East Indies Crisis (Temporary page, will delete later)

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
Insular Southeast Asia
  • Withrawal of the Dutch and formal end of the East Indies (1610-1976)
  • Independence of Soenda and Pinang
  • Refugee crisis
Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Philippines
Soendanese Liberation Front

Commanders and leaders
Cornelis van Langen
Willem Middendorp
Soedjojo Soesanto
Soerjadi Nazir
Kasan Said Narajau
Junaid Siahaija
Pieter-Bas Teterissa
Bassil Patawala
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.


The Dutch East Indies found itself under a period of intensified turmoil following the aftermath of the Great War (1935-1939). The Netherlands, having experienced economic and industrial exhaustion as a result, relied heavily on its East Indies colony for the extraction of raw natural resources. This dependency caused an increasing strain on the region, leading to a series of sweeping reforms and elevated colonial pressures to exploit the colony.

The Herschikking reform

In 1941, in an attempt to maximize resource extraction efficiency, the Netherlands initiated a centralization reform called the Herschikking ("reordering") in the Dutch East Indies. This included the large-scale mechanization of the agricultural sector, causing unprecedented social changes. Mass internal migration, rapid urbanization, and the emergence of informal housing in urban areas became the norm. Meanwhile, the political authority of several local sultanates and kingdoms, Djohor included, was significantly curtailed, fueling a sense of dissatisfaction and unrest among the local populace.

Djohor Uprising

The dissatisfaction led to the Djohor Uprising in 1952, where the Sultanate of Djohor and other anti-colonial forces rebelled against colonial troops. The brutal response of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) to the rebellion led to a wave of atrocities and international condemnation, further intensifying anti-colonial sentiments among the Soendanese people. The collective memory of the uprising, alongside the execution of the Djohor Sultan and his family, incited outrage and served as a potent symbol of Dutch colonial oppression.

The radicalization of the Soendanese intelligentsia and the Muslim middle and lower classes can be traced back to these events. Their political mobilization and subsequent involvement were instrumental in the eruption of the East Indies Crisis. Simultaneously, the Dutch East Indies government's isolation and repeated failure to manage internal tensions only served to compound these issues.

In the wake of the Djohor Uprising, the Dutch East Indies government sought to regain control through a new series of reforms and security measures. In 1954, the Dutch reorganized its East Indies colony and set up the Dominion of the East Indies in 1954, which effectively functioned as a puppet to the Netherlands. This establishment did little to quell the growing dissatisfaction and anti-colonial sentiments.

Emergence of the PKKN and the consolidation of anti-colonial Forces

In the aftermath of the failed uprising, national republican organizations retreated to the countryside where they began to organize, instigating a low-level rebellion towards the end of the 1950s. Simultaneously, the nationalist and Islamic urban movements consolidated with this guerilla insurgency, leading to the formation of the Soenda Rebirth Movement and the creation of the Party of National Rebirth (Partai Kelahiran Kembali Nasional or PKKN) in 1958 by Mohammad Harahap.

Over the next two years (1958-1960), the PKKN rapidly grew in size and influence. This period was characterized by escalating tensions between the PKKN and the Dutch East Indies authorities.

Onset of the rebellion

1960 Soematra General Strike

The political climate of the Dutch East Indies took a significant turn on January 15, 1960, when the Partai Kelahiran Kembali Nasional (PKKN) organized a widespread general strike across Soematra. Lasting until the end of the month, the strike had a profound impact on the local economy, especially damaging the financial interests of several large plantations and enterprises allied with the colonial administration.

Initially, the colonial authorities hesitated to respond. However, on January 31, colonial authorities decided to forcefully intervene, and the general strike was put to an end.

Execution of the 'Soematran 16'

A large number of high-ranking PKKN officials were detained, including the PKKN president Mohammad Harahap. The Soematran governor sanctioned the execution of the sixteen highest-ranking PKKN leaders, known as the 'Soematran 16,' for treason, aiming to dissuade the PKKN and its followers. The execution of the 'Soematran 16' elicited widespread indignation throughout the region. Subsequently, in February 1960, extensive protests broke out which rapidly escalated into riots during the first week of the month.

