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Bronze plaques acknowledge fallen of 1942 Java Sea Battle

Over 900 names at Surabaya memorial

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE - Fifteen bronze plaques engraved with the names of the 915 Dutch sailors who died in the Battle of the Java Sea on February 27 and 28, 1942, will be unveiled at Kembang Kuning, the Dutch Memorial Cemetery in Surabaya, Indonesia.

The names are of those who served on the Hr. Ms ‘Java,’ the Hr. Ms ‘Kortenaer’ and the Hr. Ms. ‘De Ruyter’ and perished when the three ships were sunk in the battle between an Allied force and the Japanese invasion force. The Dutch, British, American and Australian ships sent out to repel a larger Japanese fleet was commanded by Dutch Rear Admiral Karel W.F.M Doorman, who also perished. The fifteen plaques will be attached to the Karel Doorman Monument at the cemetery.

Surabaya was the last Allied Navy port in Southeast Asia after the fall of Manilla and Singapore. The Karel Doorman-led flotilla sailed on February 26 to foil a Japanese landing at East Java. Doorman was on his flagship ‘De Ruyter,’ which was joined by another heavy cruiser - US ‘Houston’ - three light cruisers - ‘Java,’ the British ‘Exeter’ and the Australian ‘Perth’ - and five destroyers – the Dutch ‘Kortenaer’ and ‘Witte de With, and the British ‘Electra,’ ‘Jupiter’ and ‘Encounter.’

The Japanese invasion force consisted of 27 ships, and was escorted by five cruisers and nine destroyers.

‘Follow me’

In the two-day battle, through the lack or air support, the Kortenaer and the Electra were sunk in the first encounter, while the Exceter limped back to port accompanied by the Witte de With. The U.S. ships also returned to port to refuel, the Jupiter sank after it ran into an Allied mine, and the Encounter took the 110 Kortenaer survivors it had picked up - 35 sailors perished - back to shore. The four remaining cruisers went hunting for the Japanese fleet once more. The midnight encounter resulted in the loss of the De Ruyter (and 368 casualties, among whom Doorman, who earlier had sent a simple missive to the ships’ commanders: ‘All ships follow me’) and the Java (only 16 survivors of a crew of 528).

The Perth and the Houston, which had returned to Tandjong Priok, tried to escape to the Bay of Bantam but ran into the invasion fleet. They were sunk the next day. The Exeter along with two destroyers met a similar fate on March 1, when they attempted to get away to Ceylon, which was to become a restaging point for the Allies.

The Battle of the Java Sea extracted thousands of Allied casualties, 915 of them Dutch and 494 Australians aboard the Perth and the minesweeper Yarra, sunk on March 2. In contrast, the Japanese only lost ten men.

The Karel Doorman Monument at the Kembang Kuning cemetery was unveiled in 1954. The addition of the fifteen plaques with all the names of those who perished completes the memorial.