Dutch East Indies campaign
The Dutch East Indies campaign of 1941–1942 was the conquest of the Dutch East Indies
Dutch East Indies
The Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony that became modern Indonesia following World War II. It was formed from the nationalised colonies of the Dutch East India Company, which came under the administration of the Netherlands government in 1800....

 (Indonesia) by forces from the Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 in the early days of the Pacific Campaign
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Forces from the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 attempted unsuccessfully to defend the islands. Indonesia was targeted by the Japanese for its rich oil
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 resources, which would become a vital asset during the war. The campaign and subsequent three and a half years Japanese occupation
Japanese Occupation of Indonesia
The Japanese Empire occupied Indonesia, known then as the Dutch East Indies, during World War II from March 1942 until after the end of War in 1945...

 was also a major factor in the end of Dutch colonial rule
Dutch Empire
The Dutch Empire consisted of the overseas territories controlled by the Dutch Republic and later, the modern Netherlands from the 17th to the 20th century. The Dutch followed Portugal and Spain in establishing an overseas colonial empire, but based on military conquest of already-existing...

 in Indonesia.


The East Indies was determined to be one of Japan's primary targets if and when it went to war because the colony possessed abundant valuable resources, the most important of which were its rubber plantations and oil fields; the colony was the fourth-largest exporter of oil in the world, behind the U.S., Iran, and Romania.The statistics given are for 1935. The top five oil exporters that year were, in order, the United States, with 6,958 kt, Persia (Iran)
Pahlavi dynasty
The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty consisted of two Iranian/Persian monarchs, father and son Reza Shah Pahlavi (reg. 1925–1941) and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi The Pahlavi dynasty ...

, with 6,860 kt, Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, with 6,221 kt, the Dutch East Indies, with 5,139 kt, and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, with 3,369 kt. See: The Way to Pearl Harbor: US vs Japan, accessed 27 February 2009. Full citation given below.
The oil made the islands enormously important to the Japanese (see below), so they sought to secure the supply for themselves. They sent four fleet carriers and a light carrier, along with the four fast battleship
Fast battleship
Historically, a fast battleship was a battleship which emphasized speed without - in concept - undo compromise of either armor or armament. The term is especially appropriate when applied to a design which was not only faster than the preceding battleship class, but faster than subsequent classes...

s of the , 13 heavy cruiser
Heavy cruiser
The heavy cruiser was a type of cruiser, a naval warship designed for long range, high speed and an armament of naval guns roughly 203mm calibre . The heavy cruiser can be seen as a lineage of ship design from 1915 until 1945, although the term 'heavy cruiser' only came into formal use in 1930...

s and many light cruisers and destroyers, to support their amphibious assaults, in addition to conducting raids on cities, naval units and shipping, in both that area and around the Indian Ocean.

Access to oil was one of the lynchpins of the Japanese war effort, as Japan has no native source of oil; it could not even produce enough to meet even 10% of its needs, even with the extraction of oil shale
Oil shale
Oil shale, an organic-rich fine-grained sedimentary rock, contains significant amounts of kerogen from which liquid hydrocarbons called shale oil can be produced...

 in Manchuria
Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

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

. Japan quickly lost 93 percent of its oil supply after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an executive order on 26 July 1941 which froze all of Japan's U.S. assets and embargo
An embargo is the partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country, in order to isolate it. Embargoes are considered strong diplomatic measures imposed in an effort, by the imposing country, to elicit a given national-interest result from the country on which it is...

ed all oil exports to Japan. In addition, the Dutch government in exile
Dutch government in exile
The Dutch government in exile was the government of the Netherlands, headed by Queen Wilhelmina, that evacuated to London after the German invasion of the country at the outset of World War II....

—after the urging of the Allies and with the support of Queen Wilhelmina
Wilhelmina of the Netherlands
Wilhelmina was Queen regnant of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1890 to 1948. She ruled the Netherlands for fifty-eight years, longer than any other Dutch monarch. Her reign saw World War I and World War II, the economic crisis of 1933, and the decline of the Netherlands as a major colonial...

