Battle of Borneo (1941–42)

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Battle of Borneo
Part of the Pacific Theatre of World War II
Japanese paratroopers heading to Borneo, 1941.jpg
Japanese paratroopers of the 2nd Yokosuka Naval Landing Force under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Genzo Watanabe (standing on top in the left) inside a transport ship heading to Borneo prior to their invasion in December 1941.
Date16 December 1941 – March 1942
Location
Result Japanese victory
Territorial
changes
Japanese occupation of British Borneo and Dutch Borneo
Belligerents
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom

Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands

Commanders and leaders
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Kiyotake Kawaguchi Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Robert Brooke-Popham
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg C.M. Lane
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Dominicus Mars
Strength
4,500 infantry
2 heavy cruisers
1 light cruiser
6 destroyers
1 submarine chaser
1 seaplane tender
1 minesweeper
1 submarine
1 collier
10 transports
1,000 Sarawak Force
1,000 British Punjab Regiment
1,000 KNIL
650 police
5 fighters
Unknown bomber strength
3 flying boats
2 submarines
Casualties and losses
567+ casualties
2 destroyers sunk
1 minesweeper sunk
1 collier sunk
2 transports sunk
1 transport beached
1 transport damaged
2,300 casualties
1 flying boat destroyed
1 submarine sunk

The Battle of Borneo was a successful campaign by Japanese Imperial forces for control of Borneo island and concentrated mainly on the subjugation of the Raj of Sarawak, Brunei, North Borneo, and the western part of Kalimantan that was part of the Dutch East Indies. The Japanese main unit for this mission was the 35th Infantry Brigade led by Major-General Kiyotake Kawaguchi.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.

Borneo island

Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. At the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia, in relation to major Indonesian islands, it is located north of Java, west of Sulawesi, and east of Sumatra.

Raj of Sarawak 1841–1946 kingdom on northern Borneo

The Raj of Sarawak, also State of Sarawak, was an independent state, and later a British protectorate, located in the northwestern part of the island of Borneo. It was established as an independent state from a series of land concessions acquired by an Englishman, James Brooke, from the Sultanate of Brunei. Sarawak received recognition as an independent state from the United States in 1850, and from the United Kingdom in 1864.

Contents

Historical context

In 1941, Borneo was divided between the Dutch East Indies and British protectorates (North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei) and crown colonies (Labuan).

Dutch East Indies Dutch colony between 1816-1949, present-day Indonesia

The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony consisting of what is now Indonesia. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Dutch government in 1800.

A protectorate, in its inception adopted by modern international law, is a dependent territory that has been granted local autonomy and some independence while still retaining the suzerainty of a greater sovereign state. In exchange for this, the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations, which may vary greatly, depending on the real nature of their relationship. Therefore, a protectorate remains an autonomous part of a sovereign state. They are different from colonies as they have local rulers and people ruling over the territory and experience rare cases of immigration of settlers from the country it has suzerainty of. However, a state which remains under the protection of another state but still retains independence is known as a protected state and is different from protectorates.

Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that are under colonial rule. Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981 with the exception of Hong Kong, which remained a Crown colony. Since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.

The so-called "White Rajahs", the Brooke family, had ruled Sarawak, on the northwest of Borneo, for almost a century, first as Rajahs under the Sultanate of Brunei (a by then tiny but once powerful state entirely enclosed within the borders of Sarawak), and from 1888 as a protectorate of the British Empire. The northeast of the island comprised North Borneo, since 1882 another British protectorate under the British North Borneo Company. Offshore lay the small British crown colony of Labuan.

White Rajahs Designation for members of the Brooke family

The White Rajahs were a dynastic monarchy of the British Brooke family, who founded and ruled the Raj of Sarawak, located on the north west coast of the island of Borneo, from 1841 to 1946. The first ruler was an Englishman James Brooke. As a reward for helping the Sultanate of Brunei fight piracy and insurgency among the indigenous peoples, he was granted the province of Kuching which was known as Sarawak Asal in 1841 and received independent kingdom status.

