Japanese Armoured Units on Java Island, 1942
Japanese Armoured Units on Java Island, 1942

Java Island Campaign, March 1942

The Japanese conquest of the Dutch East Indies was progressing more smoothly than the Japanese had expected. Borneo, Timor and Sumatra had been occupied by the Japanese. Surrounded by the Japanese occupied islands, Java, a core of the Dutch East Indies was utterly isolated. The Japanese GHQ advanced the schedule of the Java conquest by one month and ordered the 16th Army to invade Java in the end of February.

According to a plan of the Japanese, the 16th Army lands on Java at three places at the same time. Main force, 2nd Division and other units under the direct control of the 16th Army, land on Merak, east end of Java. Shoji Detachment lands at Eretanwetan. The 48th Division and Sakaguchi Detachment land on Kragan. Following armor units were attached to these forces:

2nd Division
- 2nd Company and 4th Company of 2nd Tank Regiment (21 Type 97 Medium Tanks)
- 2nd Recon Regiment (16 Type 97 Tankettes)

Shoji Detachment
- 1st Company of 4th Tank Regiment (10 Type 95 Light Tanks)

48th Division
- 3rd Company of 4th Tank Regiment (10 Type 95 Light Tanks)
- 3rd Company of 2nd Tank Regiment (10 Type 97 Medium Tanks, 5 M3 Light Tanks)
- 48th Recon Regiment (16 Type 97 Tankettes)

Sakaguchi Detachment
- 56th Infantry Group Tankette Unit (8 Type 97 Tankettes)

North Sumatra Campaign
- 2nd Company of the 4th Tank Regiment (10 Type 95 Light Tanks)
The tank company was assigned to the Kamiyoshi Detachment and advanced to Bengkulu. No enemy was found during the advance.

Sakaguchi Detachment

After the occupation of the east Borneo, the Sakaguchi Detachment was ordered to participate in the conquest of Java Island. On February 24th, the Sakaguchi Detachment had left Balikpapan togather with the 48th Division. After waiting some days on the sea until the naval battles had ended, they landed on the beach of Kragan on March 1st. When landing boats were approaching to the beach, some allied airplanes attacked thier boats and they suffered some casualities. However, as soon as landed, they advanced inland and occupied town of Blora the next day of the D-day. Sakaguchi Detachment planned to advance west and occupy Tjilitjap. Thier duty was to cut off the retreat of the Allied forces in the West Java.

The van of the Sakaguchi detachment was composed of one tankette unit, one infantry company, one field gun platoon and one AT gun platoon. The tankette unit of the Sakaguchi Detachment had been the 4th Company of the 56th Recon Regiment. It had been converted to an independent tankette company and was attached to the Sakaguchi Detachment. The commander was Captain Anai and the unit was called also as Anai Tankette unit. On February 4th, when they were advancing around Poerwodadi, they encountered an Allied mechanized unit. They forestalled the enemy and attacked them skillfully. The enemy had abandonned thier vehicles and fled. They captured a dozen of enemy vehicles.

tankette Type 97

Japanese tankette Type 97

The van was chasing the fled enemy and approaching to Soerakarta in the evening. The main body of the Allied force defended at Soerakarta. The van souted the enemy position carefully and they commenced an attack after sunset. The intense combat was continued during the night. The tankettes and one infantry platoon dashed toward a bridge under enemy heavy fire and captured a bridge before it was blown up. On the bridge, explosives had been already set by the enemy. During this combat, a dozen infantrymen had fallen and Lieutenant Fuchigami, platoon leader of the tankette unit was wounded.

Around dawn, the tankettes crossed the bridge and attacked the enemy on the opposite bank. The enemy's force was comprised from approx. 600 men and ca. 70 vehicles. Tankettes were overrunning the enemy MGs and artilleries, and fired on the enemy positions and vehicles. The enemy had been defeated and fled toward Jogjakarta.

