Operation J (ii)

This was the Japanese invasion and seizure of the island of Java in the Netherlands East Indies (28 February/12 March 1942).

Undertaken by Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura’s 16th Army after the success of ‘B’ (ii), ‘E’, ‘H’ and ‘L’ against the Allied forces in Borneo, Malaya and Singapore, Celebes and Sumatra respectively, ‘J’ (ii) completed the main phase of the Japanese expansion to the south in the 'Centrifugal Offensive' for the creation of the ‘Southern Resources Area’ of the ‘Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’.

To disrupt the Allies lines of communication between Australia and the Dutch East Indies before their launch of ‘J’ (ii) and also their landing on Timor, the Japanese attacked the port city of Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia on 19 February 1942 in a raid which was both the first and the largest single attack of more than 60 raids on Australia in 1942/43. On this day, 242 Japanese aircraft attacked ships in Darwin’s harbour and also struck at the town’s two airfields. The town was only lightly defended, and the Japanese inflicted heavy losses upon the Allied forces at little cost to themselves. The urban areas of Darwin also suffered some damage from the raids, and there were a number of civilian casualties.

At the time the Pacific War broke out on 7 December 1941, Brigadier E. F. Lind’s Australian 23rd Brigade of Major General Gordon Bennet’s Australian 8th Division was at Darwin preparing to send its three battalions overseas as individual units to Kupang ('Sparrow' Force of 1,700 men based on the 2/40th Battalion), Ambon ('Gull' Force of 1,700 men based on the 2/21st Battalion) and Rabaul ('Lark' Force of 1,390 men based on the 2/22nd Battalion). Darwin was also headquarters of Brigadier David V. J. Blake’s 7th Military District, with about two militia battalions of the Citizen’s Military Forces.

Early in 1942 Darwin was a small town with limited civil and military infrastructure. As a result of its strategic position in north Australia, the Royal Australian Navy and Royal Australian Air Force had constructed bases near the town in the 1930s and early years of World War II. After the start of the Pacific war in December 1941, Darwin’s defences had been strengthened, and in accordance with plans developed before the war, a number of Australian army and air force units stationed in the town were also sent to the Netherlands East Indies to strengthen the defences of the islands of Ambon and Timor. In the two months before the air raids, all but 2,000 of the town’s 5,800 or so civilians were evacuated.

The Japanese submarines I-121 and I-123 laid mines off Darwin in January 1942.

By mid-February 1942 Darwin had become an important Allied base for the defence of the Netherlands East Indies. The Japanese had captured the islands of Ambon (Amboina), Borneo and Sulawesi (Celebes) between December 1941 and a time early in February 1942. They had also planned their invasion of Timor on 20 February, with the invasion of Java to be launched soon after this.

In order to protect these landings from Allied interference, the Japanese decided to conduct a major air raid on Darwin. On 10 February Japanese air reconnaissance of the town identified an aircraft carrier (actually the US seaplane tender Langley), five destroyers and 21 merchant ships in the harbour, and 30 aircraft at the town’s airfields. Despite its strategic importance, Darwin was protected only poorly. The Australian army’s anti-aircraft defences comprised merely 16 3.7-in (94-mm) and two 3-in (76.2-mm) guns to counter aircraft flying at high altitude, and a small number of 0.303-in (7.7-mm) Lewis machine guns for use against low-flying raiders. As a result of ammunition shortages, the crews of these guns had been able to undertake little training in the recent past. The air forces stationed in and near the town comprised No. 12 Squadron, which was equipped with six Commonwealth Wirraway advanced trainers, which had been pressed into service as fighters but of which none was serviceable on the day of the Japanese raid, and No. 13 Squadron, which was equipped with Lockheed Hudson light bombers; another six Hudson aircraft, in this instance of No. 2 Squadron, also arrived at Darwin on 19 February after evacuation from Timor. There were no radars to provide early warning, and for all practical purposes the town’s civil defences were non-existent.

In addition to the Australian forces, 10 Curtiss P-40 fighters of the US Army Air Forces were staging through Darwin on their way to Java on 19 February. The P-40 pilots had little experience with this type of warplane, and had not previously seen combat.

There were 45 Allied warships and merchant vessels in Darwin’s harbour on 19 February: the warships included the US destroyer Peary and seaplane tender William B. Preston, and the Australian sloop Swan, corvettes Deloraine and Katoomba, auxiliary minesweepers Gunbar and Tolga, patrol boat Coongoola, depot ship Platypus, examination vessel Southern Cross, lugger Mavie and four boom-net ships. Several US and Australian troop transport ships were also in the harbour, together with a number of merchant vessels of varying sizes. Most of the ships were anchored near each other, presenting an easy target for air attack. Moreover, no plan had been prepared for how the ships should respond to an air raid.

In addition to the vessels in port, the US supply ships Don Isidro and Florence D were near Bathurst island bound for the Philippine islands group on the morning of the raid.

The attack on Darwin was carried out by Japanese aircraft launched from aircraft carriers and taking off from land bases in the parts of the Netherlands East Indies which had already been captured. The main force involved in the raid was Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo’s 1st Air Fleet, which comprised the fleet carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu together with a powerful force of escorting warships. In addition to the carrierborne aircraft, 54 land-based naval bombers also struck Darwin. These comprised 27 Mitsubishi G3M 'Nell' medium bombers flying from Ambon and 27 Mitsubishi G4M 'Betty' medium bombers operating from Kendari on Celebes.

The four Japanese carriers launched 188 aircraft during the morning of 19 February. These comprised 36 Mitsubishi A6M Reisen 'Zero' fighters, 71 Aichi D3A 'Val' dive-bombers and 81 Nakajima B5N 'Kate' torpedo bombers, the last equipped with free-fall bombs for this undertaking. Also involved were 54 land-based bombers. All of the carrierborne aircraft had been despatched by 08.45 under the leadership of Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, and were to attack the ships in the harbour as well as the port facilities. On their way to Darwin, A6M fighters shot down a US Navy Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat and a USAAF Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport near Melville island.