Raja Monarch or princely ruler in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia

Raja, is a title for a monarch equivalent to king or princely ruler in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

The rest of the island—collectively known as Kalimantan—was under Dutch control. The Netherlands were invaded by Nazi Germany in 1940. However, Free Dutch forces—mainly the Royal Netherlands Navy and the 85,000-strong[ citation needed ] Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL, including a small air service)—fought on, spread throughout the Dutch East Indies, and by December 1941 under an embryonic and somewhat chaotic joint allied command which became the short-lived American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM).

Kalimantan Region in Indonesia

Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo. It comprises 73% of the island's area. The non-Indonesian parts of Borneo are Brunei and East Malaysia. In Indonesia, "Kalimantan" refers to the whole island of Borneo. In 2019, the Indonesian President Joko Widodo has announced a move of Indonesia's capital, possibly to Kalimantan.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Royal Netherlands Navy Naval branch of the Dutch armed forces

The Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) is the naval force of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its origins date back to the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648), the war of independence from the House of Habsburg who ruled over the Habsburg Netherlands.

Background

The Tripartite Pact—between the three Axis Powers of Germany, Japan and Italy—guaranteed mutual support, and this paid off for Japan in July 1941 when French weakness in the wake of the fall of France to Germany allowed Japan to occupy French Indo-China (now modern Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). This blocked a supply route for the Kuomintang, against whom Japan had been fighting, since 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War. It also gave Imperial Japan a seaboard facing Sarawak and North Borneo across the China Sea. Japan turned its eyes from the war in China and towards strategic targets in the Pacific and the Dutch East Indies. In December that year, Japan struck out against US possessions in Hawaii and the Philippines, declaring war on the US and finally precipitating Germany's official declaration of war on America according to the Pact.

Tripartite Pact Treaty establishing the Axis Powers of World War Two

The Tripartite Pact, also known as the Berlin Pact, was an agreement between Germany, Italy and Japan signed in Berlin on 27 September 1940 by, respectively, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Galeazzo Ciano and Saburō Kurusu. It was a defensive military alliance that was eventually joined by Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, as well as by the German client state of Slovakia. Yugoslavia's accession provoked a coup d'état in Belgrade two days later, and Germany, Italy and Hungary responded by invading Yugoslavia and partitioning the country. The resulting Italo-German client state known as the Independent State of Croatia joined the pact on 15 June 1941.

Vichy France Client state (1940–1944) of Nazi Germany, administering the Free Zone in southern France and French colonial possessions

Vichy France is the common name of the French State headed by Marshal Philippe Pétain during World War II. Evacuated from Paris to Vichy in the unoccupied "Free Zone" in the southern part of metropolitan France which included French Algeria, it remained responsible for the civil administration of France as well as the French colonial empire.

Battle of France Successful German invasion of France in 1940

The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. France had previously invaded Germany in 1939. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.

With its rich petroleum exploitation capacity, for instance at Tarakan, Balikpapan and Banjarmasin, Borneo was a prime target for Japan, and a very poorly guarded one. Chronically short of natural resources, Japan needed an assured supply of fuel in order to flex its muscles and achieve its long-term goal of becoming the major power in the Pacific region. Borneo also stood on the main sea routes between Java, Sumatra, Malaya and Celebes. Control of these routes were vital to securing the territory.

Petroleum Naturally occurring hydrocarbon liquid found underground

Petroleum is a naturally occurring, yellowish-black liquid found in geological formations beneath the Earth's surface. It is commonly refined into various types of fuels. Components of petroleum are separated using a technique called fractional distillation, i.e. separation of a liquid mixture into fractions differing in boiling point by means of distillation, typically using a fractionating column.

Battle of Tarakan (1942)

The Battle of Tarakan took place on January 11–12, 1942, beginning a day after the Empire of Japan declared war on the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Although Tarakan was only a small marshy island off northeastern Borneo in the Netherlands East Indies, the island's 700 oil wells, oil refinery, and airfield made it a crucial objective for Japan in the Pacific War.

