light cruiser HrMs De Ruyter was sunk by Japanese cruisers during the Battle of Java Sea, along with light cruiser Java and destroyer Kortenaer. The ship sank at 0230 hours in the morning of 28 february. 345 crewmembers perished.
Also there is no Dutch Navy - ROYAL NETHERLANDS NAVY Doorman choise not to sail out - he NEEDED form the state by extortion of australie and USA. Australie and USA where too silly and too cowardly to take it. We had no habbit for keeping orders for our self, the USA and AUS Navy did poorly communcations HOUSTON did tried to escape and everytime to leave the flottila - Doorman said - Follow me - LIKE GET THE FUCK BACK. They NEVER would enter Australia, whoever had the Command. The Dutch had no war lucks, we did fight whit just the only shit we had, since USA didn't found us important enough. Also the USS Houston was no hero, and here nick name ''Ghost ship'' is stolen from a other ship The Dutch did in ''Comparsion'' a beter job. and NO I am not disappointed about facts the Dutch surrender, since you know what our Army was, and we never really lost and I cannot carre about haters comments. Next time, write a proper story, based on real facts and not dumb all shit at us, but I think you guys where just too-unhuman for that.
Okay, what the devil are you going on about? It may seem strange I'm reviving this, but you argument makes no sense.
Doorman left orders for the surviving ships not to rescue survivors, so to criticize the late captains of the Houston and Perth is dumbfounded. The US Asiatic Fleet was mostly composed of older, outdated ships. All of our destroyers were the old 'four piper' variant that were over 20 years old. Houston was a heavy cruiser, but had no radar and needed modernization, not going over the fact that most of their initial five inch shells were duds. For the British, they lost one BB and one BC in December, and given their budget constraints and cost of WWI, could not afford to send more than what they did.
ABDA was fragmented, four different navies, four different ways of doing things(though the British and Australians used similar methods). Doorman was aggressive, and competent, but should have put more energy into uniting his command(though it's more accurate to say that of all of ABDAs high command).
USS Houston received her nickname "Galloping Ghost of the Java Coast" because Tokyo Rose kept reporting her sunk time and time again. Can't say for HMAS Perths ammunition, but Houston used a lot of her 8 inch shells during the battle. So much so, that her crew had to hand carry shells from her aft turret(knocked out in a earlier air raid) and switch to star shells at Sunda Strait.
As for that quip that the US didn't find the Netherlands important enough. I should remind you that we lost a lot of soldiers during those first few months(Phillipines, Wake Island, Guam, etc). Our Pacific Fleet was pasted at Pearl Harbor, and with only three carriers initially in the Pacific, it's unrealistic to assume the US would come bounding to aid the East Indies. I think the fact a lot of the remaining Asiatic Fleet was lost near Java should show that we did offer support.
Off the record, I would recommend giving your comment a once over before posting. A few spelling and grammar errors are fine, but not that many. Also, using childish insults lowers your credibility.
No worries, I'm not one to lump a whole nation due to the actions of a few. We have plenty of these idiots in the US as well, proclaiming that America was the sole combatant in the war. Hell, I had to tell a few students that Canada and Australia fought in the war. For the criticisms put on him, I found Doormans conduct brave; the Dutch(and the rest of ABDA for that matter) just didn't have a lot to work with. Got a growing library on the Pacific now, trying to expand outside a US viewpoint. Picked up 'Fall of Java' by P.C. Boer and 'Battle of the Java Sea' by Van Ooesten(sp?).
Wouldn't call myself a fan of the IJN, but have some books on them to see their point of view. Read 'Japanese Destroyed Captain' by Tameichi Hara, guy was a class act!
Not sure of the appearance of the cruisers(heard some were pretty top heavy). Firepower was impressive though, could outgun anything the US had initially. Played Battlestations Midway a while, never got into it I'm afraid. Don't play as much as I used too, went back to school to get a Masters, that's eats up a lot of time. Mostly play Battlefield 3 now.
But Captain Hec Waller RAN (Known in both the RAN and RN as 'hard over Hec' due to his conning of ships which many all agree on being superb) had no intention of continuing to the northeast. He had the HMAS Perth reverse course, likely to port to keep from being silhouetted again,and head toward the stricken flagship,slowing down slightly.
One may speculate here that the USS Houston,already headed south east, also slowed down and probably turned to port. Both Captain's Waller and Rooks wanted to check on the status of the obviously troubled HNMLS De Ruyter and find out what Doorman wanted to do. Doorman had given orders that disabled ships and surviving crews were to be left 'to the mercy of the enemy',But now it was he who would be left behind - who needed saving.
Would he change his orders now?
An Aldis lamp on the HNLMS De Ruyter flashed their answer -
"Proceed to Batavia. Do not stop to attempt rescue of us".
While the use of the Aldis lamp requires brevity, 'grim and to the point', was how one historian described this message, neither the format nor his innate stoicism could take away from the meaning of this last order of Rear Admiral Karel Doorman RNN - and it has not gotten the attention it deserves.
In movies,it is almost cliché for a soldier to give his life for his comrades,even to shout at them, 'Forget about me! Save yourselves!´ - Yet this was one real-life case where it actually happened.
A commanding officer,no less.
A commanding officer whose courage had been questioned and ridiculed, telling the remaining ships under his command to leave him behind and save themselves, ships that were not even of his country and whose crews had been among those who had criticized him.
Not only did he tell them to save themselves,he ordered them to do so, giving them legal cover for doing so and hopefully sparing Captain Waller RAN of any feelings of guilt for seemingly having abandoned the cruisers survivors. Whatever the faults of Karel Doorman,he deserves hero status for this one selfless act.
The nobility of the gesture was certainly not lost on Captain Waller RAN, but he Now had other issues to worry about. Captain Waller RAN says that at this point as senior surviving officer '..he took the USS Houston under his orders',but exactly what this means is unclear.
He probably signaled the USS Houston to continue heading south east and the HMAS Perth would catch up. At around midnight, the HMAS Perth caught up to the USN Ship,but in a fashion much more dramatic than anyone would have preferred.
The USS Houston was speeding to the southeast towards Soerabaja when her lookouts thought theyspotted torpedoes - it bears remembering here that all day the crews, not knowing the capabilities of the Japanese Type 93 torpedo, had thought they were being stalked by submarines, who in their minds had claimed the HNMLS Kortenaer,HMS Jupiter and now HNMLS Java and HNMLS De Ruyter.
Now here were more - or so it seemed.
Captain Rooks USN ordered a hard turn to starboard to avoid the torpedoes - except they were not torpedoes - and the HMAS Perth was trying to pass the American cruiser to starboard to take the lead position in this now two-ship column. Captain Waller's difficult turn to avoid the HNMLS De Ruyter and the USS Houston would have been for naught but for a member of the USS Houston's bridge crew, who literally pushed the helmsman aside, seized the wheel and swung it hard over to port.
