|Dutch East Indies campaign|
|Part of the Pacific Theatre of World War II|
Japanese forces land on Java.
|Commanders and leaders|
| 52 warships |
193 tanks & tankettes
2,017 guns & mortars
5,898 motor vehicles
|Casualties and losses|
| 2,384 killed|
The Dutch East Indies campaign of 1941–1942 was the conquest of the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia) by forces from the Empire of Japan in the early days of the Pacific campaign of World War II. Forces from the Allies attempted unsuccessfully to defend the islands. The East Indies were targeted by the Japanese for their rich oil resources which would become a vital asset during the war. The campaign and subsequent three and a half year Japanese occupation was also a major factor in the end of Dutch colonial rule in the region.
The East Indies was one of Japan's primary targets if and when it went to war because the colony possessed abundant valuable resources the most important of which were its rubber plantations and oil fields;the colony was the fourth-largest exporter of oil in the world, behind the U.S., Iran, and Romania. The oil made the islands enormously important to the Japanese (see below), so they sought to secure the supply for themselves. They sent four fleet carriers and a light carrier along with the four fast battleships of the Kongōclass, 13 heavy cruisers and many light cruisers and destroyers to support their amphibious assaults in addition to conducting raids on cities, naval units and shipping in both that area and around the Indian Ocean.
Access to oil was one of the linchpins of the Japanese war effort, as Japan has no native source of oil;it could not even produce enough to meet even 10% of its needs, even with the extraction of oil shale in Manchuria using the Fushun process. Japan quickly lost 93 percent of its oil supply after President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order on 26 July 1941 which froze all of Japan's U.S. assets and embargoed all oil exports to Japan. In addition, the Dutch government in exile, at the urging of the Allies and with the support of Queen Wilhelmina, broke its economic treaty with Japan and joined the embargo in August. Japan's military and economic reserves included only a year and a half's worth of oil. As a U.S. declaration of war against Japan was feared if the latter took the East Indies, the Japanese planned to eliminate the U.S. Pacific Fleet, allowing them to overtake the islands; this led to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In late November, the Netherlands government in the East Indies under the Dutch government-in-exile (already at war with Imperial Japan's Axis power ally Germany in Europe) began preparing for war against Japan itself: ships of the Royal Netherlands Navy were sent to sea and the KNIL Air Force was mobilised. a.m. on the day of the attack, the East Indies government had warned merchantmen at sea to make for the nearest port. At that hour, the governor general made a public announcement over the radio that the Netherlands "accepts the challenge and takes up arms against the Japanese Empire." Instructions had been telegraphed to the embassy in Tokyo at 2:30 a.m., even before news of the attack on Pearl Harbor had reached the Dutch government in London at 4:00. The instructions were only received on the evening of the next day, and the declaration of war was finally handed to the Japanese foreign minister, Shigenori Tōgō, by the Dutch ambassador, J. C. Pabst, on the morning of 10 December. The Swedish ambassador agreed to handle Dutch interests for the duration of the conflict.On 4 December, three days after having decided on a policy of war against America, Britain and the Netherlands, the Japanese government decided instead to "treat the Netherlands as a quasi enemy until actual hostilities ... occur." This was in the hopes that the Dutch would not preemptively destroy oil installations before the Japanese were ready to invade. On 8 December 1941, in a public proclamation, the Netherlands declared war on Japan. By 7:00
The Dutch declaration did not alter the Japanese decision, and the latter's declaration of war did not come until 11 January 1942.When Japan was charged with waging a "war of aggression" before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in 1946, it was argued that her attitude towards the Netherlands proved otherwise, since the Dutch had declared war first. The tribunal rejected this, on the grounds that Japan's sole intention was "to give less time to the Netherlands for destroying oil wells." They found that the Netherlands' declaration was in self-defence.
General Hisaichi Terauchi, commander of the Southern Expeditionary Army Group, began the campaign by sending the 16th Army under command of General Hitoshi Imamura to attack Borneo. On 17 December, Japanese forces successfully landed on Miri, an oil production centre in northern Sarawak, with support from a battleship, an aircraft carrier, three cruisers and four destroyers.
Initially, the Japanese forces launched air strikes on key areas and gained air superiority. Following the airstrikes, landings were made at several locations targeting airfields and other important points in the area. In addition to the landings at Miri, the Japanese forces made landings at Seria, Kuching, Jesselton and Sandakan between 15 December 1941 and 19 January 1942. After these main objectives in Borneo were completed, the Japanese forces planned a three-pronged assault southward using three forces named Eastern Force, Center Force and Western Force. The aim of this assault was to capture the oil resources in the East Indies. The Eastern Force was to advance from Jolo and Davao and move on to capture Celebes, Amboina and Timor, while protecting the Center Force's flank. The Center Force was to capture oil fields and airfields in Tarakan Island and Balikpapan. Both these forces would support the Western Force, which was to attack and capture the oil refineries and airfields in Palembang. The Japanese forces launched the assault on 11 January and landed at Tarakan.