At about 09.15 the Japanese force was spotted by an Australian coast watcher on Melville island, who radioed a warning to the authorities at Darwin, where RAAF officers decided that the sighted aircraft were no Japanese but rather the 10 P-40 fighters, which were returning to Darwin at the time after bad weather had forced them to abort a flight to Timor. As a result, no air raid warming was sounded in Darwin.

The Japanese warplanes arrived over their target area at 09.58. Gunbar was the first ship to be attacked as she was strafed by nine A6M fighters. At about this time the town’s air raid sirens were belatedly sounded. The Japanese bombers then dive-bombed and level-bombed the ships in the harbour. This attack lasted for 40 minutes, and resulted in the sinking of three warships and five merchant vessels, and the damaging of another 10 ships. The ships sunk were Peary, Mavie, US army transport Meigs, Neptuna which exploded while docked at Darwin’s main wharf, Zealandia, Mauna Loa, British Motorist and the coal storage hulk Kelat. At least 21 labourers working on the wharf were killed when it was bombed.

Other Japanese naval aircraft also bombed the RAAF base and civil airfield in Darwin as well as the town’s army barracks and oil store. All of these facilities were badly damaged.

The Allied air defences at Darwin shot down seven Japanese aircraft. Five of the P-40 fighters had been on patrol over Darwin at the time the Japanese aircraft arrived over the town while the other five had landed to refuel. Four of the patrolling aircraft were soon shot down by the Japanese fighters, and all five P-40 warplanes on the ground were destroyed as they attempted to take off. The surviving P-40 shot down two D3A dive-bombers. Australian army anti-aircraft gunners also shot down two A6M fighters and one D3A. Another A6M was shot down after being struck by a single 0.303-in (7.7-mm) bullet: it crash-landed on Melville island and its pilot was taken prisoner. While another Japanese naval aircraft failed to return to the carriers, the reason for its loss is not known.

The first wave of Japanese aircraft departed the Darwin area at about 10.40, flying over Florence D and Don Isidro as they returned to their carriers.

The second wave of 27 G3M and 27 G4M land-based bombers arrived over Darwin just before 12.00. The Japanese force divided into two groups flying at 18,045 ft (5500 m), one of them attacking the RAAF airfield and its installations from the south-west while the other approached from the north-east. The two formations arrived over the base at the same time, and dropped their bombs simultaneously. The Japanese bombers then turned and made a second attack on the base. As a result of defective fuses, the Australian heavy anti-aircraft guns were unable to damage the high-flying Japanese aircraft, which departed the Darwin area at about 12.20.

This raid inflicted extensive damage on the RAAF base, though casualties were light, with only six RAAF personnel killed. Of the RAAF aircraft at the base, six Hudson light bombers were destroyed and one Hudson and one Wirraway were badly damaged. Two American P-40 fighters and one Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber were also destroyed.

The Japanese carrier force launched a small number of D3A dive-bombers during the afternoon of 19 February to attack Florence D and Don Isidro. The latter was the first to be attacked, and was sunk 25 miles (40 km) to the north of Melville island with the loss of 11 of her 84-man crew. The dive-bombers then attacked Florence D, and sank her off Bathurst island with the loss of four men. Don Isidro’s survivors were rescued by the Australian corvette Warrnambool on 20 February. Some of Florence D’s survivors landed on Bathurst and Melville islands, while the remainder were rescued by Warrnambool on 23 February.

The air raids caused chaos in Darwin, with most essential services including water and electricity badly damaged or destroyed. Fears of an invasion spread and a wave of refugees headed inland as total disorder broke out in the town. According to official figures, 278 RAAF servicemen were considered to have deserted as a result of the raids, although it has been argued that the ‘desertions’ were mostly the result of ambiguous orders given to RAAF ground staff after the attacks.

The number of people killed during the 19 February raids is disputed. The commission which investigated them in March 1942, identified 243 victims but, assuming a few were unidentified, concluded ‘the number is approximately 250’, while other assessments have put the dead as up to 262 or, according to a plaque unveiled in Darwin in 2001, 292. The plaque indicated 10 sailors had been killed aboard William B. Preston, whose losses according to the US Navy were 13 dead. Other estimates have put the toll far higher: one soldier claimed to have seen barges filled with bodies towed out to sea, a member of one of the burial teams recounted seeing uncounted bodies ‘shoved in a large hole dug by a bulldozer’, and according to some sources, Darwin mayor Jack Burton estimated 900 people were killed.

After the 19 February raid, the Japanese made 62 more bombing attacks on the Northern Territory and parts of Western Australia’s north coast between 4 March 1942 and 12 November 1943.

The administrative and economic heart of the Netherlands East Indies even though is only the fourth largest of the islands, Java is nonetheless a substantial island about 661 miles (1063 km) long and 200 miles (320 km) wide with an area of 49,536 sq miles (128297 km²). There is an east/west chain of active volcanoes averaging 7,000 to 11,000 ft (2135 to 3350 m) in height, the tallest point being Mt Semeru at 12,060 ft (3676 m). The island’s average rainfall is 90 in (230 cm) per year, but can reach 400 in (1015 cm) on some north-facing mountain slopes. The north-west monsoon lasts from November to March, and the dry season from June to October. Temperatures stay within the range 70 to 90° F (20 to 30° C) throughout the year. The mountains are covered with jungle, and the western part of the island is covered by very substantial bamboo forests. There are almost no coastal swamps, and the more level terrain is heavily cultivated and highly productive.

With a total population of at least 41 million in 1941, of whom 200,000 were Europeans and 600,000 Chinese, Java had a much higher population density than any other island of the Netherlands East Indies, and possessed valuable resources. Batavia was the most important port in the area, and there were 12 cities with populations of more than 50,000 persons. The island’s rich volcanic soil produced rice, rubber, sugar, quinine and other crops in quantity, and near Soerabaja there was a valuable oilfield yielding 1 million barrels in 1940, and the Dutch had constructed two refineries to exploit it.