A Collision was avoided by only 25 yards.
Captains Waller RAN and Rooks USN took the opportunity of this 'meeting' to discuss their options. Waller recommended they head to Batavia at 20 knots; Rooks countered that they should head there at 30 knots. And so, as the history books claim, the HMAS Perth and USS Houston sped off 'into the night', and their own date with destiny and legend, leaving behind the blazing hulk of the crippled and sinking HNMLS De Ruyter.
Before the USS Houston lost sight of the Dutch flagship over the horizon,her lookouts had counted nine separate explosions.
At about this time,to add insult to injury,Naval Commander Soerabaja sent out the following signal -
'Convoy concentrated to 39 transports in two column,1500 yards between columns,course north, speed ten. 3 destroyers in column right flank,1000 yards. 1 cruiser,2 destroyers in column left flank 1000 yards. 2 cruisers and six destroyers concentrating on convoy at high speed positions probably, Lat 05-36S, Long 112-46E/0227 1842'.
The irony is worthy of Alannis Morrisette.
The information the Combined Striking Force had been waiting for all day and night was finally available - 20 minutes too late. Now the Combined Striking Force was in no shape to act on it. What would have been precious news was now useless to the beleaguered Admiral Doorman.
Now the Dutch admiral could only oversee the evacuation of the glowing blast furnace that his flagship had become. Amidst the continuing explosions and with the power out, lowering lifeboats and other life preserving equipment was next to impossible. Nevertheless, Doormancould be seen assisting the wounded and giving encouragement to his crew.
Not all of thewounded were able to leave,however,and the ship's surgeon chose to stay with them and share their fate. So did Karel Doorman. His work finished,he returned to the bridge and was never seen alive again.
Still aloft was P-5, the USN PBY Catalina flying boat that had found the convoy and done its best to get the information to those who needed it most. As it was returning home, it spotted several sharp flashes in the distance, followed by several heavy explosions. Then it spotted two ships in the moonlight, leaving the area at high speed. P-5 dutifully reported the sighting, and wondered what it all meant.
On the north coast of Java, people were wondering what was behind the ominous sounds they had been hearing throughout the night from far out to sea. Many thought it was a storm; indeed it was, though not of the meteorological variety. Others, like one American B-17 pilot, knew better -
"I could hear a dull rumble in the midnight air coming from far over the water. The people in the blacked-out streets assumed it was distant thunder. I knew it was the little Dutch Navy in its final agony out there in the dark, all alone."
Said another pilot - "HNMLS Java died that night in the gunfire which came rolling in over the water".
Gunfire and explosions. The sounds would end that night when the HNMLS De Ruyter - the repeated blasts having ruptured her hull,the raging inferno having heated it to near-incandescence, slipped beneath the dark waters of the Java Sea with an unpleasant steaming hiss.
The time was 02:30.
HMAS Perth and the USS Houston were both sunk with heavy loss of life just after midnight on 1 March 1942 during the 'Battle of the Sunda Strait' - Both Captain's Waller and Rooks were to both fail to survive the action. The Japanese Admiral in charge of the Fleet was also killed during later actions as were many of those present, while survivors of the Sunda and Java Sea Battle were also killed as POWs due to 'Mistreatment and Illness'.
The wrecks of all those lost in these Battles including HMAS Perth, USS Houston, HNMLS Java, HMNLS De Ruyter and HNMLS Kortner are now dive wrecks visited by SCUBA divers the world over and also locations of great respect to those who have had their family members killed on board in those dark days of 1942.
By now,the Japanese floatplanes had been forced to retire for lack of fuel, so now Takagi's advantage of knowing Doorman's movements was gone. The Combined Striking Force and the Japanese were now equally blind as the other to their movements. The Allies could have even had an advantage here as P-5, a Catalina with the USN Patrol Wing 10,was aloft that night, and did spot the Japanese convoy in the moonlight.
P-5 transmitted the convoys position to Naval Commander Soerabaja and continued to shadow it, but could Naval Commander Soerabaja get that information to Doorman in time? Indeed,even with both forces equally blind,Doorman had a small advantage,if only he had realized it.
Takagi knew the Allies last course,courtesy of his float planes.
A radical change of course after the withdrawal of the float planes might have left the cocky Takagi fumbling to find the Allied cruisers once again. But without knowledge of the convoys location, such a move would have been a 'dicey' proposition. And so,in desperation,having passed Toeban Bay, Doorman made his last dash north to find the convoy, hoping he had outflanked them to the west.
'He had no idea how close he came in this last magnificent attempt.´
So says the USN's ONI Narrative,adding a small bit of hyperbole to an otherwise dry missive.
But it is not out of place.
With four ships,dead tired,low on ammunition and outnumbered, Doormans attempt to strike the convoy was the naval version of Thermopylae,if ultimately less successful.
As now the final chapter began at 2315,when the HNMLS De Ruyter signaled to the HMAS Perth now directly behind her,"Target at port. Four points".
The Dutch cruisers lookouts had sighted the Nachi and Haguro in the moonlight, 45 degrees off the port bow at a distance of about 9000 yards.
It is at this point that the reports and other evidence become much more ambiguous or even contradictory. No one agrees on when events took place in relation to other events or in some cases whether those events occurred at all. This is understandable, for much of the evidence for this last phase of the battle consists of eyewitness testimony, normally the least reliable form of evidence in the best of times, and notoriously unreliable in times of extreme stress, for which the Battle of the Java Sea certainly qualifies.
Perceptions of time suffer especially in such situations.
As such, it is literally impossible to give complete effect to all of the reports and testimony available. Presumably for that reason, most histories have only given a quick or general description of the last encounter between the ABDA Combined Striking Force and the Japanese Sentai 5.
For much of the war, the specially-trained and equipped Japanese lookouts,who used oversized and polarized binoculars, would out perform even American radar. Here,where neither the Americans nor their allies had radar, the Japanese had already spotted the cruiser column at 2303 at 16000 yards.
Sentai 5 was in column on a course 180 degrees True, due south. Some sources indicate the Japanese had taken the Combined Striking Force under fire even before the HNMLS De Ruyter spotted the cruisers, but if so the fire was completely ineffective, as the Allied reports do not even mention it.
The situation for the Japanese appears to have been trickier than is generally recognized. Tanaka,whose 2nd Destroyer Flotilla had been screening the convoy to the west/northwest, ordered a course reversal to a north easterly heading, keeping his squadron between the Allies and theconvoy. According to Hara,Takagi,still headed due south,ordered Sentai 5 to slow down so he could develop a good firing angle for his torpedoes.
The secondary battery (5-inch) of the USS Houston fired starshells at a range of 10 000 yards. Starshells - illumination rounds - are intended to reveal a target by backlighting it, but in order to silhouette a target starshells need to burst behind it.
