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The Netherlands East Indies 1941 - 1942

The East Indies 1941 - 1942
The conquest of Java Island
The Lesser Sunda Islands
Invasion of Sumatra Island
The battle for Palembang
The capture of Riau
The conquer of Borneo
Invasion of British Borneo
The capture of Tarakan
The capture of Balikpapan
The capture of Makassar
The Fall of New Guinea
The Fall of Kendari
The Fall of Menado
Invasion of Ambon Island
Fortress in Merauke
Invasion of West Timor
Portuguese East Timor
Portugal in War
Japanese Landing Forces
Mystery of Christ. Island
Cocos Islands - World War II
Dutch Armoured Units
"Diggers" on East Timor!
The Banda Sea Operations
The Japanese paratroopers
The War - The Untold Stories

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Message from Klemen L. - the "father" of the Web Site - The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

This website is dedicated to the study of the Japanese Invasion of the Dutch East Indies (DEI) in 1941-1942. In many History books, for whatever reason, the Japanese Invasion of the Dutch East Indies is barely mentioned. Hopefully, this site will provide much more in depth and detailed information on these hostilities than has been provided elsewhere in books.

It is provided for research and educational purposes only and is not intended to glorify war, any particular country, or political agenda.

Unfortunately, as some of the battles were fought in remote jungle locations of the Netherlands East Indies, we only have the reports of survivors to tell us their version what actually happened.
Also, the speed of the Japanese advances in the Netherlands East Indies meant that many historical records that could have useful in studying this struggle were lost or destroyed. However, the contributors to this site have endeavored to enlist as many resources as possible in reporting on this conflict. In order to provide a multi-national perspective on this forgotten campaign, several researchers from different countries have contributed articles that report on the different military aspects of this theatre of operations in World War II.
So much has been written about the more High Profile campaigns in Europe and the Pacific, but this one needs to be told. The "Indies" was the Crown Jewel to the Japanese. Without it, the embargoes placed against Japan would bankrupt her. Japan had 2 years supply of oil reserve for non-military use, one year if she went to war. It would be "Unthinkable" to give in to the Western Powers, a serious loss of face. The road to war was Japan's only course of action. Japan was the only Naval Power to put into force, operations unthinkable to the Western minds. No Power before or since has embarked on such an ambitious venture. Yet, Japan did, and succeeded, beyond her wildest expectations.
Japan started it's operations with a 5 prong stab. But in the "Indies", you will see 3 of the 5 routes taken by the Japanese and the defense of the garrisons deployed against it. All 5 of these operations were continuous in nature, and as a result, not one could be stopped or slowed. They consisted of the following:
1 - The South China Sea Operations (Sarawak, Northern Borneo), later, Southwestern Borneo.
2 - The Makassar Strait Operations (Tarakan, Balikpapan and Bandjarmasin)
3 - Molucca Passage Operations (Celebes, Ambon, Timor and Bali)
The ultimate goal being Java. Yet, all of the objectives were completed by March 9th, 1942, 3 months ahead of schedule.
This site is dedicated to the men and women survivors and also to the fallen comrades. This is not a political statement express or implied, rather an objective view of what really happened during the first three months of war. There are interviews with survivors as well as documented operations on this site.
The owner of this site welcomes contributions and interviews with veterans who participated during this conflict. The owner also encourages the veterans to come forward with their account of what they endured. Without this information, this site could not have been possible.


