VAE VICTIS, Dutch East Indies 1941-1942

In Japanese eyes the prisoner of war, was not only the looser, but also object of contempt. This, because of the fact that he admitted to get captured. Therefore he was no longer regarded as a human and therefore the terrible use with the POWs. Nearly the same status was given also to civilians, including women and children. From about 300.000 captives in the first months of war in the Far East, only 200.000 saw the day of liberation. Exhausted from hunger and disease they stumbled out of countless villages and prison camps, scattered over the whole Asiatic continent, from the Japanese islands to the Banda Sea and the jungles of Burma.
They were hermetically isolated in a vicinity totally foreign to them, not only physically imprisonment, but also total isolation from the natives by language and art of living.
Post from home needed almost a year to reach the camp only to have further delay, because the guard didn't distribute it.

Marcel Junod, International Red Cross



... A hissing sound - it must be the sounds of spurting blood, spurting from the arteries: the body falls forward. It is amazing - he has killed him with one stroke...

  The execution of unknown Allied Air Force Officer

from a diary of unknown Japanese soldier, 29th March 1943


... Burns died because he tried to escape, but they will not try to escape and will live for that. They heard cries and watched more Japanese soldiers appearing behind the truck throwing a human body to the ground ...

  Look back at us in mercy by Walter Baxter


... Brutality was a daily event for the Japanese soldier. He had to admit brutality against himself by his officers. This treatment he simply gave further to his subordinates or the prisoners, the last because they were inferior to him after their surrender ...

  Why was the war in the Pacific so brutal ? 


... The Japanese had beaten us in Malaya, because they were better in all. At first they were good prepared on the warfare under those climatic circumstances as we found on the Malayan peninsula ...

  Why have the Japanese defeated us ? by Gordon Lee


Massacres of POWs, Dutch East Indies, 1941-1942

  The Carnage at Laha, February 1942
... Each Australian was decapitated by a sword blow to the neck severing the head, death was almost instantaneous, and carried out by about ten samurai wielding Japanese having despatched two or three prisoners ...

  The Bangka Island Massacre, February 1942
... They just swept up and down the line and the girls fell one after the other. I was towards the end of the line and a bullet got me in the left loin and went straight through and came out towards the front ...

  The Balikpapan Massacre, February 1942
... If the Balikpapan garrisson destroyes the oilfields and installations, than we will kill the commanding officer and his soldiers and all other Dutchmen without exception ...

Tarakan Island, January 1942

The Japanese executed the entire crew of the Karoengan coastal battery, after the sinking of two Japanese Minesweepers W13 and W14. The battery at the south point of the island wasn't informed about the capitulation due the fact that all communications were destroyed. The Japanese naval commander promised amnesty for the guncrews and based on this promise the Dutch Island Commander managed to persuade the guncrews to surrender. The Japanese Army Commander on the other hand was to brutal to have the prisoners turned over to him. So he ordered to tie the men into small groups of three. Some time later they were thrown into the water where all 219 Dutch soldiers drowned.

Menado, Celebes Island, January 1942

Immediately following the Dutch surrender, the surviving KNIL troops and their commanders were put on trial by the Japanese who were enraged at the heavy losses they had suffered. As a result of this trial the D' Company Commander, KNIL Reserve 1st Lieutenant J. Wielinga and one of his platoon commander Sergeant-Major H.J. Robbemond, Foerier B. Visscher and nine native soldiers were bayonetted or beheaded.

Makassar, Celebes Island, January 1942

On February 9, Japanese troops landed about 8000 men south of Makassar. A strong detachemnt immediately advanced towards Makassar. The guards of a bridge (numbers not given) south of Makassar were captured along with the bridge, but a KNIL company of native soldiers inflicted casualties upon the Japanese. In retaliation, the Japanese tied the men of the bridge detachment together three by three with their legbands, and threw them in the water. Probably this happen still on February 9th.

