Battles of Java Sea and Sunda Strait were two of the largest naval battles in the Pacific campaign of World War II that involved ABDA – American, British, Dutch and Australian – forces. In Java Sea, Allied navies suffered a disastrous defeat at the hand of the Imperial Japanese Navy on 27 February 1942 and in the following days. On 28 February 1942, in Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth and the American heavy cruiser USS Houston faced a major Imperial Japanese Navy task force. After a fierce battle that took several hours, both Allied ships were sunk.
Seventy-five years later, an exhibition at Museum Bahari is being held to commemorate those battles and the courageous men who fought in them, displaying original artifacts from battleships and seaplanes involved in both battles such as spyglasses, binoculars, crockery, flags, soldier recruitment posters and even dining set used by the navy officers. Models of some of the ships can also be seen along with brief information detailing them — American USS Houston, nicknamed “Galloping Ghost of Java Coast”, British HMS Electra, HMS Encounter, HMS Jupiter, HMS Exeter, Dutch HNLMS Kortenaer, HNLMS Piet Hein, HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java and Australian HMAS Perth.
Visitors to the yearlong exhibition can learn details about the vessels, aircrafts and weapons used by ABDA forces, which back then were considered pale in comparison with the Imperial Japanese Navy technology. The Japanese Lance Torpedoes, for example, could reach three times the range of the Allied Forces’ torpedoes, and the Kamikaze Class Destroyer Ships could sail up to 37.25 knots (69 kilometres per hour), making them the fastest during the era.
“This exhibition is a historical narration that teaches us a lesson that when a small country manages to master knowledge very well, it can defeat even bigger, more powerful, countries. Technology is important in building a country,” Museum Bahari Director Husnison Nizar aka Sonni told Now! Jakarta.
Also in conjunction with the 75th commemoration of the battles, on the same day as the exhibition opening on 27 February, officials from several embassies paid respect to war heroes buried at the Menteng Pulo Dutch War Cemetery in South Jakarta.
Speaking at the exhibiton’s opening ceremony, British Ambassador to Indonesia HE Moazzam Malik appreciated the shared history between Indonesia and the UK and encouraged both countries to strengthen cooperation in the maritime sector. In July 2015, Indonesia and the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding in maritime cooperation that covers a range of topics, from human resources development and researches on maritime issues to marine environment and fisheries, maritime diplomacy and imaging satellite technology.
“It is such a great pleasure to participate and we are very thankful. History allows us to look into the future and Indonesia puts maritime at the centre of its future,” said British Ambassador to Indonesia HE Moazzam Malik.
“The MoU allows both the UK and Indonesia to strengthen maritime cooperation between the two countries that includes maritime laws and regulations, maritime gears and equipment, [and many others] so that Indonesia’s capacity in order to be the Global Maritime Axis can be improved. In addition, we also would like to support Indonesia to promote its fishery industries.”
Also present at the exhibition was Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who remarked, “Approximately 70 percent of our country [territory] is covered by water and we have Malaka Strait and Sunda Strait, to name some, and therefore we have to play a bigger, more international role in the future [concerning maritime issues]. I hope this event will improve understanding of our maritime history as well as present something new for the museum’s visitors.”
In addition to the support from Erasmus Huis, the exhibition is also sponsored by some major players in the marine industry, such as Thales, BAE Systems, New Frontier Solutions, SBS UK Ltd. and Rolls Royce. Most of the original artifacts were supplied by the US Naval History and Heritage Command, which also assisted with the curating. Other support came from the Australian National Maritime Museum, the National Museum of the Royal Navy in the UK, the National Marine Museum in the Netherlands and Tokyo Keizai University.
Jl. Pasar Ikan No. 1, Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta Utara