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The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

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Welcome to the Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942 website

Java Island Campaign 1941-1942

Java Campaign
The capture of Palembang and the occupation by the Japanese of southern Sumatra had destroyed the last hope of a prolonged defence of Java. Invasion was expected in a matter of days...

Sumatra Island Campaign 1941-1942

Sumatra Campaign
As the Japanese advanced down the Malaya Peninsula the allied bombing aircraft were forced to operate from Singapore Island and there the raiders took a heavy toll of them before they were withdrawn to southern Sumatra...

Battle for Palembang
On the day that Singapore fell, February 15th 1942, a Japanese invasion fleet was sailing towards the Palembang oilfield in south Sumatra. The oil in the region was most abundant and among the sweetest crude oil produced anywhere in the world...

The Japanese Invasion of
Northern Sumatra

But by far, the largest pocket of Dutch resistance still remaining after the fall of Java was on the huge island of Sumatra. Here, over 9,000 troops remained armed and organized in the middle and northern provinces...

Riouw Archipelago
Riouw Archipelago is a large group of more or less tiny islands, located west of Sumatra Island and south of Singapore Island. The biggest islands in the archipelago are Batam Island (Pulau Batam) and Bintan Island (Pulau Bintan) with the capital the town of Tandjoengpinang...

Borneo Island Campaign 1941-1942

The Japanese Invasion of
British North Borneo

The island of Borneo is a land of primeval jungle. The coasts are fringed with mangrove and swamp, and over nine-tenths of the interior is covered with thick evergreen forests. In 1941 the population was small, that of the whole island was estimated at less than three million, and there were less than a dozen settlements large enough to be called towns...

The Fall of Sandakan
At dawn on Sunday 18 January 1942 Sandakan was lashed by heavy monsoonal rains and wind that continued throughout the day, yet it was oppressive and humid, typical of the tropics. The Europeans of Sandakan waited with apprehension throughout the day with the only audable sound being the incessant rainfall...

The Japanese Invasion
of Tarakan Island

The first Japanese troops (Right Wing Unit) hit the shores on the east coast of Tarakan Island exactly at midnight of 11-12 January, followed by 2nd Kure Special Naval Landing Force thirty minutes later, and the Left Wing Unit landed at about 4:00 that morning...

The Japanese Invasion
of Balikpapan

The Japanese army troops landed in Balikpapan in the night of 23-24 January 1942 and occupied the town and important oil refineries without any noteworthy resistance. Some KNIL troops surrendered and some escaped to Samarinda...

The Fall of Bandjermasin
Several days after the Balikpapan invasion by Imperial Japan in late January 1942, one Japanese infantry battalion, less one company, with approximately 400 men under command of Colonel Yamamoto, landed in Adang Bay (Teluk Adang) on 31 January 1942...

The Fall of Borneo Island
The Samarinda II airfield was probably one of the most extraordinary places in the whole Dutch East Indies in 1941-1942. Before the war, the Dutch KNIL Army prepared a dozen of so called "secret airfields", to where the planes should be transfered in case of the war, so that they wouldn't be caught on the ground and destroyed by a sudden Japanese air attack...

Celebes Island Campaign 1941-1942

The Capture of Makassar
The city of Makassar is located on the southwest coast of Celebes Island and is today one of the most important harbours in Southeast Asia. The Indonesians called it Ujung Pandang...

The Fall of Menado
The invasion of the Minahassa Peninsula started with a parachute drop of approximately 600 Japanese paratroopers, members of Yokosuka 1st Special Naval Landing Force at Langoan Airfield at 0900 on January 11, 1942 from about 28 transport planes...

The Capture of Kendari
Kendari is a small town on the southeast peninsula of Celebes facing the Banda Sea towards Amboina Island. In World War II Kendari was considered as a very important air and naval base by both sides, Japanese and Allied. Especially significant for the war effort in advancing south...

The capture of Bali
Bali Island is an island west of Java. In World War II he played important role in conquest of Java Island. From Bali's airfields the important Allied Naval Base Soerabaja was in range of Japanese bombers.

Timor Island Campaign 1941-1942

The Japanese Invasion of
Dutch West Timor Island

The area of Dutch West Timor was 5,500 square miles, Koepang being the capital and principal port, 517 miles from Darwin and 670 miles to Java. The main airfield at Penfui was six miles south east of the town. Nearby were four seaplane anchorages, the principal base at Tenau. Koepang bay and adjacent Semua strait provided good shipping shelter...

