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The Japanese Military and Indonesian Independence

  • László Sluimers (a1)


The article deals with the question of whether during the Pacific War there was a community of interest between the Japanese military and Indonesian nationalists. This point is mainly denied. Nationalists did want to use the Japanese to oust Dutch rule, but as soon as this was effected relations soured. The Japanese military wanted to use Indonesia as a source of the raw materials essential for war, and as a reservoir of labour. The Indonesians wished to settle their own affairs without any outside interference. These objectives were incompatible.



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1 In Japanese the family name is mentioned before the given name.

2 M.M. Bakunin, Tropitsjeskaya Gollandia. Pjatj Let na Ostrowe Jave [Tropical Holland, Five Years on the Island of Java] (St. Petersburg: Tipografija A.S. Suworina, 1902).

3 Guber, A.A., Lewinson, al, Politika Kapitalistitsjeskich Derzjaw i Natsionaljnoe Oswoboditeljnoe Dwizjenije w Yugo-Wostetsjnoj Azii Dokumenti I Materialy Tsjastj 1 [The Politics of the Capitalist Powers and the Liberation Movements in South-East Asia] (Moscow: Izdatljstwo Nauka, 1963). The title is somewhat misleading as liberation movements are hardly mentioned anywhere. I was given this book by the kind intermediary of its co-author G.J. Lewinson, then the foremost Philippines expert in the Soviet Union.

4 Dutch military tradition has never been vested in the army, which with a few notable exceptions has been a career market for dropouts from the higher classes. When brighter elements opted for an army career it was mostly a second choice. The outstanding commanders in the Dutch defense-system were mostly found in the navy and not in the army.

5 In Japanese there are two words for “incident”. One is Jiken, implying an incident in a limited area (e.g., the Coup of 26 Feb. 1936 which affected only the metropolitan area of Tokyo), and the other is Jihen, referring to action in a wider area (e.g., the Manchurian and China incidents which affected either a province or a country).

6 Vide Ostwald, Paul, Japan's Weg von Genf nach San Francisco 1933–1950 (Stuttgart: W-Kohlhasner, 1967) and Martin, Bernd, “Deutschland und Japan im Zweiten Weltkrieg: Vom Angriff auf Pearl-Harbour bis zur Deutschen Kapitulation”, in Studien und Dokumente zur Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkrieges (Gottingen: Musterschmidt, 1969).

7 For a detailed analysis of the Japanese policy with regard to Indochina and the Southeast Asian continent, vide Taiheiyo Senso e no Michi: Kaisen Gaikoshi (Tokyo: Asahi Shimbunsha, 1963), part VI Nanpo Shinshutsu.

8 The relations between Yoshizawa and this writer's father, then the editor of the Bandung daily, Algemeen Indisch Dagblad, and generally known as one of the very few internationally orientated Indies journalists, could be called friendly, probably because both had some doubts about the viability of the political systems in which they were working.

9 During the negotiations Dr. van Mook repeatedly consulted the American consul in Batavia, Walter F. Foote.

10 Yoshizawa in a talk to this writer's father complained about van Mook's negotiation tactics: “After months of talking the only concession I gained was that one Japanese dental surgeon was allowed to settle down in Surabaya”.

11 The reasoning in fact is identical with that of the Leyden professor of modern Japanese history Kurt Radtke in an essay before a workshop on the legacy of Dutch and Japanese rule in Indonesia held in Amsterdam on 7 Nov. 1994. In this essay, “Strategy on Opportunistic Adaptation: Pre-war Japanese March into Destruction”, Professor Radtke states that Japan's march south was induced not by long-term considerations but by the German victory over France in June 1940.

12 The “shooting war” played into the hands of Admiral Harold R. Stark, before the attack on Pearl Harbour the chief of the US naval operations, who advocated a naval policy directed at Europe. When after Pearl Harbour this proved not to be feasible, Stark was replaced by Admiral Earnest J. King who carried out a kind of private war against the Japanese. Stark then was made C. in C. of the US navy in European waters.