Since the beginnings of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 the United States, and in particular Britain, had been concerned about the growth of Japanese military dominance of East Asia. Yet aggressive Japan's major problem lay in that with great modern industrial expansion had turned into a major manufacturing nation and required sufficient raw materials that could be obtained over eastern Asia. Hence Japan's swift advance in securing these areas which brought on an immediate conflict with the western powers, who also had considerable political and economic interests in the Far East region. The Japanese move into French Indo-China and diplomatic discourse with Siam (Thailand) constituted a threat to the security of British Malay, the American Philippines, Dutch East Indies and the southern lands of Australian and New Zealand.
During September 1941 the situation worsened with continued sanctions imposed against Japanese trade and became irreversibly worse in October when Lieutenant-General Hideki Tojo became Japanese Prime Minister with the support of the Nippon nations powerful military establishment.
On 5 November Tojo revealed to his inner circle of the offensive plans for a defensive war that he felt was increasingly certain to happen. The eventual plan drawn up by Army and Navy Chiefs of Staff envisaged such a mauling of the western powers that defence perimeter line established based on the abilities of Japanese tenaciousness, operating on interior lines for communications and western casualty counts, could not be breached.
This fallacy became apparent as the course of the war against Japan unfolded. Japan had come to believe that the wars in Europe had weakened the imperialists that the Mikado could pick up an extended East Asian empire at will. The Japanese military hierarchy planned a line of defence based on islands stretching from Rabaul in the Bismarck Archipelago to the Kuriles north of Japan, intending to swallow and digest the insular possessions of France, Britain, Holland, Australia, the Portuguese, and of the United States too, while finishing off the Chinese meal began decades before with the notorious 21 demands.
In 1939 the Japanese navy was the only service which gave to the aircraft carrier a place in its fleet ahead, if not equal of the big battleships. The Japanese conquest of South East Asia showed what could be attempted with superior striking strength at sea and in the air.
On Sunday 7 December the Imperial Japanese Navy hit the American military base at Pearl Harbour with an aerial onslaught. The elements of total war were clearly revealed by the undeclared surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. Itself in line with the practices of total warfare, was also in the Japanese military tradition, for they had begun other wars previously the same way. At a similar time on the Chinese coast the Japanese seized control of the International Settlement at Shanghai, taking possession of the US riverboat Wake, and sinking by gunfire the British gunboat HMS Peterel.
So at the stroke of a small action the British Empire & Commonwealth and the United States were at legally at war with the Japanese over influence in China too. Even though bad weather delayed the Japanese air attack on the US Philippines airfields, the enemy pilots were amazed to catch the American planes on the ground, in neat parade ground rows, when they finally arrived in five hours time after the carrier strike against Hawaii.
The investment of Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941 came as a grim reminder of the Imperial Japanese projected strength. The elimination of the make-shift British Far East battle fleet based at Singapore, venturing without adequate aerial cover to shell Japanese invasion points in northern Malaya were pounced and overwhelmed by Japanese land-based multi-engined bombers. At another stroke the Japanese had eliminated yet another strong, but small, Allied surface force. One immediate outcome was the establishment on 2 January 1942 of a unified command for the South West Pacific area under British General Wavell, America-British-Dutch-Australia Command.
The British Command in Malaya were prepared, by their ill-judged sense of superiority, for an European style battle that took no account of logical conditions of the Malay Peninsula. An over ill-equipped and wrongly trained army in a hopeless battle. There were only a few roads for suitable motorised supply and troop movement where as the Japanese, by contrast, travelled light often blitzkrieging through the jungle making use of minor roads, dirt tracks and amphibious by-pass actions on the coast.
Where British - Indian, or Australian, troops held strong positions Japanese tanks were employed to force still another retreat and another pursuit of soldiers easily overrun with only the depleted remnants, plus a few lucky soldiers, escaping the enemy envelopment. The Japanese harried their enemy all the way down the Peninsula, and civilian refugees on the roads southward, outflanking the improvised rearguard stops until the final battle for Singapore itself. An inevitable never to be forgotten defeat to European prestige in South East Asia.
