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The Banda Sea Operations 1941-1942

Banda Sea Operation
T-Operation, July 29th, 1942

Main Force - 24th Special Base Force led by Rear-Admiral Kouichiro Hatakeyama

• 16th Cruiser Division with light cruiser Izusu
• 24th Base Force, fleet torpedo boats Tomozuru and Syonan (Singapore) Maru #1
• 2nd Southern Expeditionary Fleet, seaplane tender Sanyo Maru

  • 1st Attack Force was destined to Aru Islands. The force sailed from Babo, Dutch New Guinea.
    • 52nd Submarine-chaser Division with submarine-chaser Fukuei Maru #15, carrying one platoon of the 24th Special Base Force
  • 2nd Attack Force was destined to Kai Islands. The force sailed from Misool Island.
    • Minesweeper Division with minesweeper W8 (21st Special Base Force), carrying one company of the 3rd Yokosuka SNLF and minesweeper W16 (22nd Special Base Force), carrying one platoon of the 24th Special Base Force
  • 3rd Attack Force was destined to Babar Island and Tanimbar Islands. The force sailed from Ambon Island.
    • 5th Destroyer Division with destroyers Asakaze, Harukaze, Matsukaze of the 1st Southern Expeditionary Fleet
    • Submarine-chaser Division with submarine-chaser Ch5 (22nd Special Base Force), carrying one platoon of 3rd Yokosuka SNLF and submarine-chaser Ch21 (23rd Special Base Force), carrying one company of 24th Special Base Force
    • Transport Unit of the 2nd Southern Expeditionary Fleet consisted of 2nd Gunboat Division with gunboats Manyo Maru (2,904 tons) and Hokuyo Maru (4,216 tons)

  • Depart
    departed at 1500,
    July 24th, 1942
    Ambon Island
    arrived at 1625,
    July 25th, 1942
    Misool Island
    arrived at 1030,
    July 26th, 1942
    Babo, Dutch New Guinea
    departed at 1200,
    July 28th, 1942
    Babo, Dutch New Guinea
    arrived at 1620,
    July 30th, 1942
    1st Attack Force
    arrived at 0400/0500
    Aru Islands
    departed at 0800,
    July 28th, 1942
    Misool Island
    arrived at 0430,
    July 31st, 1942
    2nd Attack Force
    arrived at 0400/0500
    Kai Islands
    departed at 1500,
    July 29th, 1942
    Ambon Island
    arrived at 0911,
    July 31st, 1942
    3rd Attack Force
    arrived at 0400/0500
    Tanimbar Islands
    arrived at 0310
    Babar Island

    You will note that in order to carry out this operation, the Japanese had to draw from various Base Forces. Also, their troops were widely dispersed. The Yokosuka 3d was at Ambon, while most of the 24th Base Force troops were either at Babo or Misool Island (north of Ceram Island). The surface units rendezvous at Ambon Island, sailed on the 24th of July 1942 for Misool Island (arrived there at 1625 on 25 July 1942) and at Babo (arrived there at 1030 on 26 July 1942). The X-day for the Japanese was July 30th at 4 locations:
    1st Attack Force departed Babo at 1200 on 28 July 1942 and arrived at the Aru Islands at 0400 on the 30th.
    2nd Attack Force departed Misool at 0800 on 28 July 1942 and arrived at the Kai Islands at 0400 on the 30th.
    3rd Attack Force departed Ambon Island at 1500 on 29 July 1942, split in two sections. Submarine-chaser Ch21 took the platoon of 3rd Yokosuka SNLF to Babar Island, arriving there at 0310 on 30 July 1942, while the main force of the 3rd Attack Force continued to Tanimbar, arriving at 0400 also on the 30th.

    Air operations were carried out by the group's seaplane tender, Sanyo Maru. The 2nd Attack Force arrived at Ambon Island at 0430 on 31 July 1942, while the 3rd Attack Force didn't get to Ambon Island until 0911. The 1stAttack Force arrived back at Babo, Dutch New Guinea at 1620 on 30 July 1942.

    In June 1942 a small civil unrest erupted at Dodo in the Aru Islands. This came about for several reasons. The war had upset the normal ship traffic in the region and this led to unemployment and food shortages. These islands had no KNIL military garrisons and therefore the Dutch decided in July 1942 to send several KNIL detachments to Toeal, Dodo and Saumlaki under the name of "Operation Plover". The sending of these detachments led to the Japanese response in the form of the attacks starting on 30 July 1942.

    The Japanese occupation of Kai Islands, 1942

    The Toeal Detachment consisted of KNIL Lieutenant F. Hieronymus and 27 NCO's and men. They arrived at Toeal, Kai Islands on 12 July 1942. The importance of Toeal lay in the fact that it was the administative centre for the region. The Japanese troops, one company of 3rd Yokosuka SNLF and one platoon of 24th Special Base Force, landed on the islands on 30 July 1942 and the KNIL Detachment defended itself for a while but it was soon driven into the jungle and managed to fight on there for a few days. Only Corporal Jered Malawau and a few men managed to escape by a sailing boat to Australia, while the rest fell into Japanese captivity. KNIL Lieutenant F. Hieronymus was also captured by the Japanese and taken to Ambon Island. He didn't survive the war as he died later in the Japanese POW camp.

