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Prelude to the campaign
The Allied Army on the island
The battles in the Java Sea
The Java Island Campaign, March 1942
The West Java Island Campaign, March 1942
The East Java Island Campaign, March 1942
The end of the Dutch East Indies 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 and the stream of civilian evacuees which had been debouching from Soerabaja and Batavia had swelled to a flood. At Tanjong Priok, the port of Batavia, this outflow of evacuees met the inflow of soldiers, airmen and refugees from Singapore and Sumatra, with the result that the harbour and the roadstead became congested with shipping, and unloading took place as best it could. The quays, the sheds and the roads leading from them became blocked with an inextricable confusion of equipment, motor transport, abandoned cars and goods of every description. The town became crowded with refugees and newly-arrived soldiers and airmen, in addition to the Dutch troops mobilized for the defence of the area.
The map is courtesy of Graham Donaldson
On January 10th, 1942 Lieutenant General Sir Archibald P. Wavell arrived in Java from New Delhi, India, and the same afternoon a conference was held at Batavia. The general situation in the South-West Pacific was reviewed and the initial organisation of the ABDA Command was set up. The idea for this command had been born during the first Washington conference (so-called Arcadia conference) held from December 23rd, 1941 to January 14th, 1942 between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The first conference at Batavia was a big disappointment for the Dutch government in the East Indies, as only one Dutch officer (Lieutenant General H. Ter Poorten as commanding officer of ABDA-army) was taken up in this command. Admiral Conrad Helfrich as the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Netherlands Navy in the Dutch East Indies had to stay at his headquarters in Batavia and there was no direct contact with Lembang. He was never asked for any advice and the only way in which he was kept informed of the Allied plans was by the Dutch naval officer on the staff of ABDA-float. On January 18th, the Headquarters of the ABDA Command were moved to the Grand Hotel at Lembang near Bandoeng which was safer from air or sea attack. Fourteen days later ABDA-air moved from Lembang to Bandoeng when it became clear that the former place lacked sufficient accommodation. The command organization was without any doubt too complex. ABDA-air was in Bandoeng (since February 1st, 1942), ABDA-float was in Lembang, communications were inadequate and to top it all the staff of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service was in a different building from that of ABDA-air. Good co-operation between navy and air force was thus impossible.
Confusion was even more confounded later by the arrival of about 12,000 air force reinforcements and evacuees from Singapore and Sumatra, mostly between the 12th and 18th February. Those from Singapore had embarked under heavy air attack with large numbers of civilian refugees; units had become separated and much of their equipment had been left behind or lost through enemy action. Those from Sumatra had also lost most of their equipment during the hasty withdrawal from the airfields at Palembang and the confusion of the embarkation at Oosthaven.
Although an appreciable number of aircraft had reached airfields in West Java, the RAF and Commonwealth air strength, after losses suffered in the defence of Palembang, had been reduced to about twenty-six reconnaissance aircraft, twenty-six bombers, nine torpedo-bombers and twenty-five fighters, and of these only eighteen of the fighters and less than one third of the others were fit for operations.
Air Vice-Marshal Sir Paul C. Maltby with a nucleus staff had arrived in West Java on the 14th February and had set up his headquarters at Soekaboemi, some fifty miles west of Bandoeng. He at once began to reorganize his battered air force and build up an air defence for Java from the handful of worn-out aircraft and the disorganized and tired body of men at his disposal. Twelve days were destined to be all the time given to him. By the 18th February some 12,000 men, mostly British and Australian air force personnel, had passed through six transit camps on Java Island and there was simply far too little time to get things properly organised. Aircraft were concentrated by types into squadrons and were allocated to the airfields in West Java at Tjililitan near Batavia, Semplak near Buitenzorg, and at Tjikampek and Kalidjati north of Bandoeng. Fighter and bomber group headquarters were improvised to assist in re-establishing these squadrons. Efficient operation and filter rooms were quickly connected to the Dutch Observer Corps, the fighter airfields, the anti-aircraft defences of Batavia and the air operations room in Bandoeng. Two radar sets were erected in the Batavia district. A control and reporting system and a fighter operations room were also established and along with the Hurricanes had the main responsibility for the air defence. The Dutch did everything they could to help and even staffed the filter and operation rooms with volunteer youths and women whose alertness and enthusiasm, said Maltby, could hardly have been better.
All the remaining aircraft from Singapore and Palembang had arrived on Java Island in the previous days; 4 British PBY Catalina flying boats of 205th RAF Reconnaissance Squadron2 reached Batavia on 1st February. Nine Vildebeests and one Albacore arrived at the same time, being based as 36th RAF Squadron. 26 Lockheed Hudsons (12 serviceable) as 1st RAAF Squadron at Semplak airfield and 26 Bristol Blenheims (6 serviceable) with 84th RAF Squadron. The 25 Hawker Hurricanes of 232nd RAF, 242nd RAF and 605th RAF Squadrons were stationed at Tjililitan airfield. Additionally 40 Kittyhawks were on their way to re-equip the 605th RAF Squadron. The rest of the Allied air force was in little better shape. The Dutch Army Air Force had about five bomber, three fighter and two observation squadrons in Java, all of which had played their full part in action against the enemy in Malaya, Sumatra or the outlying islands since the outbreak of war, and were in consequence much under strength. All that was left of the American air force squadrons were some twenty heavy bombers and about twenty-four fighters, many of which were unserviceable. This was the overall Allied air strength on 18th February 1942. The Japanese Army and Navy Air Force outnumbered them ten to one.
The number of airmen who had arrived in Java was far more than was necessary for the maintenance of the depleted squadrons, and arrangements were therefore put in hand for the evacuation from the island of some 6,000 men who were unarmed and surplus to requirements. This number tended to increase as the British squadrons dwindled away.
On 22 February 1942 ABDA Command (ABDACOM) was finally dissolved. Churchill generally agreed with Wavell that Java should be fought for, but insisted that the main reinforcements should be sent to Burma and India and not to Java. The overall command was handed over to the Dutch East Indies Army. The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signalled Air Vice-Marshal Sir P.C. Maltby the very next day: "I send you and all ranks of the British forces who have stayed behind in Java my best wishes for success and honour in the great fight that confronts you. Every day gained is precious, and I know that you will do everything humanly possible to prolong the battle". Maltby's main tasks were to continue the fight to defend Java as long as equipment could be maintained and do everything possible to evacuate surplus units and personnel to Ceylon or Australia.
The Netherlands East Indies had sent aircraft and naval vessels to Malaya for the defence of Singapore and their Commander in Chief, Lt-General Hein Ter Poorten, quickly mobilised the colonial defence forces and broadcast a statement that it was better "to die standing rather than live on our knees". Once Sumatra Island had been neutralised the Japanese descended onto Bali Island at the opposite end of Java. The Netherlands East Indies' little army had been expanding, even after the conquest of Holland by Hitler's Nazi Germany in 1940, although for a small nation a difficult process and the Dutch East Indies army was dependent on the homeland for officers, European soldiers and military supplies. Between 1940 and 1941 there was about one European to forty Indonesians in the army, additional weapons were obtained from Australia and the USA. The Netherlands East Indies force had rifles of different calibres, 6.5mm - Dutch, 7.62mm - US, 7.7mm - Australian and 8mm, in the words of a Dutch general staff officer "things were more or less chaotic".
The Dutch regular army (the KNIL - Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger) in Java consisted of about 25,000 men, made up of four infantry regiments each of three battalions, with artillery, ancillary troops and garrison units. The only reliable native troops were those composed from Ambonese and Menadoese soldiers, who were known for their loyalty to the Netherlands over the centuries. They had very few tanks and armoured cars and other up-to-date weapons, for the Allies had been unable to supply them. In addition to the regular troops there was a Home Guard of about 40,000 men of doubtful value. Though they were reasonably well armed with rifles and tommy-guns, their training had of necessity been very limited and they had little experience in the tactical use of their weapons.
The First Australian Corps returning from the Middle East was projected to arrive at Java Island via Oosthaven (Sumatra Island). The main body of the AIF 7th Division would begin to arrive 25 February and not be ready for full scale operations till mid March and the AIF 6th Division not ready for any task until "the middle of April at the earliest". It seemed doubtful to General Vernon Sturdee, Australian Chief of Staff, that the Australian 7th Division could reach Sumatra in time and considered the prospects of holding Java "far from encouraging". The Australians, under Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur S. Blackburn, had been landed from the transport ship Orcades and were being retrained for the guarding of airfields until a final decision was taken about the defence of Java. These two Australian fighting battalions, 2/3 Machine-Gun - 710 men and 2/2 Pioneer Battalions - 937 men, accompanied by the following 2nd AIF units with approximate strengths, 2/6 Field Company HQ and one platoon of guards - 43 men, 105th General Transport Company - 206 men, 2/3 Reserve Motor Transport Company - 471 men, 2/2 Casualty Clearing Station - 93 men, Stragglers - 165 men, Details - 73 prisoners, formed an ad hoc composite mobile brigade. Under command of the now promoted Brigadier A. Blackburn, a gallant and enterprising officer who had served on Gallipoli in the ranks, won a VC as a subaltern at Pozieres 1916 and between wars commanded a MG battalion plus led the 2/3 MG Battalion in the Syria campaign with the 2/2 Pioneers against the Vichy French, and for operations "Blackforce"16 would be directly under Lieutenant General Hein Ter Poorten, Dutch Commander-in-Chief.
Also on Java Island was a British army contingent under the command of Major-General Sir Hervey D.W. Sitwell consisting of a squadron of the British 3rd Hussars with twenty-five light tanks, five British Anti-Aircraft Regiments, two without guns (the 77th Heavy AA Regiment, 21st Light AA Regiment, 48th Light AA Regiment - with anti-aircraft guns, 6th Heavy AA Regiment and 35th Light AA Regiment - without), all up including other British detachments, 3,500 men, plus there were about 2,500 Indian drivers, clerks, etc in Java Island.
The American army contingent (ca. 750 men) on the other hand consisted of only one single army unit - the 2nd Artillery Battalion of 131st American Field Artillery Regiment of the Texas National Guard (558 officers and men) under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Blucher S. Tharp, which arrived in Soerabaja on 11 January 1942. A few days after their arrival in Java, the 19th Bombardment Group of the U. S. Army Air Corps, arrived under the command of Colonel Eugene L. Eubank. They had escaped from the Philippines with a few remaining B-17 bombers, pilots, co-pilots and other ground personnel that managed to get aboard as the planes took off while under attack.
The Allied naval forces were greatly reduced in numbers from those which had started the war ten weeks earlier. The services of no less than sixteen ships had been lost through enemy action or misadventure, and Vice-Admiral Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich was left with eight cruisers, twelve destroyers, thirty-two submarines fit to operate and a number of auxiliary craft.
Such were the Allied naval, army and air forces available for the defence of Java Island. Against them the Japanese could bring overwhelming strength. In comparison with those of the Allies their naval resources were practically unlimited; it was estimated that they could deploy up to six divisions as an invasion force, and put in the air 400-500 fighters and 300-400 bombers.
Japanese aircraft had not been used against Java Island until the airfields in southern Celebes and Borneo had been captured and the first attacks did not take place therefore until the 3rd February. From then on the ports and airfields received almost daily attacks. The naval base at Soerabaja was one of the most frequent targets, but surprisingly enough the crowded port of Batavia received comparatively little attention until the last few days before the invasion. There was a short lull during the Japanese preparation for the capture of Palembang, but attacks were resumed on the 19th February and, with the airfields in southern Sumatra and Bali Island in enemy hands, increased in strength and frequency as the day of invasion approached. Admiral Matome Ugaki, Yamamoto's chief of staff, noted in his diary the following thoughts: "The enemy must know well that Java is doomed by our capture of Bali, the paradise of the world, only 22 kilometres away".
The ground defences were pitiably weak and fighter aircraft too few to make any serious challenge to Japanese attacks. Normal odds met in air fighting were about ten to one. Warnings of approach of enemy aircraft were erratic and in consequence many aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Nevertheless the dwindling Allied squadrons continued to strike at enemy shipping and airfields when and where they could, but the scale of attack was of necessity ludicrously light and strikes, for the most part of about half a dozen bombers, could do little to hamper the enemy's plans.
The navy, too, was doing what it could in the face of appalling difficulties. The oil supplies of Borneo and Sumatra, on which the mobility of the fleet depended, were lost and lack of fuel was threatening to restrict movement. The supply of torpedoes for the American destroyers was running short; many of the ships had been damaged in action and most were badly in need of refit. At sea the ships, without reconnaissance aircraft, were working blind against superior surface forces, and were constantly exposed to air attack without the hope of fighter support. Even in harbour there was no rest for the tired ships' companies, for the Japanese bombers kept them constantly on the alert.
After the Japanese occupation of southern Sumatra, Admiral Helfrich had sent minesweepers to patrol the Sunda Strait and to deal with the possibility of Japanese attempts to infiltrate across to Java. He ordered the bulk of his submarines to concentrate in the eastern part of the Java Sea, where they could cover the exit from the Strait of Makassar and the line Makassar-Bali. The American submarines were widely dispersed and only six were able to join the five Dutch submarines operating in the area. As the enemy convoys converged on Java Island, Admiral Helfrich brought the submarines closer in to cover the expected landing places, but there were too few to have any decisive effect on the progress of the invasion.
Since he could obtain no definite indication of the scale and direction of the Japanese movements towards Java, Helfrich decided on the 21st February to form a striking force at each end of the island. He was influenced by the fact that his scanty stocks of fuel were divided between Soerabaja and Batavia and he could not rely on using tankers to replenish his ships. Part of the striking force formed by his predecessor, USN Admiral Thomas C. Hart, was already at Soerabaja and consisted of the two Dutch cruisers De Ruyter and Java, three American and three Dutch destroyers. This became the Eastern Striking Force. It was joined three days later by the American heavy cruiser Houston from Darwin and two destroyers from Tjilatjap plus the British naval component "Commodore Commanding China Force" which joined the Eastern Strike Force on 26 February. Most of his remaining ships were based on Batavia and were still engaged in escorting convoys, and the Western Striking Force could not therefore be assembled until the 26th February. By that time he had formed the Combined Striking Force and little more than a token force (the light cruisers Dragon and Danae, the Australian light cruiser Hobart and two destroyers) was left at Batavia.
On the 20th February Admiral Helfrich represented to General Wavell the impossibility of defending Java with the forces at his disposal and proposed that, if reinforcements could not be sent, the ANZAC Force from the south-west Pacific and the Eastern fleet from the Indian Ocean should carry out raids or demonstrations into or towards the Java and China Seas to divert Japanese strength. Wavell however felt unable to approve this proposal on the grounds that these moves would be ineffectual unless the ships actually entered the Banda or Java Seas and there, without the protection of fighter aircraft, they would be exposed to an unacceptable scale of air attack.
Lieutenant General Sir Archibald P. Wavell, the overall commander on Java, still had fewer than forty fighter aircraft and forty bombers remaining. He expected a Japanese landing and could do little to prevent the enemy invasion. He was also endeavouring to evacuate some 6,000 surplus RAF and RAAF personnel and 1,400 American airforce men. There would remain about 4,000 airforce personnel, 5,500 British troops, 3,000 Australians, 700 Americans and 650 officers and men of Wavell's own headquarters. The airfields feeding Java were occupied by the 20 February and Wavell recommended his command not be transferred but dissolved, since the control of the forces in Java would be better exercised by overall Dutch command. On 23 February the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington decided to dissolve ABDA Command from 9.00am on the 25 February. It had been in existence just six short weeks and Wavell arrived in New Delhi (India) on the 27 February to take up his new command appointment. After Wavell's departure, with several senior Australian, British and American commanders, the insubstantial defence forces in and about Java came under command of Dutch officers, Vice-Admiral Conrad E.L. Helfrich's Allied navy, Lieutenant General H. van Poorten's Allied army and Lieutenant General of the Air Force L.H. van Oyen's combined airforces. The Dutch Army totalled about 25,000 troops, deployed in four area commands; Batavia military district - under Major-General Wijbrandus Schilling, North Central military district - under Major-General Jacob J. Pesman, South Java military district - under Major-General Pierre A. Cox, East Java military district - under Major-General Gustav A. Ilgen.