13 Churchill, W.L.S., The Second World War (London: Cassels, 1950), part III, chapter 31.

14 This writer remembers quite clearly that some days after the attack on Pearl Harbour, when the German-Italian declaration of war against the US was a fact, the East Indies broadcasting corporation NIROM in its evening news service quoted the US Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, stating: “Hitler, not Japan, is our main enemy”.

15 In this connection attention should be paid to the refurbishing of the Dutch cabinet in exile in London some weeks before Pearl Harbour. In all probability this meant more than the usual Dutch squabbles that manifestly irritated the Russian prince Urussow mentioned at the start of this article. The Minister of Colonies, Welter, and the Minister of Economic Affairs, Steenberghe, both of them more or less compromisers with respect to Germany in the style of the former prime minister, De Geer, who early in 1941 absconded from London to Dutch-occupied Holland, were replaced by Dr van Mook and Kerstens, a more progressive Catholic. In fact this meant a slighting of the governor-general of the Indies, Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer, a nobleman and old diplomat who in the style of the Dutch diplomacy between the two world wars, while certainly not a compromiser with respect to Germany, even after the German attack on Holland advocated a good neighbour policy with Japan. Tjarda now was constitutionally placed under his former subordinate, van Mook. This refurbishing meant in fact a strengthening of the pro-Anglo-American wing within the Dutch cabinet as represented both by van Mook and Foreign Minister van Kleffens. This refurbishing was not entirely effectuated because van Mook was held in the Indies until a few days before the surrender of the Dutch to the Japanese in March 1942. This does not mean that this hardening of the attitude of the London cabinet changed.

16 In the Dutch East Indies the Eurasians, contrary to the practice in British India, were legally regarded not as natives but as Dutch. The reason was that the Dutch administration had used the Eurasians as a buffer against Indonesian nationalism since the start of this century. On the other hand the Eurasians saw the proponents of Indonesian nationalism as competitors for the jobs they occupied. The Japanese military administration tried to win over the Eurasians by seeing them as Asian but with little success, for in 1943–45 most of them saw that Japan's position was hopeless and hoped for a return of the Dutch in order to maintain their privileged position. The historiographer of the Netherlands during the Second World War, Dr. L. de Jong, showed little understanding for this situation. In his Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog (The Hague: Staatsdrukkerij, 1984–86), part XIa-XIc, he depicts the attitude of those Eurasians not interned by the Japanese as a kind of altruistic Nibelunge-Treue towards the Dutch.

17 For the original Japanese text see Waseda Daigaku Okuma Kinen Shakai Kagaku Kenkyujo, Indonesia ni Okeru Nihon Gunsei no Kenkyu (Tokyo, 1959), pp. 531–99.

18 For the first period of the Japanese occupation of Indonesia vide Benda, H.J., “The Beginnings of the Japanese Occupation of Java”, Far Eastern Quarterly 15 (1956): 541–60, dealing with the “Gleichschaltung”-measures of the Japanese Military Administration.

19 For a discussion of agrarian unrest in connection with religious associations, vide Benda, H.J., The Crescent and the Rising Sun: Indonesian Islam under Japanese Occupation 1942–1945 (The Hague: W. van Hoeve, 1958) and Shireibu, Osamu Shudan, Zen Jawa Kaikyo Jokyo Chosajo (Djakarta, 1943), describing inter alia the emergence of agrarian-based gangs in connection with the redundancy of coolies from the big agricultural estates.

20 In the Koiso cabinet that succeeded the first wartime ministry of Tojo, Kodama was Minister of Education, and in the Suzuki cabinet he was Minister of State.

21 This writer's Mend, the Leyden professor Kurt Radtke, cautioned him against drawing too sharp a line between the Foreign Office and military people.

22 H.J. Benda, “The Beginnings of the Japanese Occupation of Java”, and L. Sluimers, '“Nieuwe Orde’ op Java: De Japanese Bezettingspolitiek en de Indonesische Elites 1941–1943”, Bijdragen tot de Taal- Land- en Volkenkunde 124, 3 (1968): 336–67, and Touwen, Elly, “De Indonesische Nationalisten en de Oorlog met Japan, Illusies en Ontgoocheling”, in Nederlands-Indië en de oorlog met Japan. Houding en Readies, ed. Groen, Petra and Touwen, Elly (The Hague: Staatsdrukkerij, 1992).