The island had fairly well developed infrastructure, with a good road network and some 3,437 miles (5531 km) of railways. There were 876 telegraph stations and some telephone and cable systems.

As in the rest of the Japanese seizure of the Netherlands East Indies, the Japanese forces for ‘J’ (ii), totalling some 35,000 men, were divided into two groups: the Eastern Force, with its headquarters on Jolo island in the Sulu archipelago of the Philippines islands group, included Lieutenant General Yuitsu Tsuchihashi’s 48th Division and the 56th Regimental Group, and the Western Force, with its headquarters at Cam Ranh Bay in Japanese-occupied French Indo-China, included Lieutenant General Masao Maruyama’s 2nd Division and the 230th Regiment detached from Lieutenant General Tadayoshi Sano’s 38th Division. It was planned that elements of these two forces would land on the north coast of Java toward its eastern and western ends respectively.

The Allied forces on the island were led by the commander of the Netherlands East Indies’ army, Lieutenant General Hein ter Poorten, whose major formations were Major General Wijbrandus Schilling’s 1st Division, Major General Pierre A. Cox’s 2nd Division and Major General Gustav A. Ilgen’s 3rd Division. Although the army of the Netherlands East Indies had a theoretical strength of 25,000 supposedly well-armed men, mostly of Indonesian origin, many of these were in fact only poorly trained and of low morale as anti-Dutch nationalist feelings were rife. These land forces were deployed in four sub-commands: two regiments in the area of Batavia, one regiment in north central Java (one regiment), one regiment in southern Java, and one regiment in eastern Java.

The British, Australian and US forces (about 3,500, 2,500 and 1,000 men respectively) on the island were under the command of a British officer, Major General H. D. W. Sitwell. The British forces were for the most part anti-aircraft units (77th Heavy AA Regiment and 21st and 38th Light AA Regiments), and the only Allied armoured unit in Java was one tank squadron of the 3rd Hussars. Two British AA regiments without guns, the 6th Heavy AA Regiment and 35th Light AA Regiment, were used as infantry for the defence of airfields. The British also had transport and administrative units.

The Australian element, Brigadier Arthur S. Blackburn’s ‘Black’ Force, included the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, one company of the Royal Australian Engineers, one platoon of the 2/1st Headquarters Guard Battalion, about 100 reinforcements diverted while en route to Singapore, a handful of soldiers who had escaped from Singapore following its fall to the Japanese on 31 January, two transport companies, one casualty clearing station, and one company headquarters unit. Blackburn decided to reorganise his troops as an infantry brigade. The men were well-equipped in terms of light machine guns and light armoured cars, but they had few rifles, sub-machine guns, anti-tank rifles, mortars, grenades, trucks, radio equipment or Bren gun carriers. Blackburn managed to assemble a headquarters staff and three infantry battalions based on the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, 2/2nd Pioneers, and a mixed Reserve Group.

The only US ground force element in Java, commanded by Colonel Julian F. Barnes, was the 2/131st Field Artillery, a Texas National Guard unit, and this was attached to ‘Black’ Force.

The preparations for the invasion of the Netherlands East Indies had already progressed well as the Japanese forces had made fast progress in their advance from their base in the Palau islands group to take advanced bases in Sarawak and the southern part of the Philippine islands group. The Japanese then seized bases in the eastern part of Borneo and the northern part of Celebes while troop convoys, screened by cruisers and destroyers, with air support provided by fighters operating from captured bases, aircraft carriers and seaplane tenders, steamed to the south through the Makassar Strait and into the Molucca Sea. To oppose these invading forces was a small force, consisting of Dutch, British, Australian and US warships, many of them obsolescent vessels dating back to World War I, initially under the command of a US officer, Admiral Thomas C. Hart.

On 23 January a force of four US destroyers attacked a Japanese invasion convoy in the Makassar Strait as it approached Balikpapan in Borneo. On 13 February the Allies fought the unsuccessful Battle of Palembang to prevent the Japanese from capturing the major oil port in eastern Sumatra. On the night of 19/20 February, an Allied force attacked the Eastern Force off Bali in the Battle of the Badung Strait. Also on 19 February the Japanese made their first two air raids on Darwin, one by carrierborne aircraft and the other by land-based machines. The effective destruction of Darwin rendered it useless as a supply and naval base to support operations in the East Indies.

On 27 February there followed the Battle of Java Sea, which was in numerical terms the largest surface ship engagement since the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Shortly before this battle, the odds against the Allies could be construed only as very disadvantageous, for they were disunited in terms of their tactical doctrines and procedures as the ships came from four separate navies, demoralised by constant air attacks and reverses, pervaded by a feeling that the Japanese were unbeatable, and adversely affected by the poor co-ordination between the Allied naval and air forces.

As the Japanese gathered and started to launch the forces they needed for the 'J' (ii) assault on Java, on 27 February the main American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM) naval force, under Rear Admiral Karel W. F. M. Doorman’s command, departed to the north-east from Soerabaja to intercept a convoy of the Eastern Force approaching Java from the Makassar Strait. The ABDA force comprised two heavy cruisers (British Exeter and US Houston), three light cruisers (Dutch De Ruyter (Doorman’s flagship) and Java and Australian Perth), and nine destroyers (British Electra, Encounter and Jupiter, Dutch Kortenaer and Witte de With, and US Alden, John D. Edwards, John D. Ford and Paul Jones).

Rear Admiral Takeo Takagi’s task force, protecting the convoy which Doorman hoped to destroy, comprised the heavy cruisers Nachi and Haguro, light cruisers Naka and Jintsu, and 14 destroyers (Amatsukaze, Asagumo, Harusame, Hatsukaze, Kawakaze, Minegumo, Murasame, Samidare, Sazanami, Tokitsukaze, Ushio,Yamakaze, Yudachi and Yukikaze) including the ships of Rear Admiral Shoji Nishimura’s 4th Destroyer Flotilla. The Japanese heavy cruisers were much more powerful than their Allied equivalents, for each was armed with 10 8-in (203-mm) guns and superb 24-in (610-mm) torpedoes. By comparison, Exeter was armed only with six 8-in (203-mm) guns and 21-in (533-mm) torpedoes, and while Houston carried nine 8-in (203-mm) guns (of which only six were still operable as her after turret had been knocked out in an earlier air attack) and 21-in (533-mm) torpedoes.

