Operation Crow

With the arrival of a new Dutch government in 1948[1] the decision was taken for a second military intervention (Operation Crow) which took place between 19th December 1948 and the 5th of January 1949. The Dutch did capture Yogyakarta, imprisoned most of the political leaders and were in control of the major transport corridors between the main cities, however it had failed to beat the Republik’s guerrilla army which basically controlled most of the areas outside the major cities. This second military operation brought again international condemnation led by the UN and the Netherlands was even threatened by the USA that the Marshall Aid funds[2] to war ravaged Netherlands would be stopped, already worth $1 billion by that time.

Frustrated at the rather weak international response to the second Dutch offensive, Australia participated in an Asian Conference convened by India’s Prime Minister, Nehru, in New Delhi to coordinate regional support for the Indonesian Republic. This unprecedented demonstration of regional solidarity in New Delhi undoubtedly helped a majority in the Security Council to agree on 28 January 1949 to order the restoration of the imprisoned Republican Government to its capital, Yogyakarta, and for the resumption of negotiations between this Government and the Netherlands[3].

Already in August 1947, under the auspices of UNGOC, Australian military observers were stationed in NEI and this number increased after the 2nd Dutch military operation in 1949. By that time UNGOC had been upgraded to the Unites Nations Commission for Indonesia (UNCI). The Australian force was eventually withdrawn in April 1951. Australia played a key role in the first ever UN Peacekeepers operation to be deployed in the field.

In all some 150,000 Dutch forces were employed in the two military operations, over 100,000 ‘Indonesians’ were killed as well as 5,000 Dutch soldiers (half of them died of disease or in accidents).  Seventy years later there are still court cases going on in the Netherlands by ‘Indonesians’ who have suffered from torture during the so-called police actions during the war of independence.

Siem de Luij

One of my parents’ friends Simon (Siem) de Luij was conscripted in the military to fight in Indonesia and many years later he told me about this war.   There was no real enemy army that they could fight but ongoing guerrilla activities from the ‘Indonesians’. The fear of an attack anywhere, anytime was one of the most stressful parts of his tour of duty, they never knew where these fighters were, where the next attack would take place and Dutch soldiers – in the most awful terrain of mud, rain and dense jungle – sometimes fired at random, killing many innocent civilians, the war has haunted Siem all his life.   He mentioned the difficulties of the jungle, bogged down transports in the mud, the many car accidents – he was involved in one whereby one of his colleagues was killed – and the eternal mosquitos, it was an unwinnable war for the often badly trained Dutch soldiers.  

All in all the war in Indonesia cost the Netherlands over US$500 million (worth the equivalent of US$5 billion in 2018), at a time they could hardly afford it as they were rebuilding their own country after the war with Germany.

[1] Following the elections, a broad four-party coalition government was formed between the Catholic People’s Party, Labour Party, Christian Historical Union and People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. Combined these parties held 76% of the available seats in parliament.

[2] The Marshall Plan was an American initiative to aid Western Europe, in which the United States gave over $44 billion in economic assistance to help rebuild Western European economies after the end of World War II.

[3] Australië, Amerika en Groot-Brittannië en de Indonesische dekolonisatie. https://www.historischnieuwsblad.nl/nl/artikel/5700/australie-amerika-en-groot-brittannie-en-de-indonesische-dekolonisatie.html#