—broke its economic treaty with Japan and joined with the embargo in August. Japan's military and economic reserves included only a year and a half's worth of oil. As a U.S. declaration of war against Japan was likely, if the latter took the East Indies, the Japanese planned to eliminate the U.S. Pacific Fleet
United States Pacific Fleet
The United States Pacific Fleet is a Pacific Ocean theater-level component command of the United States Navy that provides naval resources under the operational control of the United States Pacific Command. Its home port is at Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hawaii. It is commanded by Admiral Patrick M...

, allowing them to occupy the islands. This led to the attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...



On 8 December 1941, the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 declared war on Japan. General Hisaichi Terauchi (also known as Count Terauchi)—who was the commander of the Southern Expeditionary Army Group
Southern Expeditionary Army Group
The was a army group of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. It was responsible for all military operations in South East Asian and South West Pacific campaigns of World War II....

—began the campaign with attacks against Borneo
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

: on 17 December. Japanese forces successfully landed on Miri
Miri is a city in northern Sarawak, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It is the second largest city in Sarawak, with a population of about 300,000, and the government administrative centre of Miri District in Miri Division....

, an oil production centre in northern Sarawak
Sarawak is one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. Known as Bumi Kenyalang , Sarawak is situated on the north-west of the island. It is the largest state in Malaysia followed by Sabah, the second largest state located to the North- East.The administrative capital is Kuching, which...

, with support from a battleship and aircraft carrier, along with three cruisers and four destroyers.

The action started when the Japanese forces launched air strikes on key areas and gained air superiority. Following these airstrikes, landings were made at several locations targeting airfields and other important points in the area. In addition to the landings at Miri, the Japanese forces made landings at Seria
Seria is a town in the Belait District of Brunei Darussalam. Its full name is Pekan Seria in full . Seria was originally known as Padang Berawa which is Wild Pigeon's Field in Malay. The name "Seria" comes from the river located very near where oil was first discovered in the area in 1929...

, Kuching
Kuching , officially the City of Kuching, and formerly the City of Sarawak, is the capital and most populous city of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is the largest city on the island of Borneo, and the fourth largest city in Malaysia....

, Jesselton and Sandakan
Sandakan is the second-largest city in Sabah, East Malaysia, on the north-eastern coast of Borneo. It is located on the east coast of the island and it is the administrative centre of Sandakan Division and was the former capital of British North Borneo...

 between 15 December 1941 and 19 January 1942. After these main objectives in Borneo were completed, the Japanese forces planned a three-pronged assault southwards, using three forces named as Eastern Force, Centre Force and Western Force. The aim of this assault was to capture the oil resources in the East Indies. The Eastern Force was to advance from Jolo
Jolo may refer to:* Jolo Island* Jolo, Sulu* Jolo, West Virginia* Jolo is also the nickname of Swedish author Jan Olof Olsson....

 and Davao
Davao refers to several closely related places in Mindanao in the Philippines. The term is used most often to refer to the city.*Davao Region, an administrative region*Davao del Norte province*Davao del Sur province*Davao Oriental province...

, and move on to capture Celebes
Sulawesi is one of the four larger Sunda Islands of Indonesia and is situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands. In Indonesia, only Sumatra, Borneo, and Papua are larger in territory, and only Java and Sumatra have larger Indonesian populations.- Etymology :The Portuguese were the first to...