Kertosono, Java Island, March 1942

On March 5, 1942 a Dutch Marine unit received an order to advance towards Kertosono, which has recently been captured by the Japanese troops. The attack by itself eventually turned out to be nothing (bridges blown up, incomplete intelligence, etc). However, one small fighting group of Dutch marines under 1st Lieutenant H.S. den Hartog advanced until near Kertosono. There it suddenly came across with some Japanese troops. This was followed by a confused fight, during which the fighting group of Dutch marines was scattered. A small part (9 marines) was captured. They were bayoneted and beheaded on 6 March 1942 after their capture.

Tjiater, Java Island, March 6th 1942

Pieter Benjamin de Lizer was a soldier in the 5th KNIL Battalion. When the Japanese invaded Java on March 1st 1942, the 5th Battalion was transported to the Bandung area, in an effort to try to stop the Japanese advance.

De Lizer: " We arrived at Tjiater after hours of marching on March 5th. We were supposed to stop the Japanese advance here, but there was no real defensive line. No bunkers nor strongholds, just some small foxholes. The next morning I was ordered to get some food and coffee for my comrades. Suddenly the Japs started shooting at us. I saw the first casualties. I ran to my foxhole and prepared myself for combat. I had about 100 rounds for my rifle and a handgrenade. We started shooting at the direction where the enemy fire came from. In the beginning we were brave enough to jell "Tojo, klojo!" (Tojo, asshole) but that stopped when Japanese aircraft began strafing our position. More dead and wounded comrades. After a few hours I saw the Japanese infantry heading directly towards our position. I managed to hit a couple of them and when they were near enough I threw my grenade. There were simply too many of them and they overwhelmed our position. Fierce man-to-man fighting was going on. When we saw one of our men, after he surrendered, being beaten by the Japs the fighting became even more brutal. But the end was near and at a certain moment, one of the Nips jumped right on top of me and knocked me out with his rifle.

Our hands were tied with our own leather belts. 72 of us were taken prisoner; the rest was dead or managed to escape. The Japs stole our watches and rings and those who protested were beaten. We were given a cigarette as some sort of compensation. Than the Japs took us about 500 meters up the hill. We were ordered to take off our puttees and with these they tied us up three-by-three. I was tied up with Koll and Frederiks. We wondered what was going to happen with us but when the Japs positioned two machineguns in front of us, it all became clear. Some of us started praying, others just jelled. Strangely enough, I was completely calm; no fear at all. It was just like someone was protecting me. When the machineguns started firing, I fell to the ground with Koll and Frederiks landing on top of me. I could feel that I was hit but still alive. When the shooting stopped I could hear the Japanese searching for survivors. When they found one, they killed him with their bajonets. The footsteps were now very close but they must have thought that I was dead. Only after a few hours, when I was completely sure that they had gone, I stood up. Frederiks was dead but Koll was also still alive. He managed to free himself with his teeth and than freed me. I was hit four times; two bullets hit my leg, one my shoulder and one got stuck in my lung. When we looked around us we were shocked by the terrible sight; these bloody human remains once were our comrades. We couldn't stand it much longer and fled ".

Pieter Benjamin de Lizer managed to avoid the Japanese for days, until he finally reached Bandung on March 12th 1942. 72 POW's were excecuted at Tjiater of whom only three survived. The main cause for this massacre could be the fierce resistance offered by the 5th Battalion, which delayed the Japanese advance for several hours. All victims were buried at Bandung cemetery.

Tragedy at Maos, Java Island, the night of March 6-7 1942

Following the heavy bombing of shipping at Tjiltjap there was now little hope of getting away by sea, so a considerable body mostly of unarmed RAF and RAAF men (about 2.500), who had amassed at Poerwerkerta, about 30 miles inland from the port, were now to be moved westwards by rail. Their destination was Tasikmalaja airfield, 50 miles south-east of Bandoeng.

