East Indies Crisis (1960-1976)

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty
East Indies Crisis
Part of the Silent War
East Indies Crisis.png
Two Dutch soldiers in Malaya watching the Krijgspeerd helicopters come in after a battle.
Date3 February 1960 – 22:03 11 November 1976
Location
Insular Southeast Asia
Result
  • Withrawal of the Dutch and formal end of the East Indies (1610-1976)
  • Independence of Soenda and Pinang
  • Refugee crisis
Belligerents
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Britain
The Philippines
Soendanese Liberation Front
Russia

Thai
Commanders and leaders
Cornelis van Langen
Willem Middendorp
Soedjojo Soesanto
Soerjadi Nazir
Kasan Said Narajau
Junaid Siahaija
Pieter-Bas Teterissa
Bassil Patawala
Strength
Netherlands
3,581,929 Total number deployed in the East Indies

1960-1967: 2,400,000 (estimated)
1967-1973: 5,000,000 (estimated)

1973-1976: Unkown
Casualties and losses
Killed: 294,918
Missing: 149,582
Total Casualties 444,500
Civilian dead: 8,000,000-11,000,000 (official)
~5,205,000 wounded (Estimated)
Military dead: 1,690,624
Total Casualties 9,391,694 - 11,895,624

The East Indies Crisis (Malay Roman: Prang Hindia Belanda), also known as the War of the Soenda Archipelago or the Anti-Dutch Liberation War, and also known as the Indian War in the Netherlands (Dutch: Indische Oorlog) was a military conflict fought between the Netherlands and pro-independence forces in Soenda. The conflict lasted sixteen years, making it the largest largest colonial conflict fought in the 20th century, and is also considered to be one of the most destructive wars in modern history. The East Indies Crisis was also concurrent with the rise of popular visual media, being the first "internationally perceptible" war.

Background

Social changes & the Djohor Uprising

In the aftermath of the great war, the Netherlands suffered greatly in a short time. The lowlands campaign, combined with the eventual grinding down of the French advance along the Rhine had exhausted the Netherland's industrial capacity. Its factories in the south were either destroyed or badly damaged, its production centers in the north working overtime to provide the goods needed to rebuild the south. All of this required raw natural resources, thus that more pressure was put upon the Dutch East Indies, the crown jewel in the Dutch empire to deliver the resources to rebuild the Netherlands.

This pressure led to a series of reforms that would change how the east indies were governed. The first of the reforms started in 1941, would see a large-scale centralization of governance in the east indies. Many former client states and protectorates in the region were stripped of their remaining powers and confined to increasingly just a ceremonial role.

All of these reforms had a simple goal, to make the extraction of resources from the east indies more effective and increase productivity. It would see the mass mechanisation of the agricultural sector, which led to mass internal migration and urbanisation as many traditional rural communities were uprooted. Swelling the urban population immensely to a point that many cities simply did not have the resources to deal with the migrants leading to the growth of shantytowns and other informal housing. This, in turn, led to a rise in crime, poverty and resentment towards the Dutch colonial authorities who did not provide adequate public services or attempt to remedy the growing social ills.

Unrest in Djohor

As the 40's progressed there was little sign that the social ills of the East Indies would be changing and the political neutering of the traditional local sultanates and kingdoms led to constant internal political struggle. The Sultanate of Djohor felt many of these problems intensely with both heavy elite dissatisfaction with their now powerless position and high levels of social unrest in the rapidly urbanizing cities of the region. In the late 40s the Sultan started to gather allies among different anti-colonial political parties as well as staff the royal guard and provincial police with supporters. In particular the Sultan started to gain followers and allies in the conservative Santri Islamic anti-colonial Partai Rakyat Islam Johor (PRIJ). Using their privileged position close the Sultan, the party (along with other political actors unhappy with heavy handed Dutch reforms started to sway the sultan towards revolt. They argued that the Netherlands was weak due to internal political upheaval, the lingering economic effects of the great war and a geopolitical refocusing of key military assets towards Europe. The Sultan was eventually convinced and after a year of preparations in secret, gathering arms and consolidating their position they decided to strike.

On the 4th of May 1952 in the early hours of the morning, local Dutch administrators across Djohor were killed in their beds and Dutch loyalist police forces were arrested and executed. This was the start of what would become known as the Djohor uprising, or as it's known in Soenda “The Butchering of Djohor”.

The Djohor Uprising

With the successful neutralization of KNIL & DEI government forces in the sultanate, the Sultan's forces believed that they could consolidate their position and withstand any Dutch or colonial counter offensive. It was also the belief that the Netherlands would not be able to deploy the forces needed to deal with the uprising. Outrage and fear struck colonial authorities once news reached Batavia that Djohor had rebelled and neutralized the local DEI forces. Batavia in this period was under a great deal of pressure from the Netherlands to facilitate the exploitation of cheap natural resources from the East Indies. The Hague could not tolerate any form of rebellion, they could not allow the loss of what was in essence their temporary economic lifeline, in rebuilding the Netherlands.

The 9th Batavian regiment disembarking near Djohor prior to the start of the Djohor counteroffensive.

The Dutch East Indies Governor-General Martien van der Goot believed that the Djohor rebellion had to be stopped in order to avoid a "domino effect" of rebellions across the East Indies. Additionally the governor- general took personal slight with the ease that the Djohor sultanate was able to dispatch the Dutch authorities in the region, which later informed DEI colonial policy in the lead up to the East Indies Crisis in the 1960s & 70s. As shown from recently released documents Governor-General Martiem van der Goot thus ordered, the commander of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) Lieutenant-Generaal J.A. Vetter, the following: “Make an example out of these rebels kill them all.”