For the invasion of Java the Japanese reorganized their forces into two, an Eastern and Western, both under Vice-Admiral Ibo Takahashi with hisflag in the heavy cruiser Ashigara. On the 19th February the 48th Infantry Division, which had been withdrawn from the Philippines at the end of January and concentrated at Jolo Island in the Sulu Archipelago, sailed in forty-one transports escorted by Rear-Admiral Shoji Nishimura, in the light cruiser Naka, with six destroyers. The convoy, having called at Balikpapan to embark 56th Regimental Group (less the detachment which had captured Bandjermasin), left there on the 23rd February. At the southern end of the Strait of Makassar Rear-Admiral Takeo Takagi's force of two heavy cruisers and the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla took station well ahead of the convoy to cover its approach to the landing points in Eastern Java.
On the 18th February the Western Invasion Force - fifty-six transports carrying Headquarters 16th Army, 2nd Division from Japan and 230th Infantry Regiment of 38th Division from Hong Kong - left Cam Ranh Bay (French Indochina) escorted by the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. On the 26th it was joined by the 7th Cruiser Division under the command of Rear-Admiral Takeo Kurita, the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla including one light carrier under the command of Rear-Admiral Shintaro Hashimoto.
A striking force of four battleships and four carriers under Vice-Admiral Nobutake Kondo, having refuelled at Staring Bay near Kendari on 25 February 1942, headed through Lombok Strait to prevent Allied warships intervening from the Indian Ocean. Kondo's powerful surface fleet hunted down Allied shipping, claiming to have sunk thirteen transports at Tjilatjap, even shelling Christmas Island, a British possession 300 miles southwest of Java, before circumnavigating back to Staring Bay (Kendari area), Celebes Island. Vice-Admiral Nagumo's powerful force of two battleships, four carriers, two heavy cruisers and a flotilla of destroyers had also returned to Kendari after its attack on Darwin. Both forces sailed on the 25th February for the Indian Ocean in order to cut off the Allied escape route south of Java.
Within a few days of the capture of Palembang signs of the expected invasion became evident. On the 20th February about ninety ships were reported at Jolo and forces were believed to be gathering at Muntok for the final assault. The first definite indication that invasion was imminent was a report, received on the 24th February, of a large fleet of enemy transports with a strong escort, heading southward in the Strait of Makassar. It was calculated that this convoy could reach Java by dawn on the 27th February.
The Dutch High Command expected the Japanese to attack at both ends of the island, near Soerabaja in the east and in the Sunda Strait in the west. A landing in Middle Java was considered possible but unlikely. The Dutch defence plan had been laid accordingly. Such bombers as were left were to attack enemy transports as far out to sea as possible. A naval striking force was to engage the main invasion convoy when it appeared. The bulk of the Dutch forces was to be concentrated in West Java in which were the principal port of Batavia and the seat of government at Bandoeng. Middle Java was to be held by a few territorial units only, while in East Java the main concentration was to be at Soerabaja for the defence of the naval base. The Home Guard, which was insufficiently trained to be capable of manoeuvre, was to be used for static defence of vital points. Should the Japanese succeed in landing they were to be resisted; if necessary the troops were to fall back on to previously prepared positions covered by large scale demolitions of bridges: in the east from Soerabaja to the Malang plateau, and in the west on the two roads leading to Batavia and later to Bandoeng where the final stand would be made.
In deciding how the British contingent13 could best be employed, Major-General Sir Hervey Sitwell was influenced by three considerations: firstly, the necessity to delay the enemy for as long as possible; secondly, that, as there was no time for training, troops should be used in roles for which they had already been trained; and thirdly, that, as he had no signal organization available for his headquarters, his force in the early stages would have to be controlled by Dutch commanders. Holding the view that the main British weapon of attack, reduced in numbers though it was, was the air force, he concentrated all anti-aircraft units for the defence of airfields, except British 77th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, which was retained for the defence of Batavia. The British 6th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, which had lost most of its guns at sea or in southern Sumatra, was equipped as an infantry unit to deal with possible parachute attacks and sent to Tjililitan airfield on the 26th February. The two Australian battalions and a hastily formed composite Australian battalion, together with "B" Squadron of 3rd Hussars, an Australian engineer unit and a British signal section, were formed into a mobile striking force under the command of Brigadier A. S. Blackburn, V.C. - to be known as "Blackforce". An improvised field ambulance, the American field artillery and about 450 RAF airmen17 who had been hastily armed and trained as infantry under the command of Wing Commander Alexander were added later. The force was ready for action by the 28th February. Major-General Sitwell proposed that Blackforce should be kept under his own hand in the Bandoeng area. General ter Poorten however preferred the Buitenzorg area, since it was more suitable for mechanized warfare and provided good cover in the many rubber plantations, and placed Blackforce under the orders of Major-General W. Schilling, commander of the forces in West Java.
On the 25th February Admiral Nishimura's destroyers landed a small force on Bawean Island, eighty-five miles north of Soerabaja, and set up a wireless station. At 11.25 a.m. that day Admiral Conrad Helfrich ordered all available cruisers and destroyers to join Admiral Doorman's Eastern Striking Force at Soerabaja. Commodore Collins accordingly despatched the HMS cruisers Exeter and HMAS Perth with three British destroyers Jupiter, Electra and Encounter from Batavia to Soerabaja. The Australian light cruiser Hobart remained in harbour. She was short of fuel and could not be replenished in time to sail, for the only oiler in port had been damaged in an air raid that morning.
Without waiting for the arrival of the British reinforcements, Admiral Doorman sailed with his three cruisers and seven destroyers from Soerabaja at dusk that evening (25th February). He carried out a sweep to the eastward along the coast of Madoera in the hope of intercepting the transports reported near Bawean Island. No contact was made however and the Allied force returned the next morning to Soerabaja, where it was joined by the Exeter's detachment from Batavia. From then onwards the Eastern Striking Force became known as the Combined Striking Force, under the command of Dutch Rear-Admiral Karel W.F.M. Doorman.
On the 26th February further reports confirmed the presence of large numbers of transports, escorted by warships, in the eastern end of the Java Sea steering south-south-west. Less definite information was received that the enemy transports off Muntok were expected to sail that day. It was clear that the invasion was about to begin. Also on the 26th, the American submarine S-38 (SS-143) bombarded the Japanese radio station on recently occupied Bawean Island, 85 miles north of Soerabaja, Java Island.
The Hobart, Dragon and Danae sailed from Batavia at 10 p.m. on the 26th with orders to seek out and attack the Muntok convoy, but returned at 1 p.m. the next day without having sighted the enemy. After refuelling, they left harbour again shortly after midnight accompanied by a Dutch destroyer to sweep north from Batavia with orders, if contact were not made by 4.30 a.m. on the 28th, to abandon the search and proceed to Trincomalee via the Sunda Strait. The sweep was really no more than a demonstration, since to keep the small and hopelessly outnumbered force in the west Java Sea would have been suicidal. No enemy was encountered by the time laid down, and the force withdrew as ordered and finally arrived at Colombo (Ceylon) on the 5th March.
Meanwhile at Soerabaja on the 26th February, Admiral Doorman's Combined Striking Force was refuelling in preparation for the next move. At 4.15 p.m. he received orders from Admiral Helfrich to carry out a night attack on thirty Japanese transports, escorted by two cruisers and five destroyers, which had been sighted shortly before noon that day about two hundred miles to the north-northeast heading west by south at ten knots. After the attack had been carried out Doorman was to proceed to Batavia. He accordingly weighed anchor and left harbour with his entire force of 5 cruisers - 8inch gun HMS Exeter and USS Houston, 6 inch gun HMAS Perth, RNNSs De Ruyter and Java plus 9 destroyers - HMS Electra, HMS Encounter, HMS Jupiter, USS John D. Edwards, USS Alden, USS John D. Ford, USS Paul Jones, RNN Witte de With and RNN Kortenaer - set out at 6.30 p.m. on the 26th, flying his flag in the De Ruyter, and set course to the eastward so as to sweep along the north coast of Madoera Island where a landing was thought possible. If no enemy were sighted he intended to sweep back to the west and search the Bight of Toeban. He had originally considered a sweep to the north and north-east, but had decided that, without reconnaissance aircraft, there was a better chance of intercepting the enemy by crossing his line of advance close to his probable landing points.
As the Combined Striking Force was leaving Soerabaja, American bombers found and attacked a Japanese convoy about twenty-five miles north-east of Bawean Island. No report of this sighting was however made direct to Doorman and the information was not passed to him by the commander of the naval base at Soerabaja till 10.20 p.m. The exact time he received it is not known, but at 10.35 p.m. it was repeated by Admiral Helfrich, to whom the report was originally made. This signal was received by Commodore Collins at 2.25 a.m. on the 27th. It was probably received by Doorman at the same time, eight hours after the attack had been made by the American bombers and too late to be of value. He decided however to keep to his intention of covering the expected landing places, and did not go after the convoy which lay to the northward.
At dawn he was about ten miles north-west of the entrance to Soerabaja and had seen no sign of the enemy. Just before 9 a.m. the drone of Japanese aircraft was heard overhead and shortly afterwards a few bombs were dropped near the British destroyer Jupiter. From then on the ships were shadowed by aircraft, and it was obvious that further attacks were to be expected. At 9.30 a.m. Doorman turned the striking force towards Soerabaja.
As the force was entering harbour at about 2.30 p.m., a report was received of two enemy convoys escorted by warships sighted less than an hour previously; here at last was definite and timely news of the enemy. Anticipating Admiral Helfrich's orders, Admiral Doorman immediately turned his force 180 degrees and set course to intercept the nearest convoy which was reported to be twenty miles west of Bawean Island.
The convoys were the advanced portion of the enemy's Eastern Invasion Force. Commander Tameichi Hara, the captain of the IJN destroyer Amatsukaze wrote a book after the war in which he described the Eastern Invasion Force convoy with the following words: "... The 20 mile long convoy was quite a spectacle. An obvious laxity prevailed in the transports with their ill-trained crews. Many transports emitted huge clouds of black smoke from their funnels . . . Most disturbing, however, was the dreadfully slow pace of the trailing heavy cruisers ... ". Reconnaissance aircraft had reported the movements of the Allied striking force and at noon Admiral Shoji Nishimura had turned the leading convoy to a safe course, with an escort of two destroyers, while Admiral Takeo Takagi's two 8-inch cruisers, the Nachi and Haguro, and the 5.5-inch cruisers, the Jintsu and Naka, leading the 2nd and 4th Destroyer Flotillas respectively - fourteen destroyers in all - held their course.
On paper there was little to choose between this force and Admiral Doorman's force of five cruisers (two 8-inch) and nine destroyers. But in reality the Allied squadron was no match for the Japanese ships, all of which had been modernized. It was a heterogeneous collection of ships of three nationalities deprived of a secure base, hastily assembled without any previous combined training and without time to establish a co-ordinated system of unified command. Most of the ships were in need of refit, and the Houston's aft triple turret had been out of action for the past three weeks. The ships' companies had been working for a long time under constant strain against an enemy with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ships, men and aircraft, and were very tired. A few hours before the start of the last tragic sea battle of the campaign Admiral Doorman reported that the men had reached the limit of their endurance.
The combined Striking Force had hardly cleared the minefields before enemy aircraft appeared and dropped a few bombs. The USS Houston opened fire and the ships scattered, but by 3.50 p.m. they had re-formed and resumed their north-westerly course. The cruisers were in line ahead with the British destroyers forming a screen, the American destroyers astern of the cruisers and the two Dutch destroyers on the port quarter.
At 4.0 p.m. aircraft were sighted to the northward and a minute or two later smoke was seen on the horizon. At 4.10 p.m. the HMS destroyer Electra sighted the enemy force, the light cruiser Jintsu, which was soon accurately identified, on a course which would bring it across the Allied line of advance.
At 4.16 p.m. the Japanese 8-inch cruisers opened fire at a range of 28,000 yards and the Exeter and Houston replied at about 4.20 p.m. Houston used red dye to mark the fall of her shells. The immense blood-red columns of water created by her near misses caused some nervousness on the bridge of the Nachi where Admiral Takagi, a submariner by training, and his aide officer, Captain Ko Nagasawa, were standing and observing the battle. Admiral Doorman was in a difficult position. His fire power was superior if he could get his 6-inch cruisers within range, which he could do most quickly by holding to his course. If however he did this, the Japanese would cross his "T" which would enable them to bring all their guns to bear while only the foremost guns of the Allied ships could reply. He compromised. He altered twenty degrees to port to a course parallel to that of the enemy which brought his full 8-inch broadsides to bear but left the 6-inch cruisers out of range.
About 4.30 p.m. the Japanese flotillas attacked with torpedoes at long range. They were engaged by the 6-inch cruisers as they came in and one destroyer was hit by the Perth's second salvo, upon which the flotilla turned away behind smoke. Meanwhile the enemy cruisers were still out of range of the Allied 6-inch guns. The Captain of the Perth in his report says: "I found a long period of being Aunty Sally very trying without being able to return the fire".
Shortly after 5.00 p.m. the Japanese made a second torpedo attack, again at long range, in which the two heavy cruisers and the second destroyer flotilla, led by the light cruiser Jintsu, fired no less than sixty-eight torpedoes. Almost simultaneously the Exeter was hit in one boiler room by an 8-inch shell and hauled out to port with her speed reduced to fifteen knots.
The handicap imposed by lack of combined communications and training now revealed itself. The De Ruyter held her course but the remainder, instead of following in her wake, altered to port with the Exeter and the force was thrown into considerable disorder. To make matters worse it was at about this time that the torpedoes fired in the second Japanese attack reached the Allied cruiser line, but only one found a target - the Dutch destroyer Kortenaer. She was hit in the engine-room and immediately blew up and broke in two.
The disablement of the Exeter and the loss of the Kortenaer were heavy blows to the Allied fleet, which up till then had held its own in the long-range engagement. The destroyers were quick to lay a smoke screen round the Exeter which thus escaped further damage but, with her reduced speed, she could only have been a liability to Admiral Doorman and he ordered her to proceed to Soerabaja escorted by the RNN destroyer Witte de With.
By 5.25 p.m. the Allied cruiser line had re-formed and was led by the De Ruyter in a wide arc between the Exeter and the enemy. Doorman now ordered the British destroyers to attack. The Electra, Encounter and Jupiter were widely separated and proceeded to do so independently. Conditions were difficult, for the smoke made by the destroyers to screen the Exeter was very thick. The British destroyers Encounter and Electra swung first south, then east and finally northeast to meet this threat, breaking through the smoke to take on at almost point blank range the two light cruisers and fourteen destroyers. The Minegumo and Encounter exchanged fire between 6.00 p.m. and 6.10 p.m. on a parallel course at ranges down to 3,000 yards without inflicting damage. Electra, however, scored a direct hit on the Asagumo's engine room from 5,000 yards, which caused her to go dead in the water. Four sailors aboard the Asagumo were killed. Electra also landed one shell on Jintsu which did light damage, killing one and wounding four sailors. As Asagumo slowed to a stop, she got her revenge and then some with two serious hits on Electra shortly after 6.00 p.m. She was repeatedly hit and her guns silenced one by one. Several minutes later, when only one gun remained in action, the order was given to abandon ship. The British destroyer HMS Electra, still heavily on fire, sank at 6.16 p.m. The British artillery officer T.J. Cain from HMS destroyer Electra described the last moments aboard the ship: ".... At 17.30, Electra was ordered to make a counter-attack. The smoke was very thick and generally view was barely half a mile, although the personnel on the bridge could probably look over the haze. When we emerged from the smoke, we saw on an opposite course an enemy unit, consisting of three heavy destroyers, which entered the smoke. The distance was about 5500 metres. We immediately engaged and thought to have scored hits with four salvoes on the leading ship. Electra did not use torpedoes. As the enemy disappeared in the smokescreen, an enemy shell, a luck shot, hit us in the second boiler-room, on the portside. It destroyed the boiler, while the pipelines for the telemotor of the steering gear was ripped off. The pressure dropped, to completely disappear shortly afterwards, despite efforts by the engine room personnel. This was mainly the result of the fact that water from Boiler No. 3 was flowing to the damaged boiler. Electra then halted with a slight list to port and the order "Abandon ship" was given. Shortly afterwards, a sole heavy destroyer emerged from the smoke. We immediately engaged with the guns firing independently, as the communications with the bridge had completely failed. One single, fast destroyer is nothing but a difficult target for a drifting ship. The shells from the second salvo of the enemy were already hits. He then silenced our guns one after the other and caused a heavy fire forward, while our list began to increase. Only the rear-gun was still firing and the order "Abandon ship" was given. The wounded were brought aboard the whaleboat, the only one still undamaged. Two rafts were thrown overboard and I also saw a destroyed raft floating by. Everyone still able seemed to have left the ship, with the exception of the Chief-Steward Gretton, who came asking what was to be done with two wounded on the quarterdeck. With Gretton I dropped them overboard, one with a lifebuoy and one with a wooden grating. Both seemed to be moving towards a raft. The enemy was still firing and had now come so close, then he could start using his "pompoms". Around this time, a shell hit among the men in the water. With Gretton, I then moved around the ship and started throwing floatable objects towards them, such as ammo boxes and smoke buoys. The ship was listing heavily to port, while the forecastle also started to sink. There were no people left alive on the quarterdeck, so I left the ship with Gretton. Barely clear of the ship, I saw someone, apparently the captain, come to the starboard side of the bridge and wave at the men in the water, who shouted loudly. The Electra then started to settle slowly, capsized and sank until only the propellers and almost two metres of the quarterdeck were still above the water. They remained in this position for some time, after which at about 6 pm they too disappeared beneath the waves. Of course the number of casualties aboard the Electra was large. The men of the Electra put a good face on it, according to the best traditions, when they were shot up but they remained standing. The Electra was a beautiful ship and I am proud to have served aboard her .... ". The American submarine S-38 rescued 54 of her crew the next morning. Tokitsukaze was also hit by shellfire in this action. The Jupiter and Encounter both had short and inconclusive engagements with the enemy destroyers before rejoining the cruisers.