By the evening of 6th two trains had arrived at Poerwerkerta, each made up of a few carriages and a number of freight vans, the first of which were carrying a load of high octane fuel and aircraft spares. This train, under the command of Wing Commander Ramsay Rae and packed with airmen, departed at about 19:00, heading south to the junction with the main east-west line at Maos, a short distance from the Serajoe river. The second train, with Wing Commander N. Cave in charge, followed about two hours later but soon caught up with the heavily laden, slow moving first train. At least 600 airmen were packed on the two trains. At 22:15 p.m. when seven miles north of the junction, near the trackside kampong at Sampang, the first train was ambushed by advanced units of the 56th Infantry Regiment, part of the Japanese force that had landed at Kragan and had infiltrated the area. Attacking with mortars, machine guns and hand grenades, they blew several of the metal freight vans off the track, in one of which two airmen were killed while a number of others were wounded. S.H. Adcock, formerly of 152 MU, recalled: " We had been travelling for quite a while and started to cross an embankment - the doors of the wagons were open to give some fresh air - then we ran into an ambush. A shell burst in the freight van in front of ours, causing many casualties, and the young airman talking to me in the doorway fell dead at my feet, shot between the eyes. The driver and fireman jumped from the engine and let the train go. The rear wagons were full of oil (sic) and were blazing furiously. In one of the leading wagons was an airman who, prior to the war, was a fireman on the LMS railway, and when he saw the engine crew dive over the side, climbed along the trunks to the engine and kept it going until it ran out of steam, as it had been damaged ".

Meanwhile the second train, forced to stop by the wrecked vans, also came under attack. The engine was hit, and there were further casualties amongst the airmen in the crowded carriages and wagons. Fl./Off. J. Fletcher-Cook was ordered to proceed towards Maos in an endeavour to acquire a rail car in which the wounded could be conveyed. One party of 74 under Flt./Lt. G. Carr, including a dozen wounded, set off towards Sampang but ran into a Japanese patrol just after midnight and were forced to surrender; five of the wounded died. The Japanese did not press home their attack and withdrew into the surrounding jungle indicating, perhaps, that only a small force was involved. Groups of survivors made their way southwards along the tracks towards Maos and after a march of two to three miles arrived at a deserted trackside farmhouse, where the men were assembled and were informed that not far away was a river that had to be crossed. Seven of the more seriously wounded were taken into some huts at the side of the track, were it was intended they should remain, with two medical orderlies, until help arrived. The five-span steel railway bridge which crossed the Serajoe river at Kesogihan had a walkway to one side. The Dutch colonial troops, whose duty it was to defend the bridge, had placed demolition charges and had orders to blow the bridge at midnight, which was by now rapidly approaching. Adcock continued: " When I and my close friends reached the second span from the far end of the bridge, the bridge blew-up, the centre spans going down into the river causing a large number of casualties ".

The tragic sequel was that the wounded airmen, lying in the huts on the other side, could not be evacuated in time. Corporal Bob "Butch" Finning of 84th RAF Squadron was one of the wounded: " There was a lot of blood around and fellows were moaning and some were in a very bad way and dying. We lay there for quite a time, then, as it began to get dark, I heard screams and yells from the shed next door. The Nips burst into our shed and began to bayonet the men on the floor. I knew it was curtains for me. I wriggled close to the poor bastard nearest me and lay on my side to take the thrusts on my arse and thighs. The screams from our blokes were terrible, but the Japs were as bad every time they lunged with their rifles. When they reached me I pretended I'd snuffed it! ".

Finning was bayoneted several times but miraculously sustained no fatal injuries; he continued: " The light was fading inside the godown, thank Christ, and I managed to pull myself among a pile of corpses. I could still hear other Japs next door, so lay on my wounded side so they could have a go at the other. Three or four of them came in and began to thrust at the people on the floor. I took another few jabs. I thought my time was up ". By the time the Japanese patrol departed, Finning had suffered 14 wounds but somehow was still alive. When he thought it was safe, he dragged himself to a window and managed to tumble out and staggered off into the bush. He passed out and when he regained consciousness it was light. Although in great pain from his many wounds and numerous insect bites, he was able to force himself further away from the scene of carnage, until he came to a river. This he managed to swim, although by now very weak from loss of blood, and lay exhausted on the bank; suddenly he became aware of half a dozen natives watching him. They dragged him to their kampong: " They jabbered around me, then decided to finish off what the Nips had started. They tied me up like a trussed chicken and put a rope round my neck to hang me. By that time I didn't care. They slung the end of the rope over the fork in a tree and hoisted me off the ground; I kept falling back down because I was heavy and they hadn't quite got the technique of doing the job. This time I was quite convinced I'd had my chips. They got me off the ground for about the forth time, my tongue was out and I was turning black and everything was spinning. Then I heard a car engine and they dropped me again. There was a loud yell and I heard them scatter and I vaguely made out a strange-looking bloke waving a bloody great sword around him and I made up my mind that I was going to be beheaded instead of hung ".