Commander Vetter, a veteran of countless wars (such as the Corean expedition, the Rhine front, the east Asian expeditions in the GW) would follow this command to the letter. It must be understood that the KNIL in 1952 was an organization that was different from itself in 1935. Experience modern wars created a battle-hardened organization that was brutally efficient in the way it carried out its operations, which was out of the norm in the regular Dutch military, with the exception of the Royal Dutch Marines and the Korps Speciale Stoot Troepen.

Soldiers of the 9th Regiment in Johor, firing from their positions.

On May the 7th KNIL forces landed of the 9th Batavian regiment landed on the island of Singapura in front of Djohor after facing limited naval opposition. They fought with the sultan's forces stationed on the island for 6 days- and in a slow but steady push they eventually took the island for use as a forwards operations base. Over the subsequent weeks KNIL forces surrounded the city of Djohor proper winning several battles with the under equipped and poorly organized forces of the Sultan. A the end of the month, the city had been breached and the rebellion had quickly turned to urban warfare, fighting block by block, house per house, street by street leading to the partial destruction of the city.

The last week of May 1952 has later been referred to as "The Butchering of Djohor" due to the widespread atrocities committed by KNIL soldiers. Reports of mass killings of civilians, rape & torture are attested to by first hand and third party investigation of the event. Additionally the KNIL were known to utilize 'death squads' in rounding up opposition or suspected rebel forces.

KNIL soldiers with a Stier Panzerkannon, routing out the last of the resistance in the city.
A soldier of the 9th Regiment walking in Djohor, 12th of may 1952.

KNIL soldiers showed little mercy and did not care and saw all locals as rebels resulting in wide-scale destruction & depopulation. On the 30th of May, the Djohor palace was taken by KNIL and after an alleged period of torture the sultan of Djohor and his family were executed extrajudicially.

The "Butchering of Djohor" saw widespread condemnation internationally especially from IRC aligned nations, the Muslim world and the newly formed ANAN. Additionally, the event had many 'knock on' effects within the DEI, radicalizing the Soendanese intelligentsia & many within the Muslim middle and lower classes across the colony. The event also saw the growth and expansion of National Republicanism within the East Indies as anti colonial political movements sought out a political ideology that could hopefully unify the anti imperial struggle in the East Indies with foreign supporters abroad. Several political scientists have also posited the theory that the destruction of the Partai Rakyat Islam Johor was a a massive boost to later national republican parties as the early PRIJ was the primary competitor of early national republican parties like the Partai Pembebasan Hindia Timur.

Start of the revolt

What started out as a relatively small and contained uprising to northern Sumatra in February 1960 had by January 1st, 1962 turned into an open revolt. the KNIL had been pushed out of the northern & central interior and was relegated to the coast with the southern parts of Sumatra still under their full control. While initially, this would not warrant further expansion, by this time small uprisings in Malaya, Borneo, and Celebs had been crushed stretching the KNIL her limited manpower. On the 1st of February 1962, the Staten-Generaal of the Netherlands approved 120.000 European Dutch soldiers to be sent to the indies to aid the KNIL in squashing the revolt and to bring back Dutch control to the archipelago. through the year it seemed to go well with Dutch forces crushing any revolts on the islands and regaining control over central Sumatra. This was done through a relative standard colonial campaign, they first secured the major population centers and worked from there. Yet unbeknownst to the Dutch forces, the Liberation was only growing in their numbers by recruiting from the countryside, which still was not fully under Dutch control, yet it was seen at that time as a winnable campaign. All changed when on new Year eve 1963 a major conventional assault by the Liberation Front was launched against major areas of Dutch control in central and northern Sumatra, most notably Padang in northwest Sumatra and Pekanbaru in central Sumatra. This conventional assault caught the Dutch forces off guard as the liberation front used older Russian tanks, heavy weapons such as artillery and mortar's. Due to the surprise and the fact that it was New Year’s eve the Dutch ability to respond was limited and it suffered for it as it lost control over Padang and Pekanbaru, it created thus a frontline across Jambi and the interior of southern Sumatra.

New Year Offensive

A Dutch soldier near Palembang during the fighting around the city in late February.

The New Year Offensive as it was called changed the nature of the war from a “colonial conflict” where the rebels were relegated to asymmetric warfare and the Dutch approach was one of limited action. This new phase due to the Liberation front her firm control over northern and central Sumatra. This base of operations how small as it was let the rebels to built up their potential forces and at the same time the attacked showed that the Dutch were not undefeatable, the revolution began to more properly spread across the archipelago. When the front by mid-February had stabilized the Dutch began to change their strategy and began to approach it more seriously. The first mass use of strategic bombers soon followed and shore bombardments became more and more common, the use of Search & Destroy tactics now became the norm. This phase of the war however was still primarily a guerilla conflict as the Dutch in sheer firepower outgunned any conventional force the rebels could bring to bear. This period is often seen as one of the more intense periods as across the islands from Celebs to Borneo and in the Malaya peninsula guerilla strikes became more and more common and Sumatra quickly became just one of the fronts of what was by now a full-blown uprising. From 1963 all the way up to 1967 the Dutch fought a brutal campaign against ever-increasing numbers, entire villages were burned the ground, the mass use of chemical agents such as tear gas employed, firebombing in the form of napalm was used on mass turning once green jungles into burned up husks.

(To be worked on)

Phase of Fire

Colonel (later General) Cornelis van Langen in 1964, he is often cited as one of the founders of the modern Netherlands military doctrine, that to this day is roughly based on his original doctrine.