To coordinate the fight against the Japanese, the American, British, Dutch, and Australian forces combined all available land and sea forces under the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM or ABDA) banner. This command was activated on 15 January 1942, with the overall commander being British Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell.The command structure had the American Army Air Force Lieutenant General George Brett as deputy commander, the British Lieutenant General Henry Royds Pownall as chief of staff; under them were the American Admiral Thomas C. Hart as naval commander, the Dutch Lieutenant General Hein ter Poorten as ground forces commander, and the British Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Peirse as the air commander. Although the forces were combined, they had differing priorities: the British believed the defense of the territory of Singapore and the eastern entrances to the Indian Ocean (the route to British Ceylon and British India) to be paramount, the Americans and Australians did not want a total penetration of Southwest Asia that would deprive them of bases necessary for any serious counterattack, and the Dutch considered Java and Sumatra, their "second homeland where [they] had been trading and living for over three centuries", to be the most important place to defend.
Even the combined forces could not stop or even slow the Japanese advance due to their much greater numbers; to face the Japanese attacking naval forces, the ABDA command had a conglomerate of ships drawn from any available units, which included the U.S. Asiatic Fleet (fresh from the fall of the Philippines), a few British and Australian surface ships, and Dutch units that had previously been stationed in the East Indies. Major forces included two seaplane tenders (USS Langley and Childs), two heavy cruisers (USS Houston and HMS Exeter), seven light cruisers (HNLMS De Ruyter, Java and Tromp, USS Marblehead and Boise (though Boise was forced to leave the area after striking a shoal on January 21), HMAS Hobart and Perth), 22 destroyers, and, perhaps their greatest strength, 25 American and 16 Dutch submarines. Being based on Java, these ships had to take on the central and western prongs of the three-headed Japanese assault; the central force's combat ships, the light carrier Ryūjō, the seaplane tenders Sanyo Maru and Sanuki Maru, three light cruisers and 16 destroyers, while the western force contained five heavy cruisers, and seven destroyers. In addition, four Japanese fleet carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryū and Sōryū) and the four Kongō-class battleships were in the theater of operation.
The Japanese forces were using Tarakan airfield as a forward airbase by 17 January, and Balikpapan was also captured a week later. However, the Dutch garrisons had destroyed the oil fields before they were captured by the Japanese in both cases. Several Japanese vessels were destroyed or damaged due to naval and air counterattacks from the Allied forces, but the defending Dutch battalions were overrun by the Japanese forces. By 28 January, the Japanese had taken control of the airfields at Balikpapan, and their aircraft were operating from them.By the end of January, Japanese forces had captured parts of the Celebes and Dutch Borneo. By February, Japanese forces had landed on Sumatra and encouraged a revolt in Aceh.
Most of the naval components of the allied force were crushed in the battles of Java Sea, Sunda Strait and Second Java Sea;the only American ship larger than a destroyer to survive the battles was the old cruiser Marblehead. In addition, the land forces on the islands were quickly overwhelmed and most major resistance was overcome within two months of the initial assaults, although a guerrilla campaign in Timor was successfully waged for a time. The ABDA command was dissolved at about 01:00 on 1 March, less than two months after its inception, by Admiral Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich.
On 9 March, the Dutch commander surrendered along with Governor General Jonkheer A.W.L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer.
Allied operations in Indonesia (except Sumatra) were later controlled by the South West Pacific Area command, under General Douglas MacArthur.
Allied forces did not attempt to retake the islands of Java, Sumatra, Timor, or Bali during the war. Japanese forces on those islands surrendered at the conclusion of World War II. Most of the Japanese military personnel and civilian colonial administrators were repatriated to Japan following the war, except for several hundred who were detained for investigations of war crimes, for which some were later put on trial. About 1,000 Japanese soldiers deserted from their units and assimilated into local communities. Many of these soldiers provided assistance to Indonesian Republican forces during the Indonesian National Revolution.
The United States Asiatic Fleet was a fleet of the United States Navy during much of the first half of the 20th century. Before World War II, the fleet patrolled the Philippine Islands. Much of the fleet was destroyed by the Japanese by February 1942, after which it was dissolved and incorporated into the naval component of the South West Pacific Area command, which eventually became the Seventh Fleet.
The Southern Expeditionary Army was an army group of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. It was responsible for all military operations in South East Asian and South West Pacific campaigns of World War II. Its military symbol was NA.
Karel Willem Frederik Marie Doorman was a Dutch naval officer who during World War II commanded remnants of the short-lived American-British-Dutch-Australian Command naval strike forces in the Battle of the Java Sea. He was killed in action when his flagship HNLMS De Ruyter was torpedoed during the battle, having chosen to go down with the ship.
