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The Balikpapan Massacre, February 1942

78 lost lifes for oilfields

Dornier Do-24K
Dornier Do-24K
On January 20th, 1942, the Dutch flying boat Dornier Do-24 X-21 spotted a small vessel heading for Balikpapan. The flying-boat landed near the vessel, the motor boat Parsifal, and took aboard two KNIL Captains. These men, Captain G.L. Reinderhoff and Captain A.H. Colijn, were captured at Tarakan. After the Japanese had discovered that the oilfields at Tarakan were destroyed completely, they wanted to avoid by all means that the same thing would happen with the oilfields at Balikpapan. So they sent these two men with an ultimatum to Balikpapan. The ultimatum had the following text:

"When the Balikpapan garrison destroyes the natural resources and oil-installations at Balikpapan and the surrounding country, all commanding officers, their Dutch soldiers and other Dutchmen related to them will be killed without exception. Captain Coren and captain Renduruhof are sent to provide detailed instructions".

Immediately after the ultimatum was handed over by Colijn and Reinderhoff on January 20th 1942, the commanding officer, KNIL Lieutenant Colonel C. van den Hoogenband, gave the order to destroy the oilfields. Colijn and Reinderhoff had promised the Japanese commander that they would return to Tarakan as soon as they had succeeded their mission. Van den Hoogenband however ordered them to go to Java instead. They left Balikpapan with a Dornier flying-boat, together with some of the demolition team-members. The Balikpapan oil-fields were destroyed completely. Van den Hoogenband had about 1,100 troops available for the defence of Balikpapan and Samarinda. Most of the European inhabitants of Balikpapan were already evacuated in December 1941 to Java Island. Those who were left, and were not necessary for the defence of Balikpapan, were ordered to leave now. Lockheed Lodestars and Dornier flying-boats took them out. There were not many Europeans left when the Japanese troops came.

The Japanese 56th Regimental Group of the Sakaguchi Brigade under command of Major-General Shizuo Sakaguchi, responsible for the capture of Balikpapan, had left Tarakan Island on January 21st. Their convoy, consisting of sixteen merchant-ships, was detected the next day by a Dutch flying boat Dornier Do-24. When the convoy reached Balikpapan on the 23rd, it was attacked by a Dutch submarine, Dutch planes and four US destroyers, resulting in the loss of several ships. They however could not stop the Japanese landings. In the night of the 23rd January and the morning of the 24th January the Japanese landed on both sides of Balikpapan. They did not meet any opposition, because van den Hoogenband was ordered to escape with what was left of his group, but were outraged when they discovered that all their strategical goals had been destroyed completely. They rounded up every Dutchmen they could find; two civil servants, a police inspector, a medical officer, eight patients from Balikpapan hospital, three priests and a group of POWs, members of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army, 78 persons in all (other reports state 72 persons).

Many of the Dutch POWs were not taken prisoner at Balikpapan. A group of 21 POWs was taken back to Balikpapan in a landing-craft. One of them, KNIL Private Prins, wrote: "Several times the Japanese threatened to shoot us. We got no food or drink and when we reached Balikpapan on February 6th they stole our rings and watches. We were beaten and they even ordered Indonesian soldiers to beat us. We were taken to a camp where we stayed until, on February 11th, a group of Japanese oil technicians came who selected six men. I was one of those six and we were taken to another room. I was amazed to discover that Colonel de Waal, the commanding officer at Tarakan, was already in that room. The Japanese showed great respect for him, because of his heroic resistance at Tarakan. A few days later we could see that the rest of the prisoners, tied together, were marched off by a large group of Japanese guards. A few hours later we could hear the first shots and we all knew what was going on. The shooting lasted for about two hours".

J. Th. Van Amstel was an eyewitness of the mass-execution. He was in Balikpapan hospital when the Japanese came to round up all Dutch patients on February 23rd. Being dark-skinned he pretended to be Indonesian and was left behind. During the night he fled to the nearest kampong and dressed up as an Indonesian. The next day the Japanese rounded up all villagers of this kampong, including van Amstel, and took them to the beach, near the old fortress Klandasan. Van Amstel wrote: "I could see the Europeans already being lined up. At a distance of about 50 meters I could recognize doctor Arps, doctor Dikstaal, the priest Creutzberg and some of the patients from Balikpapan hospital. While we were forced to watch, the Japanese first beheaded the two civil servants (Binnenlands Bestuur) and then chased the others into the sea. They were shot one by one, their bodies drifting in the water. The old priest Creutzberg first tried to talk to the Japanese, hoping to stop the killing, but when that didn't help he started to bless the victims until he was shot himself ".