The period from 1963 up to 1967 commonly called “Phase of Fire” marked the rapid departure from it being a standard colonial conflict and instead of being something bigger. KNIL and now regular Dutch forces were not fighting colonial uprisings anymore but a well-organized foe. While in individual battles Dutch/KNIL units always came out on top it was the attrition rate that came with patrolling the central parts of Sumatra that were simply too high. Long-range patrols by the KNIL often resulted in 3 out of 10 men being killed, 4 more being wounded. This rate of attrition was simply far too high for the Netherlands to sustain what really woke the Dutch command structure up was the New Years’ offensive. The use of conventional military forces by the rebels combined with asymmetric warfare was a deadly one. While eventually the front was stabilized by mid-February 1963 the situation had not. Uprisings across the islands, from Malaya to Celebes and even Borneo were becoming more intense and organized. Dutch & KNIL forces were more and more spread thin with quelling the insurgencies. This started limiting and weakening their power projection capabilities in the region. It was around this time (April 1963) that Lieutenant-General Cornelis van Langen of the Army came with a new doctrine, a doctrine that would become known as the Lange-Doctrine and would change the face and nature of the war.

A shift in doctrine

Lange doctrine often referred to by some of its opponents as the “terror doctrine”, a doctrine still today held in the military of the Netherlands. Was the radical shift in the way the Netherlands conducted the war. It saw a rapid shift in the objectives, fighting styles and ways of achieving said objectives, as well as the command structure.

The reason for the radical shift in doctrine was the new Year offensive. It showed the faults within the standard doctrine of the Netherlands. the Netherlands in response to the offensive pushed to retake the lost lands, something that resulted in a massive loss of manpower due to the attrition of the fighting. It showed that this way of fighting, of holding lands could simply not be sustained for more than maybe 4 years. The high casualties, the Soenda rebel's home field advantage combined with their higher recruitment numbers, shorter supply lines and increased rates of high-tech weapon possession meant that a change was needed.

This led then colonel van Lange to come up with a solution to the problem, it would change the entire long-term strategic objectives of the Netherlands. It would no longer focus on holding and taking back the land, rather it would hold valuable areas and operate out of those areas. It would instead put its focus on fighting the Soendanese rebels and simply in the words of van Lange;

Annihilate the rebels' ability to fight the war, not just this one but for all future conflicts.

It now would not see victories as taking the land rather, it would see the victories in the form of destroying supply dumps, logistical hubs, supply networks, and recruitment fields, destroying or depopulating areas of recruitment, no longer would the Dutch show mercy you were either with them or against them.

This shift in the way of fighting, changed the nature of the conflict, from now on the Netherlands was taking the initiative rather than reacting to Soendanese attacks. It saw the rapid restructuring of the military into a mobile force able to respond rapidly to a multitude of threats simultaneously. It necessitated the proliferation of airborne response forces, rapid mechanization of the military forces and upgrades in the organic firepower available to local commanders. This rapid shift made it possible for more offensive operations to be conducted and it removed valuable manpower from simple garrison duty in lands that were not viable to be held at the moment. It in essence meant the Netherlands would hold control of the major urban area their surrounding lands, valuable economic sites and the coastal areas and waters.

Kolonel Cornelis van Langen proposed this idea before the general staff on the 22nd of march 1963, and it was accepted on the 23rd of march 1963. This resulted in Cornelis his promotion to General with a simple mission, put together a team and reform the military. It would on that same day see the rapid planning for the transformation of the military of the Netherlands. It would see units withdrawn to the designed areas. It left the rebellion in some confusion as the Netherlands withdrew from lands it had just taken back. This consolidation of the valuable lands allowed the military to rotate the old troops back to the Netherlands or Zeylan for retraining and rotating the new forces.

This respite that lasted from march 1963 up until early 1964 would see the rapid retraining shift in the quality of Dutch forces. It would see the build-up of men and material for the new way of fighting, as it happened Russian intelligence sources were unable to determine the reason for this rapid shift in doctrine, equipment and the like. While many people think this was something that happened rapidly, it was just a consolidation of already planned rapid replacement of equipment, such as armoured vehicles, air vehicles and uniforms and weapons.

Moving to a war footing

This radical shift in military doctrine was not something completely unprecedented, as in the great war. The Netherlands since the great war made it law that all factories would be able to move to wartime production and that those capabilities would be maintained, as technology progressed. This law combined with the Netherlands' basic defence policy having it possible to conscript large parts of the population rapidly meant the foundations were present.

At the end of March, the orders had been placed with requirements at most military companies to develop new weapons of war. These weapons were delivered at a pace unseen before in dutch history as it led to the mass production of remarkably effective, efficient military equipment. At the same time orders were placed with specifications at foreign factories in Tauland, Nieuw Nederland. The most notable change was the reorganization and reformation of the system of conscription or Dienstplicht. Its duration of service was increased to 24 months, of which 6 months were basic training, which was made longer to increase the quality of the soldier, and the remaining 18 months were on deployment, with the requirement to be called up in times of conflict to last up until the age of 50.  

Before these organization reforms, the Diensplicht had more of a “reserve” role, in that it was there to increase the size of the reserves. Yet after the reforms, the expansion of the training regime, the educational requirements and the average Dutch conscript were quantitatively better than any other in the world. This expansion in the military education of the average conscript was done to allow that the new style of mobile warfare, was not allowed if the old requirements where there.

It was something that was not popular with the public yet was able to be passed in parliament, as the conservative party her voters were often not eligible for conscription themselves. This period thus only resulted in increased military spending, a longer national service time and a change in doctrine which resulted in an intenser conflict. It also would see the rise of the anti-war movement, a movement that called for the Netherlands to pull out of Indonesia and seek an ap peaceful solution.

