The surprising Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on
7 December 1941 also signalled the start of World War 2 for the Dutch East Indies.
During the Battle of
the Java Sea on
1942 almost the total allied fleet was lost in the battle against
the Japanese and went under. In a very short time Indie would be
conquered by the Japanese. It was useful for Japan because of
mineral treasures such as oil, and as an outpost.
On 8 March the Dutch
military forces, the Royal Dutch-Indies Army (KNIL) surrendered
at Kalidjati to the Japanese. The realm of
The Netherlands in Asia did not exist anymore.
Battle of the
Thus followed a period
of Japanese control over the Dutch East Indies. All European
inhabitants were detained, including women and children. The men
were forced to do hard labour, such as the construction of the
notorious Burma railway.
Dutch forced labourers
The battle in the Pacific was taken up by the
Americans, and the Allies, consisting of troops from NZ, Australia and Great Britain.
Also the KNIL military who escaped from the Japanese to Australia
played a part. In a painful
struggle which cost many lives, island by island was conquered.
The Dutch East Indies however was skipped because the target was
In the spring of 1945 a
big part of Europe was liberated, but the expectation was that the
war in the Pacific at least would go on until 1946 as the Japanese
were very tough soldiers.
Little boats used in
Battle of the Java Sea
Shortly after the American President
Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away on April 12th 1945, his successor Harry
Truman urged the acceleration of the development of the
atom bomb. Meanwhile it became clear that Japan would fight to the last
man and continue their policy of killing all Allied
soldiers as soon they landed. After a first test
bomb in the desert of New-Mexico, Truman decided to use this bomb
On August 6th Hiroshima,
within a few seconds 78,000 of the
340,000 inhabitants were killed and in the next months another 70,000
victims would die from a result of their injuries. Not long after, Nagasaki was struck by an atom bomb,
the Japanese emperor Hirohito had no option but to capitulate and on
August 15th 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally.
Now Japan had been beaten, in the Dutch East Indies a power vacuum
arose. The American soldiers were busy stabilising other parts of Asia,
meanwhile the KNIL officials and military had just been released
from the P.o.W camps and were in no fit state to assume their former
administrative duties. The Netherlands itself was in disarray after
the vitual decimation of the home country by the Nazis, so were not
in any position to send enough men who could take over the
authority of the Japanese.
The temporary government was therefore put in hands of the
Right: British in action
reads the proklamasi on 17-08-1945
On August 17th 1945 the Dutch East Indies
nationalists Sukarno and Hatta took their chance to realize their
ideal, namely an independent Indonesian republic encapsuling all the islands.
They gave notice via a proclamation which however was not acknowledged by the Dutch. This
was because The Netherlands wanted the
situation to revert back to how it was before 1942 and in November 1945 they sent
troops. The Britons who were determined to stay neutral between the
Dutch and the natives didn't allow them to enter Java and sent them
to Sumatra, Malakka and Thailand.
There was anarchy on Java with murders, intimidation and
attacks. The national party TNI (Tentara
Nasional Indonesia) led an intense guerilla battle against the Dutch,
the East Indies and the people who had recently returned from the Japanese
Meanwhile also in the British
colonies problems had arisen, so the British army left in 1946 and the
responsibility of government was returned to the Dutch.
Anti-Dutch demonstration 19.09.1949
There was an anti-Dutch tone and the
Indonesian youth were encouraged in it.
The nationalist feeling spread like wildfire
over Java. Anyone who was not 100% Indonesian was
treated violently by the Indonesians. This was especially relevent
with the Indo-European
(later called the Indos), the Indonesians who had served the KNIL. The Chinese
were particularly singled out, because in Indonesian eyes they
had committed the twin sins of being a colonial enemy and as a
speech to the
Congress of the Indonesian Government
The period of the sharp Struggle for Independence is
called the Bersiap time. 'Bersiap' means: Be prepared.
Permuda's armed military trained radical youths, were especially
chasing the Dutch and the Indo-Dutch. Because of the some
barbaric practices such as burnings and beheadings, the Japanese
were ordered to protect the heavily threatened people in camps.
The protectors were the same Japanese who just a short time
before had been their worst enemies during the years of
Netherlands faced losing her colonies, and sent 100,000
soldiers to put down the revolution in 1948 and '49
Great Britain and the United States however feared that reinstalling
the colonial relationship would reinforce
the communism in Indonesia. Pressed
by the United Nations, The Netherlands eventually
agreed with the acknowledgment of Indonesia. Signing of the
Sovereignty Mandate followed on December 27th 1949.
Transfer of the Sovereignty
W. Drees signs the
Sovereignty in the Palace on the
Dam in Amsterdam on 27
To the right of Queen Juliana is Mohammed Hatta.
With the transfer of the
sovereignity, the totoks - the 100% Dutch, and the
Indo-European were given two years to decide whether they wanted to
keep Dutch nationality or whether they wanted to get Indonesian
State Citizenship (warga negara).
Because of all the violence it was not
surprising that hundreds of thousands fled the country looking for a
safe place elsewhere. The Netherlands was a logical choice to migrate
to as they already spoke the language.
There were remarkably less people
who chose the Indonesian Citizenship than was expectd by the Dutch
government, that being 8% as opposed to 75%.
Until 1958 about 380,000 people
would leave their so beloved country, by steamship or by plane.
Sometimes the ship was too big for the Dutch waterways at the time so it
had to drop anchor in Southampton after which the people had to
transfer onto a smaller ship to be able to go to Holland.
Every space on the ships were used for
as shown here in the engine room.
1945 - 1948
1952 - 1956
1957 - 1958
1961 - 1962
1957 - 1968
repatriated; most of them initially went for a duty permit.
102,000 people left the country as a result
of the Transfer of the Sovereignty, especially KNIL soldiers and
officials whose previous positions now counted for nothing.
persons who, for all kind of reasons, didn't react on the change
40,000 persons fled because of the strong anti-Dutch actions.
14,400 left New
current Irian Jaya).
('regretters'). These people originally chose Indonesian nationality, but were
disillusioned because they were treated unfairly and
Soldiers on the Fields of Honour in