The ABDA force engaged the Japanese in the Java Sea, and the battle raged intermittently from mid-afternoon to midnight as the Allies tried to reach and attack the troop transports of the Java invasion fleet, but they were repulsed by superior firepower. The Allies had local air superiority during the daylight hours, because Japanese air power could not reach the fleet in the prevailing adverse weather, which also hindered communications, making air cover, communications and reconnaissance co-operation between the many Allied parties involved still worse than it already was. The Japanese also jammed the radio frequencies. Exeter was the only ship in the battle equipped with radar.

The battle consisted of a series of attempts over a seven-hour period by Doorman’s combined force to reach and attack the invasion convoy: each was defeated by the Japanese force and the Allies suffered heavy losses.

The two forces came within sight of each other at about 16.00 on 27 February and quickly closed to firing range, opening fire at 16.16. Both sides exhibited poor gunnery and torpedo skills during this phase of the battle. Despite her recent refit, Exeter was not able even to come close to the Japanese ships with the fire of her 8-in (203-mm) guns, while Houston managed to achieve only a single straddle of one of the opposing cruisers. The only notable result of the initial gunnery exchange was Exeter being critically damaged by a hit in the boiler room from an 8-in (203-mm) shell. The ship then limped away to Soerabaja, escorted by Witte de With.

The Japanese launched two huge torpedo salvoes, 92 in all, but scored only one hit, on Kortenaer, which was struck by a 'Long Lance' torpedo, broke in two and sank rapidly.

Covering Exeter, Electra engaged in a duel with Jintsu and Asagumo, scoring several hits but in return suffering severe damage to her superstructure. After a serious fire had started, and her remaining turret ran out of ammunition, the destroyer’s crew was ordered to abandon ship. On the Japanese side, only Asagumo was forced to retire because of the damage she had sustained.

The Allied force broke off and turned away at about 18.00, covered by a smokescreen laid by the four destroyers of the US Destroyer Division 58, which also launched a torpedo attack but at too long a range to be effective. Doorman’s force turned to the south, in the direction of Java’s north coast, then to the west and then once more to the north as night descended in an attempt to evade the Japanese escort group and fall on the convoy. It was at this point the ships of Destroyer Division 58, with their torpedoes expended, departed on their own initiative to return to Soerabaja.

Shortly after this, at 21.25, Jupiter struck a mine and sank, and about 20 minutes later, as the Allied force passed the location in which Kortenaer had sunk, Encounter was detached to locate and recover survivors.

Doorman’s command, now reduced to just four cruisers, again encountered the Japanese escort group at 23.00. The two forces exchanged fire in the darkness at long range, until De Ruyter and Java were sunk by one devastating torpedo salvo. Doorman and most of his crew went down with De Ruyter, and only 111 men were saved from these two Dutch ships.

Only the cruisers Perth and Houston now remained. Short of fuel and ammunition, and following Doorman’s last instructions, the two ships retired, arriving at Tandjuk Priok, the port of Batavia, on 28 February.

Although the Allied force did not reach the invasion force, the battle did give the defenders of Java a one-day respite. The battle had cost the Allies two cruisers and three destroyers sunk, with the loss of 2,300 men, while the Japanese had suffered damage to one destroyer and had 36 men killed.

Perth and Houston were at Tanjung Priok on 28 February when they received orders to sail through the Sunda Strait to Tjilatjap on the south coast of Java. Matériel of all types was now in short supply on Java, and neither cruiser was able to rearm or refuel fully. Departing at 19.00 on 28 February for the Sunda Strait, without the Dutch destroyer Evertsen which was to have accompanied them but was not ready to depart until 20.00, the two cruisers chanced on the main Japanese invasion fleet for western Java in Bantam Bay.

Captain Hector M. L. Waller, Perth's captain, was senior to Captain Albert H. Rooks, Houston's captain, and was therefore in command. The only ships they expected to meet were Australian corvettes on patrol in and around the strait.

Just after 22.00, the Western Force's convoy of more than 50 transport vessels and carrying Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura, the 16th Army's commander, was entering Bantam Bay, near the north-western tip of Java. The Japanese troop transports were escorted by Rear Admiral Chuichi Hara’s 5th Destroyer Flotilla and Rear Admiral Takeo Kurita’s 7th Cruiser Squadron. Hara’s light cruiser Natori and the destroyers Asakaze, Fubuki, Harukaze, Hatakaze, Hatsuyuki, Murakumo Shirakumo and Shirayuki were the Japanese warships closest to the convoy, and flanking the bay to the north were Kurita’s heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma and the destroyer Shikinami.

Slightly farther to the north, though not involved in the Battle of the Sunda Strait that was about to be fought between 28 February and 1 March, was the light carrier Ryujo, Kurita’s other two heavy cruisers (Kumano and Suzuya), the seaplane carrier Chiyoda, and the destroyers Isonami, Shikinami and Uranami.

At about 23.00, the patrolling Fubuki spotted the Allied ships and followed them. At 23.06, when the two Allied cruisers were about half-way across the mouth of Bantam Bay, Perth sighted a ship about 5 miles (8 km) ahead of her, near Saint Nicolaas Point. It was thought at first that the ship was an Australian corvette, but when challenged, she made an unintelligible reply, with a lamp which was the wrong colour, fired her nine 'Long Lance' torpedoes from about 3,000 yards (2750m) and then turned away, making smoke. The ship was soon identified as a Japanese destroyer, probably Harukaze. Waller reported the contact and ordered his forward turrets to open fire.

In the ferocious night action which followed in the period until after 24.00, the two Allied cruisers were sunk, and two Japanese transports and a minesweeper were sunk by 'friendly' torpedoes. Two other transports, one of them Ryujo Maru with Imamura on board, were also sunk but later refloated. After his ship had been fatally hit and sank, Imamura jumped overboard but was rescued and brought ashore by a small boat.