All these reforms tho were put to the test in December of 1963 during operation “Testveld”, this operation would see approximately 12,000 fresh-faced recruits, equipped with the newest equipment and new vehicles and a new training regime go ou and about in Malaya. It resulted in approximately 57,000 enemy combatants killed at the cost of 1200 of their own. It was thus proven to be a success and they were further implemented.

Operation Slachthuis

Operation Slachthuis was launched on the eve of 1965, on the 2nd of January 1966 by the Krijgsmacht & KNIL. It was the rapid and sustained escalation of the military operations against the Soendanese rebels with the objective of neutralizing Soendanese fighting capabilities, it was launched as the whole military capabilities of the Netherlands were reorganized in the east indies.

The four objectives of the operation (which evolved over time) were to boost the morale of the Landmacht & KNIL militaries at the time, promote the newly established regime in Batavia, and persuade the Soendanese rebels to come to the negotiation table, destroy Soendanese logistical systems, lower their morale and destroy their ability to fight this war sustainably by destroying their limited industrial ability, halt the flow of men and material into Dutch controlled lands and weaken their air defence systems. It was also launched to send a message to the Dutch allies that they were in this fight to win it, that they were able to fight it and to its opponents that they should not underestimate them.

The operation became one of the most intense air/ground battles waged before the blooding and the final years of the war. It was a difficult campaign since the enemies were distributed across the islands, they had a mixture of Russian fighter interceptors and sophisticated air-to-air and surface-to-air weapons. This created one of the most effective air defences at the time, yet after the operation was done this air defence network was weakened and in some places destroyed completely. It did eventually see the Netherlands achieve its goal of severly destroying Soendanese air defense capabilities in the critical fronts.

1967-1972 (Stalemate)

The next 6 years (1966 - 1972) were marked by small-scale, jungle warfare, with intermittent periods of high-intensity large-scale operations conducted by both sides. At the time the Netherlands maintained control over large portions of southern Sumatra, all of the Malaysian peninsula, Java and most urban centers on those islands, with Borneo and Celebs being the areas where urban centers were heavily contested.

To deal with the new strategic reality of the theatre of operations, in that they were increasingly fighting overwhelming numbers, the KNIL units were more and more separated on an operational level yet integrated from a divisional command level. It would see an increase in large-scale bombing operations that devastated entire sections of the jungles, cities and other key areas where t was assumpted that rebel activity was present. This destroyed entire regions of Soenda and even eradicated several species as their biomes were destroyed. This massive scale of devastation was possible due to the fruition of early investments, and more advanced weapon systems that increased the firepower available to any platform and increased the network integrated and shortened the kill chain.

The rebels tho did not sit idle, controlling the interior of Sumatra and the Malayan peninsula they were able to properly build up some armoured forces. They moved towards a hybrid doctrine of indirect warfare and conventional operations. While they were never able to beat the Dutch in an open battle, both in the air, land and on the waters, they were able in their view to bleed the Dutch out, by a thousand cuts. Killing more and more Dutch soldiers thus decreasing morale at home.

Thus where the fighting was mixed and relatively stable with the exception of the relatively major operations every 5 months. Both sides knew that the other was preparing for a massive start and increase in combat operations.

Operatie: Dolle dinsdag

Location: Thaitania, rang province

Date: 5th of may 1971

Goal: Destruction of Soenda rebel training areas, and resupply depots.

Operatie Dolle Woensdag was the name given to a series of brief military incursions in Thaitania her southern frontier. It included forty major operations that had succeeded in the goal of destroying Soendanese rebel training areas, resupply areas and command and control centers in the Thaitania frontier. It however led to a rise in tensions between the Netherlands and Thaitania as well as a break of sorts in relations between Thaitania and Russia. this was due to the fact that as this operation was uncovered by the Tahitania government, they called for a military response, but Russia refused.

Stoot troepen getting ready for operation Dolle Dinsdag somewhere around Pinang.

Final Period of the War

1972 the 9th of march could be marked as the start of the final phase of the war, a phase that at the same time is considered to be the most destructive period in the war.

In the previous 5 years, there was a relative calm in the region. While fighting was still quite common and intensive in the guerilla war sense. There were however no major EILF offensive operations, this was in hindsight due to a large reorganization of the EILF military forces, in combination with a large effort to infiltrate Java the bastion of Dutch colonial control. All that had really taken place over the past 5 years were strikes throughout Java, terrorist attacks and small-scale uprisings, all of these were however crushed. All of these due to their scale lulled the Dutch forces on the island into a false sense of security.

"Troopies" standing somewhere in the jungles of Malaya circa December 1972

In 1972 the Dutch forces throughout the archipelago were quite spread, with around 83,000 KNIl & Regular Dutch soldiers stationed on Java. While on Borneo 70,000 Dutch soldiers were stationed and actively engaged. On Celebs, some 90,000 men were stationed and were still fighting quite heavily on the island. With some 120,000 men bieng stationed on Sumatra and 100,000 men being stationed in the Malayan peninsula around Djohor and Penang. With a total of 73,000 naval personal and 120,000 air force personal being stationed throughout the entire archipelico.