This Japanese officer was however his saviour. He had already picked up two other wounded airmen and now he cut Finning lose and put him in the car. All three were driven to a local POW camp full of Dutch prisoners. Finning eventually recovered. There was only one other survivor of this massacre, another RAF corporal, who had managed to escape unobserved from the hut before the killing reached him.

Kalidjati Airfield, Java Island, March 1942

Large number of British RAF ground personnel was slaughtered at the Kalidjati Airfield. British forces at Kalidjati used a hospital at Soebang run by P & T. Landen Plantations and manned by Dutch and British civilian staff. When Soebang was occupied the staff and patients were put to death, in some cases, days later. Australian war crime teams were responsible for investigating the events at Kalidjati after the war. They amassed a file but had little success in collecting direct evidence linking crimes to individuals concerned. This file was later passed onto the Dutch and no further action was taken. No any further details available.

Samarinda, Borneo Island, March 1942

On March 9th, 1942, near Samarinda (exact place is unknown) the commander of the secret airfield Samarinda II learned of the capitulation of the KNIL Army, and decided to surrender his detachment to the Japanese. For that purpose, he abandoned the airfield and took his men to Samarinda, but about 15 soldiers refused and went upstream the Mahakam River. The Japanese soon discovered them and 13 of them were immediately shot, but 2 Dutch soldiers managed to stay with the natives until April 1943, when they were betrayed and handed over to the Japanese. They survived.

Longiram, Borneo Island, 1942

The government representative of Longiram followed a sideriver of the Mahakam with several KNIL soldiers. He was forced in mid 1942 to seek refuge with the Dajak natives. These surrendered them to the Japanese. All were executed (exact place is unknown).

Long Nawang, Borneo Island, August 1942

In August 1942 the Japanese soldiers executed a large number of refugees in this Kampong, including all crew-members from a Glenn Martin bomber and three crew-members from Dornier X-34. In early 1942 was a Dutch bomber Glenn Martin shot down by Japanese Zeros near Miri, British North Borneo. The plane commander, Luitenant-Vlieger-Waarnemer Groeneveld (Lieutenant) was able to find the rest of his crew after they bailed out of the plane. They were now in the neighbourhood of Miri (British-Borneo) and decided to try to avoid the Japanese, who had just landed there. Together with a number of British civilians they reached Long Nawang on February 3rd. At about the same date Luitenant-ter-Zee 3e klasse A. Baarschers from the Dornier flying-boat X-34, together with two of his crewmembers, reached Long Nawang. The X-34 had made an emergency landing on December 16th, while it was heading for the Japanese invasion fleet near Miri. In the next months Long Nawang became some sort of "safe-haven" for all sorts of refugees, military and civilian, trying to escape the Japanese invaders. On February 17 or 18 landed the Japanese troops at Boelongan. Several KNIL soldiers died, but others managed to reach the outpost Long Nawang after a journey of weeks. They found American and British refugees there, and with the soldiers, there were probably about 90 white people and about 35 natives. In April 1942 the Japanese heared from native Dajaks that there still where KNIL soldiers at Long Berang and Long Nawang. The Japanese commander demanded their capitulation. The refugees at Long Berang did so, and they surrendered to the Japanese at Malinau at the end of April, but the ones at Long Nawang stayed there. On August 20th, 1942, was Long Nawang taken by surprise by a Japanese company. On August 27th of that month almost all white military refugees and one Ambonese soldier were executed, and one month later also all women and children. Among executed POWs were also:
- Luitenant-vlieger-waarnemer Groeneveld (pilot)
- Brigadier-leerling-monteur Haacke (gunner)
- Sergeant-bommenrichter Gobus (bombardier)
- Brigadier-luchtvaart-telegrafist Prinssen (wireless-operator)
- Luitenant ter Zee 3e klasse A. Baarschers.