23 In 1979 this writer, then taking part in the conference of the European Association of Japanese Studies in Florence, was told by a Japanese co-participant that Togo's aim was to force by his resignation the downfall of the Tojo cabinet and then to conclude peace with the Allies on favourable conditions.

24 RVO IC (abbreviation for Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie - Indische collectie [State Institute for War Documentation - Indies Collection]), No. 30697.

25 The Japanese words for battalion, company and section are Daitai, Chutai and Shotai. By using for the Indonesian units the suffixes “dan” instead of “tai”, the army authorities in fact attached to these units a somewhat lesser importance than to the Japanese ones.

26 Manifestly a man of radical tendencies as after the war he assumed Indonesian citizenship, being of the opinion that Japan had betrayed its ideals. The Japanese lieutenant-colonel Miyamoto Shizuo, at the end of the war chief of operations of the 16th army in his book Jawa Shusen Shoriki [Annotation about the settlements on Java at the end of the war] (2nd edition; Tokyo: Tosho Insatsu, 1973) writes: “If I had the responsibility captain Yanagawa would have been expelled and the PETA been reorganized.” Later utterances made to this writer both by one of the leading Japanese experts in modern Japanese-Indonesian relations, the Waseda University professor Goto Ken'ichi, and by his student, Mrs. Mary Verhoeven (nee van Delden), who still is in correspondence with colonel Miyamoto, indicate that the latter somewhat changed his views.

27 The “divide et impera” policy is the main thesis of Harry J. Benda in his book The Crescent and the Rising Sun.

28 Here the argument follows Dahm, Bemhard, Sukarno's Kampfum Indonesien Unabhdngigkeit: Werdegang und ldeen eines Indonesischen Nationalisten (Frankfurt: Harassowitz, 1966).

29 In an interview with Jorge B. Vargas, chairman of the Japanese-sponsored Philippine Executive Commission and afterwards Philippine ambassador in Japan, the latter told this writer on 1 Aug. 1973 in his villa annex restaurant at Tagaytay that at a reception in Tokyo Shigemitsu openly stated that Japan's position was beyond repair.

30 Kodama Hideo (1876–1947), eldest son of Count Kodama Gentaro, who was Chief of Staff to the supreme commander, Marshall Oyama Iwao, in the Russo-Japanese war and played a decisive role in the conquest of Port Arthur. As an administrator, Kodama Gentaro was the main figure in the colonialization of Formosa.

31 A very interesting side-glance upon this military action is found in Barkman, C.D. and Hoeven, H. de Vries-van der, Een Man van Drie Levens: Biografie van diplomaat, schrijver en orientalist Robert Van Gulik (Amsterdam: Forum, 1995), the biography of the diplomat, detective-writer and orientalist Robert Van Gulik who in 1944 served in Chungking.

32 Ken'ichi, Goto, Hi no Umi no Bohyo (Tokyo: Jiji Shimbunsha, 1977), the biography of Ichiki (Mominoki) Tatsuo, a Japanese who before the Pacific War emigrated to Indonesia and was killed by the Dutch while fighting on Indonesian side during the Second “Police Action” in 1949. Ichiki was one of those serving the PETA-Shidobu.

33 There are all kinds of signs that behind the scenes the guiding spirit of this boarding school was Vice-Admiral Shībata Yaichiro, commander of the 2nd Southern Expeditionary Fleet in Surabaya. In all probability Shibata is the same person as naval commander Shibata mentioned in Goodman, Grant K., Four Aspects of Philippine-Japanese Relations (New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Studies Program, 1967). In his essay on the Philippine populist Benigno Ramos, who in 1935 after the abortive Sakdal revolt fled to Japan, Goodman gives an account of a meeting in Tokyo's Hibiya park between Ramos and Japanese radicals in which Shibata used anti-Western language. The contents of this meeting were duly reported to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

The Japanese Military and Indonesian Independence

  • László Sluimers (a1)


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