On the 5th of march, in eastern Java in the Jember region, all of this quite on Java changed. A large scale coordinated uprising took place across the Jember region, from her countryside region to its major urban area’s the uprising was widescale. In this uprising hatred for the Dutch and their allies reached a boiling point and in the 48 hours after the uprising started a large scale slaughter of Dutch officials, chinese and Indo’s took place. This uprising his the Dutch by suprise and there was chaos across the Dutch command structure for Java and the security it was assumed it had meant that not enough troops where available. Thus delay in their operational ability resulted in in the wide slaughter of Eurasians civilians across eastern Java with only coastal towns being able to hold out due Dutch marines being present and defending the civilians.

this period known as the Java moorden, ended on the 9th of march when the local army forces where able to coordinate a large scale counter offensive and supression campaign. Yet when a large scale offensive was started across the peninsula on the 11th of march the supression campaign was deemed over and the major urban centers where once again under Dutch control. This did result in countless deaths across Java and would start the insurgency campaign in Java.

A Landmacht soldier somewhere in Kediri during the Java uprising. He like so many others was caught off guard by the sudden uprising.

In response to the large scale offensive by the EILF the Dutch launched its own counter offensives. This is known as the Maart offensief, it was an offensive that would set the tone for the remainder of the war. The counter offensive took place in multiple area’s of operations, the primary theatre and where the response was the quickest was Java where the air mobile units where deployed in force to brutally supress any town. While on Sumatra and Malaya these air mobile units, in combination with armored forces pushed hard and fast and started a full clearing operation across the countryside. No more where towns exempt now the entire wrath of the Netherlands was brought to bare on the Malayan and Sumatran peninsula.

Soldiers around the fortification line outside of Semarang, these soldiers repelled attack after attack holding the city.

Semarang, where the Dutch held out against the EILF insurgents, was eventually liberated in a brutal campaign that left the cities filled with death and the EILF insurgents littered the countryside. It was a brutal campaign and would eventually lead to the stability of the entire front but at a great cost for the Dutch now no longer held anything back they made no more distinction between combatans and non combatans due to the java insurgency and murders having altereded their mindset.

At the end of what was called the Java uprising which officially according to Dutch history ended on the 28th of March 1972, some 11,000 Dutch civilians had died, 5400 soldiers were KIA, 617 were MIA, and 19,182 were wounded. While on the EILF side the numbers sometimes disputed were far higher. According to captured documents of the EILF a total of 43,019 men died in the first 3 days, while in the last 15 days a total of 111,179 casualties  (71,192 killed and 39,987 wounded).  It is said to be some of the most brutal fighting and highest casualty rates of the war and it would set the tone for the remainder of the conflict. In regards to civilian casualties caused by the Dutch counteroffensive to this day, it is disputed, however, all agree that the numbers reach into the

The Blooding

With the introduction of the new combat doctrine, it turned into the most brutal and deadliest phase in the conflict. It started with a general offensive initiated on the various islands by the EILF. This was countered by the Dutch by numerous counter-offensives and large-scale air operations. Eventually, this resulted in near constant fighting between the EILF and the Dutch fighting that was rapid, unforgiving, bloody and ruthless with neither side backing down. It was only after 5 weeks of nearly constant fighting that the Dutch were able to push the EILF back, recapture the ground lost and stabilise the frontlines.

They had been on the receiving end of not just an uprising on Eastern Java, other areas like Sumatra and the Malayan peninsula had moved from an unconventional conflict towards a conventional conflict. This transition was first noted during the 5 weeks of fighting, yet due to the chaos, these aspects were not always properly reported. Now tho it was clear that during the counter-offensive various units encountered armoured units that were standardised, forcing the soldiers to move towards a more hybrid form of warfare.

Stier ZPKs providing cover for Landmacht soldiers in Gambang, Malayan peninsula during the 5 weeks of hell.

With the introduction of this hybrid form of warfare, the entire war for the Netherlands was now different. Any pretence about this being an internal police action was now gone, in the propaganda as well as how it reported on it, it was a proper war. For while on the theatre level these assaults could be dealt with, the sheer number of armoured units and the infantry meant the Dutch were outnumbered 7 to 1. This caused a shift in the mindset of not just the commanders but also the soldiers on the ground. This began to be reflected in the operational doctrine, no longer would they spare anyone, no longer would they ask first shoot second, and no longer would they show any restraint. The new operational doctrine was simple, kill the enemy before they kill you.

It was also during this period that armoured clashes in the thick jungles of Sumatra became a common future and the Dutch were able to openly practice combined arms warfare again, something they were extremely well adapted to considering they created many of the modern concepts. This tho left much of the jungles of Sumatra the grave of Soenda soldiers and much of the jungle destroyed.

While it was not known at the time that these years, would be the final years of the war. These years tho were more brutal than any year before them. the new threats posed by the EILF, combined with the hybrid warfare, being outnumbered forced the Dutch to become more ruthless. Battles in Malaya, Sumatra, Malaysia, Borneo and Celebs would see the Dutch soldiers fight harder and harder and show less mercy. This combined with the concept of forced penetration where they moved in hard shoot up everything in heavily populated areas and move out. This created a massive spike in EILF casualties to a point where the norm in 1972 was that for every Dutch soldier that was killed 15 Soenda soldiers were killed, this however had the effect that every EILF soldier had 3 replacements waiting to take their place.

Luchtmacht fighter-bombers conducted large-scale tactical strikes during the Sumatra campaigns in late 1972.

From 1972 up until early 1973 fighting was fierce with a pattern emerging that was different per theatre. In Malaya the fighting was considered to be on the more conventional side, the Dutch relatively had a great deal of success. Only to be pushed back to their lines due to the insurgent activities when they breached the jungles. On Celebs the war was a full-on counter-insurgency with air assault and bombing being the mode of operations preferred by the Dutch, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and countless biomes being destroyed.