    The Japanese occupation of Aru Islands, 1942

    The KNIL sent 41 men to the small town of Dodo on the Aru Islands. The Japanese forces, one platoon of 24th Special Base Force, landed on the islands on 30 July 1942 and occupied them without any resistance.

    The Japanese occupation of Tanimbar Islands, 1942

    A KNIL Detachment was sent to Tanimbar Islands in July 1942 and it was stationed in the town of Saumlaki. The detachment consisted of KNIL Sargeant Julius Tahija and 12 men (13 men total) with 2 light machine-guns. The Japanese ships entered the bay at Saumlaki on July 30th at 0400 local time and consisted of 2 destroyers and probably a small transport ship. The Japanese used small boats to get to the jetty, so the boats they used were not landing craft. The Japanese filed in ranks on the jetty and wanted to march in close order into Saumlaki. At close range, Sargeant J. Tahija and his men opened fire with their two light MGs. The Japanese retreated to their boats leaving several dead on the jetty.

    On 31 July 1942 an Australian contingent (Plover Force - 1 officer and 29 men) tried to land in Saumlaki in order to reinforce the Dutch party, but the attempt failed. The Australian party left Darwin in the little vessels Southern Cross and Chinampa on 28th July 1942. Pulling in to the jetty at Saumlaki (Tanimbar Islands) early on the 31st the Chinampa was fired on from the shore and the commander of the Australian detachment on board was killed. Both vessels then returned to Darwin taking the whole of the Australian group with them.

    After the retreat, the Dutch came under naval gunfire which at daybreak became more accurate and caused some casualties. Then came a second attack on a wider front and the small Dutch force retreated before being overrun to a sailing ship and escaped to Australia as they were ordered to do. KNIL Sergeant Tahija arrived in Australia with only 6 men left. For his actions he was promoted and was decorated with the Militaire Willems Orde (MWO). Of the total of 82 men that the KNIL dispatched in operation "Plover" only 50 men returned to Australia.

    The Japanese occupation of Babar Island, 1942

    The Babar Island, located east of Timor Island, was occupied by the Japanese forces at 0310 on 30 July 1942 by a platoon of 3rd Yokosuka SNLF, transported by the submarine-chaser Ch21.

    The Japanese occupation of Banda Island, 1942

    On 23 February 1942, the Dutch authorities evacuated via air (from the island's capital Bandaneira) two prominent Indonesian nationalist politicians, Dr. Mohammad Hatta (1902-1980) and Sutan Sjahrir (1909-1966), only a few minutes before the Japanese bombers started to bomb the island. Banda Island, located southeast of Ambon Island, was occupied by the Imperial Japanese troops on 8 May 1942.

    The Japanese occupation of Ceram Island, 1942

    At the beginning of war the KNIL Detachment in the town of Boela (Ceram Island) numbered approximately 100 men with 4 light machine-guns. They left Ceram Island after destroying the oil installations at Boela. They arrived on Ambon Island on 29 January 1942 and were employed for the defence of Ambon Island. The Japanese fleet consisting of 14 warships and 3 transport ships arrived on the shore of Boela on 31 March 1942. When they found that everything was destroyed they left, leaving behind a garrison of only 200 men. Despite all Dutch personnel being evacuated before the Japanese invasion, one report mentioned that the Japanese managed to bayonet one Dutch radio-operator, who stayed in the town. This force then dispatched a patrol of 15 men to arrest the Dutch magistrate at Geser, who had only 8 native policemen on his disposal, he evaded capture and escaped to Australia.

    Note In June 1943 Allied Intelligence estimated the Japanese strength at Saumlaki at 1,000 men.

    Note Japanese shipping at this time period was devoted to the Singapore / Rangoon reinforcement, and shipping going to Japan. As a result, the Japanese used two gunboats (Transport Unit) for transporting the company of 24th Special Base Force. They were medium sized, and barely adequate, not to mention that they were well armed for small merchant ships, so they couldn't carry all the baggage.

    Note The Main Force, consisting of light cruiser Izusu and both torpedo boats had the task to block any attempt by the Australians from coming to assist. No actions occured.

    Note Tomozuru class: 1931 - Classified as fleet torpedo-boats, which were virtually small destroyers; 737 tons Displacement - 269 feet long. They had 2/4.7" Dual purpose guns as secondary armament. Main armament was 2 21" Torpedos and 48 depth-charges. They had a more prominent role as fast escorts until the Kiabokan's came out. In 1944, the surviving units had their torpedos landed and depth-charges increased. Displacement rose to 1,043 tons.

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