This article concerns the naval and land battles of Balikpapan in 1942. For information on the 1945 landings by Australian forces in the same area, see Second Battle of Balikpapan.

Allied order of battle

Map of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM) area, with Borneo just left of centre. ABDACOM-Area.jpg
Map of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM) area, with Borneo just left of centre.

Defence in Sarawak and North Borneo

The main objectives were the oilfields at Miri in Sarawak region and Seria in Brunei. The oil was refined at Lutong near Miri. Despite rich oil supplies, the Sarawak region had no air or sea forces to defend it. Only in late 1940 did Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham order the 2nd Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment, a heavy 152 mm (6 in) gun battery from the Hong Kong-Singapore Royal Artillery, and a detachment of 35th Fortress Company (Royal Engineers) to be positioned at Kuching. They numbered about 1,050 men. In addition, the Brooke White Rajah government also organised the Sarawak Rangers. This force consisted of 1,515 men who were primarily Iban and Dayak tribesmen. Altogether these forces were commanded by British Lieutenant Colonel C.M. Lane and was known as "SARFOR" (Sarawak Force).

After having heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, on 8 December 1941, the Brooke government instructed that the oilfields at Miri and Seria and refinery at Lutong be quickly demolished.

Defence in Singkawang and Pontianak (Dutch East Indies)

The Dutch forces had an important airfield near the border of British(Sarawak) called "Singkawang II", which was defended by about 750 Dutch troops. On 25 November five Brewster 339 Buffalo fighter planes arrived for local defence followed in the beginning of December by Martin B-10 bombers.

The Dutch Naval Aviation Group GVT-1 with three Dornier Do 24K flying boats was located in Pontianak along with a KNIL garrison, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Dominicus Mars, numbering approximately 500 men.

Dutch forces in West Borneo consisted of the following units:

Japanese order of battle

The main Japanese force—led by Major General Kiyotake Kawaguchi—consisted of units from Canton, southern China:

Battle

Additional Japanese troops landing off the west coast of British North Borneo in Labuan, 14 January 1942. Japanese landing off the west coast of British North Borneo, Labuan.jpg
Additional Japanese troops landing off the west coast of British North Borneo in Labuan, 14 January 1942.

On 13 December 1941, the Japanese invasion convoy left Cam Ranh Bay in French Indochina, with an escort of the cruiser Yura (Rear-Admiral Shintaro Hashimoto) with the destroyers of the 12th Destroyer Division, Murakumo, Shinonome, Shirakumo and Usugumo, submarine-chaser Ch 7 and the seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru Ten transport ships carried the Japanese 35th Infantry Brigade HQ under the command of Major-General Kiyotake Kawaguchi. The Support Force—commanded by Rear-Admiral Takeo Kurita—consisted of the cruisers Kumano and Suzuya and the destroyers Fubuki and Sagiri.

The Japanese forces intended to capture Miri and Seria, while the rest would capture Kuching and nearby airfields. The convoy proceeded without being detected and, at dawn on 16 December 1941, two landing units secured Miri and Seria with only very little resistance from British forces. A few hours later, Lutong was captured as well.

Dutch Martin B-10 bombers made attacks on Japanese shipping from their base 'Singkawang II' at Miri on 17 December, but their attempt failed. The three Dornier Do 24Ks followed up with their own attack, but one was shot down, possibly by a floatplane from Kamikawa Maru. [1] The remaining two had the benefit of cloud cover, and were never seen by the Japanese. One flying boat scored two 200 kg bomb hits on Shinonome, causing a massive explosion, while a near miss ruptured its hull plating. The destroyer's stern broke off and the ship sank within minutes. [1] The last flying boat dropped its bombs on a freighter, but missed. The B-10 bombers made attacks at Miri 18 and 19 December, but retired to Sumatra on 23 December since Singkawang II airfield was discovered by the Japanese, who began attacking it the same day.