The USS Houston's starshells fell short.
The American cruiser fired two more salvoes of illumination rounds, this time at a range of 14000 yards.
These, too, fell short.
The Japanese fired illumination rounds of their own.
These fell short as well,but the Allies terrible luck held: the glare of the Japanese starshells concealed the Nachi and Haguro behind them, basically blinding the Allied gunners.
Takagi may have intended to launch torpedoes at this point, because he would have had a good firing solution for his Long Lances, but he did not for reasons that remain vague. He may have underestimated the Allied columns speed or, more likely, he was concerned that a torpedo launch might move his cruisers out of position blocking the convoy and allow Doorman to get behind him.
As it was,Doorman was able to get slightly north of Takagis cruisers by perhaps a littlemore than one mile, not enough to make a difference.
The Nachi and Haguro turned to starboard, poured on speed, and spent the next twenty minutes trying to close the range with the Combined Striking Force.
What followed next was the naval equivalent of two exhausted football teams fighting it out in a sudden death overtime of the most literal kind - a slow exchange of fire as the Japanese labored to close the range. The HNMLS Java kept her guns trained on the Japanese, but since she was outranged - again - she did not fire.
The USS Houston ahead of her was down to less than 300 rounds of 8-inch ammunition Plus 50 per functional gun,a fact which, due to the USS Houstons lack of a functioning TBS /radio, had to be relayed to Doorman by the HMAS Perth.
In response Doorman ordered the USS Houston not to fire unless she could be certain of a hit.
In the action she fired once and only once.
So this last confrontation was between the 8-inch Japanese heavycruisers Nachi and Haguro and the 6-inch Allied light cruisers HNMLS De Ruyter and HNMLS Java and HMAS Perth.
Not an even match.
As it had been through the day Japanese gunfire was tightly spaced and highly accurate. The USS Houston was dangerously straddled. One shell came so close to the HNMLS De Ruyter that the other ships thought she had been hit on her quarterdeck, but Dutch accounts make no mention of such a hit.
The exchange of gunfire,a violent contrast to the peaceful, even romantic backdrop of the bright moon and stars, was slow and sporadic, as a direct result of the dwindling supply of ammunition and the crews own exhaustion. By this time,the battle had already taken seven hours and both sides were extremely tired, the Allies much more so for having been at Action stations 24 hours before hand.
Having to work the manual labor part of the battle, the gun crews on both sides had had an especially tiring day. So it is not surprising that the exchange of fire here was slow. So slow was the exchange that it took a moment to register when the Japanese actually stopped firing.
Now why would they do that?
Karel Doorman knew why - the Japanese had launched torpedoes.
Japanese tactical doctrine called for an ambush of enemy forces in a night attack using torpedoes before opening up with gunfire. Nihon Kaigun used this doctrine very effectively during the war in places such as Savo Island and Tassafaronga.
But the doctrine depends on the element of surprise,meaning you are not supposed to tip off the enemy that you are launching torpedoes - which is precisely what Takagi did by ceasing fire.
Thus informed, Doorman did exactly what he was supposed to do: ordered an immediate 90-degree turn to starboard in an attempt to comb the torpedoes - that is, turn to a course parallel to that of the torpedoes to present a narrow stern (preferably) or bow profile (as opposed to a widebeam profile) and thus minimizing the chances of a hit.
Because each ship was to turn as fast as possible, the result would be a breaking of the column and would result instead in a line of ships four abreast headed east, what is sometimes called a 'line turn',´or a 'simultaneous turn´ or an 'echelon turn.´
Capt Waller RAN does not record whether such an order was flashed back to the HMAS Perth,but he did not need the order: the wily veteran had figured out what was going on and ordered that the HMAS Perth go into an immediate 90 degree turn to starboard, conforming to the HNMLS De Ruyters turn and leaving the HMAS Perth behind and somewhat to starboard of the flagship.
One way or another,word was passed back to the USS Houston,who began to make her own 90 Degree turn to starboard. Word reached the HNMLS Java,900 yards astern of the USS Houston.
The HNMLS Java began her turn, But the HNMLS Java would never finish her turn.
Time had run out.
At 2332,while early in her turn,the HNMLS Java suffered an underwater explosion port side aft, the end result of one of eight torpedoes fired ten minutes earlier by the Nachi. Now the HNMLS Javas aged design and poor internal compartmentalization, her obsolete gun layout would all come home to roost.
Almost simultaneous with the first explosion came a second.
This blast was not so much larger than the first as it was cataclysmic,sending a huge fireball into the night sky. Horrified lookouts on the USS Houston saw 'bodies flying through the air, silhouetted by flames, the water burning.´ The blast was actually felt by crewmen above and below decks both aboard the HMAS Perth such was the force of the explosion.
'In a mass of smoke and fire, the stern of the HNMLS Java disappeared'.
When the smoke cleared enough to see, the HNMLS Java now ended in 'an abruptly blazing,jagged,tangled mess where once her stern had been before'.
The Nachis torpedo had caused the HNMLS Java's aft magazine,not nearly as well protected as those of her more modern brethren, to explode, blowing off some 100 feet of the cruisers stern. There was no hope for the ship; the truncated stern section could not be sealed off and the engineroom was flooding.
Captain van Straelen gave the order to abandon ship, but the HNMLS Java was settling so rapidly there was no time to launch the lifeboats. The fire had also consumed most of the HNMLS Java's life vests. Crewmen tossed anything overboard that might float and then jumped after them.
Less than fifteen minutes after the devastating torpedo hit, the bow of the HNMLS Java reared up and the shattered stern led the rest of the ship to down the depths.
Out of a crew of 528,only nineteen survived.
One can only wonder at the thoughts of Admiral Doorman, helplessly watching the fiery end of this old cruiser that had served under him for so many years. Karel Doorman cared deeply for the men under his command, whether they were Dutch or Anglo.
He took every precaution to protect them, did everything he could to make sure that his men were not sacrificed for nothing,so much so that he was branded a coward. So much so that even after he ordered survivors of sunk or disabled ships to be left 'to the mercy of the enemy´, he avoided doing so when he could by screening the staggering HMS Exeter and giving her an escort home, checking to make sure the crew of the dying HMS Jupiter were going to be okay, and even giving up his last, badly-needed destroyer, HMS Encounter,to pick up the half-drowned survivors of the HNMLS Kortenaer
Every casualty had to be affecting him as deeply as it was those around him.
For the mortified crewmen of the USS Houston,their horror was mixed with a sense of bewilderment. Captain Rooks USN had to maneuver the ship to avoid torpedoes 'that zipped past us 10 feet on either side.´
But where had they come from?
