The capture of Makassar, February 1942

The city of Makassar is located at the southwest coast of Celebes Island and is today one of the most important harbours in Southeast Asia. The Indonesians called it Ujung Pandang.

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

In the Makassar area were stationed approximately 1,000 men, of whom half were professional, and there were 200 men located in Southwest Celebes. The commander of the Dutch forces was KNIL Colonel M. Vooren. He decided he couldn't defend well enough on the coast and was planning to fight a guerilla war inland. He had a depot built in Enrekang with supplies for that purpose and there also existed some fortifications at Tjama, 80 km northeast of Makassar.

In the meantime KNIL Lieutenant Colonel Jan Gortmans (nicknamed "Jan Oorlog") had arrived from Java Island and soon recruited ca. 400 natives for military purposes in Enrekang and started to train them for guerilla warfare.

At the end of January 1942, all the children and women of European origin had been evacuated to Java Island and the women and children of the native KNIL soldiers were evacuated to two mountain villages east of Makassar, Malino and Pakato where there were camps. On 9 February 1942 came the Japanese Invasion Force (during the Japanese landing Japanese destroyer Natsushio was torpedoed and sunk by US submarine S-37 (Lt. Dempsey) in Makassar Strait, 05 d. 10' S., 119 d. 24' E., causing the only Japanese naval loss in the entire action)).

Exercise with KNIL mountain artillery

Exercise with KNIL mountain artillery.

About 8000 Japanese soldiers were dropped off near the town of Makassar and south of Makassar at Jeneponto. They immediately headed for Makassar, where they captured a bridge with some KNIL guards. A company of KNIL native soldiers caused some casualties to the Japanese, so the bridge guards were immediately after being captured tied in groups of three and thrown from the bridge into the water.

On 6 February 1942 a small Japanese force landed and occupied the town of Gorontalo at Minahassa Peninsula, west of Menado.

In the town of Paloe were stationed 5 KNIL brigades in December 1941. Before the Japanese landing party arrived on an auxiliary cruiser on 12 April 1942 and occupied the town, they demolished the town's airfield by detonating the stored aircraft bombs on the runway.

At the beginning of 1941 there also existed small KNIL garrissons in Poso and Loewok, but these were redeployed between July and October 1941. After October 1941 there were no KNIL military units in those places. Later (date is unknown) 3 KNIL brigades were transferred from Poso to Kolonodale, increasing the town's garrison to 5 KNIL brigades.

After the fighting around Menado a small number of KNIL troops escaped to Poso via several ways. At the end of February 1942 they numbered approximately 60 men. This force was renamed as "Detachment Poso". One KNIL brigade of this force was sent to Ampana to stifle an uprising. They stayed there until 10 April 1942, when they were recalled back to Poso.

The garrison in Paloppo numbered 5 KNIL brigades. The Dutch KNIL troops retreated to Tjamba as planned and prepared for action. About a week later Colonel M. Vooren received an ultimatum. If he didn't surrender the camps at Malino and Pakate they would be bombed. He refused, but the pamphlets dropped by planes seriously damaged the morale of the KNIL troops. The Japanese decided to attack from the north and south. They drove with tanks to the northern part of the Gulf of Boni where they encountered resistance, but that wasn't big enough to stop them. That was in Palopo and the surviving soldiers retreated again and now the Tjamba fortifications faced the enemy from two sides; north and south. The Japanese encountered heavy resistance by KNIL troops for several days but in the night of 27 February-28 February 1942 KNIL Colonel M. Vooren had decided to leave Tjamba. Two groups were formed, one of 60 men and another of 100 men. The stronger made it to Enrekang. By that time the native supply carriers had left and many soldiers had thrown away their weapons. Both groups were overtaken by the Japanese troops and eventually captured. The forward group had evaded the Japanese two times, but there weren't any native KNIL soldiers left. They all deserted. KNIL Colonel M. Vooren was threatened by the Japanese who wanted to make him go to Enrekang to persuade KNIL Lieutenant Colonel J. Gortmans to surrender. He refused that but later changed his mind when he heard that the main KNIL troops had already surrendered. He went to Enrekang with a Japanese staff officer and managed to delay the talks. In the meantime Gortmans had noticed he couldn't expect any help from the natives and decided to surrender together with the remains of his force- ca. 300 KNIL soldiers. He had previously disbanded ca. 400 natives meant for guerilla war. KNIL Lt-Col Gortmans was taken together with his officers to the Makassar POW camp, where he took command over Allied POWs. Later in the war he was beheaded by the Japanese guards.