On February 8, the PKKN appointed a new president, Kasan Said Narajau. Distinguished by his reluctance to negotiate with the Dutch, Narajau immediately commanded the establishment of the Soendanese Liberation Army (SLA) and appealed for a united Soenda Liberation Front (SLF), meant to be a coalition of anti-colonial parties.

Soenda Liberation Front and Soenda Liberation Army

The Soenda Liberation Front, under Narajau's leadership, represented a general call for revolution and served as a unified political platform against the Dutch colonial rule. In contrast, the Soendanese Liberation Army was formed as a literal military force responsible for executing the proposed revolution.

PKKN and SLF Consolidation (1960-1962)

The period from 1960 to 1962 was characterized by the consolidation of the PKKN and SLF, against the backdrop of an ongoing low-intensity 'colonial war.' During this time, the PKKN, guided by its new leadership, gained enough legitimacy to attract direct funding and support from international powers, notably the Russian National Republic. It was reported that Russian operatives were embedded within the party, and there were indications of Russia smuggling equipment to the Soenda Liberation Front via Thaitania.

Course of the crisis

Military operations between Dutch and Soendanese forces

The unrest in the East Indies escalated into a full-blown rebellion by 1962. Forces of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) were pushed out from the interiors to the coastlines due to uprisings in Sumatra, Malaya, Borneo, and Celebes. The Dutch government reinforced the KNIL with 120,000 European Dutch soldiers. Despite recapturing some major population centers, the Soenda Liberation Army strengthened, causing a significant shift in the nature of the war, particularly after the successful New Year Offensive by Soendanese forces in 1963.

The period between 1963 and 1967, known as the "Phase of Fire", saw a change in war strategy, focusing on strategic targets over territorial acquisition. Major restructuring in the military enabled the successful testing of the reforms during Operation Testveld in December 1963. Operation Slachthuis, launched by Dutch forces on January 2nd, 1966, was an attempt to neutralize the Soendanese rebels by focusing on strategic objectives such as boosting morale, solidifying Dutch rule in Batavia, destroying Soendanese logistics and recruitment efforts, and demonstrating Dutch military power. This eventually led to a stalemate phase from 1967 to 1972.

By this time, evidence of Russian and Thai support to the Soenda rebels was apparent. As a response, in 1971, the Dutch launched a military operation in Thaitania, known as Operatie: Dolle Dinsdag, aiming to disrupt rebel training areas. This operation escalated tensions between Thaitania, the Netherlands, and Russia.

The war took a destructive turn by 1972, with a coordinated uprising in Java's Djember region leading to a widespread massacre of Dutch personnel. The Dutch forces launched a brutal counteroffensive called the Maart Offensief (March Offesive), signifying the most ruthless and deadliest phase of the conflict. This warfare phase strained the Dutch resources, leading to changes in the national psyche and growing anti-war sentiment in the Netherlands.

Growing anti-war sentiment in the Netherlands, and subsequent withdrawal

By 1974, anti-war protests in the Netherlands led to a political shift, with the Partij voor Democracy (PVD), led by veteran-turned-politician Koen Haverman, winning the Dutch elections. Haverman swore to put an end to the conflict. However, withdrawal from the war presented a huge challenge, with the exit strategy for the Dutch in the East Indies being planned for eighteen months.

Despite the decision to withdraw, the intensity of the conflict did not lessen, and rogue KNIL units emerged. The final months of the war saw brutal fighting, sieges, and use of chemical weapons. The withdrawal from Celebes and Borneo proved especially difficult, leading to large-scale counterattacks. The final operation, Operatie Retributie, lasted from November 11, 1976, until 1981. It involved large-scale evacuation, raids, and rescue operations to save children left behind. This marked the end of the Netherlands' involvement in the war, leaving behind a long-lasting impact on its society and military.