From 5.30 to 5.45 p.m. the cruiser forces were screened from each other by smoke, and here the Japanese had the advantage for, with the help of their spotting aircraft, they were able to maintain accurate fire. The action for the next hour was confused. Ships on both sides were emerging from or disappearing into smoke-screens and the light was beginning to fail. At a few minutes before 6.p.m. the Japanese 4th Flotilla made another torpedo attack, the third in the action, but missed with all twenty-four torpedoes fired. About the same time Doorman ordered the four American destroyers to counter-attack, but almost immediately cancelled the order and told them to make smoke. Under cover of this, he turned his cruisers on to an easterly course which placed the destroyers between them and the enemy. On being ordered to cover the cruisers' retirement, the destroyers closed to 14,000 yards of the enemy heavy cruisers, fired their starboard tubes and then turning 180 degrees fired their port tubes. The enemy cruisers altered course to the northward making smoke, and the De Ruyter wore round gradually to a similar course, signalling to the destroyers to follow her.
The sun set at 6.21 p.m. In the gathering darkness the De Ruyter continued to lead the cruisers in a northerly direction, in an attempt to work round the enemy forces and reach the convoy. At 7.27 p.m., by the light of the full moon, the Jintsu and three destroyers were sighted on the port beam and engaged for a few minutes at a range of 9,000 yards. At the same time enemy aircraft dropped flares silhouetting the Allied ships and the Jintsu fired a salvo of torpedoes. But the Perth, seeing the flashes of discharge, turned away followed by all ships, and the attack was avoided.
After re-forming in line ahead, the Allied cruisers turned to the eastward and contact with the enemy was lost. At 7.45 p.m. Doorman altered course to the southward. Why he did this is not clear. It must be borne in mind that he did not know where the convoy was. He had to depend on information relayed through the circuitous channels of communication from Soerabaja or Batavia, which never reached him in time. The enemy on the other hand could watch his every movement with shadowing aircraft. It is probable that the Admiral decided that in these conditions it was impracticable to circumvent the enemy and reach the convoy, and that it would be better to interpose his force between it and the Java coast.
At about 9. p.m. the De Ruyter, followed by the Perth, Houston, Java and Jupiter, turned to the westward, keeping about four miles from the coast. The four American destroyers broke off and returned to Soerabaja to replenish with torpedoes and refuel. At about 9.25 p.m. the Jupiter, which had been following the Java's gentle zigzag, suddenly blew up. It was thought at the time that she had been torpedoed by a submarine, but it is possible that she may have struck a stray mine, for the position was only three miles north of a minefield laid that day by the Dutch off Toeban.
Shortly after the Jupiter sank, Admiral Doorman turned his cruisers to the northward in one last attempt to reach the convoy.
It was a forlorn hope, for flares were dropped by the Japanese at each alteration of course, and it was obvious that they were well informed
of his movements.
At about 10 p.m. the fleet passed the survivors of the Kortenaer standing on or clinging to their rafts.
An unknown Dutch sailor from RNN destroyer Kortenaer described the situation of the Kortenaer survivors at the time that Doorman's
Striking Force was steaming nearby: " .... Many survivors had swallowed water and oil and they now tried to get rid of this "ballast".
The sun set, the night fell and a full moon appeared in the sky.
It became silent on the rafts. Only now and then a remark could be heard, with the men laughing in response.
A native telegrapher died of his wounds and had to be dropped overboard.
One sailor had a shattered foot, and the doctor with assistants helped as much as they could.
We stared at the moon and let ourselves be thrown back and forth by the waves of the Java Sea.
What would the future bring for ourselves and our navy families in Soerabaja.
It was better not to think of the latter.
It was around midnight when we heard the sea roar in the distance.
We looked and suddenly saw the shape of ships in the moonlight, which were steaming straight at us.
Were they going to pick us up !?!? The ships became bigger fast and were obviously steaming at high speed.
We soon saw the bow-waves and the wakes. Still they kept coming straight at us.
Butthis was becoming dangerous!
These were not saviours, but dangers, which were going to steam right over us and they would crush us in their propellers!
We screamed like crazy, not to be rescued, but to warn them.
And then we suddenly saw it were our own cruisers steaming there, under the moon of this tropical night.
They probably saw us too, because the leading "De Ruyter" changed her course slightly.
And so they steamed past us at a short distance, while our rafts capsized because of the high stern-waves.
But we screamed and cheered, because there, on the AA-decks, near the guns we could clearly see our friends!
At full speed they steamed past us: The Dutchman, the Australian, The American and at last another Dutchman.
Four cruisers, steaming at the highest possible speed under a tropical moon, I did not know this could be so impressive!
While steaming past, some Americans on the quarterdeck of the Houston threw a light overboard.
This now floated nearby. We observed the four cruisers as they disappeared.
They didn't have a destroyer screen anymore and the course was north, straight at the enemy.
Did Admiral Doorman look at us from the conning tower on his flagship?
"This is the last time we will have seen them", said one officer of the Kortenaer.
"I hope they crush a lot of Japs before they go down", one Sergeant replied and he added "those bastards".
It again became quiet, and we were still in the presence of the light.
We were forced to look at it time after time, because it was like the flame of hope.
Slowly the minutes past by.
Then another ship appeared at the horizon.
At first, we saw it from the side, but then it changed course and came steaming straight at us.
It was a lone destroyer or small cruiser, a wanderer in this sea crawling with Japs.
Perhaps it was a Japanese, which had been damaged and was now limping from the scene.
We had not yet been long enough in sea to already appreciate being picked up by the enemy and become POWs.
Suspicious, we looked at the approaching ship. "A British destroyer", one officer shouted.
"It's the Encounter", another replied. Now the men on the rafts came alive and began shouting with joy.
Skilfully the captain of HMS Encounter manoeuvred his ship alongside the rafts.
Nets were thrown overboard and everyone still able climbed to safety as fast as he could.
The wounded and the weakened had to be hoisted.
When we all felt the steel deck of the destroyer beneath our feet, we could only feel grateful for this rescue.
Hands were shaken here and there, and the British offered hot chocolate and clothes from their own wardrobe.
"Bad luck" the English commented, because we had lost our ship.
Poor fellows! The next night, the Encounter would sink and there were no Allied ships left to pick up the survivors.
The next morning, February 28, the Encounter disembarked us in Soerabaja.
A Dutch patrol boat brought us to shore ..... ".
At 11.02 p.m. two cruisers were sighted in the moonlight on the port beam at a range of eight miles. These were the Nachi and Haguro which had not been seen since 6.30 p.m. This time they were headed south southwest. They swung to the port toward Doorman's fleet and assumed a parallel course heading due north. The Allies opened fire at 11.10 p.m. on the Japanese cruisers. The Japanese fleet returned fire at 11.21 p.m. At 11.22 p.m. Nachi launched eight torpedoes, followed one minutes later by Haguro with a salvo of four. The range was approximately seven miles. Within a few minutes the De Ruyter and Java were both struck by torpedoes. The De Ruyter was hit aft at 11.32 p.m. by one of Haguro's four "Long Lance" torpedoes. Two minutes later one torpedo from Nachi struck Java. She took an hour and a half to sink. Telegrapher Consten was on the command bridge of De Ruyter, when a torpedo slammed Java. He shouted: " ... what is that !?!? ... and Admiral Doorman calmly replied: " .... Oh that, that's a torpedo ..... ". Another eyewitness of the battle was Corporal Rozier of the Dutch Marine Corps, a phone operator on the command bridge who recalled the moment when a fatal torpedo hit the ship: " .... It was like the ship was lifted from the water; all lights went out, we were listing heavily and fire broke out on the AA-deck ..... ". The captain, Cdr. E.E.B. Lacomblé commented: " ... Now it's all over ..... ". It was obvious that the ships were doomed, and the order was given in each to abandon ship. They sank soon after with most of the crew. A mechanic saw Admiral Doorman standing on the bridge. According to him, only Rear-Admiral Doorman, the wounded sailor and the hospital orderly Moorman remained behind. A few seconds later the gallant Admiral Doorman went down with his flagship. His last orders to the Houston and Perth were to retire to Batavia and ignore survivors.
Lacking destroyers and with the Houston short of ammunition, Captain H.M.L. Waller, R.A.N., commanding the Perth, decided that further attempts to attack the convoy were hopeless and, in accordance with previous orders not to stand by damaged ships, he withdrew in company with the Houston.
The two ships reached Batavia at 2.00 p.m. on the 28th. The port had been under frequent air attack and all shipping was being cleared. After refuelling they left harbour at 7.30 p.m. intending to pass through the Sunda Strait to Tjilatjap. Unknown to the Allied ships, part of the Japanese Western Invasion Force was that very night being landed in Bantam Bay, forty miles west of Batavia. Shortly after 11 p.m. the two ships, rounding a headland, suddenly saw ahead of them a line of transports at anchor. They opened fire at point blank range; so short was the range that the cruisers used their machine-guns to sweep the decks, of the enemy ships. Two transports were sunk and others damaged before part of Admiral Kurita's covering force of three cruisers and nine destroyers arrived on the scene. A grim but hopeless fight ensued under the full moon until, with their guns silenced, and their sides holed by torpedoes - no less than eighty-five were fired at them - the Australian and American ships went down.
An hour or two later the Dutch destroyer Evertsen (Lt.Cdr. W.M. de Vries), which was to have accompanied the Perth and Houston but had been delayed, ran into two enemy destroyers and, after a brief encounter, beached herself in a sinking condition on an island of Sabuko off the coast of Sumatra.
Meanwhile on the 28th the damaged Exeter had refuelled and carried out emergency repairs to her boiler rooms at Soerabaja; having buried her dead, she left harbour that evening in company with the HMS destroyer Encounter and USS destroyer Pope (Lt.Cdr. W.C. Blinn) with orders to proceed by way of the Sunda Strait to Colombo. The problem of the Exeter's route had been carefully considered. She could not use the eastern channel from Soerabaja owing to her draught. To make her escape to the eastward she would have had to use the western channel and come north around the island of Madoera, which would have brought her within close range of Bali airfield by daylight. Rear-Admiral Sir Arthur F.E. Palliser therefore decided to send her west. She was ordered to go east of Bawean Island, skirt the south coast of Borneo in daylight, and then run south for the Sunda Strait the following night. But these ships, too, were doomed. Soon after leaving Soerabaja they were sighted by enemy aircraft and were intercepted at 10.0 a.m. the next morning (1st March) by four heavy cruisers and three destroyers. There could be only one result. For an hour and a half the Exeter survived the concentrated fire of the four cruisers until a torpedo from one of the Japanese destroyers delivered the coup de grace. By this time the Encounter had been sunk, and shortly after the Pope followed her. Two damaged Dutch destroyers, the Witte de With and the Banckert (Lt.Cdr. L.J. Goslings), remained at Soerabaja. Both were bombed and put out of action in an air attack a few days later.
Of all the Allied ships which took part in the Battle of the Java Sea only four American destroyers survived - USS Alden, USS John D. Ford, USS Paul Jones and USS John D. Edwards - which had been detached to Soerabaja and ordered to rearm in Australia. They sailed under cover of darkness on the night of the 28th, passed through Bali Strait and made a short contact with a force of three Japanese destroyers patrolling the southern leg of Bali Island. The American ships returned fire after the Japanese ships engaged. At the end they increased the speed to 27 knots and arrived in Fremantle in Western Australia on the 4th March without any further incident.
On the 1st of March all ships in Tjilatjap harbour were instructed to disperse to safety. Some escaped to Ceylon and Australia but others were intercepted and sunk by forces under Admirals Kondo and Nagumo south of Java. Among the latter were the old British destroyer HMS Stronghold (Lt.Cdr. Pretor-Pinney), the Australian sloop Yarra (Lt.Cdr. R.W. Rankin), two American destroyers and a few auxiliaries. With nothing left to him but his submarines, even the indomitable Admiral Helfrich realized that continued naval defence of Java was impossible. He accordingly asked the Governor General to relieve him of the command of the Allied naval forces and on the 2nd left with his staff in four Dutch Catalina flying-boats for Colombo, where he set up his new headquarters. The British and American naval forces then reverted to the respective commands of Commodore John A. Collins and Vice-Admiral William A. Glassford, Jr. The former hoisted his broad pennant in H.M.A.S. Burnie the same day and sailed from Tjilatjap for Fremantle while the latter, accompanied by Rear-Admiral Sir Arthur F.E. Palliser, flew to Australia. Three days later Japanese warships bombarded the port.
The Battle of the Java Sea, despite the sacrifice of ships and men, delayed the invasion of Java by but twenty-four hours. The convoys, which had been turned back at the beginning of the action, resumed their southerly course when the battle was over and simultaneous landings were made on the night of the 28th February - 1st March in Eastern and Western Java by the two invasion forces.
On 16 January 1942, Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura, the commander of 16th Army, left his command post at Saigon (French Indochina) and returned to Takao, Formosa Island, arriving there on the 18th. Based on orders received from the Southern Army he began to speed up preparations for the invasion of Java, but due shipping shortages, found it necessary to make many adjustments in his plans. On 21 January he arrived at Manila, Philippines, to inspect the 48th Division and to discuss the invasion of Java with the commander of the 3rd Fleet. Most army units had assembled on Formosa. On 25 January, the 16th Army commander ordered the assembly point advanced from Formosa to Cam Ranh Bay and, on the 30th, issued orders for the invasion of Java. In the following weeks the 16th Army's main units slowly poured into Cam Ranh Bay, where they used their free time for conducting jungle warfare exercises for the forthcoming invasion.
The 2nd Division under the command of Lieutenant General Masao Maruyama was mobilized in mid-November 1941 at Sendai, Japan and in early December was transferred to Narashino and Shimoshizu in Chiba Prefecture. Between 15 and 23 January its main elements were transported from Ujina for Takeo, Formosa, arriving there between 21 and 26 January 1942. On 31 January the troops boarded at Takao, arriving at Cam Ranh Bay (French Indochina) in early February. Upon arrival there this force underwent further harsh training in amphibious operations.
The first convoy (56 transport ships) with the Army's main strength aboard (16th Army Headquarters, 2nd Division and Shoji Detachment15), which had been at anchor at Cam Ranh Bay since 10 February, left the anchorage at 1000 on 18 February. Lieutenant General Imamura and his staff also left the harbour aboard the transport ship Ryujo Maru. Between 19 and 21 February the weather remained clear and no enemy were sighted. At noon on 22 February a request was received from the 3rd Fleet asking for a postponement of the attack on Java Island. It was approved, and the first convoy reversed its course to north, but on the 23rd it turned and headed south once more. On 28 February at 2320 the ships carrying units scheduled to land at Merak left the convoy, and ten minutes later, the ships carrying the unit scheduled to land at Bantam Bay advanced to their anchorage. By 0200 on 1 March, all convoy ships had reached their designated positions.
