The Fall of Kendari, January 1942

Kendari is a small town on the southeast peninsula of Celebes facing the Banda Sea towards Amboina Island. In World War II Kendari was considered as a very important air and naval base by both sides, Japanese and Allied. Especially significant for the war effort in advancing south, Kendari airfield was an important objective from which planes (bombers) could interdict routes between Australia and the Netherlands East Indies, also able to bomb major centres on east Java and Timor Islands, like for instance Soerabaja and Koepang.

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

In the night of 23-24 January 1942 soldiers and officers of the Japanese Sasebo Combined Special Naval Landing Force went ashore north of Kendari. They soon (a couple of hours later) reached their main objective - the Kendari airfield. The KNIL coast guarding detachment couldn't telephone because the line was down. Everybody on the airfield was panicking and all this made it easy for the Japanese soldiers to capture the airfield. Little resistance was offered and only 2 Japanese soldiers were wounded. Destruction of the Kendari airfield was incomplete. On 24 January 1942 the Japanese Eastern Invasion Force appeared off Kendari. An American seaplane tender Childs (built in 1920; main armament: 2 x 10.2cm (4in) guns)), upon leaving Kendari harbour, spotted the Japanese. A rain squall obscured the seaplane tender Childs for a while, allowing her to avoid two Japanese destroyers. Then she was attacked by six Japanese planes at 0800 but it was not hit and escaped to the south. By the evening of 24 January 1942 Kendari was fully occupied. Most of the Dutch KNIL troops officered by KNIL Army Captain F.B. van Straalen were captured by the Japanese, some fought a guerilla war for a short period, while others tried to escape to safer parts of the archipelago. Kendari Air Base was considered the best in the Dutch East Indies and was immediately put into operation by the Japanese 21st Air Flotilla.

Japanese troops parade at Kendari, Celebes Island, 1942

Japanese troops parade on the streets of Kendari (Celebes), January 1942.

On 25 January 25 Japanese fighters landed on the airfield and on 26 January 27 bombers followed by a lot more of them later. The airfield was extremly important as the Japanese could now control the important life line from Australia to Java Island and they could also bomb Java Island (Soerabaja Naval Base among others) itself. Above all a primary naval base was established at Staring Bay, just to the south of Kendari.

Japanese fighter Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0, Kendari airfield, Celebes Island, March 1942

Mitsubishi A6M2 Type 0 Carrier Fighter, Model 21, 3rd Air Corps, Kendari, Celebes, March 1942.
Note 11 victory chrysanthemum blossoms on fin.

Order of battle for Dutch and Japanese Army

Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger (KNIL Army)
The Dutch garrison in Kendari numbered approximately 400 men, commanded by KNIL Army Captain F.B. van Straalen. The garrison consisted of following units:
• KNIL Infantry Company (20 independent squads) with ca. 400 KNIL officers and soldiers and 4 armoured cars under the command of KNIL Army Captain E.G.T. Anthonio
• Anti-Aircraft Battery (2 x 40mm guns)
• Anti-Aircraft Machine-Gun Platoon (3 x AAMG)

Militaire Luchtvaart, KNIL (Air Force)
There were no Dutch planes at that time on Kendari airfield.

Zeemacht Nederlands-IndiŽ (Royal Dutch Navy)
There were at that time no Dutch navy vessels in Kendari harbour.

Imperial Japanese Special Naval Landing Force
• Sasebo Combined Special Naval Landing Force (which was in fact a naval infantry unit) under command of Navy Captain Kunizo Mori

Teikoku Kaigun (Imperial Japanese Navy)
The Eastern Force came under the command of Vice-Admiral Ibo Takahashi and was intended for the landings at Menado, Kendari, Ambon, Makassar, Timor and Bali.
The convoy, part of Eastern Force, bound for Kendari numbered six transport ships carrying the Sasebo Combined Naval Landing Force. Convoy escort was under command of Rear-Admiral Kyuji Kubo in the light cruiser Nagara (flagship). The convoy was escorted by
• 15th Destroyer Division
destroyers- Natsushio, Kuroshio, Oyashio, Hayashio
• 16th Destroyer Division
destroyers- Yukikaze, Tokitsukaze, Hatsukaze, Amatsukaze
1st Base Force
• 21st Minsweeper Division
minesweepers- W 7, W 8, W 9, W 11, W 12
• 1st Submarine-chaser division
submarine chasers- Ch 1, Ch 2
Air Group was under command of Rear-Admiral Ruitaro Fujita.
• 2nd Carrier Squadron
aircraft carrier Hiryu
aircraft carrier Soryu
• 11th Seaplane Tender Division
seaplane tender Chitose
seaplane tender Mizuho
• patrol boats P 34 and P 39
Covering Force was under command of Rear-Admiral Takeo Takagi.
• 5th Cruiser Squadron
heavy cruisers- Nachi (flagship), Haguro, Myoko*
• 6th Destroyer Division (2nd Group)
destroyers- Ikazuchi, Inazuma

Note The armoured cars are open-topped motor cars fitted with armoured plates ("Overvalwagens").

Note These aitcraft carriers didn't operate under the direct command of Rear-Admiral Fujita. They had to provide protection for the eastern flank by bombing Ambon Island during the landings on Kendari. The ships arrived in the waters east of Halmahera Island on January 23rd.

Note The heavy cruiser Myoko was damaged during a bombardment of Davao City, Philippines on January 4th and had to return to Sasebo Naval Base for repairs. She left this port on February 20th and arrived at Makassar (Celebes Island) six days later.

Bibliography . Article List . Geographic Names
Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942
Copyright © Klemen. L. 1999-2000