Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

... to all soldiers and civilians who lost their life during the Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942 ...


Interview with Adriaan Kannegieter
The Netherlands
The Netherlands

Adriaan Kannegieter was a young boy from Rotterdam, when he joined the Royal Dutch Navy, mainly due to the huge unemployment, that existed in the Netherlands at that time. After undergoing hard training, he was assigned to the RNN cruiser Sumatra. On May 10, 1940, when Hitler's Germany attacked the Netherlands, his ship was one of the first targets of the mighty Luftwaffe. It was bombed and machine-gunned the whole day. He managed to slip with his ship to England from where they were given an honorable task- to transport the Dutch Royal Family safely to Canada. From there he sailed with his ship on various escort duties to various tropical islands in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, until he was eventually transferred to the Dutch East Indies. There he served aboard various ships, including RNN destroyer Banckert. He saw combat again aboard RNN minesweeper Pieter de Bitter, on which he served until it was sunk by Japanese planes. After that he and his comrades were sent as infantry to defend a bridge near Soerabaja, where they were soon captured by the Japanese troops. He spent the next three and a half years in Japanese POW camps and working at the Kwai Railway, an experience he described in a later book.

  The Interview with Adriaan Kannegieter

Interview with Frans Zantvoort
The Netherlands
The Netherlands

Frans Zantvoort arrived in the Dutch East Indies in the late 30s after his father lost his job in Holland during the huge economic crisis. After finishing the Technical College in Bandoeng, he was called up to the Navy. He recalled meeting the American sailors arriving from the Phillippines in January 1942, and how they were extremely upset, as they had just discovered that their torpedoes were faulty. He performed several tasks over the next time: he was assigned to the air defense unit at the Naval Air Base Morokrembangan and he also participated as a crew member aboard one of the Dutch Higgins Torpedo Boats in the Badung Strait Battle, but experienced very little combat there. After that he retreated with his unit to Tjilatjap hoping to be evacuated to Australia or Ceylon, but only met total chaos there. He went to Bandoeng to meet his mother for the last time. He reported to the Navy Department in Bandoeng, which send him to Pelabuhan Ratu. There he found the freighter Poelau Bras and sailed with her toward Ceylon, only to be bombed several miles off Sumatra by 10 Japanese Zero fighters. The ship was sunk and he was one of the survivors, which safely came ashore near the small village of Kroë. After a few days Japanese soldiers with a truck came to pick them up, and he ended in various POW camps in and around Palembang, Sumatra, a camp about which very little was spoken or written in the history books of World War II. Thousands of Allied military prisoners were forced to build there an airfields for the Japanese Army. Exposed to the tropical sun and many diseases many died, yet Frans survived and returned back to Java only to find out that his mother died in one of many camps on Java during the occupation. There was not much time for tears as there was already another war on the horizon - this time with the Indonesian nationalists.

  The Interview with Frans Zantvoort

Interview with Felix Bakker
The Netherlands
The Netherlands

Felix Bakker was born in Soekaboemi, Dutch East Indies, to a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother. Java Island was his home, where he grew up and met his first friends and it was here, that the love for his home was born. This love in turn led him to join the Marine Battalion (Mariniers Bataljon) at Goebeng barracks near Soerabaja in November 1941, only a month before the start of the war. He was till only a 16-year-old boy, but he felt this was, what was needed in order to defend his homeland against the enemy, which have threatened his beautiful island. After a short training near Soerabaja, he and his comrades, all still under age, were send to face the powerful Japanese fleet and army that landed on Java Island on March 1. He was involved at Ngandjoek and Kertosono battles, where many young Dutch marines sacrificed their lives on the altar of the homeland to prevent the Japanese to occupy East Java. They failed in stopping the Japanese advance, yet their courage and deeds are and will always be written with the golden letters in the history of the Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942.

  The Interview with Felix Bakker

Interview with Arie Biemond
The Netherlands
The Netherlands

Arie Biemond, born in 1933, lived with his family (parents, older sister and three brothers) in Soerabaja. His father was a secretary of the board of managers of a big company, Handelsvereniging Amsterdam (HVA), which owned a great number of plantations in Java and Sumatra, producing mainly tea, sugar and tobacco. They lived in a big house in the Javastraat, with about 5 servants and a new deSoto car. Arie and his family soon experienced the horror and absurdity of the war, which came to the Dutch East Indies in 1941, when he was a nine year-old boy. His family was a neighbor of Admiral Doorman's family. Several weeks after the fall of Java Island he was send to the Japanese prison camp, where he spent almost five years of his childhood, together with his mother, sister and brothers. Arie is today a 67 years old retired bankmanager living in Middelburg, the Netherlands, with history as his main hobby.