Outnumbered in the air and on the sea the Allied forces acquitted themselves honourably but could not hope to stop the Japanese overwhelming thrust into the important oil and resource rich region. The defeat of British led Indian forces and allied troops at the hands of a numerically inferior Asiatic army riding on bicycles, living on rice and in some cases superior weapons was to have fateful post war political and nationalist consequences for the European colonial held Far East.
Yet Malay and the US Philippines were only half of the southern resource area, the Co-Prosperity Sphere of Influence, the other areas being Dutch Indies and Borneo. British Burma too offered more pickings in raw materials and from there would come tungsten, rubber and more oil. The Japanese also saw the seizure of the latter as a way that would cut the Burma Road to China, an Allied lifeline to their long standing adversary. As the Japanese island hopped south during the campaign through the Indonesian Archipelago of islands, air reconnaissance and protection were vital and maintained by Japanese superior numbers from the beginning. It became impossible for Allied warships and other vessels to move without being spotted, plotted, shadowed and assaulted.
After the invasion of Borneo and the Celebes, at Menado paratroopers were combined with the amphibious landings, the main Japanese combined operations gained momentum due to lack of effective overall opposition. From the bases on Celebes the Japanese moved into the Moluccas, and onto the island of Timor where paratroopers were employed. From bases in the South China Sea the Japanese leapfrogged invested Singapore and took Sumatra, accompanied again by paradrops. With Bali under Japanese control Java was isolated from east and west, and each Japanese land invasion sea-transport force destined for battle had powerful cruiser and numerical well-armed destroyer escorts and supported by numerical Carrier Fleet and land-based aircraft of the Army and Navy sweeping aside piecemeal Allied sea surface forces and gaining sufficient air superiority.
The Allies major foothold in the Dutch East Indies was finally destroyed on 19 February 1942 by a wild day of aerial dogfighting over Java, which cost the Allies nearly 75 fighters. Sort of the kinda day that the Luftwaffe had dreamed of during the Battle of Britain. Japanese warships had penetrated into the Indian Ocean, attacked Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Indian coastal targets and merchant shipping, even eventually having midget submarines to raid as far away as Madagascar Island, off the South African coast, and at Sydney Harbour, Australia.
By this time when the Dutch East Indies forces on Java had capitulated other Japanese forces had secured bases along the northern coast of New Guinea and in the Australia territory of the Bismarck Archipelago. In March 1942 the Japanese were regrouping their crack air squadrons, veterans of the China war, at Bali before sending them en route to Rabaul and the east coast of New Guinea for more planned joint operational conquests of expansion.
Here in the South West Pacific during the month of March Japanese amphibious forces had landed on Bougainville, the northern most major island of the Solomon chain using Buin, a town on the south coast, as a jump off point to reach down the Slot to Guadalcanal. The tide of Imperial expanded empire was now reaching full flood. The Japanese high tide of conquest also washed upon the Indian frontier. It was the Australian struggle along the Kokoda Track and at Milne Bay, and the US Marine take over of Guadalcanal that were the levy stops for reclaiming the enemy awash islands of the Pacific.
Elated by these early successes Admiral Yamamoto, the Chief of the Combined Fleet, convinced his superiors to expand further including the objectives of Midway, the Aleutians, and the Solomons, expanding the thin line of sea communications dangerously thinner. Individual Japanese commanders of the new Rising Sun Empire of Asia would go off on wild hunts to enhance their name after easy conquests unrelated to any overall strategic plan and was categorised as "victory disease" by the Japanese themselves.
The Sons of Nippon had triumphed beyond all expectations against united adversaries whose potential war machine capacity was some sixteen times greater. Fast moving flanking attacks were essential if considerable oil, rubber, tin, bauxite ore and bird poop of South East Asia and the South West Pacific were to be seized relatively undamaged during the early stages of hostilities and to avoid the north-east monsoon of the China Sea and violent gales of the north Pacific. But these land and air victories were hollow for miles away aircraft carrier versus aircraft carrier battles of the war on sea reversed the overwhelming Japanese victories enabling the Americans accompanied by their allies to open a counter attack offensive against unsinkable Pacific bastions of Bushido stubbornness.

We are very thankful for those information. For more information please visit "The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942" Web Site.

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