The fighting on the
Portuguese East Timor Island

After resistance by the main part of Sparrow Force had ceased in Dutch West Timor on 23 February 1942 the 2/2 Independent Company began to re-organise and deploy. Mr. David Ross, the Australian Consul and a naval intelligence agent, held at Dili by the Japanese, was sent to seek out the Australian guerillas with demands of surrender...

Portuguese colonies during
World War II 1941-1945

(Macau & East Timor)

Following the surrender of Hong Kong in December 1941, the Japanese decided not to formally occupy Macao. One reason may have been that the Japanese wished to respect Portuguese neutrality...

"Diggers" on East Timor !
Of the three land campaigns fought against the Japanese in the south west Pacific during the first year of the Pacific war, the one fought on Timor is the least well known. The reason for this is mainly due to the non-continuation of the campaign after the island was isolated and by-passed when action in the theatre moved further north. The Allied campaign on Timor took up, in the end, the attention of some 32,000 Japanese soldiers...

New Guinea Island Campaign 1941-1942

The Fall of Ambon Island
As a consequence of the outcome of talks between Australia and Netherlands East Indies staffs on 17 December 2/21 Battalion landed at Ambon joining part of No.13 Squadron RAAF, Hudson bombers, who had been there since 7 December...

The Banda Sea Operations
The Toeal Detachment consisted of KNIL Lieutenant F. Hieronymus and 27 NCOs and men. They arrived at Toeal, Kai Islands on 12 July 1942. The importance of Toeal lay in the fact that it was the administative centre for the region. The Japanese troops, one company of 3rd Yokosuka SNLF and one platoon of 24th Special Base Force, landed on the islands on 30 July 1942...

The Fall of New Guinea
The Imperial Japanese Naval Force which ocuppied the Dutch New Guinea territories was called the "N" Expeditionary Force and it was assembled at Ambon Island at the end of March 1942. It departed from Ambon Island in the night of 29/30 March 1942...

The Fall of Manokwari
The garrison at Manokwari lost contact with KNIL HQ and Java at the beginning of March 1942. On April 12, 1942, a Japanese convoy steamed into Dore Bay and began landing approximately 4,000 men...

Merauke, Dutch New Guinea
Across the Dutch New Guinea border on the southern coast of the dragon shaped island of New Guinea at Merauke, the administrative centre of Irian Jaya, a colony of a colonial possession, a few Dutch and Indonesian officials had remained. Also missionaries were still scattered throughout the region...

War at Sea in the
Dutch East Indies 1941-1942

The War at Sea in the Dutch East Indies between December 1941 and March 1942

Submarine War in the
Dutch East Indies 1941-1942

The Submarine War in the Dutch East Indies between December 1941 and March 1942

The Interviews with the Veterans who took part in the Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

Massacres in the
Dutch East Indies 1941-1942

The List of all major massacres of Prisoners of War during Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

Weapons & Equipment
The Weapons and Equipment used by both sides during the Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

The Biographies of all High Ranking Officers taking part in the Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

The Pictures of Uniforms of all nations involved in the Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

The Pacific War
The untold stories

The Pacific War: The untold stories section is a group of written articles dedicated to the lesser known combatants so their experiences of war could be read by all who would like to read more about forgotten battles and soldiers of World War II in the Pacific and Southeast Asia area

Japanese Armoured Units
in the Dutch East Indies

The Japanse tank units played an active part in the conquest of the Malaya and Singapore. It will be a match for the victory of the German armor forces against Poland and France. In the Netherlands East Indies Campaign, the Japanese tankettes of the recon regiments made a good job...

Special Naval Landing Forces
in the Dutch East Indies

The Japanese Special Naval Landing Forces were not a part of the Japanese Army. Nonetheless, these naval infantry units, despite their relatively small numbers in comparison to Army ground forces, comprised a significant augmentation of the Japanese combat capabilities on dry land...

Japanese Paratroopers
in the Dutch East Indies

The Japanese Navy and Army developed, trained and experimented with their own raised airborne troops knowing quite clearly on how utilise them in military operations. The Imperial Navy opted for the creating of an aerial landed diversion inland from the beaches where the main amphibious assault by sea would be...

Dutch (KNIL) Armoured Units
in the Dutch East Indies

Although the KNIL received its first armored vehicles in the mid-1930s, there was little effort to upgrade the quality and scale of these forces until the German invasion of Holland in May 1940. With the homeland occupied, the Dutch colonies were cut off from supplies, reinforcements and new equipment...