Some 696 of Houston's crew were killed, while 368 others were saved. Perth lost 375 men, with 307 others saved. The captains of both cruisers were also killed, and all the survivors were taken prisoner.

Mikuma lost six men killed and had 11 men wounded as a result of damage caused by Houston. Shirayuki suffered a direct shell hit to her bridge, killing one man and injuring 11 others, while Harukaze suffered hits to her bridge, engine room and rudder, killing three men and injuring more than 15 injured.

Perth and Houston were still engaging the Japanese convoy as the Dutch destroyer Evertsen arrived. She was trying to catch up with the two cruisers when she saw the flashes of battle ahead of her. In an attempt to avoid the battle, Evertsen sailed around them and through Sunda Strait. All went well until she encountered the destroyers Murakumo and Shirakumo protecting the southern flank of Bantam Bay, and these immediately fired on her. Evertsen altered course and managed to escape, but after re-entering the Sunda Strait encountered the two Japanese destroyers once again. She again managed to escape under a smokescreen, but by then her stern was on fire. Still taking fire from the destroyers, Evertsen attempted to beach on a coastal reef. Firing all her torpedoes, the crew escaped before the fire reached the aft magazine, causing an explosion which blew off most of the stern. The majority of Evertsen '​s crew was taken prisoner on 9/10 March 1942.

The 2nd Battle of the Java Sea was the last naval action of the Netherlands East Indies campaign, and took place on 1 March, two days after the 1st Battle of the Java Sea. This final action saw the end of the final Allied warships operating in the waters around Java, allowing Japanese forces to complete their conquest of the Netherlands East Indies unhindered.

In the 1st Battle of the Java Sea, the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command’s fleet had been defeated, all its ships being sunk or dispersed. Severely damaged, the heavy cruiser Exeter had withdrawn to Soerabaja in the east, escorted by the Dutch destroyer Witte de With. There she was joined by the destroyer Encounter, which arrived with the survivors of the destroyer Kortenaer. Also at Soerabaja were the four US destroyers of Destroyer Squadron 58, which had also withdrawn from the battle, and the US destroyer Pope, which had been undergoing repairs.

After the fall of night on 28 February, Alden, John D. Edwards, John D. Ford and Paul Jones departed for Australia via the Bali Strait and, after a brief encounter in the Bali Strait with a Japanese destroyer, reached Fremantle on 4 March.

After emergency repairs, on 28 February Exeter also departed, in this instance for more extensive repairs in Ceylon, escorted Encounter and Pope. Witte de With was unable to leave as a result of mechanical problems, and was later bombed and sunk at Soerabaja on 2 March.

As Exeter had too deep a draught to pass through the Bali Strait, it was decided to go via the Sunda Strait, which was thought still to be open, and on the morning of 1 March the three Allied ships were to the west-north-west of Bawean island on a westerly course. The ships were making 23 kt, which was the most Exeter could manage.

At 04.00 on 1 March ships were sighted to the west and, being in no condition for battle, Exeter and the two destroyers reversed course, turning to the north-west to avoid contact. More ships were sighted at 07.50 to the south-west and, once again, the Allied ships had to alter course to avoid them.

At 09.35, two heavy cruisers were sighted approaching from the south: these were Nachi and Haguro of the Eastern Force, together with two destroyers, under the command of Takagi. Exeter and the destroyers turned to the north-east and increased speed, but soon sighted more ships approaching from the north-west: these were Ashigara and Myoko, together with two destroyers, under the command of Vice Admiral Ibo Takahashi.

Closing in on either side of the fleeing Allied ships, the four Japanese heavy cruisers opened fire at 10.20 as they came in range. Encounter and Pope responded by making smoke, and later attempted a torpedo attack, while Exeter returned fire, but at 11.20 the British heavy cruiser suffered a large-calibre hit in her boiler room, resulting in a loss of power and slowing her to 4 kt. As the four Japanese cruisers closed on Exeter, Encounter and Pope were ordered to make all speed for a nearby rain squall in an attempt to shake off pursuit. Shattered by gunfire, Exeter was brought to a standstill, and the destroyer Inazuma closed for a torpedo attack. Exeter sank at 11.40, some 97 miles (156 km) to the south of Borneo.

The Japanese heavy cruisers then switched their attentions to the fleeing destroyers: Encounter was quickly hit by 8-in (203-mm) shell fire and sank, but Pope was able to reach the rain squall and was lost to sight. This respite was short-lived, however, for soon after 12.00 she was spotted by aircraft from Ryujo, which was covering the Western Force, dive-bombed and sunk at about 13.50. There were slightly more than 800 Allied survivors, who were picked up and imprisoned by the Japanese., 190 of them subsequently dying in captivity.

Another two US destroyers and one Dutch destroyer were sunk as they attempted to escape to Australia.

The main ABDA Command naval strength had been almost totally destroyed: 10 ships had been lost. The Battle of the Java Sea ended significant Allied naval operations in South-East Asia in 1942, and in these actions the Japanese created access for their land forces to take control of one of the most important food-producing regions, Java, and by conquering the Netherlands East Indies Japan also gained control of 1940’s fourth largest oil producer.

Away to the north, before this time, in the period between 17 and 24 February the Japanese forces had completed their preparations for 'J' (ii). As far as the Eastern Force was concerned, on 17/18 February the light escort forces were transferred from Jolo to Balikpapan, from 19 to 22 February the main body with the 48th Division in 41 transport vessels proceeded from Jolo to Balikpapan. There were also units of the 2nd Base Force, including the light cruiser Kinu, minelayer Wakataka, minesweepers W-15 and W-16, and submarine chasers Ch-4, Ch-5, Ch-6, Ch-16, Ch-17 and Ch-18. Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka’s 2nd Destroyer Flotilla departed Koepang, Timor, on 24 February and joined the force at sea. Takagi’s 5th Cruiser Squadron operated in the eastern part of the Java Sea as a covering force. In addition, Takahashi, commander of the 3rd Fleet, arrived from Kendari on Celebes with the 16th Cruiser Squadron (heavy cruisers Ashigara and Myoko) and destroyers Akebono and Inazuma. Air escort and support was provided by shore-based aircraft and also the seaplanes of the 24th Carrier Squadron from the seaplane tender Mizuho and depot ship Sanyo Maru.