The Battle of the Java Sea was a decisive naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II.
The American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) Command, or ABDACOM, was a short-lived, supreme command for all Allied forces in South East Asia, in early 1942, during the Pacific War in World War II. The main objective of the command, led by General Sir Archibald Wavell, was to maintain control of the "Malay Barrier", a notional line running down the Malayan Peninsula, through Singapore and the southernmost islands of Dutch East Indies. ABDACOM was also known in British military circles as the "South West Pacific Command", although it should not be confused with the later South West Pacific Area command.
Lieutenant Admiral Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich of the Royal Netherlands Navy was a leading Dutch naval figure of World War II. He was born in Semarang.
The Battle of Sunda Strait was a naval battle which occurred during World War II in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java, and Sumatra. On the night of 28 February – 1 March 1942, the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth and the American heavy cruiser USS Houston faced a major Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) task force. After a fierce battle of several hours duration, both Allied ships were sunk. Five Japanese ships were sunk, three of them by friendly fire.
The Battle of Makassar Strait, also known as the Action of Madura Strait, the Action North of Lombok Strait and the Battle of the Flores Sea, was a naval battle of the Pacific theater of World War II. An American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) fleet—under Schout-bij-nacht Karel Doorman—was on its way to intercept a Japanese invasion convoy reported as bound for Surabaya, when it was attacked by 36 Mitsubishi G4M1 "Betty" and 24 Mitsubishi G3M2 "Nell" medium bombers, which forced the fleet to retreat.
The Battle of Badung Strait was a naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the night of 19/20 February 1942 in Badung Strait between the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDA) and the Imperial Japanese Navy. In the engagement, the four Japanese destroyers defeated an Allied force that outnumbered and outgunned them, escorting two transports to safety and sinking the Dutch destroyer Piet Hein. The battle demonstrated the Japanese Navy's considerable superiority over the Allies in night fighting which lasted until the Battle of Cape St. George.
The Java class was a class of light cruisers of the Royal Netherlands Navy, named after the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies. Originally, three ships were planned: Java, Sumatra, and Celebes. Celebes was intended to be the flagship of the naval commander in the Dutch East Indies, and therefore she was slightly bigger than the other two ships. However, the contract was cancelled with 30 tons of material already prepared.
Thomas Charles Hart was an admiral in the United States Navy, whose service extended from the Spanish–American War through World War II. Following his retirement from the navy, he served briefly as a United States Senator from Connecticut.
Fubuki was the lead ship of twenty-four Fubuki-class destroyers, built for the Imperial Japanese Navy following World War I. When introduced into service, these ships were the most powerful destroyers in the world. They served as first-line destroyers through the 1930s, and remained formidable weapons systems well into the Pacific War. Fubuki was a veteran of many of the major battles of the first year of the war, and was sunk in Ironbottom Sound during the Battle of Cape Esperance in World War II.
USS Parrott (DD-218) was a Clemson-class destroyer in the United States Navy during World War II and was the second ship named for George Fountain Parrott.
Naka (那珂) was a Sendai-class light cruiser in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), named after the Naka River in the Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures of eastern Japan. Naka was the third vessel completed in the Sendai class of light cruisers, and like other vessels of her class, she was intended for use as the flagship of a destroyer flotilla.
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.
The Battle of Java was a battle of the Pacific theatre of World War II. It occurred on the island of Java from 28 February – 12 March 1942. It involved forces from the Empire of Japan, which invaded on 28 February 1942, and Allied personnel. Allied commanders signed a formal surrender at Japanese headquarters at Bandung on 12 March.
The Battle of Palembang was a battle of the Pacific theatre of World War II. It occurred near Palembang, on Sumatra, on 13–15 February 1942. The Royal Dutch Shell oil refineries at nearby Pladju were the major objectives for the Empire of Japan in the Pacific War, because of an oil embargo imposed on Japan by the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. With the area's abundant fuel supply and airfield, Palembang offered significant potential as a military base to both the Allies and the Japanese.
Tarakan is an island and the largest city of the Indonesian province of North Kalimantan. The island city is located in northern Borneo, just across the border from Sabah, Malaysia. Once a major oil-producing region during the colonial period, Tarakan had great strategic importance during the Pacific War and was among the first Japanese targets early in the war. It is the sole city within the newly established Indonesian province of North Kalimantan. According to Statistics Indonesia, the city had a population of 253,026 inhabitants as of 2017.
The Invasion of Sumatra was the assault by Imperial Japanese forces on the Dutch East Indies that took place from 14 February to 28 March 1942. The invasion was part of the Pacific War in South-East Asia during World War II and led to the capture of the island. The invasion of Sumatra was planned to occur prior to the invasion of Java to destroy the west flank of the allies and to give access to Java.
The Eastern Fleet then later the East Indies Fleet was a fleet of the Royal Navy which existed between 1941 and 1952.