The Nasu and Fukushima Detachments proceeded to their anchorages off Merak as scheduled and, about 0200 on 1 March, successfully landed in their respective areas. In the vicinity was stationed KNIL Coastal Detachment Merak (approximately a company size unit) made up from a section of the 12th KNIL Infantry Battalion under the command of KNIL Captain F.A.M.Harterink, reinforced by a machine-gun section and a 150mm search-light, but it was quickly overcome and the landings progressed smoothly.
About 2330 on 28 February, the Sato Detachment under the command of Colonel Hanshichi Sato arrived off Bantam Bay and proceeded to its designated anchorage. About 0001 on 1 March, the Detachment commenced landing in successive waves. At 11:06 p.m. on 28 February, when they were five miles from St. Nicolaas Point, the last remaining cruisers of the Allied fleet, USS Houston and HMAS Perth, heading out of Java Sea sighted the Japanese destroyer Fubuki, patrolling in the Bantam Bay. Fubuki was a part of the major Japanese invasion fleet intended for invasion of Western Java. The battle of the Sunda Strait was a chaos of star shells and flares hanging overhead, a tangle of blinding searchlights piercing the night, the freight-train roar of eight-inch shells and the silent tracks of deadly torpedoes. Both ships were firing in every direction with everything they had aboard. The enemy targets were on all sides. The Perth and Houston managed to hit during their brief attack four fully loaded transport ships, the Ryujo Maru, the Sakura Maru, the Morai Maru and the Tatsumo Maru, sinking one immediately. The others beached themselves in order to avoid going down. Two of these were headquarters ships. Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura, commander of the Japanese invasion force, had to jump overboard from the Ryujo Maru to save himself. He floated for about 20 minutes, supporting himself on a piece of wood, before he was rescued by a small boat. The ship he had abandoned was listing. Its tanks, trucks, automobiles, and the rest of the cargo on deck slid into the water with a dreadful crash. Imamura was brought ashore, where he sat down on a pile of bamboo to dry off. His aide came over and congratulated him "on his successful landing". The general's reply was not recorded. Casualties among the headquarters staff were light.
At five minutes after midnight, the HMAS Perth was hit by four torpedoes and while she was slowing, eight-inch shells ploughed into her from bow to stern. Captain Waller ordered "abandon ship". A few minutes later he was killed when a Japanese shell hit the bridge. The USS cruiser Houston received her fatal hits shortly after the Perth. The gunnery officer of the heavy cruiser USS Houston, 40-year-old Lieutenant Commander Arthur L. Maher described in his report the last moments of his ship: "The disposition of the enemy vessels was such as to completely encircle the Houston on all offshore bearings. Light patrol and torpedo boats operated with the transports in Bantam Bay. Enemy planes were overhead. Enemy ships believed to be cruisers or carriers were firing at the Houston from about 12,000 yards to seaward. Having established hitting range, they were pouring fire into the ship and causing considerable damage. Destroyers operating in formations of three to four ships were making repeated attacks upon the bows and quarters of the Houston, using both guns and torpedoes. The proximity of the ship to shoal water and the strong current running were additional hazards to maneuvering ... All communication systems which were still operative were hopelessly overloaded with reports of damage received, or approaching torpedoes, or new enemy attacks begun, or changes in targets engaged". At 12:25 on the morning of March 1, Captain Rooks gave the order to abandon the ship.
Also the few remaining Allied planes caused some confusion but the first wave completed landing without any opposition from the shores between 0015 and 0045. Very few casualties were sustained by the first line units but some ships of the convoy were damaged. At dawn on 1 March, the Army commander, Lieutenant General Imamura, establish his command post at Ragas, about 3 km north of Bodjonegara. The following afternoon, the commander moved his post from Ragas to Serang, where it remained until 7 March. The 2nd Division's operational plan after landing was: The Nasu Detachment will occupy the crossing points of the Tjoedjoeng River as quickly as possible with the 2nd Recon Regiment. The Detachment will then capture Buitenzorg in order to cut the enemy's retreat route from Batavia to Bandoeng. The Sato and Fukushima Detachments (the main strength of the 2nd Division) will advance along the Serang-Balaradja-Tangerang-Batavia road and the southern area toward the southwest of Batavia where it will prepare to invade Batavia. After occupying Batavia, the Division will prepare to attack Bandoeng Fortress and, in co-operation with Shoji Detachment, will capture Bandoeng.
As soon as the 2nd Recon Regiment of the Nasu Detachment landed, it immediately advanced to the banks of the Tjoedjoeng River. The Dutch troops stationed there consisted of two sections from the Jeep-platoon of the KNIL Detachment Hubar (approximately 200 men) under the command of KNIL non-commissioned officer Wachtmeester H. Heineman. They offered some resistance but were unable to stop the regiment's advance and, by 0700 on 1 March, it had penetrated to Serang. The Heineman's unit lost two men KIA during this engagement. The regiment continued to advance up the banks of the Tjoedjoeng River but about 1400 was stopped near Kopo as the bridge had been destroyed. It arrived at the Rangkasbitoeng Bridge seconds after the Rangkasbitoeng defence force, consisting of 10th Company of the 2nd KNIL Infantry Regiment, an artillery battery from 1st KNIL Mountain Artillery Unit and two armoured cars (Afdeling Hubar) under the command of KNIL Captain M. List, had destroyed it but reached the Pamarajan Bridge in time to engage and annihilate the Allied positions on the east side of the bridge as they were attempting to destroy it. The main strength of the Nasu Detachment under the command of Major-General Yumio Nasu arrived in the vicinity of Serang on the afternoon of 1 March. At 2100 it left Serang, crossing the Pamarajan Bridge, advanced as far as Rangkasbitoeng. The advance of the Fukushima and Sato Detachments was greatly hindered by the Allies' destruction of bridges and roads and it was not until the night of 1 March that the leading elements of these detachments had reached the banks of the Tjoedjoeng River. The main force of the Fukushima Detachment succeeded in advancing to Seeding but the Sato Detachment found all roads to the south of the landing point thoroughly blockaded and was able to advance only to Bodangora. Under these conditions, the Division commander ordered a part of these detachments to occupy the crossing points of the Tjidoerian River and ordered the main strength of the detachments to concentrate along the Tjoedjoeng River.
On 2 March, part of the Nasu Detachment pursued the Allied troops toward Buitenzorg while its main elements concentrated in the vicinity of Rangkasbitoeng. It then advanced toward Buitenzorg and by night had arrived in the vicinity of Djasinga and Tangerang. The detachment commander accomplished this by using his two motor transport companies to transport the troops in a shuttle system. Also on the night of 2 March the Nasu Detachment, after removing many anti-tank barricades which had been placed along the road, dispersed part of the Allied force to the east of Boenar and, by the following evening, its leading elements had advanced to the vicinity of Leuwiliang. There they found the Leuwiliang Bridge already destroyed and Australian troops manning pillboxes on the east side of the bridge. To the rear of Leuwiliang, on a line of several km long running north and south from Tjibatok, there were prepared positions consisting of pillboxes guarded by the Australian troops known as "Blackforce".
On the night of the landings "Blackforce" was concentrated at a tea plantation eight miles west of Buitenzorg to make a counter-attack if and when the Japanese landed to the west of Java. Its orders were to move with a regiment of Dutch infantry at dawn to Leuwiliang (four miles further west), and thence to operate offensively on the southern road west of the river on which the town stood. Major-General W. Schilling and Brigadier A.S. Blackburn decided that on 2 March a counter-attack against the enemy flank from the south should be directed on Tangerang and that it was essential for Dutch troops to hold Djasinga to keep the south road open. Late that night however orders were received by the Dutch commander from Bandoeng that the Dutch KNIL Regiment taking part in the attack was to be withdrawn and used to stop the advance of the Japanese 230th Infantry Regiment's (Shoji Detachment) who had landed at Eretanwetan and were threatening Bandoeng. After some hesitation Major-General Schilling decided that "Blackforce" would have to conduct the defence of the southern road alone. "Blackforce" reached Leuwiliang at daybreak on the 2nd, only to find that the withdrawing Dutch infantry, in ignorance of the latest orders, had blown up the bridge across the river which flows through the town. As its destruction prevented any effective offensive action to the west Brigadier Blackburn disposed his force for the defence of the river crossing.
On the afternoon of the 2nd March "Blackforce" was ordered to leave a detachment to hold the river line at Leuwiliang, and move to the east to take part in the counter-attack on Soebang at dawn the following morning in co-operation with the main Dutch forces. This would have meant a move of 125 miles followed by an unprepared attack over unreconnoitred country unknown to the commander or any of the officers of "Blackforce". Not only would such an attack have had little chance of success, but it would have left the defence of Leuwiliang seriously weakened at a moment when a heavy attack by the enemy was expected. Brigadier Arthur S. Blackburn, supported by Sitwell, protested strongly and the proposed move was cancelled.
Meanwhile the Australian 2/2 Pioneer Battalion with a company, under Captain Nason, positioned right of the main road, overlooking the bridge over the Tjianten river at Leuwiliang 15 miles from Buitenzorg, and another company in reserve, guarding the left flank, saw the Dutch engineers blow up the structure. The main force of Blackburn's troops, including 2/3 Machine-Gun Battalion, was held back in reserve. Major-General Schilling telephoned Blackburn requesting him to take over the positions evacuated by the Dutch East Indies Army, with the two KNIL companies remaining to come under his command. Blackforce returned to Leuwiliang arriving late on 2 March with the 2/2 Machine-Gun Battalion deployed on the left rear of the forward Pioneer companies. The first Japanese forces, light tanks of the 2nd Recon (Tank) Regiment, were seen on the western bank of the Tjianten river in the morning of March 2. Only in the late afternoon, when a considerable force was concentrated on the west bank of the river, Lieutenant Colonel J.M. Williams (2/2 Pioneer Battalion) gave the order to open fire. According to Blackburn the Japanese lost a considerable number of men during this engagement. The Japanese tried to outflank the 2/2 Pioneer Battalion by making a landing south of their defensive position, but they were beaten off by Australian 2/3 Machine Gun Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel E.D. Lyneham. In the late afternoon, the Japanese 16th Infantry Regiment arrived at Leuwiliang. Its commander, Colonel Hiroyasu, was ordered by Major-General Nasu to conduct a night attack on Australian defence positions at Tjibatok during the night on March 2-3 and to send the 2nd Recon Regiment down the Tjikaniki River by boat. Hiroyasu ordered his troops to cross the Tjianten River south of Leuwiliang, but due to heavy rain the river had swollen and the crossing took much more time than expected. Only at 0400 had the first Japanese troops crossed the river but they were detected and came under heavy fire. Colonel Hiroyasu was wounded during this action. Only a small number of his troops managed to form a small bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Tjianten River. Next morning, on 3 March, they were forced to withdraw during a counter-attack made by Blackburn's main force, including the tanks of the British tank squadron of "King's Own Hussars". Corporal Des Jackson from the Australian 2/3 Machine-Gun Battalion recalled the Leuwilliang battle: "That fight went on from just before dawn until dusk. We started pulling out at about four o'clock and most of the reserve platoon came forward to the hillocks and started firing to help us pull out ... We [C Company] were extremely fortunate to get out at all, let alone get out without further casualties". At about 12 noon, along the road from the west five Japanese light tanks of the 2nd Tank Regiment, came upon the destroyed bridge at Leuwiliang and were met with a hail of anti-tank rifle fire, disabling two tanks. Next, after midday, a column of Japanese trucks could be seen out of range of effective small arms fire unloading infantry. Enemy mortars opened fire and a small party of Japanese soldiers began to cross the river 300 yards south of the demolished bridge, a short sharp open fire from the pioneers routed them. Later that afternoon of March 3, Blackburn decided to use his artillery. The "D" Field Artillery Battery of the 2/131st American Field Artillery Regiment was moved forward and began with an accurate barrage (the Aussies called this "top-hole" artillery fire) at allotted targets like Japanese mortar positions, troop-concentrations and vehicles. The Japanese replied with mortars and infantry guns, but their fire was mostly inaccurate. First Lieutenant David Hilner from "D" Battery of the 2/131st American Field Artillery Regiment, described the action: "Having no maps, Lieutenant Stensland (forward observer) called for a round in adjustment and was lucky enough to observe it. He kept calling out adjustments for upping the range and doing it again--I got on the phone and asked what was going on---to which he replied: "Look at the little SOBs run!" I reminded him that we had four guns, not just one, to which he replied: "Hell, bring in the whole battery!" What he'd done was destroy tanks and trucks as far back as he could observe in order to entrap them and then proceeded to level the other vehicles and men at will. He then swept the west bank back and forth with devastating effect". Brigadier Arthur S. Blackburn later recalled: "Some 160 rounds were fired upon this task and the accuracy of the fire could not possibly have been improved". The Australian 2/2 Pioneer Battalion lost only 5 men killed and 4 wounded on this day. When Brigadier A. Blackburn visited the staff of the 1st KNIL Infantry Division12 at 2100, he reported to Major-General W. Schilling: "My boys have been fighting all day and enjoyed it very much".
Lieutenant Tim Brettingham-Moore, a 21-year-old law student who had to take command of the Australian 2/3rd MG Battalion's troops after three senior officers were captured by the Japanese troops, was later awarded a Military Cross for his gallant leadership at the Battle of Leuwiliang.
Finally, on 4 March a night attack was launched and the detachment succeeded in crossing the river some miles south of Leuwiliang. Brigadier Blackburn sent a company of 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion to hold the decaying defence line, while he disengaged. The Australians resisted fiercely. They attacked and, having driven the Japanese back some distance, held them off while "Blackforce" withdrew under cover of darkness. The rearguard (one battalion and "B" Squadron of 3rd Hussars) occupied a position four miles west of Buitenzorg, where the Japanese troops found that the three bridges along the main highway had been destroyed and they were compelled to advance along a side road by way of Tjampea, then ford the Tjisadane River to reach the right bank. The main body of the "Blackforce" withdrew to Soekaboemi which it held without difficulty until 3.15 p.m. on the 5th, when the Dutch staff reported that the withdrawal from Batavia had been completed. They then withdrew to rejoin the main body.
At 0001 hours on 2 March the Fukushima Detachment left Serdang and, that afternoon, reached Pamarajan. Part of the detachment continued to advance and, by following afternoon, reached Madja. There they found that the bridge had been destroyed and that there were practically no paths on the right bank of the Tjidoerian River. On the night of 2 March, part of the Sato Detachment crossed the Tjidoerian River near Kopo and, on the 3rd, occupied the Parigi Bridge. That night they advanced as far as Balaradja only to find that the bridge there had been already blown up by the Dutch engineers. At 2000 on 2 March, the Division commander left Serang for Petir reaching there the following morning. Upon arrival he was informed that while the tactical situation in the Nasu Detachment area was progressing on the whole according to schedule, the Fukushima and Sato Detachments had been greatly delayed by the widespread destruction of bridges. On the 3rd, he ordered the diversion of the Fukushima Detachment and one infantry battalion of the Sato Detachment to the Buitenzorg road. At the same time, he disposed his reserves (3rd Battalion of the 4th Infantry Regiment) east of Pamarajan to cover this movement.
On 4 March, Major-General Wijbrandus Schilling, the commander of 1st KNIL Infantry Division, at Batavia, warned Brigadier Blackburn that the Commander-in-Chief, Lieutenant General Hein Ter Poorten, faced with this situation, decided on the 4th to withdraw his forces from Batavia and Buitenzorg to reinforce the defence of the capital. He also asked Blackforce to hold the enemy for 24 hours while his forces withdre from that area. Since the direct road and railway from Batavia to Bandoeng had already been cut by the enemy, the garrison of Batavia had to be withdrawn through Buitenzorg. "Blackforce" was given the task of keeping this route open until demolitions at Batavia had been completed and the garrison withdrawn. On receipt of these orders Blackburn decided to withdraw his ad hoc brigade that night from the river line and hold a rearguard position on a much narrower front nearer to Buitenzorg, protected by the destruction of bridges and holding up on this occasion a good part of the Japanese 2nd Division from further advances. Heavy rain helped to conceal the movement from the Japanese and it also hindered communication with forward units. One formation of Pioneers, 118 officers and soldiers, could not be found at all. The Dutch KNIL troops in this area had withdrawn through Buitenzorg and the rearguard was deployed at Soekaboemi. At this time, the lost Pioneer company, it was learnt long after the event, as it moved near the threatened flank of the Australian 2/3 Machine-Gun Battalion, hearing gunfire attacked a village held by the Japanese and Sergeant Croft's platoon engaged the enemy in a severe fire fight with a strong enemy force and maintained a blitz of bullets till darkness, then withdrew. The advance onto the village itself by Lieutenant Allan's platoon became pinned under Japanese fire from mortars and machine-guns. A group of Australians rushed forward and reached the edge of the village engaging the entrenched enemy. At 5pm the Diggers prepared for a bayonet charge, despite the persistent Japanese counter fire, and suddenly Private Byrne with a Bren gun stood up and discharged three 30 round magazines scattering the nearest enemy. The Australians charged with gleaming steel, soon five were hit with only a gain of 20 yards. More Japanese troops were arriving and adding their fire power plus others were beginning to encircle the Australian position, so they withdrew carrying their wounded with them. The third Pioneer platoon ran into an ambush with two killed and others seriously wounded. By now the lost Pioneer platoons were out of contact with each other, some being captured by the Japanese when they broke up into smaller units but other minor parties, helped by friendly locals and Dutch civilians, reached Palabuhanratu on the south coast by 13 March.