On 22 December a Japanese convoy left Miri for Kuching, but was spotted by Dutch flying boat X-35, which radioed a warning to HNLMS K XIV, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Carel A. J. van Groeneveld. At 20:40 on 23 December K XIV infiltrated the convoy and began its attack. The army transports Hiyoshi Maru and Katori Maru were sunk with the loss of hundreds of troops. Hokkai Maru was beached to prevent it from sinking, and an additional transport was less seriously damaged. [1] The rest of the troops were able to land. Although 2nd Battalion, 15th Punjab Regiment, resisted the attack, they were soon outnumbered and retreated up the river. By the afternoon, Kuching was in Japanese hands.

On the night of 23–24 December HNLMS K XVI torpedoed the Japanese destroyer Sagiri 30 Miles north of Kuching, becoming the first Allied submarine in the Pacific to sink a warship. K XVI was lost with all hands during the day by a torpedo from Japanese submarine I66. [1]

On 24 and 28 December B-10 bombers from a different unit flew missions against Kuching from Singapore, Sembawang. On 26 December, B-10s operating out of Samarinda sank a Japanese minesweeper and a collier. [1]

Meanwhile, on 31 December 1941, the force under Lieutenant Colonel Watanabe moved northward to occupy Brunei, Labuan Island, and Jesselton (now called Kota Kinabalu). On 18 January 1942, using small fishing boats, the Japanese landed at Sandakan, the seat of government of British North Borneo. The North Borneo Armed Constabulary, with only 650 men, hardly provided any resistance to slow down the Japanese invasion. On the morning of 19 January, Governor Charles Robert Smith surrendered British North Borneo and was interned with other staff.

At about 16:40 on 25 December, Japanese troops successfully captured Kuching airfield. The Punjab regiment retreated through the jungle to the Singkawang area. After Singkawang was secured as well on 29 December, the rest of the British and Dutch troops retreated further into the jungle southward trying to reach Sampit and Pangkalanbun, where a Dutch airfield at Kotawaringin was located. South and central Kalimantan were taken by the Japanese Navy following attacks from east and west. The town of Pontianak was finally occupied by the Imperial Japanese forces on 29 January 1942. After ten weeks in the jungle-covered mountains, Allied troops surrendered on 1 April 1942.

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The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army was the military force maintained by the Netherlands in its colony of the Netherlands East Indies, in areas that are now part of Indonesia. The KNIL's air arm was the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force. Elements of the Royal Netherlands Navy were also stationed in the Netherlands East Indies.

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The Brunei revolt was a December 1962 insurrection in the British protectorate of Brunei by opponents of its monarchy and its proposed inclusion in the Federation of Malaysia. The insurgents were members of the TNKU, a militia supplied by Indonesia and linked to the leftwing Brunei People's Party (BPP), which favoured a North Borneo Federation. The TNKU began co-ordinated attacks on the oil town of Seria, on police stations, and on government facilities around the protectorate. The revolt began to break down within hours, having failed to achieve key objectives such as the capture of Brunei town and Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien III. The revolt influenced the Sultan's 1963 decision not to join Malaysia. It is seen as one of the first stages of the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation.

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History of Sarawak

History of Sarawak can be traced as far as 40,000 years ago paleolithic period where the earliest evidence of human settlements is found in the Niah caves. A series of Chinese ceramics dated from 8th to 13th century AD was uncovered at the archeological site of Santubong. The coastal regions of Sarawak came under the influence of the Bruneian Empire in the 16th century. In 1839, James Brooke, a British explorer, first arrived in Sarawak. Sarawak was later governed by the Brooke family between 1841 and 1946. During World War II, it was occupied by the Japanese for three years. After the war, the last White Rajah, Charles Vyner Brooke, ceded Sarawak to Britain, and in 1946 it became a British Crown Colony. On 22 July 1963, Sarawak was granted self-government by the British. Following this, it became one of the founding members of the Federation of Malaysia, established on 16 September 1963. However, the federation was opposed by Indonesia, and this led to the three-year Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation. From 1960 to 1990, Sarawak experienced a communist insurgency.

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References

Citations

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Cox, Jeffrey (November 2015). Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II (illustrated ed.). Osprey Publishing. ISBN   9781472808349.