Dutch East Indies campaign

Last updated
Dutch East Indies Campaign
Part of the Pacific Theatre of World War II
COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Japanse invasie op Java TMnr 10001990.jpg
Japanese forces land on Java.
Date8 December 1941 – 9 March 1942 [1]
Location
Result Japanese victory
Territorial
changes
Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies
Belligerents

ABDA Command :
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Archibald Wavell
Flag of the Netherlands.svg A. T. van S. Stachouwer   White flag icon.svg
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Hein ter Poorten   White flag icon.svg
Flag of the United States.svg Thomas C. Hart
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Conrad Helfrich
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Karel Doorman  
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Richard Peirse
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Hisaichi Terauchi
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Kiyotake Kawaguchi
Naval ensign of the Empire of Japan.svg Ibō Takahashi
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army (1868-1945).svg Hitoshi Imamura
Naval ensign of the Empire of Japan.svg Shōji Nishimura
Naval ensign of the Empire of Japan.svg Jisaburō Ozawa
Naval ensign of the Empire of Japan.svg Takeo Takagi
Naval ensign of the Empire of Japan.svg Nobutake Kondō
Strength

148,000 [2]

  • 100,000 local forces [3]
  • 40,000 Dutch regulars [3]
  • 8,000 Anglo-American regulars [4]
33 warships [5]
41 submarines [6]
234 aircraft [3]
52 warships [7] [8]
18 submarines [6]
107,800 personnel
193 tanks & tankettes
2,017 guns & mortars
5,898 motor vehicles
11,750 horses
609 aircraft [9]
Casualties and losses
2,384 killed
100,000+ captured [10]
671 killed [11]

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.

Dutch East Indies Dutch possession in Southeast Asia between 1810-1945

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.

Indonesia Republic in Southeast Asia

Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world's largest island country, with more than seventeen thousand islands, and at 1,904,569 square kilometres, the 14th largest by land area and the 7th largest in combined sea and land area. With over 261 million people, it is the world's 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world's most populous island, contains more than half of the country's population.

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.

Contents

Background

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; [12] [13] the colony was the fourth-largest exporter of oil in the world, behind the U.S., Iran, and Romania. [13] [A 1] 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. [14]

Fast battleship type of battleship

A fast battleship was a battleship which emphasised speed without – in concept – undue compromise of either armor or armament. Most of the early World War I-era dreadnought battleships were typically built with low design speeds, so the term "fast battleship" is applied to a design which is considerably faster. The extra speed of a fast battleship was normally required to allow the vessel to carry out additional roles besides taking part in the line of battle, such as escorting aircraft carriers.

<i>Kongō</i>-class battlecruiser

The Kongō-class battlecruiser was a class of four battlecruisers built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) immediately before World War I. Designed by British naval architect George Thurston, the lead ship of the class, Kongō, was the last Japanese capital ship constructed outside Japan, by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness. Her sister ships Haruna, Kirishima and Hiei were all completed in Japan.

Heavy cruiser type of cruiser warship

The heavy cruiser was a type of cruiser, a naval warship designed for long range and high speed, armed generally with naval guns of roughly 203 mm (8 inches) in caliber, whose design parameters were dictated by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930. The heavy cruiser is part of a lineage of ship design from 1915 through the early 1950s, although the term "heavy cruiser" only came into formal use in 1930. The heavy cruiser's immediate precursors were the light cruiser designs of the 1900s and 1910s, rather than the armoured cruisers of before 1905. When the armoured cruiser was supplanted by the battlecruiser, an intermediate ship type between this and the light cruiser was found to be needed—one larger and more powerful than the light cruisers of a potential enemy but not as large and expensive as the battlecruiser so as to be built in sufficient numbers to protect merchant ships and serve in a number of combat theaters.

Access to oil was one of the linchpins of the Japanese war effort, as Japan has no native source of oil; [15] it could not even produce enough to meet even 10% of its needs, [13] even with the extraction of oil shale in Manchuria using the Fushun process. [16] 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. [17] 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. [15] Japan's military and economic reserves included only a year and a half's worth of oil. [13] 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. [18] [19]

Oil shale Organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock containing kerogen

Oil shale is an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock containing kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons can be produced, called shale oil. Shale oil is a substitute for conventional crude oil; however, extracting shale oil from oil shale is more costly than the production of conventional crude oil both financially and in terms of its environmental impact. Deposits of oil shale occur around the world, including major deposits in the United States. A 2016 estimate of global deposits set the total world resources of oil shale equivalent of 6.05 trillion barrels of oil in place.

Manchukuo former Japan puppet state in China

Manchukuo was a puppet state of the Empire of Japan in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia from 1932 until 1945. It was founded as a republic, but in 1934 it became a constitutional monarchy. It had limited international recognition and was under the de facto control of Japan.