On 4 March, learning that the Allied troops near Batavia were withdrawing toward Buitenzorg, Maruyama decided to use his main units to capture
He attached the Fukushima Detachment and the infantry battalion of the Sato Detachment to proceed immediately to south of Batavia.
On the same day, he transferred his command post to Rangkasbitoeng.
At 1600 on the 5th, part of the Nasu Detachment cleared the Allied troops from the right bank of Tjisadane River north of Tjampea,
while another unit of the detachment advanced to Bantarkaming, approximately 8 km northwest of Buitenzorg.
At this time, the Allied troops in the Batavia area were still withdrawing toward Buitenzorg.
On the night of the 5th, the Nasu Detachment, together with about one battalion of the Fukushima Detachment and one Battalion of the
Sato Detachment, having no time to reconnoitre Buitenzorg nor to secure accurate information concerning the enemy situation,
launched attacks in waves against Buitenzorg and, about 0500 on the 6th, penetrated the city's defence, which consisted of the following
KNIL defence units under the command of KNIL Lieutenant Colonel F.F. Milius:
However, it was found that a large number of Allied soldiers (approximately 3000 men) defending the town had already withdrawn toward Bandoeng. By 0600 on 6 March Buitenzorg was occupied. The Nasu Detachment immediately dispatched one infantry company to pursue the retreating Dutch troops toward Poentjak Pass, between Mt. Prangrango and Kentjana. The main strength of the Sato Detachment, having diverted approximately one infantry battalion to the Nasu Detachment area, continued to advance along the road to Batavia. Despite the fact that all bridges on the rivers had been destroyed, they quickly reached the outskirts of the town. At dusk on 5 March, the Dutch troops in the vicinity of Batavia surrendered to the Sato Detachment and, by 2130 that night, the city had been occupied. At the time Batavia and Buitenzorg were occupied, the lines of communication units of the Nasu Detachment had not caught up with the detachment and the main strength of the Fukushima Detachment, changing its course from Madja, needed two more days to concentrate at Buitenzorg. In addition, all transport troops of the Sato Detachment were west of Serang.
The 16th Army Commander ordered the 2nd Division to change its course and to march to the north of Bandoeng and take the town by assault. Maruyama, therefore, decided to dispatch the Nasu Detachment to secure a foothold in the Tjiandjoer area and, at the same time, to dispatch the main elements of the Division immediately to the vicinity of Soebang. The two forces began to converge on Bandoeng from the west and north when unexpectedly at dawn on 8 March, they were notified of the Dutch proposal to surrender. The Division commander immediately ordered each detachment to advance without delay toward Bandoeng. At this time the units from the Fukushima and Sato Detachments, which had been attached to the Nasu Detachment, were returned to their previous units.
In the meantime, while part of the Nasu Detachment was pursuing the Dutch units toward Poentjak Pass, the main strength of the detachment was pursuing the Allies by rail. On the night of 6 March, it met and engaged the retreating Allies near Tjibadak. Since the bridges near Tjibadak were already destroyed, the main force of the detachment was compelled to abandon its pursuit by rail and changing its course proceeded toward Poentjak Pass. On 8 March, part of the Nasu Detachment advanced to the vicinity of Tjimahi. On that day the commander of the 16th Army, Lieutenant General Imamura, informed the commanding officer of the 2nd Division, Lieutenant General Masao Maruyama, about the Dutch proposal for surrender.
On 9 March, the 2nd Division commander, Lieutenant General Masao Maruyama, was informed that the Shoji Detachment had been placed under his command and, at the same time, he was ordered to occupy Bandoeng. Maruyama, therefore, ordered the commanders of the Nasu and Shoji Detachments to each dispatch one infantry battalion to Bandoeng to occupy and firmly secure the town.
The Shoji Detachment, under command of the 38th Division on 5 January, began its operational preparations at Kowloon, Hong-Kong. On 16 January 1942 was the detachment was placed under the direct command of the 16th Army Headquarters. It left Hong-Kong harbour on the 25th and assembled at Takao (Formosa) on the 31st. The detachment moved to Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina, in early February. The commander of the detachment was Colonel Toshishige Shoji.
Having assembled his forces at Cam Ranh Bay, the Shoji Detachment commander issued orders in regard to landing operations. Assuming that there would be no enemy troops in or around his planned landing point, he organized his troops for the occupation of Kalidjati airfield rather than for a combat landing operations.
Due to the distance from the Army base in Sumatra, it was recognized that aerial support from the base would be inadequate during the Central Java Operation. Consequently, it was of the utmost importance that Kalidjati airfield should be occupied as soon as possible.
On 18 February, the Shoji Detachment left Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina, with the convoy of the 16th Army's main strength. On the 27th, as soon as they entered the Java Sea, the detachment separated from the main convoy and proceeded alone toward the waters off Eretanwetan where it was planned to land.
Allied bombers from Kalidjati airfield attacked the smaller convoy at night when it was about 50 miles from the coast but the scale of the attack was too light to do any serious damage. About 0130 on 1 March, the convoy reached its anchorage near Eretanwetan, and, about 0330, landed its first troops. There was no opposition on the beaches, but Allied planes made some fierce attacks against the invasion fleet.
On Sunday, March 1st, at 5:30 nine Brewster Buffalos set out for Eretanwetan, one flight of four aircraft of 2-VLG-V led by Captain van Helsdingen, the other flight - from 1-VLG-V - led by Captain van Rest. Three Glenn Martin Bombers of 3-VLG-III also took part in this action. One Japanese transport was claimed sunk, but the Glenn Martins also lost one of their number; Lieutenant B. Groenendijk and his crew were killed in action. One of the Brewsters belly-landed at Andir airfield, the pilot being unable to lower his undercarriage.
At about the same time, twelve Hurricanes of 242nd RAF Squadron joined the attack. One of the pilots, Sergeant Sandeman Allen, recollected that the main landing took place "in a lovely bay 10-15 miles east of Batavia" and added: "The set-up when we were sent out was a line of ships - nine, I think - with two destroyers. All the ships had guns and guns were already ashore. We attacked the barges running between the ships and shore and I think more damage was done by the gunfire from the ships and the shore than by us! As we attacked the barges we were followed by much heavier calibre fire from both sides and some barges received direct hits from shells".
Another pilot, Pilot Officer Lockwood, clearly remembers that as they turned their attention to the barges just off shore, a voice was heard over the R/T: "Don't strafe those barges!". Undoubtedly someone on the ground was on the same frequency. Nevertheless, the pilots proceeded to shoot-up the barges.
The 242nd RAF and 605th RAF Squadron carried out two more attacks during the course of the morning. By then, nearly all Hurricanes suffered damage. Two of them made emergency landings and one of the pilots, Flight Officer Noel Sharpe, was never seen again. Before darkness set in, three more sorties were flown from Eretanwetan by the Glenn Martins of 3-VLG-III, but then the weather prevented further bombing attacks. These Allied air low-level attacks caused not only heavy casualties among the troops in the landing crafts but also impeded the landing.
At 0610, the Osawa Advance Party (7th Company of the 2nd Battalion) left the landing point by motor transport vehicles and rapidly advanced toward Kalidjati airfield. At 1030, it engaged with the 3rd KNIL Cavalry Unit under the command of KNIL Major J.H. Wessel (ca. 100 troops), who had been sent to destroy the bridge at Pamanoekan, approximately 1 km west of Soebang.
At 0800, the Wakamatsu Unit under the command of Major Mitsunori Wakamatsu left the landing point by motor transport vehicles with only
the strength that had completed landing at that time and, at 1045, overtook the Osawa Advance Party, which was then engaging in a battle
with Dutch troops.
The Wakamatsu Unit assumed command of the Osawa Advance Unit and together they headed for the airfields at Kalidjati and Tjikampek,
cutting the road and rail links between Batavia and Bandoeng.
The column of the Wakamatsu Unit, moving in lorries accompanied by a number of light tanks, entered Soebang
and within two hours pressed on westwards to the airfield.
The Allied forces which defended the Kalidjati airfield against the invading Japanese troops consisted of:
The British commander at Kalidjati was Group Captain Whistondale (RAF) who was senior officer at the airfield. Major Earle was senior army officer and responsible for anti-aircraft defence and Major Coulson was responsible for ground defence. Major Couslon's battery arrived at 2000 on the evening of the 28th February and because of the lateness of their arrival and as it was already dark the troops were not deployed until the following morning, when the Dutch garrison moved off at 0600. Although the Japanese troops took the airfield defence completely by surprise, the airfield defence party fought gallantly in a bloody battle and gave time for an Australian squadron of Hudsons to fly off their aircraft to Andir airfield, near Bandoeng; a British Blenheim squadron however, which was on the airfield dispersal area, was overrun. Flight Lieutenant M.K. Holland, a British officer flying with 84th RAF Squadron, witnessed the Japanese attack at Kalidjati airfield. He recalls: "Dawn found us at Kalidjati taking stock of the position. We knew that the Japanese had landed for we had seen them in the moonlight and we knew that they were only about 30 miles away from our aerodrome. We phoned Air HQ in the mountains (Bandoeng) and explained to them what had happened and also the danger of our position. HQ replied that there was absolutely no danger and that all we had to do was to remain by our aircraft and await further orders. On coming out of the building we heard some machine gun fire. We leapt into our powerful American car and as we drove out onto the landing ground, a Japanese tank came round the corner of a hangar and opened fire on us. We shot across the landing ground at high speed to our men who were on the far side. We abandoned the car and leapt into a ditch just as the Japanese opened fire with their trench mortars. Most frightening. The shells seemed to fly about in all directions and explode where least expected. Often they exploded above the ground which made it practically useless to take shelter in a ditch". In the ditch with us was a young Australian pilot [Flight Officer Peter Gibbes4] from another squadron. Despite the machine gun bullets and mortar fire that was harassing us at the time, he said he was going to climb into his aircraft and take-off. He crept on his belly towards his aircraft and, when there was a lull in the firing, he suddenly leapt up, opened the door and climbed in. Apparently the Japanese hadn't seen him for the firing continued in a hap-hazard way as it had before. As soon as the engines fired he leapt into the seat and without warming up the motors, opened both throttles and the aircraft began to move forward. As soon as the Japanese heard the aircraft motors and saw the aircraft moving, they opened fire with everything they had got. By this time the Hudson was gathering speed and the tail was well up, but as it shot across the aerodrome it drew fire from practically all sides. He finally got airborne and the last we saw of him was as he disappeared over the far hedge amidst spurts of tracer bullets and shell bursts". The Japanese gave no quarter and brought up their armoured fighting vehicles, the defenders fought with grit & determination even as the last Hudson airplane took off. A single crewman, Flight Officer Peter Gibbes, flew this aircraft, then flying his machine low over the airfield he strafed Japanese troops with the forward two machine-guns and set a course for Andir airstrip. By 1230, practically the entire defence party was wiped out and the airfield was completely occupied. Of 350 British troops defending the airfield, about one third were killed or captured, as were all 30 of the RAF defence personnel, including the commander of the airfield defence party, Major Nevil Coulson. The Wakamatsu Unit then engaged in mopping-up operations and setting up defensive measures in the surrounding area. As the airfield was in good condition, the Wakamatsu Unit attempted to notify headquarters that it could be used immediately, but due to communication difficulties was unable to do so. It then attempted to notify the 3rd Air Brigade directly but again was unsuccessful.
The Egashira Unit under the command of Major Masaru Egashira was assigned the task of securing the bridge across the Tjitaroem River near Tjikampek, severing the enemy's route of retreat in the Batavia area and, if circumstances permitted, of attacking Batavia. At 0540 on 1 March, this unit left its debarkation point with its first-landed troops. Their advance westward along the road to Batavia was considerably delayed by low-level attacks by the remaining British fighter squadrons from Tjililitan, but by nightfall they had succeeded in concentrating their units at Pamanoekan.
Although the British bombers had been overrun at Kalidjati, fighters continued their attacks with some success against troops and vehicles which had landed at Eretanwetan. On the morning of 2 March the Andir airfield was subjected to a fierce Japanese ariel bombing. It was at Andir airfield that the remnants of the allied air force squadrons assembled, eventually by the end of the struggle the remaining last two aircraft, Hurricanes, were destroyed by those that had flown and serviced them.7 The Hudsons were flown to Australia having their range extended by in flight refuelling with petrol tins, a rubber hose and an open window next to the wing tank opening.
After the successful Japanese landings at Eretanwetan on March 1st, KNIL Captain L.J. Prummel, the commanding officer of the 3rd Company of the 2nd KNIL Infantry Battalion, heard about a battle taking place at Soebang. He ordered Cadet-Vaandrig3 J.R.J. Rugebregt to take ten men and an overvalwagen to investigate the situation. Rugebregt headed towards Soedang shortly after 10:00 p.m. and recalls: "Suddenly a brown-coloured medium tank appeared on the road in front of us which immediately opened fire. The distance was about 200 meters. After a few shots our overvalwagen received a direct hit, which wounded the driver. The blast of the explosion knocked me to the ground and small pieces of shrapnel wounded my right leg. Though badly damaged, the overvalwagen kept on going for a while and the Japanese tank fired a few more rounds at us". When the overvalwagen finally came to a halt, Rugebregt and his men were taken prisoner.
On the afternoon of March 1st, the Mobiele Eenheid was alerted in Bandoeng and went in the direction of Kalidjati (25 miles to the north). The unit was hastily reinforced by three Marmon-Herrington armoured cars, three 3.7cm anti-tank guns and a battery of mountain artillery with four 7.5cm guns. At 0500 on 2 March, the Shoji Detachment Headquarters and some reserves reached Soebang and occupied the town. At 1100 that morning, the KNIL Mobile Unit (Mobiele Eenheid) under the command of KNIL Captain G.J. Wulfhorst (with approximately 20 tanks), supported by the 5th KNIL Infantry Battalion (ca. 250 men) under the command of KNIL Major C.G.J. Teerink, counter-attacked the Shoji Detachment at Soebang. The Japanese had at that time only about 100 men in the town, including Colonel T. Shoji, the commanding officer, together with an anti-tank and a mountain gun. The Dutch attack had taken them completely by surprise. The Japanese troops had taken Cadet-Vaandrig Rugebregt with them and the next day he witnessed the counter-attack, made by the Mobiele Eenheid, at Soebang. He wrote about the battle: "The Japanese were in a very good mood. They were cooking, washing and cleaning their rifles when suddenly a lot of screaming and shouting was going on. We were tied up again and could hear in the distance the sounds of a battle. These sounds came closer and closer and then, to our surprise, we saw our own tanks charging towards Kalidjati. They took the Japanese completely by surprise. Some of them fled towards the Headquarters building, which sadly was not detected by our tanks. Others were lying on the road, dead or wounded. We saw quite a few of them get hit". Preceeded by two armoured cars, the 1st Platoon (Marmon-Herrington tanks) with a platoon of infantry in Overvalwagens made the first attack at 0810. The open topped Overvalwagens were soon in difficulty and the tank platoon was unable to take over the town alone. It retreated after losing one tank. The two other infantry platoons had dismounted and were trying to enter the town by advancing on both sides of the road. They encountered strong Japanese resistance and were not able to progress. The 2nd Tank Platoon followed the first tanks and entered the town. The Japanese defenders were now fully alerted and they repulsed the platoon which lost three or four vehicles. Some tanks under the command of KNIL 1st Lieutenant G.H. Christan even penetrated to the outskirts of the Kalidjati airfield, but were quickly repulsed. To Rugebregt's surprise, the tanks were not supported by infantry. He continues: "Had the infantry attacked immediately after the initial tank charge, the Japanese would have been driven out of Soebang. They were surprised completely and we saw that many of them had lost their rifles and were unarmed. The attack could have been a huge success". The third attack on Soebang took place at 0915. The 3rd Tank Platoon with the Command Group and the remaining vehicles of the 1st and 2nd Platoons tried to drive out the Japanese (there were 17 tanks involved). Without infantry support, the tanks came under fire from both sides of the road toward Soebang and were repulsed with losses (at least four vehicles). Meanwhile, Japanese reinforcements had reached the town and were threatening the flanks of the Dutch infantry. At 1015, a last tank attack was started to extricate the infantry. It is not know how many vehicles participated in the attack. After bitter fighting, the Mobiele Eenheid finally broke contact with the Japanese at 1220, after a 90-minute engagement. It assembled at Tambakan, two miles (3 km) south of Soebang, and went to Bandoeng on March 4th. Between the 4th and the 9th, the Mobiele Eenheid did not take part in any action. It was placed in reserve against possible paratroops landings which did not take place. According to the commanding officer of the KNIL Mobile Unit, Captain G.J. Wulfhorst, his unit lost 14 men killed in action, 13 wounded in action and two men missing in action. Material losses were also high: 13 tanks, one armoured car, 5 overvalwagens and one AT gun were lost.