They were still unaware of the range and capabilities of the Japanese Type 93 torpedo, and the Nachi and Haguro had disappeared into a rain squall. A number of the crew believed they had run into a submarine ambush yet again.
In watching the end of the HNMLS Java,the one thought that had to run through their minds was - There but for the grace of God go we.´
The USS Houston's own No. 3 turret had been disabled by a bomb hit three weeks earlier that had also killed 50 Sailors, a fact not lost on Admiral Doorman and the big reason he was reluctant to sortie under threat of air attack. The bomb had started a fire in the turret that nearly reached the No. 3 magazine beneath it.
If it had done so, the USS Houston's stern would most likely have been blown off and she would have suffered a fate similar to that of the HNMLS Java. As it was,she was lucky to escape with only a gutted, useless turret.
So the men of the USS Houston could be forgiven for being transfixed on the catastrophe behind them,so much so that they were in danger of missing the catastrophe unfolding in front of them.
While the loss of the HNMLS Java was devastating, it could have been a lot worse. Doorman guessing what the cessation of Japanese gunfire meant and acting quickly on that guess with the 90 degree starboard turn had quite likely saved his other three ships.
His northward column was now a narrow right echelon formation made up of in this order, HNMLS De Ruyter in front, with HMAS Perth behind her and to starboard, and USS Houston behind HMAS Perth and further to starboard, All now headed east.
He decided it was time to reform the column.
As he had twice earlier in the day, Doorman would reform the column by having his flagship basically circle his remaining ships so they could fall in behind him. The HNMLS De Ruyter would turn to starboard and cross the bow of the HMAS Perth,after which the HMAS Perth would in turn move to starboard and fall in behind. Then both ships would cross in front of the USS Houston, who would then fall in behind the HMAS Perth.
To that end, Doorman ordered the HNMLS De Ruyter to make a further turn to starboard, either in a continuation of the original turn or as the start of a new turn. Because this turn would take the HNMLS De Ruyter across the track the Japanese torpedoes had followed,Doorman must have been convinced that the threat of the Japanese torpedoes had passed.
Possibly his staff had made calculations based on the estimated firing time and torpedo track. More likely,the HNMLS De Ruyter's lookouts had seen torpedoes pass by; as it was, the USS Houston had watched torpedoes bracket the USN cruiser. Doorman clearly believed the torpedoes had passed. And, indeed, those remaining from the Nachi had actually passed the column and were churningaway from the action.
So the HNMLS De Ruyter turned to the southeast, her forward guns swinging around to starboard to remain trained on the Japanese cruisers, apparently convinced the immediate danger had ended.
Which is why there was surprise and extreme consternation on the bridge of the HNMLS De Ruyter when a telegraphist spotted wakes approaching from a relative bearing of 135 degrees.
"What is that!?!?"
The response from Admiral Doorman was calm and matter-of-fact.
"Thats a torpedo"
The flagship was still turning to starboard when a Type 93 lanced into the starboard side aft, near her reduction gearing. A member of the Dutch Marine Corps remembered, "It was like the ship was lifted from the water; all lights went out, we were listing heavily and fire broke out on the AA deck".
The HNMLS De Ruyter was the victim of something of a freak hit. She had been the victim of one of four torpedoes fired by the Haguro.
The Haguro had fired her spread at 2323,one minute after the Nachi. That one-minute differential had allowed the Haguro,running at high speed,to overtake the Nachis original firing position and maybe to even apparently pass it. As a result, the Haguros torpedoes had overlapped with the Nachis torpedo track.
Doormans quick action to reform the column was too quick, as he had unknowingly led his flagship right into the path of the Haguros deadly fish. Whether the one-minute differential was intentional is a mystery.
But the result was not.
The Haguros torpedo does not seem to have been immediately fatal to the positive buoyancy of the HNMLS De Ruyter,but it might as well have been.
As noted earlier, thecruiser lost power, because the hit had knocked out the turbines. The explosion started a fire that spread with extraordinary speed,and within minutes everything aft of the catapult was an inferno.
Why the fire spread so quickly is unclear.
What is known is that one of the ships oil tanks had ruptured and probably leaked flammable bunker fuel both inside and outside the ship. The anti aircraft deck was also rapidly succumbing to the spread of the fire. There the fire was especially dangerous, as it contained the five twin-barreled 40-mm Bofors anti aircraft mounts and ready Use lockers full of 40-mm ammunition,which presently began to explode with devastating effect.
Walter Winslow remembered, "Ammunition, detonated by the intense heat, sent white-hot fragments flying into the night sky like demonic fireworks"
The cruisers damage control teams went to work and may have kept it from immediately sinking,but the damage to the generators, now engulfed in flames, meant no power for water pumps for firefighting or reversing the flooding. The HNMLS De Ruyter was in a fatal conundrum, you could not put out the fire without restoring power, yet you could not restore power without putting out the fire.
The ship was doomed.
As if to emphasize the point,the fire on the antiaircraft deck reached the cruisers pyrotechnics locker,and flares,signal rockets and starshells shot into the sky in a ghoulish fireworks display.
The order to abandon ship was given.
Captain Lacomblé lamented, "Now it¶s all over ..."
When the flagship lost power she staggered to a halt,right in the path of the speeding Anglo cruisers. For Captain Rooks of the USS Houston,aft of and to starboard of the HMAS Perth,the decision was easy. The USS Houston turned to starboard and came within 100 yards of the stricken flagships starboard side and bow before heading off to the southeast.
A starboard turn by the HMAS Perth would have sharpened the USS Houston's starboard turn, and given both cruisers, high rate of speed which would have almost guaranteed a very damaging collision for the only remaining operational Allied ships in the Java Sea.
The only other option available to avoid shearing off the HNMLS De Ruyters blazing stern,which was now pointed northwest toward the HMAS Perth,was a very,very sharp port turn. Capt Hec Waller had to shut down one of his port engines to enable his starboard engines to swing the ships bow over further to port. The HMAS Perth came so close to the HNMLS De Ruyter, Her Crew were able to 'feel the heat of the flames and smell burning paint and a horrible stink like burning bodies'.
HMAS Perth managed to clear the Dutch cruisers stern and headed northeast. This desperate swerve may have had an interesting consequence. On the cruisers of Sentai 5, now northwest of the remnants of the Combined Striking Force, the crews were able to see the explosions of the HNMLS De Ruyter and the HNMLS Java through the rain,and filled the drizzly air with dancing and shouts of "Banzai"!!´
Admiral Takagi determined the Dutch cruisers to be finished.
Hoping to finish off the Remaining Allied ships,Takagi had the Nachi and Haguro dash in what he thought was a pursuit, to the northeast. Hara called it 'Takagis last mistake of the battle'.
Why he chose northeast has never been determined; it seems the Nachi may have seen the HMAS Perth,backlit by the burning HNMLS De Ruyter, in her port swerve to the northeast and may have followed.