, Amboina
Ambon Island
Ambon Island is part of the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. The island has an area of , and is mountainous, well watered, and fertile. Ambon Island consists of 2 territories: The main city and seaport is Ambon , which is also the capital of Maluku province and Maluku Tengah Ambon Island is part of the...

 and Timor
Timor is an island at the southern end of Maritime Southeast Asia, north of the Timor Sea. It is divided between the independent state of East Timor, and West Timor, belonging to the Indonesian province of East Nusa Tenggara. The island's surface is 30,777 square kilometres...

 while protecting the Centre Force's flank. The Centre Force was to capture oil fields and airfields in Tarakan Island
Tarakan Island
Tarakan is an island off the coast of East Kalimantan, Indonesia. It is a marshy island situated in the eastern Celebes Sea, off the northeastern coast of Borneo. The island occupies an area of .-Petroleum:...

 and Balikpapan
Balikpapan is a seaport city on the eastern coast of the island of Borneo, Indonesia, in the East Kalimantan province, a resource-rich region well known for its timber, mining, and petroleum export products. Two harbors, Semayang and Kariangau , and the Sepinggan International Airport are the main...

. Both these forces would support the Western Force, which was to attack and capture the oil refineries and airfields at Palembang
Palembang is the capital city of the South Sumatra province in Indonesia. Palembang is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia, and has a history of being a capital of a maritime empire. Located on the Musi River banks on the east coast of southern Sumatra island, it has an area of 400.61 square...

. The Japanese forces launched the assault on 11 January and landed at Tarakan.

To co-ordinate the fight against the Japanese, the American, British, Dutch, and Australian forces combined all available land and sea forces under the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command
American-British-Dutch-Australian Command
The American-British-Dutch-Australian Command, or ABDACOM, was a short-lived, supreme command for all Allied forces in South East Asia, in early 1942, during the Pacific War in World War II...

 (ABDACOM or ABDA) banner. This command was activated on 15 January 1942, with the overall commander being British Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell
Archibald Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell
Field Marshal Archibald Percival Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell GCB, GCSI, GCIE, CMG, MC, PC was a British field marshal and the commander of British Army forces in the Middle East during the Second World War. He led British forces to victory over the Italians, only to be defeated by the German army...

. The command structure had the American Army Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

 Lt. General George Brett
George Brett (military)
George Howard Brett was a United States Army Air Forces General during World War II. An Early Bird of Aviation, Brett served as a staff officer in World War I...

 as deputy commander, with the British Lt. General Henry Royds Pownall
Henry Royds Pownall
Lieutenant General Sir Henry Royds Pownall KCB, KBE, DSO was a British general, who held several important command and Staff appointments during World War II. In particular, he was Chief of Staff to the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium until the fall of France in May 1940...

 as chief of staff: under this came the American Admiral Thomas C. Hart
Thomas C. Hart
Thomas Charles Hart was an admiral of the United States Navy, whose service extended from the Spanish-American War through World War II. Following his retirement from the Navy, he served briefly as a United States Senator from Connecticut.-Life and career:Hart was born in Genesee County, Michigan...

 as naval commander, the Dutch Lt. General Hein ter Poorten
Hein ter Poorten
Hein ter Poorten , was the commander of the Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger in World War II...

 as ground forces commander, and the British Air Chief marshal Sir Richard E.C. Peirse
Richard Peirse
Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Edmund Charles Peirse KCB DSO AFC , was a senior Royal Air Force commander.-RAF career:...

 as the air commander. Although the forces were combined, they had differing priorities: the British believed the defense of the territory of Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 and the eastern entrances to the Indian Ocean (the route to Ceylon
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 and British India) to be paramount, the Americans and Australians did not want a total penetration of Southwest Asia that would take bases necessary for any serious counter-attack, and the Dutch considered Java and Sumatra, their "second homeland where [they] had been trading and living for over three centuries", to be the most important place to defend.

Even the combined forces could not stop, or even slow, the Japanese advance, due to their much greater numbers. To face the Japanese attacking naval forces, the ABDA command had a conglomerate of ships drawn from any available units, which included the U.S. Asiatic Fleet
United States Asiatic Fleet
The United States Asiatic Fleet was part of the U.S. Navy. Preceding the World War II era, until 1942, the fleet protected the Philippines.Originally the Asiatic Squadron, it was upgraded to fleet status in 1902. In 1907, the fleet became the First Squadron of the Pacific Fleet. However, on 28...