That afternoon, the main force of the Japanese 3rd Air Brigade advanced to Kalidjati airfield.18 At dawn on the 3rd, some Allied planes bombed the field and inflicted some damage. The Dutch planned to use a KNIL reserve regiment which had been withdrawn from Buitenzorg for a second attack on the 3rd, but when it was about twenty miles short of its objective it was heavily attacked by aircraft from Kalidjati airfield. Caught in the open, with no air support and practically no anti-aircraft artillery, it was completely scattered. Unable to be reinforced to consolidate the ground recaptured by the Dutch armoured forces, due to constant air attacks, Schilling ordered the inexperienced KNIL troops under Brigadier Blackburn to back up the advance. The Dutch reinforcements were caught in their forming up area by Japanese aircraft operating from the captured Kalidjati airfield and ceased being a fighting formation after subjected to Japanese air raids for five hours. An unnamed Japanese staff officer attached to General Imamura's headquarters recalled the following story told to him by another officer who witnessed the events of the 3rd March: "From the story of the army detached staff officer, the enemy charged through a path where there were no Shoji Butai forces. The enemy was already 1,000 meters west of the aerodrome. Besides the airfield guard soldiers, there were no other Butai to face this large mechanized Butai. The General calmly ordered: "Bombard the first and last tanks of the enemy's tank column immediately". Quickly the planes took off and dived on the designated targets and attacked them. The first and last tanks were stopped and began to burn. The enemy's long column was unable to retreat or advance as the sides of the road were paddy fields, deployment was impossible. They attacked fiercely again and again, before long the large enemy mechanized Butai was annihilated. It was purely and simply a battle between a mechanized unit and an airfield Tai. If we had delayed, the airfield would have been overrun". About 0930 the same day, five Dutch tanks attacked the field but were quickly destroyed by the Wakamatsu Unit.
After checking Dutch destruction of bridges and overcoming a Dutch defence position at 1200 on 3 March,
the Egashira Unit finally reached the bridge near Djatisari only to find it had already been destroyed.
The detachment commander, Colonel Toshishige Shoji, therefore, ordered the unit to change its course and advance by way of Kalidjati and Poerwakarta.
At 2000 the unit reached Pamanoekan.
About 1400 on the 3rd the Dutch attack force (so-called Groep Toorop) from Poerwakarta under the command of
KNIL Colonel C.G. Toorop attempted to break through the defences around Kalidjati airfield by way of Poerwakarta,
but planes from 3rd Air Brigade attacked and routed them.
The Dutch force consisted of the following units:
On the night of 3 March, the Ono (Landing-Point Protection) Unit, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ono, made a night attack on Kandanghaoer and routed the 2nd KNIL Cavalry Unit under the command of Ritmeester W.J. Romswinckel. It consisted of approximately 200 soldiers, 4 light tanks and 8 artillery guns. By 2400, this unit had completely occupied the town. The Dutch 2nd Cavalry Unit managed to retreat with the loss of two men KIA and three WIA. The Shoji Detachment in the meantime decided to destroy immediately the Allied forces concentrated at Poerwakarta and Tjikampek and sever the road between Batavia and Bandoeng as quickly as possible. It ordered the Wakamatsu Unit to occupy Poerwakarta and the Egashira Unit to secure the Gedoenggde Bridge, northwest of Krawang. The Wakamatsu Unit left the Kalidjati airfield in motor vehicles, and at 0040 on the 4th, about 16 km west of the airfield met and engaged the 1st KNIL Cavalry Unit of about 100 troops supported by tanks, armoured vehicles and AT guns. Within 30 minutes they had overcome this force and, after having repulsed two more Dutch road attacks on the way, finally reached and occupied Poerwakarta at 0700. However, the main part of the 1st Dutch Cavalry Unit managed to escape from Japanese encirclement. Having been informed that the Egashira Unit had advanced to Tjikampek at 1230, about 1400 the Wakamatsu Unit left Poerwakarta and returned to Kalidjati airfield. About 1400 on the 4th, the Egashira Unit penetrated Tjikampek by way of Soebang and Kalidjati. Finding Tjikampek already deserted by the Dutch troops, the unit continued its advance to Gedoenggde. About 1830, it penetrated Krawang and routed the Dutch force stationed there.
At 1910, however upon arriving at the Gedoenggde Bridge they found it already destroyed by the Dutch demolition teams. On 5 March the detachment commander decided to destroy the Allied position north of Bandoeng before they could be finally firmly consolidated and ordered his detachment to proceed to Bandoeng. The Wakamatsu Unit (three infantry companies supported by the main strength of the mountain artillery battalion) left Soebang at 1100 on 5 March with the task of penetrating Dutch defence positions south of Tjiater and advanced immediately to the plains of Bandoeng. At 1730, it attacked the 2nd (European) Company of the 1st KNIL Infantry Battalion under the command of KNIL Captain M. Koositra. They managed to destroy some of the vehicles and tanks of the Wakamatsu Unit, using a 5cm naval gun. By nightfall, the Japanese troops had seized the second line of positions held by the units of the 5th KNIL Infantry Battalion under the command of KNIL Major C.G.J. Teerink, whose first units arrived at Tjiater at 1830. During this time, the 3rd Air Brigade used almost its entire force to support the detachment. At dawn on the 6th, the Wakamatsu Unit continued its attack and, at the same time, defeated the reinforcements attempting to relieve the Dutch troops. Then, passing to the left of the Dutch defence positions, the unit advanced toward the mountain and the Dutch rear and took the positions by storm. Although, the unit did not completely overcome the Dutch force until nightfall, this victory gave it complete control of the mountain pass. The Egashira Unit, having reached Soebang by motor vehicles, concentrated its strength there. Again during the 6th, the 3rd Air Brigade devoted its entire force to supporting the Shoji Detachment. Having decided to continue its penetration of the region to the north of Bandoeng, the Shoji Detachment ordered the Wakamatsu Unit to attack and pursue the Allied forces stationed to the west of the main highway, while the Egashira Unit was to attack and pursue the Allied forces stationed along the main highway. By 2000 on the 7th, these units, one following the other, had advanced to Lembang in the northern suburbs of Bandoeng. The Wakamatsu Unit then advanced to the plateau south of Lembang.
At 2230 on 7 March, a Dutch messenger, KNIL Captain Jan Gerharz, bearing a white flag, arrived at the Detachment Headquarters and delivered a proposal for a truce from Major-General Jacob J. Pesman, the commander of Bandoeng District. In reply, the detachment commander, Colonel Toshishige Shoji, agreed to meet Major-General Jacob J. Pesman at the Isola Hotel in Lembang at 1000 on 8 March. He then assembled his detachment and prepared to march into Bandoeng.
On 8 February 1942, the 48th Division left Lingayen Gulf, Luzon Island (Philippines), escorted by the 4th Destroyer Squadron. It arrived on Jolo Island, Sulu Archipelago, (Philippines) on the 12th, where they conducted Army-Navy manoeuvres.
On 19 February, the 48th Division, left Jolo Island and sailed toward the east coast of Java Island. On the 21st, the convoy arrived in Makassar Strait. On the 22nd, having been notified about the postponement, the convoy reversed course and headed for Balikpapan, where it anchored temporarily. Meanwhile, the Sakaguchi Detachment joined the 48th Division aboard the ships.
On the 25th, the convoy left Balikpapan, and headed south. On the 27th, the Allied fleet under command of Rear-Admiral Doorman was sighted and attacked by the 5th Destroyer Squadron and other units of the 3rd Fleet. The Java Sea Battle delayed the invasion of Java by a further 24 hours. The convoy, which had turned back at the beginning of the action, resumed its southerly course when the battle was over and, at 0015 on 1 March, the invasion fleet finally anchored off Kragan.
Major-General Yuitsu Tsuchihashi, the commander of the 48th Infantry Division, estimated that the enemy would concentrate a force to the northwest of Soerabaja. He, therefore, planned to advance part of the division to Soerabaja from the northwest, as a diversion and, at the same time, have the division's main strength detour and attack from the south, thus not only attacking toward the weakest point but also cutting the enemy's route of retreat. On landing, the strength of the division was divided into the following units:
As Major-General Tsuchihashi believed that the reason Bataan had been so difficult to take was that sufficient heavy artillery had not been committed in the early stages of the operation, he ordered the Imai Unit to land to the west of Kragan and establish a beachhead. Part of the unit was then to occupy Rembang Harbour where the heavy artillery and other military material to be used against Soerabaja Fortress was to be unloaded. The Abe Unit was ordered to land on the beach to the east of Kragan and establish a beachhead in order to cover the landings of the Tanaka and Kitamura Units. The Tanaka Unit was to land and advance to Tjepoe as quickly as possible and there occupy the oilfields. In addition, it was to advance and occupy Bodjonegoro as well as the crossing points of the Solo River near the town. It was then to advance to Soerabaja by way of Babad and Lamongan.
The main strength of the division (Imai, Abe and Tanaka Units) was to detour to the south of the Brantas River
and to prepare to attack Soerabaja Fortress from the south.
On 25 February 1942, the convoy with invasion troops aboard left Balikpapan, Borneo, and headed south toward Kragan anchorage. During the late morning on the 26th, the Eastern Invasion Force was found again in the Makassar Strait, by flying boat Dornier X-28 of GVT-6, and was shadowed for several hours. The Dornier carried out an attack on the destroyer Amatsukaze, releasing only one bomb which fell about 500 yards ahead of its intended target. This attack was followed by an attack made by two B-17s from the US 7th Bomber Group, dropping their six bombs from 13.000 feet. Two of the bombs fell some 500 yards short of the destroyer Hatsukaze. The attacks also continued in the following days.
Shortly after 16:30 on the 27th, three US A-24 dive bombers, probably from the 27th Bomb Group of the 91st Squadron, led by Captain Galusha made another attack. They were escorted by ten P-40's from the 17th USAAF Pursuit Squadron and three Dutch Brewster Buffaloes. The Americans claimed three transports sunk, but according to Japanese information there were no hits.
On February 28th, the obsolete Vildebeest torpedo-bombers of 36th RAF Squadron were again called into action. Squadron Leader Wilkins led the attack, using six of his Vildebeests and one Albacore. After a long search the Japanese invasion fleet was found about five miles north of Rembang and all pilots managed to drop their bombs from low altitude and most claiming direct hits on transports. Flight Lieutenant Allanson reported: "I obtained a direct hit amidships with a salvo of six bombs on a ship of about 3.000 tons, which broke in half and sank (reported by my observer Pilot Officer Glowrey and Sergeant Hornabrook, Wop/AG). I think I used the remaining two bombs against a destroyer but in view of the small size of the bombs (50 lb) no very serious damage was likely to have been caused".
Flight Officer Gotto, with his Australian crew of Sergeants Toohey and Barnes attacked a Japanese cruiser: "I was at about 2.000 feet and dived from the cruiser's starboard bow across to the port quarter. However I didn't allow enough for the speed of the ship. I realised this just before dropping so I only released the first two bombs, intending to have another dive. The bombs dropped about 50 feet astern of this ship and would have done no damage. The AA opened up but no searchlight. As I pulled out of the dive we saw, much closer to the shore, 30 transports lying at anchor and I was mighty pleased I had two bombs left. The ships were roughly in three lines parallel to the coast, the nearer being about half a mile off shore. The most westerly one in the rear rank was, as far as I could see, a bit bigger than its neighbours so I selected it as my target. There was still a little AA from the cruiser but we were now out of range. I took my time and dived from 1.500 feet to about 700 feet and released my two bombs together. I felt the blast of the explosion hit the aircraft and immediately afterwards Barnes shouted, in a very excited voice, "Direct hit amidship!!!". I did a climbing turn and could see a bright red glow in the centre of the ship".
On returning to Madioen airfield the squadron was ordered to carry out one more sortie, the target being changed from transports to landing craft. Two Vildebeests were shot down by AA fire this time, one of which was flown by Squadron Leader Wilkins who died in the crash. Six B-17's and one B-24 from the 7th and 19th USAAF Bomber Groups made another attack during the night. The Americans claimed five transports sunk and two probably sunk! In fact during all these attacks only the Japanese army transport Tokushima Maru was damaged by a near miss and stranded, and the Johore Maru was damaged by a direct, with 150 dead and wounded. Apparently the light cruiser Kinu was also damaged during these attacks.
At 0100 on 1 March, having been subjected to almost continuos air attacks since 27 February, the convoy carrying the 48th Infantry Division dropped anchor off Kragan. The night was ideal for a landing. It was a bright moonlight light with a light off-shore wind, the sea was calm and the anchorage free of mines. There was no opposition on the beaches but Allied aircrafts made repeated attacks on the transports. At 09:00 two B-17's from the 7th Bomber Group set off from Madioen airfield. Only the one flown by Lieutenant Casper managed to reach the Eastern invasion fleet and dropped eight 300kg bombs from 30.000 feet. The crew optimistically claimed hits on two transports. Shortly after this attack, nine P-40's of the 17th American Pursuit Squadron, six Dutch Hurricanes of 2-VLG-IV and the remaining six Brewster fighters set out from the secret base at Ngoro and Blimbang. All fighters strafed the landing crafts and landing troops but they flew into a hell of AA and small arms fire. The Americans suffered particularly heavy; three of the P-40's were shot down and the other six were damaged. Lieutenant Morris Caldwell's aircraft was seen to crash into the sea, while Lieutenant Cornelius Reagan's P-40 was set ablaze. Lieutenant McWherter attempted to lead him to where he could bail out, but Reagan was seen to open the cockpit canopy, take out a cigarette and coolly light it from the flames pouring out of the engine, and then sit back to await the inevitable crash in which he was killed. Lieutenant Adkins shot down but baled out. Three of the Dutch Hurricanes were also hit and damaged. During the next attack, made by Glenn Martins of 1-VLG-III and four Curtiss Wright CW-22 Falcons of VkA-1, two more transports were claimed sunk but the Dutch suffered heavy losses. Japanese F1M floatplanes managed to down three of the CW-22's.
At 0345, the Right Wing Unit (Colonel Hifumi Imai) succeeded in landing and, by 0400 the Left Wing Unit (Major-General Koichi Abe) also had landed. Both forces then advanced inland. The 3rd Cavalry (motorized) Squadron of the 1st Dutch KNIL Cavalry Regiment under the command of Ritmeester C.W. de Iongh was encountered near the beaches but was quickly routed.
Allied planes continued bombing and strafing attacks until after daybreak, inflicting heavy casualties on the advancing troops. Between 1000 and 1200 on 1 March, the front-line units advanced to a line running from Sedan to Boeloe and firmly established themselves there. In the meantime, the Tjepoe and Bodjonegoro Units continued to advance toward their objectives. By evening, the division had established a beachhead 50 km deep and had unloaded almost all ammunition and supply. The Imai Unit under the command of Colonel Hifumi Imai, after first advancing to the vicinity of Sedan, that night captured Rembang Harbour.