In a supreme bit of irony, the Japanese had started World War II in the Pacific by attacking Pearl Harbor thousands of miles away in order to end their war in next-door China. Their objective was to secure the so-called "Southern Resources Area",the Netherlands East Indies; now called Indonesia and to obtain the natural resources they needed to not so much win the war in China but to end that war while saving face.
By the end of February 1942, the Japanese were on the verge of seizing the Netherlands East Indies, with only the island of Java, the most populous island of the Indies and its commercial and political center, remaining to be conquered, and Java was cutoff and ready to fall. The Allies, the United States, Britain and the Netherlands, had always believed that defense of the Far East against the Japanese was an iffy proposition at best, but the speed of the Japanese advance was still surprising.
An attempt was made to pool their slender resources available into an organization called ABDACOM - the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command. The naval component comprised of the USN Asiatic Fleet, elements of the British Far Eastern Fleet, the Dutch East Indies Squadron and elements of the Royal Australian Navy operating under Royal Navy command. It was known as ABDA-Float, which by mid-February 1942 was commanded by the Dutch Admiral Conrad EL Helfrich RNN.
A fully-integrated multinational force, like ABDACOM was then what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is today, it was a relatively 'new fangled thing'.
From its inception, ABDA-Float wascrippled by three major issues:
1.Communications Integrating sailors from four different countries and three different navies who spoke two different languages was never going to be easy. The additional pressures of a fast and relentless Japanese advance made it next to impossible.
2.A complete lack of air power The loss of the US Far Eastern Air Force (caught on the ground and destroyed by the Japanese due to the incompetence of US General Douglas MacArthur) and the British Malaya air force crippled ABDA air efforts, denied ABDA-Float necessary air protection and hampered intelligence gathering.
3.Operational accidents and mechanical breakdowns The speed of the Japanese advance and the lack of air protection denied ABDA-Float the necessary time and security for maintenanceand repair of their ships and rest for the crews. Facilities for such maintenance and repair in the Indies were basically limited to the principal Dutch naval base at Soerabaja (Surabaya), which became a major target for Japanese air attacks, and one floating drydock at Tjilatjap (Cilacap),inconveniently located on Java's southern coast.
The results further crippled Allied efforts.
These factors would show themselves again and again.
By the end of February, ABDACOM had proven to be ineffective and was dissolved, with the remaining ABDA forces placed under Dutch command for the last ditch defense of Java. Defense was more akin to leaving ones head in a noose, however,as by then Java had been cut off by the losses of the islands of Malaya and Sumatra to the west, and the islands of Bali and Timor to the east. Tactical command of the ABDA naval forces was placed in the hands of the aforementioned Karel Doorman.
Time and again, Doorman would sortie out to challenge the Japanese advance, only to be turned back by Japanese air attacks. So often did this happen that Doorman's courage was questioned and he was nearly relieved of duty several times. After the Battle of the Java Sea, questions about his courage seemed to vanish.
By the last few days of February 1942, Java itself was now under imminent threat. It was do or die for the Allies. The remaining ABDA warships,heavy cruisers HMS Exeter and USS Houston;light cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java and HMAS Perth;and destroyers HMS Electra,HMS Encounter, HMS Jupiter, HNLMS Kortenaer, HNLMS Witte de With, USS John D Edwards, USS Alden,USS John D Ford and USS Paul Jones were combined into the appropriately named Combined Striking Force.
Doorman met with the ship captains on 26 February 1942,to plan their action, but with little time or intelligence information, only a limited amount of planning could be done. So desperate were the Allies that, in the event a ship was disabled or sunk, Doorman ordered that it was "..to be left to the mercy of the enemy..." the few ships they had were too needed to fight to spare any for rescue missions.
On 26 February 1942, two Japanese invasion convoys, with warship escort, were reportedly descending on Java, one consisting of 56 transports for the western end of the island, the other of 41 transports for the eastern end. The Combined Striking Force was sent out under Admiral Doorman, with orders from Helfrich "to continue your attacks until the enemy is destroyed" in spite of utterly inadequate intelligence, to intercept the eastern convoy.
The hope was that the eastern convoy could be destroyed quickly so the Combined Striking Force could retire to Tanjoeng Priok and sortie again to destroy the western convoy. It was a desperate operational plan with little chance of success, but the Allies were long past the point of desperation. Doorman had his force run a sweep north of Madoera island and Java during the night of the 26th and most of the 27th, But found nothing, suffered yet another air attack, and radioed Helfrich that hewas returning back to base on account of the exhaustion of his crews, who had apparently been constantly kept at battle stations.
This prompted a rather remarkable radio exchange in which Helfrich scolded Doorman for turning back and admonished him to continue poking blindly for the convoy, and Doorman responded by telling Helfrich, obliquely and diplomatically, that if he wanted Doorman to attack the convoy then perhaps Helfrich should tell him where the convoy was.
Nevertheless, Doorman continued the search, but at 12:40 pm on the 27th reported again, "Personnel have this forenoon reached the point of exhaustion"; "because of the constant danger of air and surface attack,the crews has been kept at battle stations since their sortie on the 26th".
He decided to retire to Soerabaja and get the crews rest until he was given better information. Typical of the Dutch luck in the war, Doorman got the location of the convoy late in the afternoon of the 27 as his force entered the swept channel of the minefield between Java and Madoera, the northern route into Soerabaja's harbor.
He immediately turned around in the middle of the minefield.
In fact,he strayed out of the swept channel into the minefield itself. None of his ships hit any mines,but that luck with the mines would reverse itself later on. Also typical of bad luck, Doorman's abrupt about face was witnessed by a Japanese float plane.
Unfortunately for the Allies, the convoy had an escort.
A strong one.
Two destroyer flotillas,the 4th with 6 destroyers and the light cruiser Naka under Rear Admiral Nishimura Shoji;and the 2nd with 8 destroyers under Rear Admiral Tanaka Raizo,were sandwiched around two-thirds of the Japanese 5th Cruiser Division under Rear Admiral Takagi,who served as the Japanese Officer in Tactical Command for this action. The 5th Cruiser Division (Sentai 5) nominally consisted of three of the four heavy cruisers of the Myoko class, Myoko, Nachi and Haguro. But for reasons known only to the Japanese the Myoko had been detached from Sentai 5 and attached to the fourth member of the class,Ashigara, to serve as 'distant support´ for the invasion,though in Japanese nomenclature 'distant support´ more often then not meant 'just far enough away to be of no reasonable use.´
The only contribution by the Ashigara and the Myoko to the campaign was to chase down the crippled HMS Exeter and a few cohorts. It was a stupid decision, symptomatic of the arrogance, overconfidence and sloppiness that were slowly seeping into the Japanese naval war effort, to blow up in their faces four months later at the Battle of Midway.