Sumatra was the place the fighting was in the form of the new hybrid warfare, it was the most intense with it being pure chaos. It was the norm there that the Dutch fought the Soenda army to a standstill and pushed them back, only to be killed in the thick interiors, resulting in the Dutch burning down almost all of the thick interior jungle of Sumatra due to their air superiority.

The scale of fighting did create a strain on the Dutch manpower supply, with ships coming each month packed with replacements. It had become a norm at this point that most soldiers fighting were doing their second or third tour. It had thus become a total war for the Dutch, it had resulted in Dutch society having dehumanised the Soenda rebels and all pretence of civility was dropped.

A change at home

Despite the near constant reports of the mass cassualities inflicted upon the enemy there seemed to be no stopping them. At the time of bloody it was estimated that for every Dutch soldier that was killed, 4 Soendanese fighters where killed. Dutch soldiers where fighting for day and night for months on end on a level of brutality that was unseen. Exuastion, depression and an increasing amount of alchohol, drug consumtion amongst the soldiers where becoming more appearent. It was a period that when soldiers where rotated out these soldiers, often just barely 18 year old came back as being broken. It had become a norm even a sadistic rite of passage. This was combined with the fact that the way the Dutch fought, the level of brutaltiy led to a great deal of international condemnation on the international stage. All of this came ahead when for the first time in nearly 13 years of constant heavy fighting the first large anti war demonstrations took place in Amsterdam.

The 18th of April 1974 the netherlands came to a halt, as the largest anti war protest to date was organised. This protests where not just the draft dodgers, the anti war politicians and students, these protestors included the mothers of the boys, veterans of the war, fathers and sons, brothers that lost their older brother. It had become a war where the fathers fought in the same war as their sons, they where joined by the girlfriends, wives. People no longer wanted to see their husbands, boyfriends, sons, brothers and friends die in the east. Ppeople at this point simply had enough of the war, they had seen it on their tvs and it had fundamentally changed the nation. In schools children where already being trained for the service in the east, an entire generation had been molded into fighting machines.

The scale of these protests where immense, the entire nation in essence came to a halt. Public transports where jammed full, towns where turned into ghost towns all the while in the Hague, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Rotterdam the police forces where unwilling to disperse the protests. People where tired and it left the government with little options as their last option seemed to be the military.

Prime minister Geert Dijkman, a man who had been PM for 3 years, a proponent of the war and an arch conservative, had ordered his cabinet and military to prepare for a worst case scenario, a revolution. It was at this moment that the military her general staff made it clear they would not fire on their own men. As many of the protestors where reservists, veterans or even active duty soldiers on leave. These protetors had their intended effect, it caused a silent revolution, the so called april revolution. It led to a motion of no confidence being issued to the cabinet by parliament and the senate. This led to a new election to be scheduled for the 17th of Juli 1974.

Despite their best efforts the party of the old prime minister “Conservative anti revolutionaire partij (CARP) stood no change in the election. They where defeated in a landslide by the Partij voor democracy (PVD). Led by veteran turned politican Koen Haverman, who had fought in operation Slachthuis. On the 25th of July 1974 he became the new prime minister of the Netherlands, his party gaining some 83 seats in the lower house resulting in an absolute majority. Their objective was simple on paper, pull out of hte conflict but as he would find out it was far harder in practice.
A large group of Dutch citizen in Den Haag protesting the war, they where just one many. As the picture shows people from all ages joined in the protests.
Barend Biesheuvel is used as a stand in for the PM
Koen Haverman the new prime minister of the Netherlands meeting with the monarch

New Minister, New Policy

With the ascension of Koen Haverman, the fundamental nature of the war changed for the Dutch. The oorlog as it was simply refered to had readically changed almost overnight, from now on their objective would be to pull out of the fighting in such a way the Netherlands remained in a future adventagous position. the conflict had taken the best of the Netherlands her youth and swallowed it whole, spitting out broken and scattered men who had seen far to much brutality for their young ages. It had put a strain on the Netherlands her social services and culture and people all of it had been radically transformed. People had wachted the war for nearly 16 yeras on their tvs, they where tired and sort of used to it by now. Koen Haverman himself had fought in it and knew the horror, yet knew the strategic reality was not as simple.

Pulling the Netherlands out was never going to be easy, nobody expected it would be easy, nor would it be done within a short timeframe. The strategic situation in the east when Haverman became PM was a dire one. Soendanese forces where conducted their largest contious offensive in the war so far. The soldiers on the ground where fighting tooth and nail on all fronts to just hold the line for months upon months, as the peace protests where happening in Amsterdam, the men in Malaysia where fighting for their lives. It had reached a point where any point of civility was dropped by the Dutch and the usage of chemical agents, Napalm and other assets where used to hold the tite. Cassualty reports coming in where grim, at this rate military planners in the Hague estimated Batavia would fall within 8 months. Tvs showed the battles raging in the air and on land on Sumatra, Borneo and Celebs, it showed the true brutality of war. It was said that Haverman for the first viewed classified reports on the war he vommited. The reports contained numbers so gruesome and operations so illigal that went against any public policy the netherlands portrayed, it showed the pure barbarity a industrial state could inflict.

Thus the order went out to the general staff to come up with a way the Netherlands could pull out, without major losses. Its order was vague and by this point the General staff, consisting of hardened veterans came up with the exit strategy, something that still would inflict utter destruction. Commander of the armed Forces Generaal Cornelis van Langen stated;

It will be a fucked up affair…require time and we need to murder those bastards by the bushes”.