The commanding officer of the 4th Dutch Cavalry Squadron, Ritmeester S. de Boer, had his headquarters at Rembang. When he heard about the approaching Japanese landing fleet in the afternoon of February 28, he put together small reconnaissance groups, each consisting of three "Blitz-buggies" (jeeps) and one armoured car (both the Alvis-Straussler and White scout car were used). One of these groups was commanded by Wachtmeester D. van der Gaag. At 2100 hours van der Gaag and his men observed a Japanese fleet, about 30 ships, heading for Kragan. Shortly after daybreak they could see Allied planes attacking the ships. At 0630 hours a Japanese patrol on bicycles, probably from the Abe Unit, approached. Cavalerist S.V. Gatsonides, the driver of the armoured car, recalls about the incident: "Suddenly I saw them coming. Behind me I heard the voice of the Javanese soldier Bakat, who asked me: "Who are those people?". I told him to shut up because "those people" were in fact the enemy. The Japanese soldiers never saw us. When they were as close as 50 meters I opened fire. The results were terrible. They were completely surprised and fired back wildly, without hitting us. Only after the patrol was completely wiped out I stopped firing".
The Tjepoe Raiding Unit under the command of Colonel Tohru Tanaka broke through the blockade region between Blora and Tjepoe and, at 1800 on the 2nd, occupied Tjepoe, only to find the bridge and the oilfields had already been destroyed by the retreating Tjepoe KNIL Detachment. At 0600 on the 3rd, the Bodjonegoro Unit crossed the Solo River in small craft, and by 0850 had occupied Bodjonegoro without a fight. At 2030 on 4 March, having thrown a bridge across the Solo River near Tjepoe, the division's main units advanced toward the east bank of the Brantas River. It continued its advance during that day and the following night. A hastily prepared defence line on the Solo River was organised with the 6th NEI Infantry Regiment (Colonel W. van Kuilenburg) and the Dutch Marine Battalion 14 (Lieutenant Colonel W.A.J. Roelofsen) to stop the 48th Division advances. The Dutch defence troops were soon overwhelmed on all sides and the Japanese pressed on towards their objective - Soerabaja. On the 5th, the Japanese troops crushed Dutch defence positions at Ngawi, Tjaroeban, Ngandjoek, Kertosono, Kediri and Djombang. A 16-year-old Marinier 3rd Class Felix Bakker from Dutch Marine Battalion (Mariniers Bataljon) recalled the battle at Ngandjoek: "The "kanonwagen" was posted beside the road, just behind the bridge. We do not have to wait for long and all at once the canon commenced firing, a nice thundering sound to hear. But then everyone of us were firing at the approaching Japanese infantry in a line, left and right from the road through the padi fields and bushes. It was an ear deafening hell of firing all around. All that matters was now to keep calm when aiming and firing at your targets and in that way I had the satisfaction to made some hits. But then the Japanese throwing at us with their mortar shells, aimed in the first place at our MG's, so we had to move them every now and then. We realised then that they were not infiltrated patrols but for sure at least a battalion because they soon easily attacked us from our rear. In the meantime our wagens were turned around at the road and with firing to the left and right from the wagens, we broke through their line behind us, just before they can put up a roadblock to stop us. In the centre of the small town Ngandjoek we take positions again about 600 metres from our first line. And again hell broke loose and now the seaplane made diving flights at us but not firing his machine-guns, because the confusional situation on the ground with enemy and friendly troops fighting within short distances between houses and gardens. Again we were surrounded by them and now we had to walk beside our wagens in the breakthrough".
On the 6th, the Japanese occupied Modjoagoeng. Before retreating, the soldiers of the KNIL Infantry Battalion Roodenburg (Lieutenant Colonel W.P. Roodenburg) had attempted to demolish the bridge at Kertosono but it had only sunk one or two feet below the surface. The division, therefore, was able to advance across the bridge and, by noon on the 6th, the Imai Unit had reached Modjokerto. About 1600 on the 6th, intelligence report was received that Dutch forces were retreating toward Soerabaja. In addition, there was no large concentration of Allied troops in Malang area. The 48th Division commander, therefore, ordered his units to contact and destroy the Dutch forces in the region south of Soerabaja. At first he had ordered the Kitamura Unit under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kuro Kitamura, which was advancing from Babad to Soerabaja by way of Lamongan, to bypass Lamongan to the south and march toward Modjokerto. However, with the favourable development of the situation, he issued a new order to the Kitamura Unit instructing it to advance directly to the western suburbs of Soerabaja.
On the evening of 6 March the Abe Unit under the command of Major-General Koichi Abe attacked Porong by night assault,
which was defended by the following Dutch defence units:
At 0600 on 8 March, the division commander, Major-General Yuitsu Tsuchihashi, ordered his units to prepare to attack Soerabaja the following evening. At the same time, knowing that the Dutch front lines were thinly held, he stated that if conditions were favourable, the attack could be made on the evening on the 8th.
At 1100 on 8 March, the 48th Division Headquarters at Porong received a report from recon planes that the Dutch troops had raised a white flag near the bridge south of Soerabaja. At 1130, the division's headquarters was informed that a Dutch messenger, wearing a white flag, had arrived at the Front-Line Unit Headquarters. At 1500, the division commander, Major-General Tsuchihashi, summoned Mr. Ch.O. van der Plas, the Governor of East Java Province and other Dutch officials to the Divisional Command Post at Sidoardjo and interrogated them. As it was not clear, who commanded the Allied troops in Soerabaja, the division commander discontinued the interrogation and ordered his division to attack and occupy the city. By 1800, this had been accomplished.
On the evening on the 9th, Major-General Gustav A. Ilgen, commander of the KNIL forces in East Java, presented himself at the Divisional Command Post at Sidoardjo and accepted the terms of surrender based upon 16th Army orders. The disarming of the Dutch forces was completed by the evening of 12 March.
The Sakaguchi Detachment, having captured various strategic points in east Borneo, left Bandjermasin and at dawn on 1 March after repulsing persistent enemy air attacks, entered its appointed anchorage together with the 48th Division's convoy of transports.
At 0700, the Kaneuji Unit (ca. one infantry battalion) under the command of Major Kaneuji landed on the south coast side of Kragan (left of the 48th Division) and immediately proceeded to Blora by motor vehicles. The Yamamoto Unit and Matsumoto Unit (each approximately one infantry battalion) landed at 0230 on 2 March and followed the Kaneuji Unit toward Blora by motor vehicles.
At 2000 on 1 March, the Kaneuji Unit advanced as far as Blora and, the following night, the main strength of the Sakaguchi Detachment concentrated there.
At 1500 on the 2nd, the Kaneuji Unit left Blora and received an intelligence report about a strong enemy garrison stationed in Semarang in their rear. The Dutch military garrison in Semarang numbered approximately 600 officers and men. It was under the command of KNIL Lieutenant Colonel A.M. Sierevelt and composed from approximately 500 Stadswacht troops, three Landstorm companies, one reserve company and some coast artillery units manned by the Landstorm, what had eventually diverted the Japanese attack. The Japanese troops (Kaneuji Unit) therefore advanced as far as Godong and dispersed a small Dutch garrison that was stationed there. The Kaneuji Unit then proceed the detachment's right rear.
At 0030 on 4 March, the Matsumoto Unit under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Matsumoto left Blora. At dawn on the 5th, proceeding by way of Poerwodadi, it penetrated Allied positions north of the town and defeated the Left Half Unit of the 21st KNIL Infantry Battalion5 under the command of KNIL Lieutenant Colonel B.C.D. Drejer near Soerakarta. The city of Soerakarta was also defended by three infantry companies of the Mankoe Negoro Battalion under the command of KNIL Major T. Dessauvagie. The battalion was originally consisted of native soldiers from the Vorstenlanden kingdom whose rulers were the Sultan of Jogjakarta and the Soesoehoenan of Soerakarta. After the war they both played an important role during the negotiations between the Dutch and Indonesian governments. Shortly after midnight (March 4-5) the Matsumoto Unit attacked Soerakarta. The KNIL troops defending the bridge over the Bandjir Canal, managed to beat off the initial attacks. KNIL Captain P.C.J. Meijs recalls: "A Japanese tank tried to cross the bridge, which we had barricaded, twice. During the second attempt it was hit by our AT gun. It did not move again and was left standing on the bridge. Infantry attacks were beaten off by our machine guns. Had the enemy attacked our flanks, which were unprotected, they would certainly have cut us off. Luckily for us this did not happen". Despite some resistance the Japanese troops quickly occupied Soerakarta. On the morning of the 4th, the Kaneuji Unit left Godong and proceeded toward Bojolali. The Dutch destruction teams had destroyed all the bridges, blockaded the roads with all kinds of obstacles and burned all material along the way. Overcoming all obstacles, the Kaneuji Unit quickly defeated a column of about 100 Dutch troops in the section north of Bojolali and, by the evening on the 5th, had advanced to Jogjakarta. The Jogjakarta garrison (approximately 700 men of the "Madioen-Tjepoe Groep") under the command of KNIL Lieutenant Colonel D. van Kempen surrendered after a short skirmish to the commander of the Kaneuji Unit and were immediately disarmed.
The Matsumoto Unit advanced through Jogjakarta and, on the evening of
the 6th, attacked Magelang. At 1850, the Dutch garrison surrendered and by 1935, the
Matsumoto Unit had completely occupied the town. Since there still remained a number
of Dutch garrison troops in Salatiga, Ambarawa, Semarang and the surrounding districts
a KNIL Colonel J.A. Fleischer, captured at Magelang, was ordered to advise these troops
to surrender. At 0430 on 6 March, the Yamamoto Unit, with the Kaneuji Unit under its
command, left Jogjakarta and, by moving along the beaches, advanced toward Tjilitjap.
About 1230 that day, the Kaneuji Unit defeated and captured the remnants of the Cavalry
Depot and unit of the Stadswacht (approximately 100 Dutch troops), just southwest of
Poerworedjo. About thirty minutes later, it annihilated a further 100 Dutch troops
just west of Keboemen, and by the evening it had advanced to the vicinity of Maos at
the Serajoe River. Tjilatjap harbour was at that time flooded with panic stricken
escapees and Allied military personnel who all wanted to escape to Australia.
Lieutenant Colonel M.D.S. Saunders, commander of the British 21st LAA Regiment
described the following: "... Before describing the Dutch plans and their
available forces, I desire to give some impressions of the Dutch outlook regarding
the war in general in the Far East. I have obtained these from an Englishman who
has a full knowledge of the island, based on a sojourn of many years. He was
constantly travelling all over the island, and in the course of these travels
met several of the leading Dutchmen from whom he was able to obtain a clear
view of affairs. The direct attack on Pearl Harbour gave great satisfaction
to the Dutch, in that it forced America into the war. They had little faith
in the ability of Great Britain to effect anything in the Far East, seeing
that her hands were full in Europe and Africa. They had great confidence in
their own defences, more particularly so with the prospect of heavy reinforcements
from the Allies. The early reports of Dutch Naval successes and of gallant and
successful defence by their own small forces in the outer islands caused them to
gain confidence, and at the same time to sneer at the poor show the British were
putting up in Malaya. They considered a Japanese invasion of Java to be most
improbable. These views were considerably strengthened by a constant stream of
most optimistic speeches made by their public men. Propaganda in connection with
A.R.P. [Air Raid Precautions] was intense and all based on safety first. This
created an attitude of mind which led to a complete cessation of work in all
industry, war industry in particular, when air raids eventually materialised.
This cessation continued once the warning sounded until the all clear went,
even though no planes appeared. The existence of a fifth column was ridiculed.
The British troops withdrawing from Tjilatjap to the next defence line at Wangon included the 240th AA and 241st AA Batteries of the 77th HAA Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel H.R. Humphries and 48th AA Battery of the 21st LAA Regiment under the command of Major P.P. Andrews. These batteries had been ordered to Tjilatjap between the 26th and 28th February, with the guns arriving between the 1st and 3rd March. Their role was to provide anti-aircraft defence to the only port likely to be available to the Allies once the Japanese had landed. These batteries were still in Tjilatjap when on the 6th March Lieutenant Colonel Humphries was called to the fort by the Dutch Coastal Artillery Commander and told that all other Dutch troops had left Tjilatjap, that the Coastal Artillery were about to go and that the enemy had reached the town of Kroja which was only 20 km away. He was informed that the Dutch Infantry under the command of KNIL Lieutenant Colonel C.H. Statius Muller, who replaced KNIL Major Soetbroodt Piccardt on 2 March 1942 as a new commander of the Dutch KNIL garrison in the port of Tjilatjap, had left earlier apparently intended forming a new line at Wangon to defend that town. With the Japanese so near and with only one hours notice, the batteries formed regimental column and proceed to Tasikmalaya, after all guns and instruments had been destroyed together with all gun laying apparatus and heavy vehicles. They retained only sufficient light transport to carry the men, with all kit abandoned except battle-order webbing equipment, containing as much food as possible. Lieutenant Colonel H.R. Humphries, the commanding officer of the British 77th HAA Regiment, had later written in his report the following words: "... The entire Regiment was adequately armed with light automatics, Thompson Machine Guns and Rifles, and could have rendered an excellent account of itself should any opposition be encountered. On arrival at Wangon Cross roads at about 0100 hours, 7th March, the Dutch Ex-Commander of Tjilatjap was met with, he was standing outside his H.Q. and the services of the entire Regiment was offered to this Officer prepared to take up either a defensive of an offensive role. The offer was refused and fruitless efforts were made to prevail upon him to accept the offer pointing out the advantages of his having approximately 1000 well armed and extremely mobile ground troops at his disposal. The determination and moral of all ranks was of the highest order, the Dutch Commander could not however be persuaded, and said in conclusion "I have no orders, you must go on to Tasikmalaya". I took this to be a definite indication of the Dutch lack of intention to fight at this juncture, and was in no way surprised when subsequent events took the form they did ... ".
At dawn on 7 March, the Matsumoto Unit left Magelang and, by noon the following day, after subduing a small enemy force at Bandjarnegara, reached Poerbalinga. At first, the Sakaguchi Detachment Headquarters, advancing along the same course as the Kaneuji Unit, established its command post at Jogjakarta. Later, following the same course as the Matsumoto Unit through Magelang, it reached Poerwokerto at 2300 on the 8th. At that time Major-General Pierre A. Cox received instructions from the General Headquarters to unconditionally surrender. He immediately ordered his staff officer, KNIL Colonel P. Scholten, to dispatch emissaries with a white flag to meet with the Japanese. While the Thilitjap occupation forces (Kaneuji and Yamamoto Units) were preparing to attack Wangon, a Dutch messenger, accompanied by a few officers and bearing a white flag arrived at 1300 on 9 March and delivered a proposal of surrender to the commander of the Yamamoto Unit from Major-General P.A. Cox, Dutch commander of the Central Army District at Wangon. Colonel Yamomoto requested Major-General Cox to present himself at the Sakaguchi Detachment Headquarters which was than at Poerwokerto. At 1110 on 10 March, Major-General Shizuo Sakaguchi, commander of Sakaguchi Detachment, met Major-General Pierre A. Cox at Regent's Residence of the regional governor at Poerwokerto and accepted his surrender.
Vaarwel tot betere tijden"
After the withdraw from Batavia on 5 March at a conference of senior Allied officers held at Bandoeng, Dutch East Indies Army HQ, Lieutenant General Hein Ter Poorten pointed out the gravity of the situation and stated that guerrilla warfare would be impossible due to the hostility of the Indonesians towards the Dutch and that, owing to difficulties of communication, Dutch General Headquarters could operate only from Bandoeng and therefore would not move elsewhere and that Bandoeng could not be defended for long. Nevertheless resistance was to he carried on under the direction of local commanders. He then added an unexpected rider that he had instructed his troops to disregard any order he might subsequently issue to them to cease fighting: they were to disobey it and go on fighting. Major-General Sir Hervey D.W. Sitwell, a regular British officer, said that the British troops would carry on, if any Dutch kept fighting, and asked that an area in the hills where they could concentrate for a last stand should be allotted to them. The area suggested by the Commander-in-Chief, in the hills south of Bandoeng, was reconnoitred by the British commanders on the 6th, but proved unsuitable for protracted defence and, on the suggestion of General Schilling, another area further to the east was chosen. There was at that time a contingent of about 2,500 British airmen under command of RAF Air Commodore B.J. Silly awaiting evacuation at Poerwokerta some thirty miles north of Tjilatjap. They were without arms, and were therefore ordered to place themselves under the orders of the local Dutch commander and surrender when called upon to do so. Blackburn, on orders from high command, had moved to the east of Bandoeng and received a message early on 6 March from Sitwell to take independent action if the Dutch East Indies forces surrender.