But this campaign was too far gone for it to have much of an effect at this stage. So Takagi had the Nachi and Haguro, two modern cruisers who each had ten 8-inch guns and sixteen torpedo tubes (eight on each side) capable of firing the legendary Type 93 'Long Lance´torpedo.
Takagi also had a stable of float planes on his cruisers to monitor Doorman's movements. Doorman did not; having expected a night action, he had left his float planes ashore in keeping with Allied doctrine which regarded float planes as fire hazards in night battles.
TheJapanese, by contrast, were aggressive and creative with the use of their float planes throughout the war. Takagi's float planes would prove to be a significant advantage and arguably the difference in the battle.
Not that it necessarily should have been.
The Allies did have their own seaplanes in the area: Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats - all three of them - from USN Patrol Wing 10. They did not exactly have Doorman on their speed-dial, however, as the Japanese float planes did Takagi. Patrol Wing 10s reports had to be funneled through the communications center for the Soerabaja Naval District ('Naval Commander Soerabaja´).
In contrast to the modernNachi and Haguroand the powerful Japanese Type 93 Long Lance torpedo, the Allied force, though the crews were brave and well-trained, was a fairly motley collection of ships:
HMS Exeter With six 8-inch guns in three dual turrets plus torpedo tubes, the British heavy cruiser HMS Exeter was nominally the most heavily armed Allied cruiser on hand. Fresh off her famous defeatof the German ³pocket battleship KMS Admiral Graf Spee off the Rio de la Plata, the HMS Exeter's crew was battle-tested as well. But the cruiser was a little aged, in desperate need of serious maintenance,and had serious and ongoing problems with her fire control (targeting) and the train (rotation) limits of her No. 3 (aft) turret.
USS Houston Like most USN cruisers,the heavy cruiser USS Houston was the victim of a monumentally stupid decision by the US Navy in the1930's to remove the torpedo tubes from its cruisers, which left them less effective against enemy ships in general and largely defenseless against battleships in particular. The USS Houstonwas ostensibly the most heavily gunned Allied cruiser,with nine 8-inch guns in three triple turrets, but her No. 3 (aft) turret had been disabled by a bomb hit three weeks earlier and could not be repaired in theater.
HNMLS Java Laid down in 1916,the light cruiser HNMLS Java was designed to be more than a match for the Japanese cruisers of her time. Unfortunately,her time had come and gone before her completion in 1925,at which point she was already obsolete. By 1942, the light cruiser was arguably not fit for front-line service, but the Dutch were so hard-pressed for ships they had little choice. Though heavily modernized, with new fire control, an improved anti-aircraft package and a lot of paint, the HNMLS Java still suffered from the poor watertight compartmentalization suffered by the ships of her age. Additionally,while she was heavily gunned with ten 5.9-inch guns, her guns were not in armored enclosed turrets with secure access to fortified magazines, but were instead scattered in single-gun mounts across the main deck. She carried no torpedo tubes.
HNMLS De Ruyter With an intimidating tower mast and sleek lines, Karel Doorman's light cruiser cum flagship was beautiful, but her beauty could not mask the fact that she had been built on the cheap and,consequently,was woefully underarmored and underarmed. While the HNMLS De Ruyter did have state of the art fire control and a heavy anti-aircraft package featuring five twin-barreled Bofors 40 millimeter anti aircraft mounts, she carried no torpedo tubes and only seven 6-inch guns. Worse, for reasons known only to the Dutch,only three of those guns faced forward, meaning that most of the cruiser's main armament faced behind her.
HNMLS Kortenaer Two weeks earlier,the Dutch destroyer had been slated to take part in the Allied effort to oppose the Japanese landings on Bali. However, the HNMLS Kortenaer ran aground while navigating the narrow, twisting channel out of Tjilatjap and had to be left behind. The grounding caused damage to her boilers that could not be immediately repaired and limited her speed to 26 knots. By comparison,the slowest of Takagi's ships were capable of 31 knots.
USS John D Edwards, USS Alden USS John D Ford USS Paul Jones the four USN destroyers, grouped for this action into Destroyer Squadron 58, were from the Clemson class of 'flush deckers´ from the period just after World War I. The 'four pipers´ or 'four stackers´ (so called because of their four smokestacks) were underarmored and undergunned, but contained a powerful battery of 12 torpedo tubes each (six on each side),which the Allies desperately needed right now. The ships were in bad shape,in serious need of maintenance and suffered from old machinery,leaky feed-water pipes and bio fouled (Kelp, Barancles etc) bottoms that limited their speeds to 26 knots.
But this was the best the ABDA navies could do.
Fourteen ships, mostly old, worn and battered, from four different countries and three different navies speaking two different languages. Crews eager to dish out some of what they had been taking, but pushed beyond the point of physical and mental exhaustion.
No chance to train together.
No chance to develop a common communications system.
Not nearly enough time or intelligence information to develop anything but the most rudimentary battle plan.
No accurate intelligence.
No air cover whatsoever.
If Doorman was to successfully carry out his orders, he would have to make it up as he went along.
Doorman's general plan,it seems,was to keep the Combined Striking Force between the Japanese and the Java coast, while making periodic thrusts north to try to catch the convoy. The Japanese intent was both to protect the convoy, using its warships as a screen, and neutralize the remaining ABDA naval assets. Informed of Doorman's turnabout,Takagi raced to cut off the Allied approach to the invasion convoy.
Takagi was a submariner by training and it showed in his conduct in this battle. Takagi and his staff also seem to have been unusually nervous by normal Japanese or combat officer standards, and seemed aghast that their wartime enemies were actually shooting at them. Hara Tameichi, who commanded the Japanese destroyer Amatsukaze during the battle,wrote his memoirs 'Japanese Destroyer Captain' after the war.
His portrayal of Takagi therein is unflattering:
"an arrogant, cocky and haughty commander. Takagi grumbled at being forced to intercept Doorman, as in his wisdom he had been 'escorting´ the convoy from 200 miles behind them. Takagi had to race to catch up and got to the battlefield just as both sides sighted each other".
Nevertheless, Takagi managed to block the Combined Striking Force's initial approach to the convoy. Forced by communication issues to keep his cruisers in a column, Doorman thrust blindly northwest, amazingly enough in the direction of the convoy.
With only the 8-inch guns of the HMS Exeter and the USS Houston possessing the necessary range, the Allies engaged the Japanese in a long range but ineffectual gun duel. Doorman attempted to close the range to enable his light cruisers to engage - But Takagi threatened to 'cross the T´ of the ABDA column.