 (fresh from the fall of the Philippines), a few British and Australian surface ships, and Dutch units that had previously been stationed in the East Indies. Major forces included two seaplane tender
Seaplane tender
A seaplane tender is a ship that provides facilities for operating seaplanes. These ships were the first aircraft carriers and appeared just before the First World War.-History:...

s ( and ), two heavy cruisers ( and ), seven light cruisers , 22 destroyers, and, perhaps their greatest strength, 25 American and 16 Dutch submarines (although the Dutch submarines were geriatric and short of spare parts). Being based on Java, these ships had to take on the central and western prongs of the three-headed Japanese assault; the central force's combat ships, the light carrier
Light aircraft carrier
A light aircraft carrier is an aircraft carrier that is smaller than the standard carriers of a navy. The precise definition of the type varies by country; light carriers typically have a complement of aircraft only ½ to ⅔ the size of a full-sized or "fleet" carrier.-History:In World War II, the...

 , the seaplane tenders Sanyo Maru and Sanuki Maru, three light cruisers and sixteen destroyers, while the western force contained five heavy cruisers, and seven destroyers. In addition, four fleet carriers and the four battleships.
Tarakan was captured on the 13th, the Japanese forces were using Tarakan airfield as a forward airbase by the 17th and Balikpapan was captured by the 26th of January. However, the Dutch garrisons had destroyed the oil fields before they were captured by the Japanese in both cases. Several Japanese vessels were destroyed or damaged due to naval and air counterattacks from the Allied forces, but the defending Dutch battalions were overrun by the Japanese forces. By 28 January, the Japanese forces had taken control of the airfields at Balikpapan and their aircraft were operating from them. To the east on Celebes
Sulawesi is one of the four larger Sunda Islands of Indonesia and is situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands. In Indonesia, only Sumatra, Borneo, and Papua are larger in territory, and only Java and Sumatra have larger Indonesian populations.- Etymology :The Portuguese were the first to...

, Menado
Manado is the capital of the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia. Manado is located at the Bay of Manado, and is surrounded by a mountainous area. The city has about 405,715 inhabitants, making it the second-largest city in Sulawesi after Makassar...

 was captured on 11 January, Kendari on 24 January, and Makassar on 9 February. On 10 February Bandjermasin, the capital of Dutch Borneo
In English, the term Kalimantan refers to the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, while in Indonesian, the term "Kalimantan" refers to the whole island of Borneo....

, was captured. The island of Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

, east of Java, was occupied on 19 February. Its airfield could be used to interdict the sea route from Australia to Java. By February, Japanese forces had landed on Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

 and encouraged a revolt in Aceh
Aceh is a special region of Indonesia, located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. Its full name is Daerah Istimewa Aceh , Nanggroë Aceh Darussalam and Aceh . Past spellings of its name include Acheh, Atjeh and Achin...


Most of the naval components of the allied force were crushed in the battles of Java Sea
Battle of the Java Sea
The Battle of the Java Sea was a decisive naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, that sealed the fate of the Netherlands East Indies....

, Sunda Strait
Battle of Sunda Strait
The Battle of Sunda Strait was a naval battle which occurred during World War II. On the night of 28 February – 1 March 1942, the Australian light cruiser and the American heavy cruiser faced a major Imperial Japanese Navy task force. After a fierce battle of several hours duration, both Allied...

 and Second Java Sea
Second Battle of the Java Sea
The Second Battle of the Java Sea was the last naval action of the Netherlands East Indies campaign, of 1941–1942. It occurred on 1 March 1942, two days after the first Battle of the Java Sea...

; the only American ship larger than a destroyer to survive was the old cruiser Marblehead. In addition, the land forces on the islands were quickly overwhelmed and most major resistance was overcome within two months of the initial assaults, although a guerrilla campaign in Timor was successfully waged for a time. The ABDA command fell apart at about 01:00 on 1 March, less than two months after its inception, when Admiral Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich
Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich
Luitenant-Admiraal Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich, GNL, KCB of the Royal Netherlands Navy was a leading Dutch naval figure of World War II. He was born in Semarang....

