The Dutch Naval Air Force Against Japan

The Defense of the Netherlands East Indies, 1941–1942, 2d ed.


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About the Book

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Dutch Naval Air Force—or Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD)—played a significant but largely overlooked role in the opening months of the Pacific War. With 175 aircraft, the MLD greatly outnumbered the combined forces of its American and British allies. In three months of intense combat, the MLD lost 50 percent of its personnel and 80 percent of its aircraft, as the Netherlands’ colonial empire was stripped away.
This book details MLD operations during the Japanese invasion of Dutch East Indies, giving a comprehensive overview of organization, personnel, aircraft, equipment and tactics. For the first time in English, the failed evacuation of Java is examined.

About the Author(s)

Tom Womack is the director of public relations for a leading global provider of community management services and has written more than 50 magazine articles. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

Bibliographic Details

Tom Womack
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 400
Bibliographic Info: 119 photos, maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7888-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4818-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Abbreviations xi
Preface 1
1. The Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD): Equipment and Doctrine 3
2. Cold War Clashes: The ­Build-Up to War 45
3. December, Part I: The MLD Goes to War 99
4. December, Part II: The USN Evacuates the Philippines 128
5. January, Part I: The Japanese Move South 155
6. January, Part II: The Dutch Go on the Defensive 181
7. February, Part I: The Air Assault on Java 202
8. February, Part II: The Dutch Crumble 236
9. March: “This Is the End of a Courageous Fight, Admiral” 259
10. The MLD: A New Hope 299
Appendix 1: MLD Squadrons in the Netherlands East Indies 307
Appendix 2: MLD Dornier Do 24K Flying Boats in the Netherlands East Indies 311
Appendix 3: MLD ­PBY-5 Catalina Flying Boats in the Netherlands East Indies 314
Appendix 4: MLD Reserve Seaplanes in the Netherlands East Indies 317
Appendix 5: Specifications for MLD Planes in the Netherlands East Indies 319
Appendix 6: Specifications for Japanese Planes Operating in the Netherlands East Indies 324
Appendix 7: Gouvernementsmarine Seaplane Tenders 331
Appendix 8: MLD Bases in the Netherlands East Indies 334
Chart 1: Breakdown of MLD Losses by Month 336
Chart 2: Breakdown of Do 24 and PBY Losses by Month 337
Chart 3: MLD Losses by Cause 338
Chapter Notes 339
Bibliography 371
Index 377

Book Reviews & Awards

• “This excellent book provides the most complete account of the Royal Dutch Navy’s battle against the Imperial Japanese forces in World War II in the Dutch East Indies. In addition to the in-depth historical research, the book is very well and extensively documented. The book is pleasant to read and beautifully designed. The stories about the crews struggle against an overwhelming enemy are fascinating. Special is the story of the last flight of flying boat X-29 and its crew. Their mission ended so tragically when port was in sight. Recommended in particular to dutch readers.”—Michael Klaversteijn, retired captain of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

• “Eighty-some years after the fact, we are still learning about the Second World War, in all its global aspects. One neglected area, handsomely remedied in English by this book, is the role to the Netherlands East Indies Naval Air Service during the Japanese onslaught into the area we now call Indonesia. This book is doubtless the ultimate study on the subject, at least in English. … Womack’s second edition nearly doubles the page count of his earlier 2006 book. It profits by new information and interviews, and the addition of background on MLD (Naval Air Service) operations. …the author provides unexpected historical pearls…strongly recommended…a solid addition to your history library”— Jim Maas, author of F2A Buffalo in Action – Aircraft No. 81

• “Vivid detail…Womack’s volume serves as fine companion piece to that of Dutch military historian Peter Boer, whose recently (2016) published account of the Dutch Army Air Force (KNIL-ML) side of the aerial campaign over the Indies provides similar detail on the progress of the Japanese advance through the Indies and the operations and fate of each of the ML’s aircraft. …the author is to be congratulated on a superb account that fills a gap in our understanding of the defense of the Netherlands Indies as experienced by the Dutch forces.”—William H. Bartsch is the author of Every Day a Nightmare: American Pursuit Pilots in the Defense of Java, 1941-1942

• “A great book that vastly improves the little understood war actions against the Japanese at the beginning of WW2 by the Dutch and their allies. Thank you for publishing this second edition. Great job!”—Bob Bergstrom, his father, Captain Edward W. Bergstrom, served with Patrol Wing 10 in the Philippines and Netherlands East Indies campaigns

• “Since I contributed to this book with a number of illustrations, it is only natural that I am somewhat biased about the contents of this book. However, it is truly incredible how many facts the American author Tom Womack has managed to collect about the battle of the Dutch Naval Air Force, the MLD, in the former Dutch East Indies against the Japanese. Much has of course already been written about the battle in the Pacific with the Americans and English in the leading roles but in the second edition of this book the role of the MLD is explained in detail. And with many more new facts than in the first edition. Anyone who thinks that the book is a dry summary of facts is completely wrong. Yes, the author describes many previously unknown facts and events in great detail. But this happens in such a lively way that it never becomes boring. In short, the book is an interesting and very readable publication for anyone interested in the history of the Dutch Naval Air Force in the former Dutch East Indies leading up to and in the first months of the Second World War.”—Jan Klootwijk, Den Helder, The Netherlands, author of De Grote Zeilvaart in Foto’s

• “Tom Womack has produced a really solid and meticulously researched piece of work that, in over 380 pages, achieves what he has set out to do—to ensure that the Dutch contribution in the NEI war is fully documented and recognized. I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in finding out more about the conflict in the NEI and learning about the significant contribution that the Catalina played in it.”—David Legg, editor, The Catalina News, The Catalina Society

Reviews of the first edition:

• “Recommended reading…excellent”—Stone & Stone Second World War Books

• “Very well written…run, don’t walk to your nearest mail box to post your check to the publisher. You won’t be disappointed”—Small Airforces Observer

• “Womack gives now for the first time in the English language an extensive and detailed account of this battle…excellent”—Let Let Let Warplanes

• “This book is doubtless the ultimate study on the subject… A solid addition to your history library.”—IPMS/USA Reviews