British Armoured Units
in the Dutch East Indies

The only considerable bastion against Japanese seaborne expansion westwards was the naval base of Singapore, with its garrison of about 81,000 British and Imperial troops. On February 15, 1942 - two days after the 3rd Hussars squadron reached the island of Sumatra-Singapore surrendered...

Dutch Air Order of Battle
Dutch (ML-KNIL & MLD) Air Order of Battle on November 30th 1941

British and Commonwealth Air Order of Battle, 1941-1942
British and Commonwealth (Australian, South African and New Zealand) air force units in the battles for Dutch East Indies 1941-1942

US Patrol Wing 10
in the Dutch East Indies

After a Trans-Pacific flight through Midway, Wake and Guam, VP 26 joined VP 1 at Cavite on December 16th 1940. After their arrival, their numbers would be changed to VP 101 and VP 102 of PatWing 10. These two squadrons were the only ones to operate the PBY-4 Flying boat and would be taking it into combat. Commanding PatWing 10 was Capt. Frank Wagner...

The Japanese occupation
of Christmas Island

The Christmas Island (135 sq km) is a lonely mountainous island in the Indian Ocean, south of Java Island (Indonesia) and it was incorporated into the Strait Settlements in 1900. It was important due to large deposits of phosphate of lime, which is worked by a British firm whose employees form the entire population on the island of 1,000 (circa 1935)...

The Cocos Islands in 1942
The Territory of Cocos Islands; including Keeling Islands (14.4 sq km) is consisted of two coral atolls, lying in the Indian Ocean some 650 miles south of Sumatra (Indonesia), 1,760 miles south-east of Ceylon, 1,040 miles south-south-west of Singapore and 1,330 miles from western Australia. They were annexed in 1903 and administrated by Singapore, as part of the Strait Settlements, nearly 1,200 miles away...

Welcome to the
Dutch East Indies 1941-1942 Website

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 of what actually happened.

Also, the speed of the Japanese advances in the Netherlands East Indies meant that many historical records that could have been 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 its operations with a 5 prong stab. But in the "Indies", you will see 3 of the 5 routes taken by the Japanese and the defence 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.


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.

What can you find on this website?

Battle Action Reports - Land, Naval and Air Orders of Battle - description of units
Military Leaders - Individual Generals and Admirals
Fighting Personnel - Individual Army Colonels and Naval Captains to army privates
Battle Pictures
Equipment Pictures and Drawings - Uniforms, Weapons, Aircraft, and Warships
Message Board - Have a question or answer to a question regarding the Pacific War?
Special Section - Articles submitted by various contributors regarding actions in the Pacific War

Abbreviations & Signs

DEI = Dutch East Indies
NEI = Netherlands East Indies
HMS = His Majesty Ship
HMAS = His Majesty Australian Ship
RN = Royal Navy
RNN = Royal Netherlands Navy
KM = Koninklijke Marine
USN = United States Navy
IJN = Imperial Japanese Navy
ML-KNIL = Militaire Luchtvaart van het Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger
MLD = Marine Luchtvaartdienst
KNIL = Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger
USAAF = United States Army Air Force
RAF = Royal Air Force
RAAF = Royal Australian Air Force
IJA = Imperial Japanese Army
MC = Military Cross
DSO = Distinguished Service Order
CB = Companion of the Order of the Bath
KCB = Knight Commander of the Bath
GCB = Knight Grand Cross of Bath
OBE = Order of the British Empire
VC = Victoria Cross
Srednja Evropa = Middle/Central Europe
standardni cas = Standard Time
- stands for link
- stands for map

  The map of the Dutch East Indies 1941-1942
The map is courtesy of Graham Donaldson

Message Board

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Now moved to Pacific War 1941-1945 Forum

Index of Indonesian - Dutch
Geographical Names

The List of Indonesian - Dutch Geographical Names of major places and islands in the Dutch East Indies before World War II. Quite a few names of several cities have been renamed into Indonesian version after Indonesia gained her independence in 1946. I hope you will find this list helpful while reading The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1943 Web Site pages.

Indonesian - Dutch Geographical Names

Military Ranks

Royal Air Force Ranks - RAF

Royal Air Force (RAF) Ranks

RNN, IJN and RN Navy Ranks

Allied and Japanese Navy Ranks

Dutch Army and Air Force Ranks

Created by Klemen L.

Article List


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