Habverman tho was determined he wanted the Dutch our of the war, thus Van Langen despite his reservations started to work on such a strategy. They worked tirelessly and in those 4 months the fighting continued across the east, Dutch forces where using more and more brutality, to a point where the forces around Jambi annaliated the city. When the news came in it was on the same day that van Langen showed his operation. Operatie Vertrek, it would take roughly 1 year 6 months, to compelte as nothing was to be left behind and strategic positions where to be maintained, as well as vital trade links with Tauland. It would be carried out in phases and it would continously require them to keep on the fighting, on a high intense level as to not give up any strategic ground. On the day that Jambi burned to the ground and 489,012 people died the strategy was agreed upon.
A soldier watching air support drop its payload upon the enemy her positions, somewhere around Malakka.

Operatie Vertrek I

Early on the plan of Operatie Vertrek-II was a complicated one, while it was never openly stated, everyone understood that the puppet regime in Batavia would not survive. While this did not matter a great deal, considering that most of these people in the government were on the Dutch payroll. While this decision did not hamper the military activities that much, it did hamper the social services the puppet regime provided and the taxation strategy, many of the native bureaucrats became demotivated and descent within the KNIL was slowly forming.

Another effect of the decision of Vertrek was the decline in the morale of the NCO corps of the military, these men were career soldiers and had many friends that died in the war and saw little purpose to fight. While in general combat operations remained highly effective it was well known that in the barracks descent was common. This also was evident with the general infantry, as while it was made known the Netherlands would pull out, conscription kept on going, rotations kept happening and combat remained intense.

Operation "Mistig"

Loss of eastern Java

evacuation of Batavia

“De laaste ronde” De Bataafse evacuatie” or the fall of Batavia as its sometimes called is the name given to the final months of fighting of the East indies crisis. the period is often said to have ended at exactly 23:48 11 November 1976, when the last Dutch ship left the port of Batavia and when the Soendanese rebels took over the city after a brutal siege.

Historians mark the start of “De laaste ronde” when prime minister Haberman accepted the Krijgmacht her so-called “vertrek” operation. The operation in detail laid out the withdrawal of Dutch & KNIL forces from the various theatres in the archipelago, it was not a complete withdrawal but rather a slow methodical withdrawal toward strategic and defensible positions. It would be from there that the final departure would be organized. During this time the Dutch would maintain full-on air and naval supremacy and keep raids at a maximum. On paper this plan was good in practice tho once implemented it became a bloody affair as the fighting withdrawals were intense. Dutch soldiers had fought in an archipelago for 16 brutal years, indoctrinated by over a decade of propaganda were unwilling to just let go without a fight. the final battles and operations were thus often considered brutal as entire stockpiles of munitions were emptied.

Rogue KNIL units

De Koninlijke Nederlands Indisch Leger had been turned into an elite, effective military force in the past 16 years and was not about to give up the region they conquered. It was thus the case that many units went rogue, as seen in Pinang and in some cases like the massacre of Metro, southern Sumatra, Dutch and KNIL units were actively engaged in fighting. These finals months were chaotic and it is said that many KNIL units eventually centralised around Pinang.

This period of the war is considered one of the more brutal periods of the war in regard to the sheer amount of death and destruction that was carried out by both sides.

March on Batavia

On the 17th of October, Soendanese rebels insisted upon a large-scale uprising throughout Dutch-controlled Java. This eventually led to heavy fighting across the island leading many more people to die. The dutch at this point were not holding back anything and many of the soldiers fighting where battle-hardened veterans, that effectively had been people that spent their early adult lives just fighting. It is said that during this period of the conflict in these final months some 1.2 million people died.

Soendanese forces using a combination of regular forces and guerrilla forces, combined with the Dutch fighting capacity being reduced due to the withdrawals, fighting with the rogue KNIL units, were able to push towards Batavia. This eventually started a massive siege and intense street fighting between the Dutch and Soendanese that saw much of the city be destroyed, as chemical weapons where used to hold back the incoming rebels. All of this fighting was done to evacuate the remaining civilian population, it is said that during these final days chaos reigned but some of NL her future prime ministers made themselves known as they led counter attacks or rescued numerous children.

Withdrawal from Celebes

An often overlooked part of the conflict in her final months is the theatre of operations that was Celebs - Borneo. For nearly 3 years the fighting in that theatre had been constant counter-insurgency and regular warfare, it was here that Soendanese pilots gained experience as they fought a guerilla air campaign against the Dutch air forces, using state-of-the-art Russian-supplied aircraft.

Thus when the order to pull out was given from higher the commanders on the island, by this point veterans that had risen throughout the ranks in the war, knew it would not be easy. Kapitein Generaal Ronald Weerman, commander of all Dutch forces on the island started to work on a plan. A plan that would see the 90,000 troops under his command conduct final large-scale counterattacks, in order to get the green recruits out.

All of this came together in Operation “Levensweg” launched on the 1st of October 1976 it would see the largest air offensive of the war. Having gathered intelligence for the past few years, the Dutch were well aware of Soendanese doctrine and their main logistic hubs, these heavily defended area’s provided the fuel, munitions and spare parts that could supply Soendanese fighters, which in turn could harass the evacuating green recruits.

Levensweg would see a total of 971 combat sorties were flown that day and it is sometimes referred to as the “bloederige dag” in Soendanese aviation history, for it saw the destruction of some 83% of the Soendanese air force her combat aviation, which in later conflicts had a significant effect.

Operatie Retributie

Operatie Retributie, or “De laaste lag”, was a military operation that started on the 11th of November 1976 and technically ended on the 31st of December 1976. In reality, it lasted up until 1981. The operation would see the Netherlands conducting large-scale evacuation operations, commando raids, air raids and maritime raids against the Soendanese. This was to both protect Nieuw Batavia and to hamper potential reprisals against Nieuw Batavia, remaining Dutch interests, and Dutch shipping throughout the strait of Malacca & Thai canal. This also saw the Netherlands openly supporting Pinang in its fight against the Soendanese.