The Fushun process is an above-ground retorting technology for shale oil extraction. It is named after the main production site of Fushun, Liaoning province in northeastern China.

Declarations of war

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. [20] 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." [21] [22] This was in the hopes that the Dutch would not preemptively destroy oil installations before the Japanese were ready to invade. [21] On 8 December 1941, in a public proclamation, the Netherlands declared war on Japan. [23] By 7:00 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." [20] 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. [20] The Swedish ambassador agreed to handle Dutch interests for the duration of the conflict.

Dutch government-in-exile WWII government of the Netherlands during Nazi occupation

The Dutch government in exile, also known as the London Cabinet was the government in exile of the Netherlands, headed by Queen Wilhelmina, that evacuated to London after the German invasion of the country during World War II on 10 May 1940.

Axis powers Alliance of countries defeated in World War II

The Axis powers, also known as "Rome–Berlin–Tokyo Axis", were the nations that fought in World War II against the Allies. The Axis powers agreed on their opposition to the Allies, but did not completely coordinate their activity.

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 that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. 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.

The Dutch declaration did not alter the Japanese decision, and the latter's declaration of war did not come until 11 January 1942. [21] 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." [21] They found that the Netherlands' declaration was in self-defence. [22]

A war of aggression, sometimes also war of conquest, is a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense, usually for territorial gain and subjugation. The phrase is distinctly modern and diametrically opposed to the prior legal international standard of "might makes right", under the medieval and pre-historic beliefs of right of conquest. Since the Korean War of the early 1950s, waging such a war of aggression is a crime under the customary international law. Possibly the first trial for waging aggressive war is that of the Sicilian king Conradin in 1268.

International Military Tribunal for the Far East war crimes trial

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), also known as the Tokyo Trial or the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, was a military trial convened on April 29, 1946, to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for joint conspiracy to start and wage war, conventional war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Campaign

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. [24]

Hisaichi Terauchi Japanese general

Count Hisaichi Terauchi was a Gensui in the Imperial Japanese Army and Commander of the Southern Expeditionary Army Group during World War II. He was ordered to lead the occupation over Southeast Asia.

Southern Expeditionary Army Group infantry

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.

Sixteenth Army (Japan)

The Japanese 16th Army was an army of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

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. [25]

The Japanese lines of advance in the Dutch East Indies, Sarawak and North Borneo (British), and Portuguese Timor Pacific War - Dutch East Indies 1941-42 - Map.jpg
The Japanese lines of advance in the Dutch East Indies, Sarawak and North Borneo (British), and Portuguese Timor

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. [26] 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. [27] 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. [28]

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. [8]

The manner of the Japanese advance resembled the insidious yet irresistible clutching of multiple tentacles. Like some vast octopus it relied on strangling many small points rather than concentration on a vital organ. No one arm attempted to meet the entire strength of the ABDA fleet. Each fastened on a small portion of the enemy and, by crippling him locally, finished by killing the entire animal. [...] The Japanese spread their tentacles cautiously, never extending beyond the range of land-based aircraft unless they had carrier support. The distance of each advance was determined by the radius of fighter planes under their control. This range was generally less than 400 miles, but the Japanese made these short hops in surprisingly rapid succession. Amphibious operations, preceded by air strikes and covered by air power developed with terrifying regularity. Before the Allies had consolidated a new position, they were confronted with a system of air bases from which enemy aircraft operated on their front, flanks and even rear. [29]

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. [25] By the end of January, Japanese forces had captured parts of the Celebes and Dutch Borneo. [30] By February, Japanese forces had landed on Sumatra and encouraged a revolt in Aceh. [30]

Most of the naval components of the allied force were crushed in the battles of Java Sea, Sunda Strait and Second Java Sea; [15] [31] the only American ship larger than a destroyer to survive the battles was the old cruiser Marblehead. [32] 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. [15] [31] 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. [33]

On 9 March, the Dutch commander surrendered along with Governor General Jonkheer A.W.L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer. [34]

Allied operations in Indonesia (except Sumatra) were later controlled by the South West Pacific Area command, under General Douglas MacArthur.

Aftermath

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. [35]

Battles of the campaign

Notes

  1. The statistics given are for 1935. The top five oil exporters that year were, in order, the United States, with 6,958 kt, Persia (Iran), with 6,860 kt, Romania, with 6,221 kt, the Dutch East Indies, with 5,139 kt, and the Soviet Union, with 3,369 kt. See: The Way to Pearl Harbor: US vs Japan, accessed 27 February 2009. Full citation given below.

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References

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  2. Does not include naval personnel
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Bibliography

Further reading