The Sakaguchi HQ was marching in the west flank of the Soerakarta and found the enemy fleeing toward west. Seeing it, Sakaguchi decided to attack Jogjakarta and orderd Kaneuji Group, mainly 2nd Battalion of 146th Infantry Regiment, to advance to Jogjakarta. Kaneuji Group rushed into Jogjakarta at 17:30. The garrison HQ at Jogjakarta was surprised and they were all captured by the Japanese. Sakaguchi Detachment continued to advance. The garrison at Majenang surrendered on the evening of March 6th. On March 8th, Sakaguchi Detachment rushed into Tjilatjap and occupied it. On March 9th, the whole Dutch forces in Netherlands East Indies surrendered. In that night, General Sakaguchi met KNIL Major-General P.A. Cox at the Dutch official residence in Poerwokerto and had accepted the surrender of the Dutch troops. Approximately 2,000 soldiers under Major-General Cox has been captured by the Japanese soldiers. On March 10th, they informed General Imamura, 16th Army Commander, that they had secured until Tegal and Tjilatjap. The battle for Java Island ended. The 16th Army gave a thanks letter to the Sakaguchi Detachment. During the Netherlands East Indies campaign, units which were given a thanks letter are Sakaguchi and Shoji detachments only.

48th Division

The 48th Division landed on Kragan togather with the Sakaguchi Detachment. Their aim was to occupy Soerabaja. However, the allied had destroyed roads and bridges on the way to Soerabaja everywhere and thier march was frequently delayed. On March 2nd, the Japanese troops reached at Tjepoe but the bridge on Solo River had already been destroyed. The Japanese engineers worked hard and laid a temporary bidge over the river on March 4th. Japanese light tanks crossed the bridge. But a M3 Light Tank, which were captured on the Philippines, dared to cross it and had broken the bridge. The US light tank is almost as heavy as the Japanese medium tank!

Meanwhile, the 48th Recon Regiment marched on the east flank of the main forces and crossed Solo river at Bodjonegoro on March 3rd. On March 5th, when they were approaching to Babad, they engaged with the enemy about 400-500m distance to the town of Babad. There were rice fields in the both sides of the road and the enemy was ambushing in the forest. M3 Light tanks advanced forward on the road, but they were hit by enemy AT guns and had been retreated. The tankette companies of the recon regiment dushed to the enemy position and occupied it after four hours combat. However, the recon regiment suffered several casualities during this combat.

Tankette Type 97 landing on the beach of Kragan

Type 97 Tankette landing on the beach of Kragan, Java Island, March 1942.
This tankette is supposed one of 48th Recon Regiment.

The main forces which had crossed Solo River advanced to Kertosono. The bridge at Kertosono had been destroyed, but the bridge at Kediri was occupied before it was blown up. The Japanese troops crossed Brantas River and had reached at Porong on March 6th. The town of Porong was fortified by the Allied but a Japanese troops accompanied with tanks quickly occupied Porong. Nearly 1,200 to 1,300 men of the Allied gathered at Kepanjen and a part of them took a counterattack against the Japanese at Porong, but they were repulsed. The Japanese troops attacked Kepanjen and had cut off the Soerabaja-Malang road.

On March 8th, the Japanese were ready to assault Soerabaja. At that time, a white flag was hoisted on the bridge at the south end of Soerabaja. The assault against Soerabaja was cancelled and the Japanese negociated with the Allied. On March 9th, the whole Dutch forces in the Dutch East Indies have surrendered. The Dutch troops in Soerabaja also surrendered. The fight of the 48th Division on Java ended.

2nd Division

The 2nd Division is the main force of the Java conquest forces and the 16th Army HQ accompanied with 2nd Division. Thier landing place Merak was the west end of Java Island and they planned to advance east and aim to Batavia. On the way to Batavia, Tjioedjoeng River is flowing and three bridges cross Tjioedjoeng River. South one is at Rangkasbitoeng, central one is at Pamarajan and north one is at Kopo. In order to capture these bridges before they are blown up, the 2nd Recon Regiment was ordered to land at first and dash toward the bridges. The Regiment was divided into three groups. The K Advance Group (5 tankettes) aimed to Kopo, the Right Advance Group (5 tankettes) aimed to Rangkasbitoeng and the Left Advace Group (3 tankettes) aimed to Pamarajan. The commander of the 2nd Recon Regiment was Lieutenant Colonel Noguchi.

