Origins of the Indonesian National Army

From A Japanese Memoir of Sumatra, 1945-46: Love and Hatred in the Liberation War, by Takao Fusayama (Equinox, 2010), pp. 38-42:

The Allied Forces began a full-scale advance on Indonesia by the end of September [1945]. Three British-Indian divisions commanded by Lt. Gen. Sir Phillip Christison advanced to Indonesia, with two divisions allocated to Java and one division to Sumatra. Before leaving Singapore for Indonesia, Christison declared that his army was landing in Indonesia only for the purpose of disarming the Japanese and had no desire to intervene in the domestic affairs of the Dutch East Indies.

The 2nd Southern Expeditionary Fleet of the Japanese navy commanded by Vice Admiral Yaichiro Shibata and the Mixed Defense Brigade of the Japanese army commanded by Major General Shigeo Iwabe were stationed in Surabaya. They were caught in a serious dilemma between their wish to hand over their arms to Indonesians and the prohibition by the Allied Forces. Fortunately, something happened to resolve their dilemma. On September 21, a Dutch advance officer, Captain Huijer, unexpectedly landed in Surabaya accompanied by only a few soldiers. Displaying his authority as the victor, he defiantly ordered the Japanese commanders to surrender to him immediately and to leave their arms under the guard of the Indonesian authorities until the Allied Forces took them over. Because Captain Huijer used to live in Surabaya, he thought that most Indonesians would be obedient to the Dutch when they returned, just like before. He did not know that the attitude of the Indonesian people had completely changed during the Japanese occupation.

When the Indonesians rushed to the Japanese barracks, Vice Admiral Shibata and Major General Iwabe ordered their soldiers to hand over all arms without resisting, explaining that in obeying the orders of Captain Huijer, the Japanese forces were to disarm themselves, leaving their weapons in the care of the Indonesians until the Allied Forces received them. The Indonesians thus obtained 26,000 rifles, 600 machine guns, cannons, anti-aircraft guns, and other weapons in the space of a few days. A large amount of war funds were also secretly given to the Indonesians by a naval paymaster, Lt. Kazuyuki Mike. A great Indonesian military power was thus established for the first time.

On October 5, President Sukarno announced the foundation of his public security force, Tentera Keamanan Rakyat (TKR) and steadily expanded the army by gathering together the former volunteer and auxiliary soldiers trained by the Japanese. Ten divisions in Java and six in Sumatra were organized.

On October 26, the 49th British-Indian Brigade of 5,000 landed in Surabaya. The Indonesian force in Surabaya, who were well-armed with Japanese weapons, resolutely risked a night attack taught by the Japanese and completely destroyed the brigade, killing the commander. In early November, the British forces made an all-out counterattack on Surabaya, with one complete division of 24,000 and the support of shelling from warships and bombing from airplanes. Indonesian anti-aircraft guns given by the Japanese shot down three of the planes. The street fighting continued until November 12. The Indonesians tenaciously continued to resist with the song of “Merdeka atau Mati [Freedom or Death]” blaring through loud speakers….

In addition to the establishment of the independent government, the Indonesian soldiers who had been trained by the Japanese as Giyugun [義勇軍 ‘Loyal Manly (=Volunteer) Army’ or] Heiho [兵補 ‘Soldier Assistant/Probationary’], and discharged at the time of the Japanese surrender, quietly gathered back at the Giyugun barracks. They were organized into the public security force, the TKR, with educated youths appointed to various positions as commanders.

A further category of labor mobilized by the Imperial Japanese military was known as 挺身隊 teishintai ‘offer self/body corps’ (Kor. Chongshindae or Jeongshindae), which included various sorts of organized physical labor battalions, including those euphemistically called “comfort women” (従軍慰安婦 jūgun ianfu ‘serve-military comfort/consolation/amusement-women’).

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Filed under Indonesia, Japan, military, nationalism, war

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