Koetaradja, Sumatra Island, March 1942

In early March 1942 occured in Koetaradja a massacre of European inhabitants by natives from Atjeh province. About 20 KNIL and former KNIL soldiers were murdered, along with a number of Europeans. The natives entered Koetaradja on March 12, the date when the Japanese forces landed on the western part of the island. They started looting and destroying ("rampok" in Indonesian). Other KNIL forces had by that time already left the city. Other Europeans survived because suddenly the leader of the Atjeh rebellion, Nja Arif - "Teukoe", appeared and with the help of the Japanese, managed to prevent further atrocities.

Koetaradja II, Sumatra Island, March 1942

When the KNIL military detachment left Koetaradja on March 12, there were still some Ambonese and Menadonese KNIL soldiers present in the town. They were mainly cooks, hospital units, some patients and the guards of the station (probably a train station). Altogether they numbered about 50 men. They were waiting at the station for a train, when they were surrounded by Atjeh natives who forced them to give up their weapons. The Japanese arrested them and locked them up in the prison. Other soldiers also joined them, among them was some hospital personnel and a KNIL Lieutenant from Sabang. The prisoners, about 60 of them, were given nothing to eat or drink, and all were interrogated seperately. The former KNIL soldiers were released, but the others (56 men) were the victim of the Japanese revenge, which originated in the fact that the airfield of Koetaradja had been damaged before KNIL troops left the city. The men (8 Europeans and 48 Ambonese and Menadonese) were shackled on March 15 and loaded onto a Chinese fishing vessel. They were shot at sea and their bodies thrown in the water.

Middle Sumatra Island, March 1942

KNIL Lieutenant Van Zanten assembled a group near Takingeun. He had with him a European Sergeant and about 70 native soldiers. In late 1942, the Japanese got wind of the group. They arrested and mistreated 14 ex-KNIL soldiers while they were working in late November on a teafield, and the Japanese tried to capture Van Zanten's camp two days later. His group became smaller. In February 1943, the only European Sergeant with two native MP's were capured, and on March 10, almost a year after he started his journey, Van Zanten himself was captured with five native MP's. They walked into an ambush by native policemen. They were mistreated by the Japanese soldiers. Van Zanten was offered that in order to spare his life, he had to infiltrate the internment camp for POW's in Medan. He refused to do that, and was subsequently sentenced to death by a Japanese court-martial in Fort De Kock. He was executed on October 25, 1943. His Sergeant had been killed some two months earlier.

Pematang Siantar, Sumatra Island, 1942

Not far from the town of Pematang Siantar (where five women were raped) a group of about 25 Stadswacht soldiers (city guardsmen) were shot by the Japanese, probably because several bridges had been destroyed in the vicinity. Two KNIL officers who were also arrested lost their heads.

Toba Lake, Sumatra Island, March 1942

On March 14, 1942, not far from the Toba Lake, 25 KNIL soldiers (a MG platoon and members of the Stadswacht and Landwacht) were executed by the Japanese soldiers.

Bireuen, Sumatra Island, March 1942

On March 24, 1942, 27 native KNIL soldiers were allowed by Major Palmer van den Broek, after his capitulation, to disperse and seek refuge. In Bireuen, they were captured by natives who turned them over to a Japanese officer, who whipped all prisoners in the face with a belt. He released five. The other 22 prisoners were told to be shot because a bridge enroute to Takingeun had been destroyed. They were brought to the bridge, where four of them managed to escape by jumping in the water. The other 18 prisoners were shot.

Simaloer Island, Sumatra Island, 1942

On the island of Simaloer, off the coast of Sumatra, an unknown number of British and Dutch prisoners were executed and the same happened not far from Sibolga with two Dutchmen and six British prisoners. Their bodies were later found on the island Nias off the Sumatra coast.