By the 7 March a Japanese column had reached Lembang seven miles from Bandoeng. Over the next couple of days the Australians reconnoitred the mountain country south of Bandoeng concentrating ration stores in the region. And during the night 7-8 March moved to this new area where 1,750 armed men of the RAF, which included the ground staffs at Andir airfield (Bandoeng) and those awaiting evacuation at Tasikmalaja, were being assembled in the concentration area and came under Blackburn's command. The combined force was about 8,000 strong. At 9.00am the next morning Ter Poorten broadcast that resistance was over and all were to surrender. Blackburn learning of this retracted Blackforce to a position around Tjikadjang covering the roads leading to the south coast. That afternoon Air Vice-Marshal Maltby and General Sitwell issued orders for all British units to comply and the Japanese wisely did not pursue the Allies into the rugged hills. Yet the Australians remained deployed and armed during the next three days with Blackburn contemplating the decision to fight on, with the rainy season approaching, and the health and medical facilities and survivability of his troops to consider plus untrained and inadequately equipped for jungle guerrilla actions and mountain warfare, or surrender against all his soldiers desires to resist until defeated. He informed General Sitwell that he'd join the surrender and with that all weapons were thoroughly destroyed. Meanwhile Sitwell was interrogated over the question about the remainder of the First Australian Corps. The Japanese intelligence bureau believed a full Australian division was in Java, and refused to accept the number of Australians that had surrendered, nor did they comprehend that Australian troops could have an Englishman for an overall commander. One of the last civilian aircraft to leave Java was a Dutch DC-3, and carrying a very valuable consignment of diamonds, was shot down over the sea off the north-east coast of Australia by Zero fighters that were returning from a raid against Broome, there was no survivors.
By the 7th the Japanese had occupied Tjilatjap; Soerabaja was being evacuated in the face of strong enemy forces; Batavia had been lost, and the Japanese were converging on Bandoeng from both west and north. At 1000 on the 8th, the Japanese army commander, General Imamura and his staff left Batavia and at about 1600 on the 8th reached Kalidjati airfield via Krawang. Further resistance appeared useless, and at 9 a.m. on the 8th the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied forces, Lieutenant General Hein Ter Poorten, broadcast a proclamation to the effect that organized resistance by the Royal Netherlands East Indian Army in Java would end. The Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, Jonkheer Dr. A.W.L. Tjarda Van Starkenborgh Stachouwer and Lieutenant General Hein Ter Poorten, together with Major-General J.J. Pesman, the garrison commander of Bandoeng area, met the Japanese Commander-in-Chief, Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura at Kalidjati that afternoon and agreed to the capitulation of all the troops in the Netherlands East Indies.
The proclamation, as broadcast, was telephoned to the British Headquarters shortly after 10 a.m. on the 8th, while troops were still arriving in the concentration area, with the addition of a message that Ter Poorten expected all Allied forces in the Netherlands East Indies to lay down their arms. The Allied forces possessed small arms and ammunition and a few Bofors guns but no mortars, heavy anti-aircraft guns or artillery. Most of the troops were entirely untrained in the type of fighting which lay before them, namely as infantry in the jungles and mountains. Rations were down to three or four days supply, transport was scarce and petrol limited to the amount vehicles had in their tanks. The combined British-Australian field hospital in Bandoeng was already overcrowded with patients and could not be moved to the hills. Thus medical facilities were reduced to those carried by units and were little more than first-aid outfits, and a high rate of sickness was expected during the rainy season in the hills.
All these difficulties might have been overcome given local help and time, but there was no prospect of either. As regards the former, not only was the local population uncertain but practically no help was forthcoming from the Dutch: their liaison detachments with the British had been withdrawn at a moment when they were vitally necessary, and they withheld all but a fraction of the supplies and other assistance which was sought. Moreover the Dutch had ceased fighting everywhere at the express orders of their Commander-in-Chief, whose staff had informed the British commanders that he expected the British to obey his order to surrender.
All this was weighed in the minds of the British commanders before coming to a decision whether to comply with the terms of the broadcast or to fight on. They had become aware of the fact that the Japanese, whose troops could quickly reach the concentration area along good motorable roads, already knew of their exact position and that it had been their intention to fight on. What turned the scale was the possible implication in the broadcast that resistance by the Allied as well as the Dutch forces had ceased. The two commanders considered that continued resistance by the British forces in possession of arms would place them outside international law and render them liable to summary execution if captured. Added to this there was the fear of reprisals on their unarmed comrades who had no alternative but to obey the broadcast.
Maltby and Sitwell realized that in the circumstances they had no prospect of organizing anything effective, and regretfully decided that they had no alternative but to obey General Ter Poorten's order to surrender. At 2.30 p.m. on the 9th March, in compliance with General Imamura's demand, KNIL Lieutenant General Hein Ter Poorten made a second broadcast in which all British, Australian and American units were ordered to lay down their arms. Later in the afternoon the Allied commanders again met with the 16th Army commander and at this meeting they reported that the terms of the surrender were being carried out. At 1400 on 10 March, Lieutenant General Imamura, accompanied by his staff moved to Bandoeng. On the 12th March 1942 the senior British, Australian and American commanders were summoned to Bandoeng where the formal instrument of surrender was signed in the presence of the Japanese commander in the Bandoeng area, Lieutenant General Masao Maruyama, who promised them the rights of the Geneva Convention for the protection of prisoners of war.
That same day the Imperial Guards Division sailed from Singapore and landed, without opposition, at a number of points in northern Sumatra. No naval escort was used, except for the landings at Sabang and Keotaradja in the extreme north-west. Air support was provided for these two landings only, though it was available elsewhere if called for. The Japanese met little opposition and by the 28th March had occupied the whole island.
On the evening on 8 March 1942, Bert Garthoff, the regular radio-announcer of the public radio station of the Netherlands Indian Radio Broadcast (Nederlands-Indische Radio Omroep - NIROM) concluded his broadcast from an emergency radio station in Bandoeng with the following closing words: "Wij sluiten nu. Vaarwel tot betere tijden. Leve de Koningin!"6. On 18 March, ten days after the capitulation of Netherlands East Indies, the NIROM closed the daily broadcasts with the Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus. Then the Japanese military police - Kempetai by the order of Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura arrested the chief of the announcement department and some other employees. These NIROM employees, J.R.J. Kusters, V. Kudding and N. van der Hoogte, were executed on April 7, 1942 in Antjol, as punishment for having played the Dutch national anthem which the Japanese authorities considered an anti-Japan provocation.
Immediately after the conquest of Java Island, the Sakaguchi Detachment was dispatched to Burma to rejoin the 56th Division. Meanwhile, Sumatra Island had become the field of operation for the 25th Army and the main force of the 38th Division, which was in Sumatra, was placed under the command of the 25th Army. The Shoji Detachment was also send to Sumatra to join his unit. Other Army units not required to garrison Java were send back to Japan or to other combat areas in Pacific. The Toho Detachment remained on Timor Island until July 1942 when also returned to Sumatra, and the Kanemura Detachment, stationed on Bali Island was recalled to Java Island. The 16th Army (2nd Division and 48th Division) was made responsible for the garrisoning of Java, while the Sunda Islands became responsibility of the Imperial Navy. In July 1942, the 48th Division was ordered to dispatch one infantry regiment, under command of the 48th Infantry Group commander, to Timor Island. This regiment than came under the direct command of the 16th Army commander.
On March 10th, Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura became the new governor of Java and Madoera, thus becoming the highest authority in the occupied Dutch East Indies. He stayed on this position for approximately eight months, until November 11, 1942. Imamura was subordinated to Field Marshall Count Hisaichi Terauchi, the Supreme Commander of the Southern Army, headquartered in Saigon, French Indochina. He was also the governor of the so-called "Southern Territories" (Malaya, Burma, Philippines, Hong-Kong, Java, Sumatra, and Borneo) and directly subordinated to the Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.
When the Allies capitulated to the Japanese in East Java in 1942, around two hundred Allied soldiers took to the hills around Malang and formed themselves into small groups of resistance fighters. By April 1942, the Kempetai eventually rounded up all stragglers who made their way into the mountains. The captured soldiers were squeezed into three feet long bamboo pig baskets and transported in open lorries, under a broiling 38 degree sun, to a rail siding and then transferred in open railway goods wagons to the coast. Half dead from thirst and cramp, the captives were carried on board waiting boats which then sailed out to the shark infested waters off the coast of Soerabaja. There, the unfortunate prisoners, still enclosed in their bamboo cages, were thrown overboard to the waiting man-eaters. The Commander-in-Chief of Japanese forces in Java, Lt-General Imamura, was later acquitted of this atrocity in a Netherlands Court for lack of evidence. However, a subsequent Australian Military Court found General Imamura responsible and handed down a sentence of ten years imprisonment.
With the fall of the Dutch East Indies was the triumph of the
Imperial Japan complete. The Malaya barrier was thus shattered and the gateway
to the Indian Ocean open. The Allied fleet in the Far East had been destroyed.
In three months the Japanese had completed the conquest of Malaya and the
Netherlands East Indies and had gained possession of all the resources of
that rich southern area for which they had gone to war.
Note 1. Major-General Yumio Nasu, the commander of 2nd Infantry Group, was killed on 26 October 1942 during the Guadalcanal Campaign.
Note 2. No. 205 Squadron was an RAF reconnaissance squadron equipped with Catalina flying boats. Originally the squadron was based at Seletar Air Station on Singapore island and were equipped with 5 Catalinas. Evidently though they were evacuated from Singapore before the city surrendered. The RNAS ( fleet air arm ) operated the aircraft from carriers. All the others, including flying boats, were RAF. In fact the RNAS was merged with the RAF in 1917 and ceased to exist from that point onwards. The RAF supplied aircraft and aircrew to the Royal Navy until 1937 when the Fleet Air Arm was formed. This squadron was RAF. Fleet Air Arm squadrons were, and still are, numbered 800 upwards. My information only shows four aircraft. One was destroyed at Tandjong Priok as unserviceable when the squadron was ordered to Tjilitjap on the 1st March. The remainder continued to operate till the 3rd March when two aircraft flew to Ceylon and one to Australia (with a damaged airscrew). The squadron commander was Wing Commander Councell. FAA Squadrons were numbered in the 700 series, but were training units (or squadrons furnishing aircraft for battleships and cruisers, early in the war).
Note 3. Cadet-Vaandrig = Warrant Officer
Note 4. Flight Officer Peter Gibbes of No. 1 RAAF Squadron survived and was awarded a DFC for his exploits.
Note 5. On 7 March 1942 was the Right Half Unit of the 21st KNIL Infantry Battalion under the command of KNIL Lieutenant Colonel A. Pik ordered to defend the Poerwokerto-Notog area.
Note 6. Wij sluiten nu. Vaarwel tot betere tijden. Leve de Koningin! = We are closing now. Farewell till better times. Long live the Queen!
Note 7. 232 (F) Squadron reduced to ten Hurricanes, all of which received damage in varying degrees from anti-aircraft fire in these low-flying attacks. At noon on the 3rd March the squadron was withdrawn to Andir, destroying en route several enemy aircraft on the airfield at Kalidjati.
Note 8. Following the heavy bombing of shipping at Tjilatjap there was now little hope of getting away by sea, so a considerable body of mostly unarmed RAF and RAAF men (about 2,500), who had amassed at Poerwerkerta, about 30 miles inland from the port, were now to be moved westwards by rail. Their destination was Tasikmalaja airfield, 50 miles south-east of Bandoeng.
Note 9. "Landstorm" (LS) = conscripts aged 32 to 55
Note 10. "Kort Verband" (KV) - short term volunteers.
Note 11. (VBS) - Veiligheidsbezetting Soerebaja
Note 12. The division-sized commands were designated as "Military Commands".
British 'land' forces in Java (mostly from a telegram from General Wavell to the War Office, London dated 23rd February 1942,
plus additional information on the anti-aircraft units).
HQ 16 AA Brigade + 77 HAA Rgt., 21 LAA Rgt. and 48 LAA Rgt. arrived at Batavia from Singapore on 4 February 1942 on Convoy WS 14 ("these units had been at sea for eight weeks").Note 14. In December 1941 there was a Dutch Marine Battalion (ca. 400 men) in the Dutch East Indies at the marine barracks at Goebeng near Soerabaja. There were two companies of 125 men, a motorized anti-parachute brigade and a guard detachment.
It had the following Order Of Battle:
Commanding officer: Lieutenant-Colonel W.A.J. Roelofsen (previously commander of the marine barracks in Soerabaja)
Note 15. The Order of Battle for the
Note 16. BLACKFORCE was originally deployed as a single component of West Group. The original plan was for the Australians (supported by a battery of American artillery) to assume prepared positions that could be used to halt or delay the Japanese advance in Western Java. With the Japanese tied down in a frontal assault, supporting KNIL forces would then launch coordinated counter-attacks against both Japanese flanks. I believe West Java was the only place on Java where the Allies actually outnumbered the Japanese in regular troops. All other factors aside, the plan appears to have been tactically sound on the surface and presented a reasonable chance of success. Unfortunately, the Dutch didn't have the mobility required to execute this plan quickly enough and the Japanese captured Soebang and Kalidjati Airfield before it could take place. This turn of events completely disrupted plans for the planned counter-attack. In a bid to recapture Kalidjati (thus denying the Japanese an airfield on Java), the KNIL withdrew most of its forces from Western Java and threw them into the effort to re-take the airfield. At that point, BLACKFORCE was ordered to remain in position and cover the flank of the Dutch counter-attack. After Soebang and Kalidjati were recaptured, the KNIL forces would then pivot and counter-attack the Japanese flank as they were tied down by the Australians. Unfortunately, the KNIL attack at Soebang failed and most of the remaining KNIL offensive strength on Java was neutralized. As a result, BLACKFORCE was again ordered to remain in position until the surviving KNIL forces could retire to strong defensive positions on the Praenger Plateau. When the Dutch withdrawal to the Praenger Plateau was complete, or nearly complete, KNIL infantry and anti-tank gun units relieved BLACKFORCE, which then retired to an area near Bandoeng if I remember correctly --- by Tom Womack.
Note 17. The armed groups of Royal Air Force personnel were formed late in the campaign from surplus personnel, and did not exist as such until after the Japanese invasion.
On the 5th March 1942 RAF personnel were located as such: 900 armed men at Tasikmalaja, preparing for its defence with army units ordered there, 450 armed men were with Blackforce operating as infantry hastily armed and trained under Wing Commander Alexander, 850 armed men were at Andir aerodrome providing ground staff and support units and 2,500 unarmed men were at Poerwokerto awaiting evacuation under Air Commodore Silly. Lastly 400 men detached from units, stragglers, escape parties etc., in south central Java. Total 5,100 men.
On the 6th the contingent at Andir was initially ordered to surrender as Bandoeng was to be declared an "open town" and on that day there was no transport to move them. At Poerwokerto the contingent was ordered to stand fast and surrender, placing themselves under the orders of the local Dutch Commander. These men being unarmed and having very slender rations and other resources. Later transport was found for the Andir contingent and these were moved to Tasikmalaja airfield.
RAF Commodore Silly's unarmed contingent was ordered by the Dutch G.O.C. of the Poerwokerto area further west because unarmed forces would be an embarrassment in a locality where he intended to resist the Japanese advance. This was done by rail, one train being ambushed by the Japanese, with the remaining arriving at Tasikmalaja on the 8th March.
The final concentration of RAF personnel before the surrender was as follows. In the Tjikadjang area were approximately 2,200 armed men. Around Tasikmalaja and some other areas, 2,500 unarmed men. Finally 400 men being stragglers, detached personnel and those in hospital at Bandoeng --- by Stephen Hagen.
Note 18. The following units of No.3 Air Corps operated from Kalidjati airfield:
Due to the lack of space and shortage of fuel the No. 90 Sentai - Bomber Wing and No. 64 Sentai - Fighter Wing remained operating from Palembang airfield.
The following IJA air force units were involved in the attacks at Kalidjati:
Recce-missions were flown on these dates by the 15th
Sentai, flying Ki-46-II Dinahs and Ki-15-II Babs.
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