This force was spotted and reported on 21 February by a US submarine, and on reaching Balikpapan embarked the 56th Regimental Group.

As far as the Western Force was concerned, on 8 February Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa departed Cam Ranh Bay in occupied Vichy French Indo-China with the Japanese main force, comprising the headquarters of the 16th Army, the 2nd Division and the 230th Regiment of the 38th Division in 56 transport vessels. The escort comprised Hara’s 5th Destroyer Flotilla (light cruiser Natori and destroyers Asakaze, Harukaze, Hatakaze and Matsukaze bolstered by Fumitsuki, Minatsuki, Nagatsuki and Satsuki of the 22nd Destroyer Division). On 21 February Rear Admiral Shintaro Hashimoto’s 3rd Destroyer Flotilla (light cruiser Sendai and destroyers Fubuki, Hatsuyuki and Shirayuki of the 11th Destroyer Division together with Murakumo and Shirakumo of the 12th Destroyer Division), and the 1st Minesweeping Division (W-1, W-2, W-3 and W-4) arrived from the Anambas islands group together with other elements of the 9th Base Force including the light cruiser Yura, minelayer Shirataka and a number of submarine chasers.

Overall control was exercised by Kurita, commander of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, whose heavy cruisers Kumano, Mikuma, Mogami and Suzuya provided cover and support together with the destroyers Isonami, Shikinami and Uranami of the 12th Destroyer Division. Air support was entrusted to Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta’s 4th Carrier Squadron with the light carrier Ryujo and the 2nd Carrier Squadron with the seaplane tender Chiyoda, depot ship Kamikawa Maru and destroyers Amagiri, Asagiri and Yugiri of the 20th Destroyer Division.

On 22 February the 'J' (ii) invasion, scheduled for 26 February, was postponed for two days after Allied naval forces had been sighted by Japanese air reconnaissance. The Western Force, whose flagship was the heavy cruiser Chokai after the destroyer Ayanami had become unserviceable on going ashore, cruised off the Anambas islands group and the Eastern Force off Balikpapan. On 24 February the Western Force was reported by the US submarine Saury.

On 25 February Nagumo’s 1st Air Fleet departed Kendari through the Sape Strait to reach a position to the south of Java. Nagumo’s command comprised the fleet carriers Akagi and Kaga of the 1st Carrier Squadron and Hiryu and Soryu of the 2nd Carrier Squadron, battleships Hiei and Kirishima of the 3rd Battleship Squadron, heavy cruisers Chikuma and Tone of the 8th Cruiser Squadron, and the 1st Destroyer Flotilla (light cruiser Abukuma and destroyers Hamakaze, Isokaze, Tanikaze and Urakaze of the 17th Destroyer Division and Ariaki, Kasumi, Shiranuhi and Yugure of the 18th Destroyer Division) together with six oilers. The 1st Air Fleet was followed by the main force under Vice Admiral Nobutake Kondo with the heavy cruisers Atago, Maya and Takao of the 4th Cruiser Squadron, battleships Haruna and Kongo of the 3rd Battleship Squadron, and destroyers Arashi, Hayashio and Nowake of the 4th Destroyer Division.

The US submarines S-37, S-38, S-39, Perch, Sailfish, Saury and Seal and the Dutch submarines K-X, K-XIV, K-XV and O-19 had been positioned in anticipation of Japanese movements. S-38 and Seal reported elements of the Eastern Force on 24 and 25 February, and Saury similarly reported elements of the Western Force, but did not attack. Further sighting reports were received from reconnaissance aircraft.

It was at this juncture that the ABDA Command naval commander, the Dutch Vice Admiral Conrad E. L. Helfrich, ordered the British heavy cruiser Exeter, which was on escort duty with the destroyers Electra, Encounter and Jupiter, from Batavia to Soerabaja to reinforce Doorman’s battle squadron, as well as the Australian light cruiser Perth, US heavy cruiser Houston and destroyers Paul Jones, Alden and John D. Ford. The old British light cruisers Danae and Dragon were ordered to Tandjuk Priok with the destroyers Scout and Tenedos, as was the Australian light cruiser Hobart which, however, could not be refuelled in time.

When their air reconnaissance reported Allied warship movements off Java, the Japanese again halted their invasion forces on 26 February and indeed pulled back a little. A sortie made by Captain Howden’s Allied Western Force with the cruisers Danae, Dragon and Hobart and the destroyers Scout and Tenedos from Batavia to the area of Banka and Biliton on 26/27 February found nothing. However, attacks by Japanese aircraft from Ryujo, Chiyoda and Kamikawa Maru were equally unsuccessful. A sortie by Doorman’s Allied Eastern Force with the Dutch light cruisers De Ruyter (Doorman’s flagship) and Java, Australian light cruiser Perth, British heavy cruisers Exeter and US heavy cruiser Houston, and nine destroyers (British Electra, Encounter and Jupiter, Dutch Kortenaer and Witte de With, and US Alden, John D. Edwards, John D. Ford and Paul Jones) from Soerabaja against Japanese forces reported by reconnaissance during the night of 26/27 February also led to nothing, as did a US air attack on the Japanese Eastern Force.

The Japanese landed at three points on the north coast of Java on 1 March 1942. After peripheral involvement in the Japanese naval victory in the Battle of the Sunda Strait, the convoy carrying troops to western Java landed its forces in Bantam Bay near Merak and Eretan Wetan, while that carrying troops to eastern Java had been peripherally involved in the Japanese victory in the Battle of the Java Sea a few hours before delivering its troops at Kragan.

It was on 30 January that Imamura, commander of the 16th Army, having already discussed preparations with Takahashi, commander of the 3rd Fleet, had received the order for his 16th Army to launch the invasion of Java.

