The invasion of Timor , which lasted from January 1942 to February 1943 , took place during the Dutch East Indies Campaign , as part of the Asian Theater of the Second World War .


Main article: Dutch East Indies Campaign .

Timor was divided between two colonial powers: Portugal to the east and the Netherlands to the west. The Australia had concluded a treaty of alliance with the Netherlands in the case of Japanese invasion. The Portuguese government hopes to turn that Japan would respect its neutrality in World War 2 . On December 12, 1941 , as the Japanese attacked Western possessions in Asia, a detachment of 1,400 Australian soldiers, known as the Sparrow Force , was deployed in Kupang, in the Dutch part of Timor.

Allied invasion of East Timor

The Portuguese government of Antonio Salazar had denied the Allies permission to deploy in East Timor , which could leave their front exposed in the face of a Japanese attack. On December 17, 1941, as the Japanese began their attack on the possessions of the Netherlands, 400 Dutch and Australian soldiers entered the territory of the Portuguese colony. The 500 Portuguese soldiers did not offer resistance, while the Portuguese governor, Manuel de Abreu Ferreira de Carvalho, declared prisoner 1 .

Japanese invasion

Portuguese Timor

On January 26, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Penfui’s airstrips, and was resisted by the Royal Air Force , the United States Army Air Force , and the Royal Australian Air Force. .

On the night of February 19 to 20, Japanese troops landed at Dili , capital of the Portuguese colony. The Australians, taken by surprise, nevertheless resisted strongly before retiring to the southern and eastern mountains, while the Dutch retreated to the southeastern border.

Dutch Timor

Also on the night of February 19 to 20, the Japanese bombed the Allied forces in West Timor. 4000 Japanese soldiers then landed in the southeast of the island, cutting off the Dutch positions of the Australian Armed Forces. On February 23, the Sparrow Force soldiers were exhausted, and their commander William Legatt agreed to surrender to the Japanese.

Allied resistance

By the end of February, the Japanese controlled most of the Dutch Timor and surrounding Dili, but were still fearful of advancing south and east of the island, where Allied forces had entrenched themselves in the mountains. Despite the official neutrality of the Portuguese governor, part of the Portuguese armed forces and natives of East Timor assisted the Allied forces by allowing them to use their telephone lines to communicate with each other. The Allies, however, did not have an international communication system, and were cut off from the outside world. In March, the Allied forces that had retreated on the island made their junction. Australians, Dutch and Portuguese carried out guerrilla actionsagainst Japanese forces, including killing one of the enemy commanders. On May 24, commanders Veale and Van Stratten were evacuated by the Royal Air Force .

Japanese counterattack

In August, reinforcements of the 48 th Japanese division came from the Philippines. On 19 August, an offensive took the Dutch positions around the towns of Maubisse and Beco. The Japanese also ensured the collaboration of some natives of East Timor, who provided them with information on allied positions, and rebelled against the Portuguese at Maubisse. The Australians, for their part, also sent reinforcements. In September, the Japanese used Timorese militias to confront the Allies, and also lobbied the Portuguese for help. 26 Portuguese citizens, including several officers and a Catholic priest, were killed in the first six months of occupation. In November, the Japanese ordered Portuguese civilians to gather in a “neutral zone”under pain of being considered accomplices of the Allies. This had the effect of encouraging the Portuguese to join the Allied camp, and to ask them for help in evacuating women and children.

On the night of 30 November to st December, the Royal Australian Navy organized a landing Dutch reinforcements, while evacuating civilians. One of the three boats used for the operation, HMAS Armidale , was nevertheless sunk by the Japanese with all its passengers.

Allied pension

By the end of 1942, the Japanese now numbered 12,000 men on the island. On 11 December, a Dutch destroyer evacuated the remains of the Sparrow Force, as well as Portuguese civilians. A general retreat was decided at the end of January 1943 , and the last allied soldiers were evacuated on February 10, ending the Dutch East Indies campaign .

Notes and references

  • Netherlands East Indies Campaign  [ archive ]
  1. ↑ a and b Department of Defense (Australia), 2002, “A Short History of East Timor”.  [ archive ]
  2. ↑ Fighting in Timor  [ archive ] , Australian War memorial