Lieutenant Colonel Noguchi

Lieutenant Colonel Noguchi, the commander of 2nd Recon Regiment.

On the midnight of March 1st, 18 Daihatsu boats had left ships and went to the beach of Merak. At 2:30, boats had reached at the beach. Immediately, Japanese troops left boats and advanced for Serang in the darkness without lights. Fighting with some small enemy troops, they were running on the road and reached at Serang bridge at 4:00. They attacked the bridge guards at once and the brigde was occupied by the Japanese before blown up.

After Serang, the Recon Regiment separated into three groups. The Right Advance Group was marching on the road between Serang and Rangkasbitoeng. On the way, they captured a score of enemy soldiers who rode on three trucks. They had been routing from the rear and were checked by the Japanese tankettes. The commander of the Right Advance Group planned a trick to cheat the bridge guards. He set a captured enemy truck at the head of the troops and pretended the Allied. At 9:30, the captured truck which concealed Japanese soldiers appoached to the bridge and had been passing though the bridge guards. At that time, the bridge had been blown up with a big burst sound. The trick failed and the bridge had been lost. The bridge guards fled and the enemy on the opposite bank opened fire. The Japanese troops engaged with the enemy and drove them away. The Right Advance Group secured Rangkasbitoeng, then returned to the Recon Regiment at 15:00.

When the K Advance Group entered into Serang , the commander tankette trode a mine and the driver got badly wounded. However, the Commander Nakamura was safe as lack would have it. The K Advance Group reached at Kopo at 4:50, but the bridge at Kopo had been already destroyed. When entering into Kopo, the Indonesian KNIL troops opened fire against the Japanese. Commander Nakamura shouted to the enemy in Indonesian language: "We are Japanese. Surrender!". The Indonesians gave up arms and surrendered one after another.

The Left Advace Group was dashing forward Pamarajan. At 9:00, they reached at Pamarajan and the Commander Shiraishi entered the bridge at a dash. Halfway on the bridge, he noticed that the enemy soldiers were trying to ignite the explosives settled on the bridge. He fired a tank gun and killed them. An enemy armored car had come up behind them. He fired again and destroyed the enemy armored car. The Japanese infantrymen dashed on the bridge bravely and removed the explosives. A safe bridge on Tjioedjoeng River was secured by the Japanese. It was a significant triumph of the Japanese tankette unit.

Type 97 Tankettes, Java Island

Type 97 Tankettes of the 2nd Recon Regiment on Java Island, March 1942.

After crossing Tjioedjoeng River at Pamarajan, the Recon Regiment advanced on the road to Buitenzorg, because a road connecting with the road between Selang and Batavia could not be found. In the evening, they crashed with the enemy troops of 50-60 men around Balungan(?). There was a barricade against tanks on the road and the enemy fired furiously on the Japanese. While the tankettes engaged with the enemy, the main body went around in the forest and attacked the enemy in the flank. The enemy troops had withdrawn quickly.

On the afternoon of March 3rd, the van of the Recon Regiment reached at Rauilian. On the road to Rauilian, there were a lot of barricades and they had been frequently delayed. When they reached at Rauilian. the bridge on Tjisadane River had been already destroyed. Two Japanese crews got off the head tankette and walked to the river. When they reached at a riverside, the enemy opened fire suddenly and two Japanese crews had fallen. The enemy located on the hills on the opposite bank and fired MGs and artilleries. The tankettes fired on the enemy postions. The Japanese field artilleries took part in the fight and bombarded the enemy fortifications. The fierce fight continued all day, but the river was still an obstacle which could not be got over by the Japanese.

Destroyed bridge at Rauilian

The destroyed bridge at Rauilian.

In the evening, General Nasu, the commander of 2nd Infantry Group, and 16th Infantry Regiment arrived at Rauilian. General Nasu ordered the 16th Infantry Regiment to make a night attack on the enemy on the opposite bank. The 16th Infantry Regiment crossed the river at the 3 km south of Rauilian and attacked the enemy on the hills in the flank. The enemy defensive positions were occupied by the Japanese and the enemey troops routed.