The Western Force convoy consisted of 56 transport ships carrying the men of the 16th Army’s headquarters and the 2nd Division divided into Major General Yumio Nasu’s ‘Nasu’ Detachment, Colonel Kyusaku Fukushima’s ‘Fukishima’ Detachment and Colonel Hanshichi Sato’s ‘Sato’ Detachment) and the 230th Regiment. The convoy left Cam Ranh Bay at 10.00 on 18 February, with Imamura embarked on the transport Ryujo Maru.

Strong naval support for the Western Force and Eastern Force was provided by the Direct Support Force, comprising the heavy cruisers Ashigara and Myoko, and destroyers Asashio, Oshio, Arashio and Kawakaze. Led by Rear Admiral Kenzaburo Hara, the Western Force convoy’s escort comprised the Support Force (heavy cruisers Mikuma, Mogami, Kumano and Suzuya, and destroyers Amagiri, Asagiri and Yugiri); the 3rd Escort Force (light cruisers Natori and Yura, and destroyers Asakaze, Harukaze, Hatakaze, Natsukaze, Fubuki, Shirayuki, Hatsuyuki, Satsuki, Minazuki, Fumitzuki, Nagatsuki, Shirakumo, Murakumo, Hibiki, Akatsuki and Hatsuharu); and the 1st Air Group (light carrier Ryujo).

At 23.20 on 28 February the transports carrying the ‘Nasu’ Detachment and ‘Fukushima’ Detachment began landing troops at Merak; 10 minutes later they were joined by the other transport ships. The ship carrying the ‘Sato’ Detachment dropped anchor in Bantam Bay. By 02.00 on 1 March, all the ships had reached their designated positions.

The Merak Coastal Detachment, comprising a section from the Captain F. A. M. Harterink’s 12th Battalion, engaged the Japanese with machine gun fore as they landed, but was quickly overrun. On 1 March, the Japanese established their initial headquarters in Serang.

The ‘Nasu’ Detachment was ordered to capture Buitenzorg to cut the escape route from Batavia to Bandoeng, and the ‘Fukushima’ Detachment and ‘Sato’ Detachment would meanwhile head for Batavia through Balaradja and Tangerang. On 2 March the ‘Nasu’ Detachment reached Rangkasbitung and continued to Leuwiliang, 15 miles (24 km) to the west of Buitenzorg.

The Australians of the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion were positioned along the river bank at Leuwiliang and put up a determined defence, and accurate salvoes by D Battery, 2/131st Field Artillery, destroyed many Japanese tanks and trucks. ‘Black’ Force thus delayed the Japanese advance for two days before being forced to withdraw to Soekabumi, lest it become trapped by Japanese flanking manoeuvres, and was then ordered to retreat to Soekabumi.

At about the same time, the ‘Fukushima’ Detachment and ‘Sato’ Detachment headed to the west toward Madja and Balaradja, finding many of the bridges already destroyed by the retreating Dutch and thus having to find alternative routes; some units took the opportunity to make for Buitenzorg.

On 4 March, ter Poorten decided to withdraw the bulk of his forces from Batavia and Buitenzorg to reinforce the defence of Bandoeng, and during evening of the following day the Dutch troops in Batavia surrendered to the ‘Sato’ Detachment.

By dawn on 6 March, the Japanese troops had attacked Buitenzorg, which was held by the 10th Company, 2nd Infantry, the 10th Company, 1st Infantry, Landstorm (militia) troops and a howitzer unit. In the morning the Japanese occupied Buitenzorg. A large number of Allied soldiers had retreated to Bandoeng, and the ‘Nasu’ Detachment pursued them through Tjiandjoer to enter Bandoeng on 9 March. Another force, the ‘Shoji’ Detachment, also entered Bandoeng on the same day, arriving from the north via Lembang.

On 27 February the 230th Regiment, led by Colonel Toshishige Shoji, separated from the main convoy and landed on 1 March at Eretan Wetan, near Soebang on the north coast of western Java. The unit’s objectives were the seizure of the important airfield at Kalidjati, thereby weakening Allied air strength, as the 2nd Division attacked Batavia. At dawn on 1 March nine Brewster B-339 fighters and three Martin Model 139 bombers of the Netherlands East Indies air force, together with 12 Hawker Hurricane fighters of the RAF’s Nos 242 and 605 Squadrons, carried out attacks on Japanese troops at Eretan Wetan.

Using motor vehicles, the Japanese advanced rapidly to Soebang. At 12.00 Kalidjati airfield was finally occupied following a tenacious defence by 350 British troops. Meanwhile other Japanese units led by Major Masaru Egashira bypassed the Allied defences and headed for Pamanoekan, and thence Tjikampek, where they were able to cut the road link between Batavia and Kalidjati. The fall of Kalidjati airfield greatly alarmed the Dutch, who set about planning hasty and ill-prepared counterattacks.

On 2 March, a Dutch armoured unit (the Mobiele Eenheid), commanded by Captain G. J. Wulfhorst with about 20 tanks, and supported by the 250 men of Major C. G. J. Teerink’s 5th Battalion, launched a counterattack against the ‘Shoji’ Detachment outside Soebang. The attempt initially went well, but in the afternoon the attack was driven off.

After this the main strength of the 3rd Air Brigade arrived at Kalidjati airfield. By the fall of night on 7 March, Japanese troops had reached the plateau of Lembang, which is only 5 miles (8 km) to the north of Bandoeng.

At 10.00 on 8 March, Major General Jacob J. Pesman, the commander of Bandoeng district, met Shoji in Lembang and surrendered.

The capture of eastern Java was the responsibility of the 48th Division of the Eastern Force from the Philippine islands group. On 8 February the 48th Division had sailed from Lingayen Gulf on the island of Luzon under escort of the 4th Destroyer Squadron. On 22 February, the convoy arrived at Balikpapan in south-eastern Borneo, where Major General Shizuo Sakaguchi’s ‘Sakaguchi’ Detachment , which had been involved in ‘B’ (ii), joined the 48th Division.