Doormanwas thus forced to turn and close at a much slower pace to attempt to bring his 6-inch guns into range. With the severe communication issues, Doorman had little choice but to give the Allied ships his famous order 'Follow me,´ and have them follow him like insect segments from the video game Centipede. And like the video game Centipede, these segments were picked off one by one:
HMS Exeter An 8-inch shell from the Haguro crashed through a gun mount and exploded in a boiler,knocking 5 of her 6 boilers off line and reducing her speed to between 5 and 10 knots. Spewingforth white steam from her damaged boilers, the HMS Exeter sheered out of column so that the USS Houston behind her would not plow into her stern. But the steam obscured the leading ship HNMLS De Ruyter from the remainder of the column,who thought they had missed an order to immediately turn,and they turned out of column just as the HMS Exeter had done, throwing the Combined Striking Force into Utter confusion. Ultimately, the HMS Exeter was ordered to retire to Soerabaja.
HNMLS Kortenaer The Allied cruisers were thrown into confusion in the path of oncoming Japanese torpedoes. While a number of the torpedoes exploded prematurely, one also from theHaguro struck Lieutenant Commander A. Kroese's HNMLS Kortenaer amidships. Her back broken, the destroyer jack-knifed, capsized and sank in a matter of minutes. Not comprehending the torpedoes in their midst had come from the Japanese ships,the Allies had no idea of the extreme range of the Type 93; every Japanese cruiser and destroyer carried torpedoes,and most,also unbeknownst to the Allies, even carried one set of reloads. The Allied crews were convinced they had been ambushed by Japanese submarines.
HMS Electra To protect the Crippled HMS Exeter,Doorman signaled 'Counterattack' to the British destroyers. While too scattered to mount a coordinated torpedo attack, the HMS Electra, HMS Encounter and HMS Jupiter moved to protect the HMS Exeter,supported by the HNMLS Witte de With. The HMS Electra,having just laid a smoke screen for the HMS Exeter,now charged into that smoke screen and came out on the other side to face the entire Japanese 2nd Destroyer flotilla and part of the 4th. Though she managed to temporarily disable the destroyer Asagumo, the HMS Electra's engines were knocked out by an early hit and her guns were picked off one by one, with the Jintsu administering particular tormenting fire to her.
She would succumb to the pounding.
HNMLS Witte de With While charging to support the British destroyers, the HNMLS Witte de With was taking the opportunity to drop depth charges on the supposed Japanese submarines. During high speed maneuvering,one of the readied depth charges was swept overboard and detonated under the destroyer's stern, damaging her propellers and knocking out two electrical generators. Whether the HNMLS Witte de With was battleworthy or seaworthy after this incident is unclear. She was ordered to escort the HMS Exeter to Soerabaja, where she entered drydock, but was not repaired before the Dutch had to abandon the port and consequently was scuttled.
USS John D Edwards USS Alden USS John D Ford USS Paul Jones With darkness approaching, Doorman was eager to shake the Japanese escorts and find the convoy. Apparently Doorman took his orders literally and did not consider that by destroying enough of the escorts he could force the convoy to turn back, a sign of Doorman's relative inexperience,which he shared with most American commanders at this stage of the war.
After a confusing series of orders and countermands, Doorman ordered the US Destroyer Squadron 58 to 'cover my retirement.´ DesRon 58's Commander, Thomas Binford, had no idea what that meant, but with his fuel running dangerously low and not wanting to return to base without firing his torpedoes in anger, he launched a long-range torpedo attack that forced the Japanese to turn away.
No hits were scored; whether this was because of the range, Japanese evasion or the almost complete ineffectiveness of USN torpedoes is unclear. As it turns out, Binford did exactly what Doorman had wanted and left the Dutch admiral impressed with Binfords work.
Thus temporarily freed from the engagement, Doorman thrust to the north at dusk before giving up,when he was only 20 miles away from the convoy - just over the horizon to the northwest. The US destroyers followed Doorman southward until the Allied column reached the Java coast, then with fuel almost gone, returned to Soerabaja.
It is at this perhaps unusual point that our story begins in earnest, for it is here that one can begin the identification of a subtle but conspicuously missing thread of the last hours of the battle recorded communications. And it begins with what is probably one of the most freakish incidents of the war.
The loss of the HMS Jupiter,Doorman's turn to the south when, unbeknownst to him, his objective was only 20 miles away was the result of his complete lack of intelligence as to the Japanese movements and dispositions. Doorman had an unfortunate habit of keeping his plans to himself, so it is not possible to know for certain what he was thinking. But if the information and considerations Doorman had are examined, it is possible to assemble a likely scenario of what the unfortunate Dutch admiral was attempting to do during these last hours of his life.
In turning to the south, Doorman had likely despaired of finding the convoy by poking blindly,randomly in the dark in the middle of the Java Sea. He does appear to have developed a better idea: go to the convoy's landing site and work back along their projected course track. And Allied intelligence had a prediction of the convoys landing site: Toeban (Tuban) Bay, on Java's northern coast about 50 miles west of the channel to Soerabaja.
To prepare for the predicted landing, a Dutch infantry contingent had been stationed at Toeban, and Admiral Helfrichhad ordered the minelayer HNMLS Gouden Leeuw to lay a minefield at the southern end of the bay.
Doorman was informed of these developments.
That the prediction of the Japanese convoy landing at Toeban was little more than an educated guess mattered little. It was not necessarily good information, but it was the best the Allies had,the best Doorman had, and so his best remaining option was to act on it.
The placement of the infantry would prove to be fortuitous, though not for reasons the Dutch had been considering; the minefield not so much.
When the Allied column reached the Java coast after dark, Doorman had them turn westward heading for Toeban, hugging the coast in the hopes of evading the notice of the Japanese while staying positioned between the Japanese and the coast. It was a futile effort; Japanese float planes shadowed the Combined Striking Force in the moonlight.
At least by heading to the Japanese landing site the Allies had partially nullified the advantage given by the float planes; if the convoywas headed to Toeban it had only a limited number of maneuvers it could make.
But the floatplanes did mean there would be a fight.
So persistent were the float planes that the normally calm, stoic Doorman cursed them softly under his breath. By this time, the Combined Striking Force had been reduced to a column led by the HNMLS De Ruyter,followed by the HMAS Perth, USS Houston, HNMLS Java and HMS Jupiter.
The HMS Encounter was still operational and was trying to catch up to the cruiser column after being separated while screening the HMS Exeter,but she was well out of sight and so far behind that she was of little tactical use.
Together this little column steamed along close to the Java coast, too close for Captain Rooks of the USS Houston. Being the heaviest remaining ship and the only heavy cruiser left, the USS Houston had a deeper draught than the other ships. Captain Rooks grew concerned that the water was too shallow for the USS Houston and swung the heavy cruiser out of column onto an offset course,parallel to that of the other four in the squadron.
It may have saved his ship.