   The Japanese map of the battle at Rauilian, March 1942
The map is the courtesy of Akira Takizawa

On the morning of March 5th, the Recon Regiment crossed Tjisadane River by rafts and advaced for Buitenzorg. On the morning of March 6th, The troops of the Nasu Detachment rushed into Buitenzorg and occupied it. The Recon Regiment was ordered to advance to Soebang and was prepared for the march at Buitenzorg until March 8th. When they were marching on the road to Soebang, they knew that the Dutch forces in the Dutch East Indies had surrendered.

During the campaign of Java, the tank unit attached to the 2nd Division was marching in rear and could not participate in the fights of the front. They only mopped up the enemy troops in the rear of the front.

Shoji Detachment

On the midnight of March 1st, Shoji Detachment landed at Eretanwetan. Though some Allied airplanes attacked them before landing, there had been no casuality. The main aim of Shoji Detachment was to capture Kalidjati Airfield and enable the Japanese air unit to advance there.

The van of Shoji Detachment departed the landing point in the morning and advanced to Kalidjati Airfield. While advancing to the airfield, they met several Allied troops. They had defeated them and hurried to the airfield. At noon, they reached the airfield and occupied it. The airfield was not destroyed and possible for airplane to land.

The Allied troops accompanied with armored cars attacked the Japanese at the airfield several times. The Japanese were fighting courageously and repulsed all enemy attacks. The landing of the remainder of Shoji Detachment was delayed by the Allied air raids. The tank unit landed from ships at last and hurried to the front. On the morning of March 2nd, approx. 20 armored cars of the Allied rushed on the airfield, but they were checked by the Japanese infantrymen and tanks. Type 95 Light tanks of the 1st Company destroyed one Allied armored car and captured five armored cars.

From March 2nd, the Japanese airplanes were coming at the airfield. It became the definite factor of the fight. On March 3rd, the Allied launched a large counter-attack against the Japanese at the airfield. However, the Allied troops marching on the road had been attacked by the Japanese planes heartlessly during over three hours and they had been scattered before reached at the front.

Dutch Anti-Tank barricades

The Dutch Anti-Tank Barricades, Java Island, March 1942.

After the fight of March 3rd, Colonel Shoji believed that the Allied had no longer enough strenghts to undertake a large counter-attack. So, Colonel Shoji made up his mind to send troops to Bandoeng. It was reported that Bandoeng was well fortified and many Allied soldiers defensed there. Colonel Shoji intended to probe the Bandoeng defenders and to establish a bridgehead on the Bandoeng fortification if possible.

On March 5th, Wakamatsu group, consisted of three companies, advanced south along the road from Soebang for Bandoeng. On the south of Chatel(?), the tanks in the head of the troops crashed the enemy pillboxes and engaged with them. Fortunately, there were a lot of trees and the sight of the pillboxes was limited. The Japanese infantrymen and engineers were creeping in the dead angle of the pillboxes and they had destroyed five pillboxes before dark.

Next day, knowing from POWs that the Allied defenders were not so many and there was a gap on the defensive line, the Japanese troops infiltrated the enemy positions and attacked a hill behind the enemy line. By a sudden attack of the Japanese, the Allied troops on the hill became panic and had fled to the rear position. The Bandoeng defenders were disturbed with the event that the important hill of the Bandoeng defensive line was occupied by the Japanese. They were afraid that the Japanese main forces would follow to the Japanese troops on the hill. On March 7th, Major-General J.J. Pesman, the commander of the Bandoeng defence forces, sent a messenger to the Japanese and proposed the surrender of the Bandoeng defence forces. General Imamura, the commander of the 16th Army, knew this fact and requested the meeting with Lt-General Ter Poorten, the commander of the Dutch army on Java. On March 8th, they met at Kalidjati Airfield and General Imamura requested the surrender of the whole Dutch army in the Netherlands East Indies. On March 9th, Lt-General Hein Ter Poorten broadcasted a statement about the surrender of the Dutch KNIL forces.

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