The 41 transports of the Eastern Force convoy departed Balikpapan on 25 February and sailed south to Java. The convoy’s escort and support elements comprised the Support Group (heavy cruisers Nachi and Haguro, and destroyers Ikazuchi and Akebono), the 1st Escort Force (light cruiser Naka and destroyers Murasame, Harusame, Yudachi, Samidare, Asagumo, Natsugumo, Minegumo and Yamakaze), the 2nd Escort Force (light cruiser Jintsu and destroyers Kuroshio, Oyashio, Hayashio, Hatsukaze, Yukikaze, Amatsukaze, Sazanami, Ushio and Tokitsukaze), the 1st Base Force (light cruiser Nagara and destroyers Hatsuhara, Nenohi and Wakaba), and 2nd Base Force (seaplane tenders Chitose and Mizuho).

At 00.15 on 1 March the Eastern Force started to land its troops at Kragan, a small village in eastern Java about 100 miles (160 km) to the west of Soerabaja. The 3rd (Motorised) Cavalry Squadron of the 1st Cavalry, under the command of Ritmeester C. W. de Iongh, resisted the landing force but was quickly overcome.

Meanwhile, a Dornier flying boat of the 6th Groep Vliegtuigen, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers of the US 7th Bombardment Group, Douglas A-24 dive-bombers of the US 27th Bombbardment Group and Vickers Vildebeest torpedo-bombers of the British No. 26 Squadron worked round the clock to harass the invaders.

After landing, the 48th Division was divided into Colonel Hifumi Imai’s ‘Imai’ Unit (Right Wing), Major General Koichi Abe’s ‘Abe’ Unit (Left Wing), Colonel Tohru Tanaka’s ‘Tanaka’ Unit (Tdepoe Raiding Unit), and Lieutenant Colonel Kuro Kitamura’s ‘Kitamura’ Unit (Bodjonegoro Raiding Unit). The ‘Tanaka’ Unit was to occupy Tjepoe and secure the oilfields there, and the ‘Kitamura’ Unit was to occupy Bodjonegoro near Tjepoe.

The whole division planned a two-pronged attack Soerabaja from the west through Lamongan and from the south through Djombang and Modjokerto. The ‘Tanaka’ Unit occupied Tjepoe on 2 March while the ‘Kitamura’ Unit occupied Bodjonegoro on the following day. The Japanese then overwhelmed the Dutch defences at the Ngawi Regency, Tjaroeban, Ngandjoek, Kertosono, Kediri and Djombang. At Porong, near Soerabaja, the Dutch troops of the 8th Battalion, 13th Battalion, 3rd Cavalry Unit, supported by the artillery of the US 131st Field Artillery, offered fierce resistance.

Eventually the Allied troops under Ilgen, the commander in eastern Java, had to retreat to the island of Madura after destroying Soerabaja’s infrastructure, and during the evening of 9 March Ilgen surrendered his surviving forces.

After landing, the ‘Sakaguchi’ Detachment from Balikpapan was divided into three one-battalion units as Major Kaneuji’s ‘Kaneuji’ Unit, Colonel Yamamoto’s ‘Yamamoto’ Unit and Lieutenant Colonel Matsumoto’s ‘Matsumoto’ Unit, and advanced to the south to occupy Tjilatjap and thus secure its harbour and block any retreat to Australia. In one week, the ‘Sakaguchi’ Detachment advanced rapidly and overcame the Dutch defence of Blora, Soerakarta, Bojolali, Jogjakarta, Magelang, Salatiga, Ambarawa and Poerworedjo. The ‘Kaneuji’ Unit and ‘Matsumoto’ Unit moved through the mainland and captured Keboemen and Purwokerto, to the north of Tjilatjap, on 8 March. The ‘Yamamoto’ Unit fanned out along the coast and mounted a two-pronged attack, entering Tjilatjap on 8 March. By then, however, the Dutch had withdrawn to Wangon, a small town located between Purwokerto and Tjilatjap.

On the following day Cox, commander of the central sector of Java, surrendered his troops to the Japanese.

By 7 March the Allied defeat was inevitable, with Tjilatjap already in Japanese hands. Soerabaja was being evacuated while Japanese troops were rapidly converging on Bandoeng from both the north and the west. At 09.00 on 8 March ter Poorten announced the surrender of the Netherlands East Indies’ army in Java. At 23.00 the Dutch radio station NIROM broadcast the last news from a temporary transmitter at Ciumbuluit. The Dutch governor, Dr A. W. L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer, together with ter Poorten and Pesman, later met Imamura and agreed to the capitulation.

On 10 March Imamura became the new governor of Java and Madura, thus becoming the highest authority in the occupied Netherlands East Indies. He stayed on this position for about eight months, until 11 November 1942. Imamura was subordinate to General (from June 1943 Field Marshal) Count Hisaichi Terauchi, commander-in-chief of the Southern Expeditionary Army Group, headquartered in the French Indo-Chinese city of Saigon, and governor of the ‘Southern Territories’ (Malaya, Burma, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Java, Sumatra and Borneo) and directly subordinate to the Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo.

On 12 March the senior British, Australian and American commanders were summoned to Bandoeng where the formal instrument of surrender was signed in the presence of Maruyama, the Japanese commander in the Bandoeng area, who promised them all the rights of the Geneva Convention for the protection of prisoners of war.

Immediately after this, the widely dispersed Japanese forces on Java wee reorganised. The 16th Army (2nd Division and 48th Division) was ordered to garrison Java, while the eastern territory (Lesser Sunda islands, Celebes, Ambon and Netherlands New Guinea) became the responsibility of the Japanese navy. The other units were deployed to other combat areas in Pacific or returned to Japan.

The surrender of the Dutch marked the end of the ABDA Command’s defence in the Netherlands East Indies and the collapse of the ‘Malay Barrier’ (otherwise ‘East Indies Barrier’). Because the Allied naval forces had been destroyed, the Indian Ocean and the approaches to Australia lay open to the Japanese navy.