  The Interview with Arie Biemond

Interview with Ronald Ashton

Ronald Ashton, born in 1921, came with his family to Australia from Great Britain in 1927. He joined the RAAF as a Sergeant in November 1940 and was assigned to several RAAF squadrons serving in Singapore. He flew with Lockheed Hudson light bombers, one of the standard planes of the Royal Australian Air Force at that time. Overwhelmed by the Japanese, he retreated with his unit to airfield on Sumatra Island, where he witnessed the Japanese parachute drop at Pladjoe and Palembang. He then joined his unit in a hasty retreat to Java Island from where he operated in several recon and combat missions against the Japanese. He also took part in strafing the Japanese invasion troops in North-West Java on March 1st, the first day of the Japanese landing on Java, thereby causing quite substantial casualties to the Japanese. He was eventually captured and sent to work on the Burma Railway as many other Australian, British, American and Dutch POWs. He experienced the cruelty of the Korean prison guards and managed to survive, only to be returned home in late 1945.

  The Interview with Ronald Ashton

Interview with Alfred Hansen

Alfred Hansen was born in Perth, Western Australia, and as many other young Australians, he joined the Australian Armed Forces to fight against Nazi's Germany and Mussolini's Italy in 1939. He went through many harsh battles in the Mediterranean, when his ship HMAS Perth was several times attacked by Italian dive-bombers and damaged with a heavy loss of lives. In December 1941, Australia got a new, more powerful enemy - Imperial Japan with its superb Navy and Army. In early 1942 his ship was transferred to the Far East and took part in the Java Sea Battle as a part of Admiral Doorman's Striking Force, only to be sunk on March 1 in the Sunda Strait together with the US cruiser USS Houston. Many young Australians died that day in the dark waters of Sunda Strait. Alfred survived, was taken prisoner by the Japanese, and was later sent to work on the Burma railway. He finally returned home in late August 1945, never forgetting the hard times he spent and comrades he had to leave behind in the dense jungles in Thailand.

  The Interview with Alfred Hansen

Interview with Cyril J. Morris
Great Britain
Great Britain

Cyril J. Morris, born in South Glamorgan, Wales, joined the Royal Air Force at the start of the war in 1939 and served in various units in England and North Africa before being shipped to Sumatra in 1942, from where his unit soon had to retreat to Java via Oosthaven, experiencing complete chaos in the harbour. He spent several weeks on Java until being captured with a large group of RAF airmen by Japanese soldiers near Tjilatjap. Spent some time on various POW camps on Java until being transferred with several thousands of his comrades to the "Islands of Death"- the Haruku Island, where they built an airfield under terrible conditions. More than half of the POWs died from exhaustion, diseases or brutal treatment by the guards. After the work was completed he was transferred back to Java, where he awaited the capitulation of Japan, until finally being transported back home via Singapore in late 1945.

  The Interview with Cyril J. Morris

Interview with Christopher Briggs
Great Britain
Great Britain

When the war came to the Far East, Christopher Briggs was already an experienced naval officer, having quite a few years of active duty behind him. He served until 1932 for the Chinese Maritime Customs on the Yangtse River on coastal patrols looking for smugglers. When the war broke out he joined the Naval Reserve as Lieutenant RN aboard the destroyer HMS Scout in Hong-Kong, where he witnessed the first defense preparations made by the British and Canadian garrison in this British colony. He left Hong-Kong harbour in early December 1941 and sailed toward Singapore and the Dutch East Indies, where his ship was involved as part of the Western Striking Force in several escort and anti-submarine patrols, operating from the port of Batavia. He took part in the evacuation of Padang (Sumatra) in 1942, from where the set course to Ceylon, luckily not being attacked by any Japanese planes. Cristopher later took part in other naval operations in almost all oceans until the end of the war and after the war immigrated to Australia, where he is writing his memoirs.

  The Interview with Christopher Briggs

Interview with Raymond Kester
United States of America
United States of America

Raymond Kester joined the US Navy in 1938 partly due to economic reasons (effect of the "great depression"). He served on quite a few ships in his pre-war time, before being transferred to USS Marblehead, a ship that marked him for the rest of his life. Shortly before the start of the war, he sailed with his ship to Tarakan Island. On 8 December they received a message from Admiral Hart, the commander of the US Asiatic Fleet, everyone was expecting it for some time: they were at war with Imperial Japan. In February 1942 USS Marblehead met the enemy for the very first time: a group of Japanese bombers attacked them in the Flores Sea, while they were sailing as a part of the Combined Dutch-American Striking Force toward Balikpapan, together with US destroyers which later distinguished themselves at Balikpapan, sinking several Japanese transports and gaining the first Allied naval victory. During the journey toward Balikpapan USS Marblehead experienced problems in a low-pressure turbine, which limited her speed to 28-knots, which caused her to turn back to Soerabaja, not taking part in the Balikpapan raid. We can only guess what would be the final score if they would be present there. In early 1942 USS Marblehead finally set course from the trap called the Dutch East Indies and sailed to Ceylon via Tjilatjap until it arrived in New York in May 1942. Upon arriving back home Raymond was given a leave after which he served aboard the USS Leedstown and went through quite a few combat actions in the Pacific until the end of the war. He continued his successful career in the Navy until 1962, when he finally retired.