It is noted by many historians, both in the Netherlands, Soenda and across the world that operation Retribution was also the cover of a large rescue operation. Throughout the war, Dutch soldiers left many children, these children were in danger of growing up in a likely hostile nation, thus the operation was launched to rescue many of these children. While these children did not arrive in the Netherlands they were brought to places like Pinang and Zeylan.

Aftermath

Netherlands

In the Netherlands, a series of cultural shifts started to take place after the end of the war; with an entire generation of veterans (numbering around 4.7 million people) who saw the horrors of war up close. This had shocked the nation and in the years following the war many major events created tension within Dutch society including: a refugees crisis from it's former colonies, the reformation and restructuring of power within the Dutch economy, numerous social movements advocating for social, sexual and economic liberation, and a broken generation that tried to move on from the brutal conflict that had shaped the nation. There was a shift in the geopolitical landscape of the Netherlands, which following the end of the war in 1976, became a neutral nation and had to contend with the challenges of having a massive arms industry due to the war and needing to reform its economy towards civilian focused industry where possible. Its aerospace industry became focused on civilian products while still retaining experienced engineers and a well-established industrial compacity from the war. The Netherlands changed the balance of power in Europe by becoming neutral and taking it's close ally the German Confederation, with whom it shares a border, into neutrality. During and after the war, the music scene in the Netherlands radically changed with the adoption of NNL and Virginian rock & roll influences (made popular by the anti-war anthem Ik heb geen geluk) and the creation of an anti-war counter culture.

Soenda

Pinang

Casualties

During the war, the scale of fighting was enormous and the Dutch military had grown from a medium-sized force of around 210.000 active troops around the world in 1960 to a military that was by 1973 unrivaled in its quality of fighting troops and had gained a reputation of brutality and effectiveness. In total, by 1973 440.000 Dutch combat troops were deployed in combat, and the army had manpower reserves of 2.7 million troops. In total, some 3.8 million Dutchmen would see active combat in the east indies. The Nationalist rebels in 1973 were able to field 1.2 million regular troops and between 5 & 7 million guerilla fighters.

The war exacted an enormous human cost: it’s estimated that a total of 7-10 million civilians (mostly native Indonesians) died directly in the conflict, along with a total of 144,918 Dutch soldiers (and with an additional 50,000 KNIL soldiers), with 49,000 missing in action. East Indies losses are not well known but are estimated to be in the millions. Extensive use of chemical weapons, napalm, and famines that occurred during and after the war are likely to inflate the numbers of causalities of the conflict. The war's environmental cost was massive with many jungle ecosystems being near-beyond repair. only in the modern-day are some of the jungles returning to pre-war levels of growth. Entire species went extinct as their biomes were damaged or destroyed.

The economic damage of the war was simply catastrophic as the Dutch left no infrastructure or anything of value intact. Through the islands, the major urban areas were simply destroyed and turned into ruins. Many cities, including the former Batavia (now known as Jayakarta) had to be completed rebuild from the ground up, and only recently have the economy of the East Indies Federation been able to recover. While it is still debated many historians do say that this has been one of the most destructive conflicts of the 20th century.

The East Indies refugee Crisis

In addition to the causalities of war 4.7 million civilians fled the East Indies during the war (mostly loyalist Chinese & Javanese but also almost all of the Dutch and Indo population of the East Indies). After the wars end another 250,000 to 500,000 Chinese and 250,000 Pribumi fled the East Indies between 1976 and 1985 to avoid the ethnic and political violence that the plagued the early now independent East Indies. The most popular designations for the exodus were the Netherlands mainland (in which new polders were constructed to give room to the ballooning immigrant population), New Batavia (in which vast swatches of land were set aside by the Dutch government as a "homeland" to the Indo or Eurasian population of the former East Indies whom the Dutch feared would be targeted in ethnic violence in an independent East Indies) and the Kaap Republic (which allowed many skilled immigrants from the East Indies to come to the country). Other less popular designations for the exodus were the Westerzee province of Tussenland, Taulandt, the Spanish East Indies, New Netherland, Nueva Guinea and Georgia.

This exodus would create a series of events that would see nations like the Netherlands undergo a cultural revolution in some cases and the nation would never be the same because of it.

Foreign intervention

Due to its length and the importance of Southeast Asia, multiple parties intervened in the conflict. Rather it was a conflict in which the two great powers backed both parties, as well as a conflict where the Netherlands her allies, former colonies & Dominions where involved in. It saw the deployment of volunteers from New Netherland, Tussenland, Tauland, the Kaap, and Boschland.

Documentation

Facing them was the East Indies Liberation Front that was backed by numerous local supporters but mainly by Russia.  Although the war is considered a proxy war, due to Britain and Russia using their proxies to fight one another, this view is disputed by many historians both from the East Indies Federation and the Netherlands, and The Batavosphere as a whole. In the Netherlands and in general, within the Batavosphere the conflict is seen as a separate conflict from the cold war, while heavily influenced by cold war events it stands on its own legs. This is due to a variety of reasons but mainly according to some historians the need for the Netherlands and Dutch society as a whole to rationalise their actions, to rationalise 16 years of brutal warfare and tens of thousands of Dutchmen that never came home and the hundreds of thousands that were permanently scarred by the war. 

Impact on popular culture

Crimes occuring during the EIC

Netherlands

Soenda

Impact on modern day warfare