Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Battle of the Java Sea (February 27, 1942)

Java Sea was the site of a battle between Japanese forces en route to Java and remnants of the Allied fleet in the Netherlands East Indies. In January 1942, the Allied defense of the southwest Pacific was collectively organized in the American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA Command).

By February 1942 Japanese pans for the invasion the Dutch East Indies island of Java were well advance; and Allied naval units based at Surabaya were the only real obstacle. On February 24, two Japanese invasion forces set sail for Java. Rear Admiral Takagi Takeo commanded a force of 2 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers and 14 destroyers covering 41 transports.

Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman commanded the ABDA striking force of 2 heavy cruisers, 23 light cruisers and 9 destroyers, representing all four ABDA nations, but had no air support.

On the afternoon of February 27 1942, at 2.27pm Doorman was notified of the approach of an invasion force some 80 miles northeast of Surabaya in the Makassar Straits.

At 4.16 pm the Japanese opened the battle. Soon thereafter, the heavy cruisers USS Houston - its aft turret inoperable from earlier battle damage – and HMS Exeter returned fire. During torpedo attack by Japanese, The Exeter later was damaged before finally being cornered and sunk by the Japanese.

An Allied counterattack resulted in the loss of two more ships - the Eletcra and the Kortenear – and Doorman was forced to turn south to regroup.

Doorman went down with his flagship De Ruyter. Japanese forces suffered only minor damage. Surviving Allied ships attempted to flee, but most were hunted down and sunk in separate air and sea engagements over the next few days.

In the battle of the Java Sea, the Allies lost two light cruisers and three destroyers. Three cruisers and six destroyers (four US) survived. Four American destroyers reached safely in Australia. With the Allied forces swept from the sea, the Japanese landed on Java after one-day delay and the island fell on 8 March with almost 100,000 Allied troops taken captive.
Battle of the Java Sea (February 27, 1942)
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