  The Interview with Raymond Kester

Interview with Rodney Guidry
United States of America
United States of America

Rodney Guidry, born in 1919 in Louisiana, enlisted in US Navy in 1938. Following his initial training, he was stationed (briefly) aboard the first aircraft carrier named USS Enterprise. He was then assigned to the Asiatic fleet, which he has described during the period between the wars as being almost idyllic with winters in the Philippines and summers in China. His assignment during that period was aboard the USS Alden (DD-211), a Clemson Class destroyer that was built in 1919. It had been reactivated in 1930. On December 8, 1941 while sailing near Tilitijap the crew aboard the Alden received notice of the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the next few weeks, ships of the Asiatic Fleet were placed in a combined fleet with the naval assets of Britain, the Netherlands and Australia, under the command of Rear-Admiral Doorman. All of the ships in the ABDA fleet were organized into a striking force to stop the landings in the Dutch Indies. On February 27, 28, and March 1, the fleets met in the Java Sea. There were numerous battles. Losses to the Combined Striking Force were terrible. Of 7,000 men aboard surface vessels in the striking force, a few more than 600 survived. Many of those were aboard 4 of the little Clemson class Destroyers (known as four stackers), who managed to escape from Japanese encirclement to Fremantle, Australia. Rodney ("Frenchie") later served in the Atlantic on Convoy Duty aboard the USS Kimmel (a Destroyer Escort). He also was on anti-submarine patrol near the Azores, and even helped guard the Panama Canal for a while. He left the Navy following the war and worked as a plumber until retirement. Frenchie has today a wall full of medals in his home in Louisiana.

  The Interview with Rodney Guidry

Jack Sercombe with "Gull Force", Ambon Island, January 1942
written by his son Rod Sercombe

Jack Sercombe was a member of the medical unit of the 13th RAAF Squadron located on Ambon Island in January 1942. He experienced the first Japanese attacks on the island and was one of 125 Australian soldiers who managed to escape before the Japanese occupation of this beautiful tropical island.

  The story of Jack Sercombe, Ambon Island 1942

The restless sky over Tarakan Island, January 13th 1942
written by Bert Kossen

An account of the heavy air battles over the sky of Tarakan Island on January 13th 1942. The Dutch Air Force from Borneo lost on that day almost all bomber planes, together with their crews. Few survived.

  The restless sky over Tarakan Island, January 13th, 1942

The story of De Ruyter survivors, February 1942
written by Adriaan Kannegieter & George Visser

... After pushing off, the men rowed to a distance of 500 metres from De Ruyter with regard to the not-imaginary danger of the rear-ammo magazine exploding, as the ship was ablaze from the AA-deck to the stern. Some swimming drowned persons were picked up, for whom there was apparently no room on the rafts ...

  The story of De Ruyter survivors, February 1942

The story of Cornelis de Wolf, sole survivor of O-16, December 1941
written by A.P. Bussemaker
son of O 16's commander Lt.Cdr. A.J. Bussemaker

... It happened at around 2:30 a.m. A thunderous blow flung me against the pit. Our faithful O-16 disappeared into the waves in less than a minute. During those few seconds, I saw the commander and senior officer trying to kick shut the turret hatch, while I desperately did my best to get my coat loose from the mine gear in which it had gotten stuck. My coat tore loose and I found myself in the water, all alone ...

  The story of Cornelis de Wolf, sole survivor of O-16, December 1941

De geest van de Hollander
"  The Ghost of the Dutchman  "

After the fall of Celebes Island, February 1942, a small KNIL detachment, consisting of two Dutch officers (Lieutenant De Jong - commander and Lieutenant Van Dalen), four Dutch sergeants and 150 KNIL soldiers, continued with a guerilla war against the Japanese. They carried out several successful ambush attacks in Kolonodale area, killing many Japanese soldiers, but they were eventually all either captured or killed. Both officers were taken in captivity on 19 August 1942, and promptly beheaded after they refused to say that they regretted what they did to the Imperial Japanese Army. The only one who managed to save himself by hiding in the dense jungle was KNIL Sergeant Jan Klinkhamer. Japanese offered a reward of 100 gulders to the local population for betraying him or handing him over. Only a few local Indonesians knew where he was hiding and brought him food on several occasions. Other natives had spotted him twice vaguely in the foggy woods, and, therefore, started to call him "The Ghost of the Dutchman". He successfully stayed hidden in the jungle until 1945, when natives finally informed him that Japan had capitulated. Only then did he come from his hideout in the jungle, after spending more than three years in it.

The story of Captain G.F. Stephan, Tarakan Island 1941-1942
written by Bea Stephan

... The aviation-magazines never contained important data regarding Japanese military aviation; on occasion there was something on civil aviation in Japan. There was no data known about the modern Japanese military aircraft. Not about the strength of "first-line" aircraft, nor about the production capacity of the industry. It is for example known from the newspaper that, although a British embargo had been enforced, at the end of 1939 the full equipment for an aircraft factory was shipped to Japan from Germany via Lisbon ...

  The story of Captain G.F. Stephan, Tarakan Island 1941

Willy "Prul" Haye
written by Jesse Haye

Captured aboard the Tjisaroea by the Cruiser Maya. For the next four years dad would be a guest of Emperor Hirohito, at Makassar, Tjideng (Batavia), Struiswijk and Thihapit (Bandung) camps...

  Link to the memorial page for Willy Haye

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