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Naval Air Force fought heroic but hopeless battle against Japan

New book examines MLD role in defense of Netherlands East Indies

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

DALLAS, Texas – The Netherlands, the world’s third largest empire behind Great Britain and France, was a nation of seven million people which, among other others, ruled over 100 million Indonesians on the other side of the globe. In the Netherlands East Indies, just 300,000 Europeans from many countries oversaw a vast business empire especially noted as one of the world’s largest suppliers of oil. Yet it was an empire, which in 1941, had neither the economic nor military might to repel a determined enemy. Imperial Japan had behind it a 20-year build-up to war. Rebuffed when the Dutch cut off oil supply in 1940**, Japan invaded the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) soon after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, in a desperate bid for oil, particularly needed to continue Japan’s decade-long war on Mainland China.

Now available from Vanderheide Publishing, The Dutch Naval Air Force Against Japan: The Defense of the Netherlands East Indies 1941-1942 by author Tom Womack, is the first-ever English language book to provide a complete overview of the naval air campaign that took place in the NEI before and after Pearl Harbor.

Although Nazi Germany had overrun and occupied the Netherlands in May 1940, Dutch military forces numbering nearly 100,000 men remained free in the vast colonies for another 18 months. From December 1941 to March 1942 these forces fought a heroic, although hopeless, defensive campaign against invading Japanese forces.

At the heart of the Dutch defenses was the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service, or Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD), which operated 175 seaplanes of various domestic and foreign design. With the Netherlands occupied by Germany, the MLD, the largest air force in the entire South East Asia region, was isolated and cut off from its traditional source of personnel, equipment and spare parts. Worse yet, MLD’s most numerous front-line aircraft – the Dornier Do. 24 flying boat – had been designed and manufactured specifically for the Dutch by their current enemy in Germany, making them extremely difficult to maintain. Despite these obstacles, the MLD without hesitation entered into a savage war of self-preservation (lasting just 91 days), that neither its personnel nor equipment had the remotest possibility of winning. In the face of overwhelming Japanese strength, the Dutch lost 75-percent of their aircraft, 50-percent of their military personnel… and most important… a 300-year-old colonial empire.

The product of 11 years of in-depth research, The Dutch Naval Air Force Against Japan: The Defense of the Netherlands East Indies 1941-1942 draws upon more than 70 Dutch, English and Japanese language sources to tell for the first time in English the most complete story of the MLD’s heroic fight against Japan aggression. It is a gripping story, it speaks that it deserves to be told, of immense bravery and stubborn determination by a tiny, yet extremely loyal, Allied nation.