The frontier war, otherwise known as the Konfrontasi, was an armed conflict fought from 1976 until 1979, that stemmed from the final days of the East Indies Crisis and Soenda her opposition to the creation of the Free state of Pinang.
In the final days of the East Indies crisis, a corp under command of Lieutenant Generaal Marten de Vries went rogue. This unit that in general governed the sector that is roughly now the Pinang Freestate and knew that the time of Dutch rule was over. They tho having given their blood for this land, in their eyes were not ready to let go, this in combination with economic and social pressures from the local Chinese community led to the creation of Pinang a Chinese ethnostate in the center of Malaya.
The conflict was an undeclared war, as Soenda did not recognize the Freestate of Pinang. Most action took place in the border area in the hinterland and mountains, with only a few major conventional battles. The largest battles took place in the early weeks and the last few months, for example, the siege of Taipai (December 1976) or the battle of Vriesstad (April 1978 ), during the latter battle KNIL armoured forces were able to crush the Soenda attackers and Vriesstad was liberated. In genreal tho battles where light infantry and on a scale that was small, unlike the east indies crisis where regiments where deployed, during the frontier war company sized engagements where the norm.
The jungle terrain of Malaya, its lack of roads, and its destroyed infrastructure due to the EIC forced both sides to conduct long foot patrols. Both sides relied on light infantry operations and air transport, with the KNIL having an advantage in the latter as well as supplies. It was the experience of the Soendanese in light infantry tactics that provided them with an edge. Fighting remained fierce tho with the KNIL consisting of battle hardened veterans, thus the fighting while small scale was an intense conflict where often “battles” took place over the course of several days.
Initial Soendanese attacks into Pinang territory relied heavily on the Malayans and their local militia from the EIC. Over time infiltration forces became more organized and the Soendanese army deployed its own dedicated forces, Eventually from mid-1977 onward, fighting began to deploy armoured forces. This in turn led the KNIL to deploy their own forces which led to the “bloody months” from May 1977 up to Juli 1977. fighting intensified tho and it was feared that KNIL might have obtained nuclear weapons, that were in a strategic submarine that defected to them.
The origins of the Frontier war/ Konfrontati lay at the end of the east indies crisis and fundamentally in the rise of Pinang. With the withdrawal of the Dutch forces from what is now Soenda, the newly established Soendanese government did not yet have full control. The initial months were chaotic, with Dutch & KNIL forces moving to either Pinang or the Borneo Republic or in general trying to flee the islands. This in combination with the massive humanitarian crisis throughout the peninsula due to the Dutch scourge earth policy and a conflict starting between Soenda and the Maluku confederation backed by the Philippines. In essence, Soenda did not have full control over the islands and thus Pinang was able to establish itself quickly.
Despite all these pressures Soenda did not tolerate Pinang her existence and in late 1976 they intended to do it. the Borneo republic was the first example of what Pinang could expect, Soendanese formations bashed the rogue KNIL unit and local militia leading to a massive slaughter. This put Pinang on high alert as they had noted a rapid increase in border skirmishes and attacks on the fleeing Chinese, that were making their way to Pinang.
Almost immediately after declaring their independence, the forces of the Vrystaat van Pinang were confronted by the Soendanese. It started on the 5th of January when a squadron of Soendanese fighters attempted a raid at Willemshaven. The raid was intercepted by air patrols and destroyed. It was not the only attack tho and Soendanese forces came in from the east throughout the town of Gerik, a critical road junction.
On the 5th of January, the KNIL garrison that was stationed there came under attack by Soendanese artillery. What started then was an all-out battle for the town as the Soendanese pushed to get closer, to secure the roads leading to the mountain passes, while the KNIL garrison of some 500 soldiers held out, holding of a force three times their number. They held out, calling for reinforcements to come and rescue them.
Battle of Gerik
What started out as a simple breach of “Pinang” lines, would rapidly escalate into a full on battle. With the Gerik garrison calling for aid the 58th Battalion “Huzaren van Bernard” (armored) responded. A force of 34 armored cannons, 70x armored vehicles moved out to provide aid to the garisson, in total the force numbered 770 soldiers. They arrived within 5 hours and it was then that the fighting began to escealate.It quickly became clear that the garrison was holding out in the principal fortress, where numerous chinese refugees where shelted. The soldiers of the 58th battalion smalled into the Soendane’s lines who where surprised by the armored forces. What followed was a tactical withdrawal of Soendanese forces, while at first the KNIL thought they had won this incursion it turned out it was just the start.