Order of battle for Dutch and Japanese Army

Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger (KNIL Army)

  • Territorial Command "Celebes and Menado", commander was at first KNIL Lieutenant Colonel C.H. Statius Muller, who was also the commander of Menado Garrison where his headquarters was located. However, he fell critically ill and had to be replaced by KNIL Colonel M. Vooren in December 1941. At that time KNIL Major B.F.A. Schillmoller assumed command of the Menado Garrison. Both were under direct command of the Chief-of the-General Staff at KNIL Headquarter in Bandoeng, Java Island. The headquarters of KNIL Colonel M. Vooren was located in Makassar.
    • MG Detachment
    • Artillery Detachment (2 x 75mm L/35 guns)
    • KNIL Military Police Platoon
    • Mobile Auxiliary First Aid Platoon
    • Guerilla Forces Depot plus two KNIL brigades in Enrekang
    • KNIL Infantry Company in Makassar
    • KV Infantry Company in Makassar
    • RK Infantry Company in Makassar
    • Militie and Landstorm Infantry Company in Makassar
    Stadswacht Infantry Company in Makassar
    • Mobile Column with several armoured cars
    • 18 independent squads with ca. 270 men

    Note We only know that there were some overvalwagens in Makassar and there was one armoured vehicle "overvalwagen" in Parepare.

    Note RK - ''Reservekorps Oud Militairen".

    Note KV - "Kort Verband" - short term volunteers.

    Militaire Luchtvaart, KNIL (Air Force)
    At that time there were no Dutch planes at Makassar airfield.

    Zeemacht Nederlands-IndiŽ (Royal Dutch Navy)
    In the town there is Commandement Maritieme Middelen Makassar under command of (local) Naval Commander Lt.Cdr. A.S. de Bats. His work was to re-route merchant ships, providing them with codes etc. There were however, no Dutch warships located in the Makassar harbour.

    Imperial Japanese Special Naval Landing Force
    • Sasebo Combined Special Naval Landing Force was 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 for Makassar numbered six transport ships carrying the Sasebo Combined Special Naval Landing Force. Convoy escort (1st Base Force) was under command of Rear-Admiral Kyuji Kubo in the light cruiser Nagara (flagship) and the invasion convoy was escorted by
    • 8th Destroyer Division
    destroyers-Asashio, Oshio, Arashio, Michishio
    • 15th Destroyer Division
    destroyers- Natsushio, Kuroshio, Oyashio, Hayashio
    • 21st Destroyer Division
    destroyers- Wakaba, Nenohi, Natsushim
    • 21st Minesweeper Division
    minsweepers- W 7, W 8
    • 2nd Submarine- chaser Division
    submarine chasers- Ch 13, Ch 14, Ch 15
    • 1st Submarine- chaser Division
    submarine chasers- Ch?, P ?, P ?
    minelayers- Tsukushi, Aotaka
    Air Group was under command of Rear-Admiral Ruitaro Fujita.
    • 11th Seaplane tender Division
    seaplane tender Chitose
    seaplane tender Mizuho
    seaplane tender Sanuki Maru
    Patrol boat P ?
    Support Force which was stationed in the Balikpapan area.
    • 24th Destroyer Division
    destroyers- Kawakaze, Umikaze
    • 9th Destroyer Division
    destroyers- Asagumo, Natsugumo, Minegumo
    • 30th Minesweeper Division
    minesweepers- W 17, W 18
    • 11th Minesweeper Division
    minesweepers- W 15, W 16
    Covering Force under command of Rear-Admiral Takeo Takagi.
    • 5th Cruiser Squadron
    heavy cruisers- Nachi (flagship), Haguro
    destroyers- Akebono, Ikazuchi

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    Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942
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