—Governor-General of the East Indies—dissolved the command.

Allied operations in Indonesia (except Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

) were later controlled by the South West Pacific Area command, under General Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...



Allied forces did not attempt to re-take the islands of Java, Sumatra, Timor, or Bali during the war. Japanese forces on those islands surrendered
Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...

 at the conclusion of World War II. Most of the Japanese military personnel and civilian colonial administrators were repatriated to Japan following the war, except for several hundred who were detained for investigations into war crimes, for which some were later put on trial. About 1,000 Japanese soldiers deserted from their units and assimilated into local communities. Many of these soldiers provided assistance to Indonesian Republican forces during the Indonesian National Revolution
Indonesian National Revolution
The Indonesian National Revolution or Indonesian War of Independence was an armed conflict and diplomatic struggle between Indonesia and the Dutch Empire, and an internal social revolution...


Battles of the campaign

  • Battle of Borneo (1941–42)
    Battle of Borneo (1941–42)
    For campaigns on eastern Borneo, see Battle of Tarakan and Battle of Balikpapan .The Battle of Borneo was a successful campaign by Japanese Imperial forces for control of Borneo island and concentrated mainly on the subjugation of the Kingdom of Sarawak, North Borneo, and the western part of...

  • Battle of Menado
    Battle of Manado
    The Battle of Manado was a battle of the Pacific Theatre of World War II. It occurred at Manado on the Minahasa peninsula on the northern part of the island of Celebes , from 11–13 January 1942 as an attempt to open a passage to attack Australia through the eastern part of Dutch East...

  • Battle of Tarakan (1942)
    Battle of Tarakan (1942)
    The Battle of Tarakan took place on January 11–12, 1942. Even though Tarakan was only a small marshy island at northeastern Borneo in the Netherlands East Indies, but the 700 oil wells, oil refinery and airfield on it, was one of the main objectives for the Empire of Japan in the Pacific War...

  • Battle of Balikpapan (1942)
    Battle of Balikpapan (1942)
    This article concerns the naval and land battles of Balikpapan in 1942. For information on the 1945 landings by Australian forces in the same area, see Second Battle of Balikpapan....

  • Battle of Ambon
    Battle of Ambon
    The Battle of Ambon occurred on the island of Ambon in the Dutch East Indies , on 30 January – 3 February 1942, during World War II. A Japanese invasion was resisted by Dutch and Australian forces...

  • Battle of Palembang (1942)
  • Battle of Makassar Strait
    Battle of Makassar Strait
    The Battle of Makassar Strait, also known as the Action of Madura Strait, the Action North of Lombok Strait and the Battle of the Flores Sea, was a naval battle of the Pacific theater of World War II...

  • Battle of Badung Strait
    Battle of Badung Strait
    The Battle of Badung Strait was a naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on the night of 19/20 February 1942 in Badung Strait between the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command and the Imperial Japanese Navy...

  • Battle of the Java Sea
    Battle of the Java Sea
    The Battle of the Java Sea was a decisive naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, that sealed the fate of the Netherlands East Indies....

  • Battle of Sunda Strait
    Battle of Sunda Strait
    The Battle of Sunda Strait was a naval battle which occurred during World War II. On the night of 28 February – 1 March 1942, the Australian light cruiser and the American heavy cruiser faced a major Imperial Japanese Navy task force. After a fierce battle of several hours duration, both Allied...

  • Battle of Java (1942)
    Battle of Java (1942)
    The Battle of Java was a battle of the Pacific theatre of World War II. It occurred on the island of Java from 28 February-12 March 1942. It involved forces from the Empire of Japan, which invaded on 28 February 1942, and Allied personnel...

  • Battle of Timor (1942-43)
    Battle of Timor (1942-43)
    The Battle of Timor occurred in Portuguese Timor and Dutch Timor during the Second World War. Japanese forces invaded the island on 20 February 1942 and were resisted by a small, under-equipped force of Allied military personnel—known as Sparrow Force—predominantly from Australia and the...

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