The freighter "Langkoeas" massacre, west of Bawean Island, 1942

The freighter Langkoeas (7395 gross weight), a former German merchant ship "Stassfurt", captured in May 1940, had departed Soerabaja on January 1 for the Middle East, when in the evening of January 2nd, a torpedo struck the ship in the engineroom, immediately killing the 12 on watch. The crew (24 Dutch, 55 Chinese, 12 Java-natives) immediately began abandoning ship, as the Langkoeas started to founder. Some whaleboats had made it safely to sea, but the 4th Engineer J. De Mul (one of the survivors) saw with horror how suddenly the motor boat under Captain J. Kreumer was machine-gunned by an approaching ship. The motor boat was already towing one of the non-engined boats, and De Mul watched as one sailor after the other perished by machine-gun fire. Then the ship started to fire on the boat with De Mul, one of the men near him was hit in the chest and died. De Mul immediately jumped overboard, and grabbed the depthrudder of the submarine (the ship was a submarine as it turned out), after which he was grabbed by Japanese sailors and brought on deck. There, he saw a Chinese and a Javanese standing near the conning tower. He was brought to the captain, which interrogated him, but De Mul told him nothing of value. Then the captain said something like "you go home" and he was thrown overboard, followed by the Javanese and Chinese. The Langkoeas had sunk, and the three survivors tried to stay together. However, the sea was rough, and De Mul lost sight of the other two after a few hours. In the evening, he had the luck to find a heavily damaged raft, which he clinged to. He managed to climb onto it after catching his breath. Later, he saw the unconscious Chinese drifting by and managed to bring him aboard. An hour later, he also found the Javanese. The men spent some four or five days under the intense sun, without drinkingwater and food. Finally, the raft washed ashore on Bawean, an island in the Java Sea. There, they were found by a fisherman. They were later picked up by a Dutch flying boat Catalina and brought to Soerabaja, where they told their story. A crew of 88 men had perished, and post war analysis showed the Japanese submarine I-58 under the command of Commander Kitamura.

The tanker "Augustina" massacre, Western Java Sea, 1942

The tanker Augustina (3110 tons) of the Nederlandsch Indische Tankstoomboot Mij. left Batavia (Tandjong Priok) on February 27, trying to break out through Sunda Strait enroute to Australia. The ship was under command of Captain A.J. Moerman, who had received orders to scuttle the ship when it was in danger of being captured. In the afternoon of March 1, the tanker was forced to stop after a Japanese destroyer fired a few rounds, after which the captain immediately ordered to prepare for scuttling. The seavalves were opened and large amounts of water began to enter the engine room and tanks. The crew then abandoned ship and went into the 2 lifeboats, which were then ordered to come alongside the destroyer. The captain and first engineer were ordered aboard and before they were questioned, they were sprayed with a desinfectionvapor! They returned soon afer, telling the others they were to be brought back to the tanker to prevent its loss. The whaleboats were taken under tow by the destroyer. The captain and first engineer soon returned from the stricken tanker, but they had been unable to close all the vents. The destroyer then signalled the lifeboats could row away, but soon after, fire was opened on them by a machine-gun and tommyguns. The boat with the captain and first engineer was driven back to the destroyer, where a Japanese sailor jumped aboard and started killing its passengers. Many of the crew had jumped over-board, and one of them, the 3rd Engineer L. Meyer dove under and swam away. When he returned to the surface, he was immediately fired upon. Meyer later saw the destroyer sail away, but no whaleboats or other survivors. As the tanker was still afloat, he decided to returned to the ship and find some clothes (he was completely naked). He found an undamged boat and entered it, drifting away from the tanker. Then, in the night of March 3 and 4, he was picked up by another destroyer. He told the captain that he had remained aboard after the tanker was abandoned, and that he had been ill in bed. He heard water pooring in, and then also abandoned ship. His story was believed, and he was brought to Makassar on March 7, where he remained until October 15. He was then brought to Japan, to POW Camp Fukuoka No. 2. He was liberated on September 12, 1945, and he could prepare a statement about the loss of Augustina some three weeks later, in Manila, Philippines. A crew of 9 officers and 30 Chinese had been killed in this disaster, but two other Chinese apparently made it to shore. The name of the destroyer is unknown, and the same goes for the captain's name.

Note Please take notice that his overview is probably by far not complete. This is about all what could we find at this moment about the massacres in the Dutch East Indies 1941-1942. Please let me know by e-mail if you know for any massacres, which happened during this campaign and are not named on this list.

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