There is some confusion on the date that this event took place. Most sources state that it happened on February 24th but others indicate that it was on the 20th. Also the total number of victims is unclear. Some sources state 72 victims but others as many as 78.

Below is a list of 62 persons known to have been executed at Balikpapan on February 24th or February 20th:
- Arps, Willem Casimir (doctor)
- Baardman, Johan Gerrit (1e Long Kaligroep demolition-team)
- Barink, Dirk (KNIL Captain)
- Beekman, Bernardus (KNIL Sgt.)
- Van Bendegem, Jacob (KNIL Gunner)
- Van den Berg, Koop (KNIL Corp.)
- Van den Berg, Simon Johannes (KNIL Corp.)
- Beuker, Johannes Marinus (medic)
- Bleckmann, Nicolaas (civil servant Binnenlands Bestuur)
- Buijs, Marinus Johannes (KNIL Gunner)
- Burger, Teunis (KNIL Corp.)
- Creutzberg, Karel Frederik (priest)
- Van Deursen, Dick Harry (KNIL Sgt.)
- Dikschei, Gerardus Hendricus (KNIL Sgt.)
- Dikstaal, Simon Arnoldus (KNIL rank unknown)
- Elshove, Gerrit (1e Longkaligroep demolition-team)
- Van Esch, Antonius Adrianus (KNIL Gunner)
- Filet, Piet Louis Robbert (demolition-team)
- Friesema, Lieuwe (KNIL Gunner)
- Van der Goot, Jan Jacobus (KNIL Sgt.)
- Hartwig, Herman Wilhelm (KNIL Captain)
- Hessing, ??? (KNIL Corp.)
- De Hoog, Martinus Cornelis (KNIL Corp.)
- Van der Hoogte, C. (priest)
- Huizing, Tjalling (KNIL Corp.)
- Janmaat, Adam Wilhelmus (priest)
- Janssen, Heinrich (KNIL Sgt.)
- Jongbloed, Johannes (KNIL Sm.)
- Juch, W. (1e Long Kaligroep)
- Karsseboom, Theodoor Albert (police inspector)
- Kerkhof, Ir. Johannes Christiaan (BPM exploitant/1e Long Kaligroep)
- Lammerding, L.Ch.E.E. (1e Long Kaligroep)
- Van der Leeuw, Bernhardus Bastianus (KNIL Corp.)
- Lens van Rhijn, Leendert (KNIL Private)
- Lienaerts, Hubert Joseph Ernest (KNIL rank unknown)
- Ligthart, Gerrit (medic)
- Van der Linden, Frederikus Wilhelmus (priest)
- Mager, Theodorus Louis Simon (1e Long Kaligroep)
- Van Meeteren, Albertus (doctor)
- Meijer, Arend (KNIL Sgt.)
- Nederhof, Hubertus (KNIL Lt.)
- Van Oene, Hendrik Leo Zwanius Albert (KNIL)
- Pesch, Gustaaf (1e Long Kaligroep)
- Planje, Bertus Jorge (KNIL Sgt.)
- Plas, Jacob (KNIL)
- Pon, Willem (KNIL Lt.)
- Proper, Coenraad (civil servant Binnenlands Bestuur)
- Pruijs, Everardus (KNIL)
- De Quack, J. Chr. C. (1e Long Kaligroep)
- Van Rhijn, Christiaan Hubertus senior (medic)
- Van Rhijn, Gustaaf Gerardus junior (medic)
- Rogge, Daniel (KNIL Sgt.)
- Rozeboom, Kasper (KNIL Private)
- Schipper, Jan Wermelt (KNIL Corp.)
- Swart, J. (1e Long Kaligroep)
- Tydeman, Joos Willem (1e Long Kaligroep)
- Ufkes, Christiaan (police officer)
- Verplak, Wilhelmus Hendrikus (KNIL Sgt.)
- Versteeg, Adriaan Dingeman (KNIL Corp.)
- Van der Wees, Philippus (1e Long Kaligroep)
- Van Zeist, Piet (1e Long Kaligroep)

Note The original Dutch message was the following: "Als het garnizoen van Balikpapan de aldaar en in de omgeving gelegen natuurlijke hulpbronnen en inrichtingen vernietigt, zullen de commanderende officieren, de onder hen staande Nederlandse soldaten en de met hen in betrekking staande Hollanders allen zonder uitzondering worden gedood. De kapitein Coren en de kapitein Renduruhof worden gezonden om bijzonderheden betreffende het bovenstaande over te brengen".

Note The spelling mistakes are the original. It should be read Colijn and Reinderhoff.

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