At around 2100,as the Allied column passed north of Toeban Bay, the HMS Jupiter, last in the column,suffered an underwater explosion on her starboard side that wrecked her No. 2 engineroom and caused her to lose all power. She blinkered a signal to the HNMLS Java ahead of her 'Jupiter torpedoed,´presumably by a Japanese submarine. Doorman apparently checked on the big British destroyer, but with no power to pump out the water pouring into her hull or to even move,her wound was mortal.
Fortunately, the HMS Jupiter was disabled so close to the Java coast that almost her entire crew was rescued from drowning,helped by the presence of the Dutch army contingent. Either seeing or otherwise being convinced that the destroyer was close enough to shore to save most of the crew, Doorman continued onward to the west.
The HMS Jupiter sank at 0130 the next morning.
The cause of the HMS Jupiter's loss has never been conclusively determined. Japanese records examined postwar showed no submarine in the area. The most recent scholarship strongly suggests that the HMS Jupiter was the victim of a discarded Dutch mine: the HNMLS Gouden Leeuw never laid the minefield in the southern end of Toeban Bay as ordered, but en route instead just dumped the mines, only a few of which were active, well north of their assigned position. Thus, it appears the,Combined Striking Force just happened to sail through a patch of mines, only a few of which were armed, that had been unceremoniously dumped. And one of those few that were armed just happened to strike a fatal blow against the big, new, overstrength (Crew) British destroyer HMS Jupiter.
If this scenario is correct, it would be one of the most freakish accidents of the war. The question of how the HMS Jupiter was sunk is only the most prominent of the questions about this incident, but there are others.
How was Admiral Doorman informed of the HMS Jupiter's plight?
How was he able to check on her condition?
There are several plausible scenarios, but none of the available battle reports or survivors accounts even hint at a definitive solution. By most standards,this issue would seem trivial, and understandably so.
Clearly,Doorman was informed of the situation.
Clearly he was able to check on it.
But how is not recorded.
The communications to him and from him are not recorded.
This is an issue that repeats itself throughout these last hours of the Combined Striking Force:communications that obviously took place, but the record makes no mention of them.
They are most clearly shown in the next incident.
Having passed Toeban Bay and not found the Japanese convoy, Doorman proceeded to work his way back along the convoys projected route. The HNMLS De Ruyter lead the column on a starboard turn to the north on a base course of 0 degrees True. Doorman had the column run at very high speed and,without orders,zig zag slightly. This was a tactic normally used to throw off submarine firing solutions, though at the expense of staying in the vicinity of the submarine.
In this case, Doorman probably wanted to confuse the trailing Japanese float planes as well.
In this once again,he failed.
The planes continued to spy on the Allied cruisers, dropping magnesium flares attached to little parachutes to backlight the cruisers themselves,and calcium float lights that burned on water to mark their course. This northward thrust had them cross the area of the afternoon action, and pass the survivors of the sunken destroyer HNMLS Kortenaer,still trying to survive on the sea.
The HNMLS Kortenaer's skipper A Kroese,in his book The Dutch Navy at War,relates the experience of one of these survivors -
" At About midnight we heard the sound of movement on the water. We looked up and suddenly we saw,clearly outlined in the moonlight,the shape of ships making straight for us.
Would we be picked up?
The ships loomed nearer,obviously going at top speed. Soon we saw the rising water foaming at the bows. Still they continued on their course directly towards us.
But this was getting dangerous!
These were not rescuers,but monsters which threatened to destroy us. They were going to run us down in their mad run and crush us in their furiously churning propellers.
We yelled like madmen, not to be picked up but to warn them off. And then suddenly we saw that they were our own cruisers racing along in the moonlit tropical night. Probably they saw us,too,for the leading Ship HNMLS De Ruyter changed course slightly. As they charged past us, almost touching us, the rafts were turned over and over in the wash. But we cheered and shouted, for there high on the gun turrets we could clearly see our comrades.
In the noise and turmoil they raced past the Dutchman, the Australian, the American, and last another Dutchman, four cruisers going at top speed under a tropical moon.
I did not know that it could be such an impressive spectacle.
While they were speeding past, some Americans on the USS Houston's stern dropped a flare. It floated on the water,a dancing flame on the sea. We followed the ships with our eyes until they were out of sight. They had no destroyer protection any longer and their course was north towards the enemy...
Had Rear Admiral Doorman from his bridge on the flagship looked down on us with his quiet smile and given us a sympathetic thought?
All was quiet again around us.
Near us danced the flare.
We couldn¶t take our eyes off of it,for it was like a flame of hope.
Slowly the hours passed.
Then another ship appearedabove (sic) the horizon.
First we saw it from the beam.
Suddenly the vessel changed course and came straight for us. It was some lonely destroyer or small cruiser, seemingly a straggler in this sea full of action. Perhaps it was a Jap that had been damaged and was now withdrawing from the scene of battle.
We had not been in the water long enough to appreciate being picked up by the enemy to be made a prisoners of war. Intently and suspiciously,we watched the approaching ship.
'An English destroyer´, shouted one of the officers.
'It¶s the Encounter´, shouted another.
We all stared silently, then a shout of relief and joy broke out. It was the HMS Encounter!
It almost seemed as if the flare from the USS Houston shared our joy and danced with pleasure, too. Cleverly,the Commander of the HMS Encounter manoeuvred his ship alongside the rafts. Nets were dropped, and all who could climb swarmed monkey-like up the ropes. The wounded and those who were too weak had to be hauled aboard.
When we all had the firm deck of the destroyer under us, our hearts overflowed with gratitude. We could have hugged the British sailors, but even if that's what you are feeling, you can't just show it. You give your rescuers a firm hand-shake, and let them see that you appreciate very much the glass of grog they give you and the warm, dry clothes they provide from their own scanty wardrobes.
"Bad luck!" said the British sailors,shaking their heads because we had lost our ship. Poor fellows! The next night the HMS Encounter went down and there were no Allied ships left to pick up her survivors.
The next morning, 28 February 1942,the HMS Encounter disembarked us in Soerabaja. A Dutch patrol boat brought us to shore"
This would be the last time anyone would see the Combined Striking Force before its final battle.
the battle of the Java sea was one of the most mismanaged battles of ww2 - the long lance torpedoes were deadly and both the RAN Captain of HMAS Perth and the USN Captain of the USS Houston and the RN Captain of HMS Exeter all commented on it as much. The RAN, USN and RN ships were all zig zagging while the RNN Ships were all sailing like it was a parade not a battle.
there is more about this under my profile as we had 2 relations killed on board HMAS Perth in 1942 a few days later during the Battle of Sunda Strait. Combined with the Loss of HMAS Sydney in Nov 1941 our family had 4 people killed in under 6 months, 3 were RAN and 1 was the RAAF Seaplane pilot on board HMAS Sydney.
Maybe sometime you might care to do one of your very fitting artworks on one or both of these cruisers.