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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Friday 13 October 2023

The Dutch-Indonesian War 1945-49

 This is a new Osprey Men-at-Arms book by Marc Lohnstein looking at one of the less well-known wars of liberation after WW2.

Dutch rule ended in the Netherlands Indies with the Japanese invasion in 1942. Indonesians participated in the Japanese administration and declared independence after the Japanese capitulation in 1945. A violent war ensued as Dutch forces attempted to reassert control over four years. Like other colonial powers, the Dutch discovered that there was no going back to colonial rule, and they were forced to recognise an independent Indonesia in 1949.

The author outlines the political background and the substantial Japanese occupying forces in 1945. A staggering 290,700 Japanese troops and civilians were based mainly in Java and Sumatra. The British Admiral, Lord Louis Mountbatten, was responsible for accepting the Japanese surrender and organising the return of the Dutch colonial administration. He used an Indian and an Australian corps for the task. They quickly realised that the Declaration of Independence had changed the reality on the ground.

The new Dutch governor, Dr Hubertus van Mook, sought to reach an agreement to reorganise Indonesia as a federation of semi-autonomous states, with a representative of the Dutch Crown as head of government. However, while this had some support from moderate politicians, the war had ended the credibility of the Dutch administration. 

The Indonesian forces reflected the different ethnic groups in the countries and were mainly armed with captured Japanese weapons. Cut off from supplies from abroad, they later relied on capturing Dutch weapons. They had some armour and a handful of aircraft and ships.

Dutch troops took over from the British in 1946. They were initially organised into seven brigades, each around 3,500 strong. By the end of 1946, they had around 146,000 men in Indonesia, made up of local recruits and Dutch conscripts, armed with surplus Allied equipment. They had limited air support, including Kittyhawks, Mustangs and B-25 bombers.  

The Dutch strategy envisaged using fast mobile columns to penetrate liberated territories. This was based on the view that support for the new Republic would be limited to the young and the intelligentsia. A similar mistake to the French and other colonial powers. Offensives were generally successful, but pacification was much more difficult. The war became a significant drain on the Dutch economy, just as the Cold War began in Europe. The UN called for a negotiated solution, and the US threatened the withdrawal of Marshall Plan aid. Their opponent, Col Nasution, would concede that ‘The reason that the Dutch were finally willing to withdraw their forces... was not because they were defeated by our army, but because... there was no longer any hope for them to destroy the Republic.’

As usual with this series, there are decent maps, ORBATS and colour plates of the main troop types. For wargamers, the Dutch had a mixture of Allied uniforms, and early Vietcong models would work for the Indonesian irregulars, with more traditional colonial uniforms for the Republican Army. I do like an obscure conflict, but this, while interesting, is a step too far for me. However, Vietnam gamers may find something of interest and, in the smaller scales, could get away with some common troop types.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review. The book sounds good but, as you indicated, this isn’t a conflict I’d look to game - it’s not especially something I’m interested or invested in (unlike, say, 1948 Israel War of Independence).