2dbaseConclusion of the Campaign

ww2dbaseThough successful at a minimal loss of lives, the campaign was largely controversial for being unnecessary. With the garrison stranded, many believed that it could have been left alone, held in check by Allied aerial and naval blockade much like the island fortress of Rabaul. Some believed that, since MacArthur wished to use only American troops for the campaign in the Philippines, which was an American commonwealth, he had to provide Australia some visibility, and thus Borneo was chosen. MacArthur argued that Borneo was important for a campaign on the island of Java, should it become necessary.

ww2dbaseSources: Reminiscences, Wikipedia.

Last Major Update: Aug 2006

Borneo Campaign Interactive Map


Engineers of the Australian 2/13 field company resting aboard a landing craft after a failed attempt to reach coastal wire defenses off Lingkas, Tarakan, Borneo, 30 Apr 1945A Company of the Australian 2/23 Infantry Battalion advancing through wrecked oil storage tanks at tank hill, Tarakan, 1 May 1945Men of the Australian 2/48 Infantry Battalion in landing craft, Tarakan, Borneo, 1 May 1945Private D. E. Hailey and T. M. Conway of the Australian 2/23 Infantry Battalion in their Bren gun pit on the forward slope of B Company position, Tarakan, Borneo, May 1945
See all 11 photographs of Borneo Campaign


Map of major Pacific War engagements, 1942-1945Australian Army map of the invasion beachhead at Tarakan Island, Borneo depicting the progress after the landings of 8 Apr 1945.United States Army map of Borneo showing Japanese troop dispositions as of 30 Apr 1945.Map of final Allied offensives in the southwest Pacific area, 29 Feb-1 Jul 1945
See all 5 maps of Borneo Campaign

Borneo Campaign Timeline

27 Apr 1945 USS Bailey departed Morotai escorting a convoy of transport ships carrying the 26th Australian Infantry Brigade to Tarakan, Borneo, Dutch East Indies.
27 Apr 1945 Cruisers USS Phoenix, HMAS Hobart, and USS Boise with destroyers USS Nicholas, USS O'Bannon, USS Fletcher, USS Jenkins, USS Taylor, and HMAS Warramunga arrived off Tarakan Island, Borneo, Dutch East Indies and began operations in preparations for the island’s invasion.
5 May 1945 Allied aircraft conducted raids across Borneo in preparation of the Australian invasion.
14 May 1945 Australian troops landed on Borneo.
5 Jun 1945 USS Nashville sailed from Subic Bay, Luzon, Philippines as flagship for RAdm R.E. Berkey's Task Force 74 bound to cover the Australian invasion of Brunei, Borneo.
8 Jun 1945 The fleet minesweeper USS Salute was sunk by a Japanese mine whilst covering landings at Brunei Bay.
10 Jun 1945 Australian troops landed at Brunei.
10 Jun 1945 The Australian 2/9th Armoured Regiment with an attached troop of Matilda flamethrower tanks landed at Labaun, Straits Settlements.
23 Jun 1945 The last organized Japanese defense was broken by Australian troops at Tarakan Island, Borneo.
24 Jun 1945 Australian forces captured Sarawak.
1 Jul 1945 Amphibious landings by Australian and Dutch troops captured the great Borneo oil producing centre of Balik Papan.
3 Jul 1945 Australian troops captured oil fields at Balikpapan, Borneo.
19 Jul 1945 P-38 aircraft of US 13th Air Force attacked a Japanese suicide boat base in Sandakan, Sabah, North Borneo, while US B-25 bombers attacked Japanese airfields at Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) to the west.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. ryan says:
12 Oct 2007 07:34:48 AM

i have pics of tarakan from 1945 of a barn riddled with bullet holes n also pic of oil fields 4sale
2. Anonymous says:
26 Apr 2008 04:24:53 AM

I am trying to find out the names/numbers of the LSTs that landed on Lingkas Beach, Tarakan, on May 1, 1945, and in particular, the LST that carried the 77th search light battery. If anyone has any infomation or knowledge on where this can be found, please email me:
3. Rekooh says:
24 Feb 2010 12:48:43 AM

I love Borneo
hate wars
4. Olwyn Trstenjak says:
25 Apr 2015 12:04:31 AM

I am trying to find information on my father Henry King Collins Army No. N233461 Sigs 1 Aust Div .Or, Army No. NX105735. He never told us much about his time in the Army. We know he was in Borneo, not where he was stationed. Also he said he served in New Gunea. We know he had been shot by a Japanese sniper, but again not where this took place.We know at some stage he was transferred to Sigs 9 Aust Div, but again we don't know the details. How do we find all the information on my fathers war service.
Thanking You, Olwyn Trstenjak 24/4/2015
5. Len Rodwell says:
8 Jun 2015 10:52:02 PM

The Australian War Memorial holds the service records of those who served in World War 2. I obtained my father's service record through their online service. I hope this helps.
Len Rodwell
6. brian crooks says:
22 Dec 2018 04:57:19 PM

``I`m looking into the service history of my fathers best mate Leslie roy Snelling nx15239 who was killed along side him in Balikpapan on the 6th july 1945, it was a day before my 6th b/day and a week before his 34th b/day and a couple of weeks before the war ended, Les was mentioned twice in dispatches for gallantry and I would like to find out what these were for, he is buried at Labuan war cemetery and I`m planning to visit his grave early next year as he was a single man with only a sister as his next of kin and I feel that nobody has ever visited his grave site, my father never got over it, so any information would be greatly appreciated.
7. C Snelling says:
23 Apr 2021 03:36:15 PM

Hi Brian Crooks,
Les Snelling is my Great Uncle. He also had an older brother (my Grandad) Walter John Snelling who served in Tobruk. Les is certainly not forgotten in my family. My wife and I have taken our young children twice to Canberra to place a poppy beside his name and my children will be marching tomorrow for ANZAC Day. I am very happy to know he has been thought of by someone else and we hope to visit his grave one day ourselves. I would love to know more about Great Uncle Les, I only know he was known as a Larikin by my Aunty who remembered him before we went to War. Great Uncle Les is a household name here and will always be remembered.
8. Bret C Shortridge says:
3 May 2021 07:50:41 AM

I'm looking for info about Army Corp of Engineers in Borneo during WWII.
9. C. Porter says:
28 Jun 2021 03:50:53 AM

I am searching for information that would connect my father's service, he was part of NAOU - Norforce and then his service in Borneo and surrounds.
NAA is fine but it dosen't give you a lot of detail in regards
to what he actually did there. It was a lot more then what shows on the NAA Records.
His name was Sandy Shawyer.
10. Priya Ramchandran says:
19 Feb 2023 05:31:24 PM

I'm looking for anyone who knew my grandfather during this time. He was an Indian national, working for the Dutch Shell company, who became a civilian prisoner of the Japanese in Sarawak, and was injured when the Australian Marines freed them in June 1945. He was taken in by a Kadayan couple in the jungles of Sarawak and brought back to health. I want to find that family (descendants) if possible. His name was K.A. Narayan

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Borneo Campaign Photo Gallery
Engineers of the Australian 2/13 field company resting aboard a landing craft after a failed attempt to reach coastal wire defenses off Lingkas, Tarakan, Borneo, 30 Apr 1945
See all 11 photographs of Borneo Campaign

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