Allied Defence of the Netherlands East Indies

At the Arcadia Conference, held from December 1941 to January 1942 in Washington D.C., the Allies assigned the defence of Southeast Asia to a combined American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM). ABDACOM's most important mission was to prevent the Japanese from breaking through the so-called Malay Barrier, an imaginary line running from Singapore through Southern Sumatra and Java to New Guinea and Northern Australia. For Australia, the Netherlands East Indies were the first line of defence against a Japanese attack. The islands north of Australia (New Guinea, Timor and the Moluccas) were of strategic importance because of their possible use as bases for attacks on Australia. Airfields on these islands brought Australian territory within range of the Japanese Army Air Force. For this reason Australian, British, Dutch and American delegations had met to discuss the defence of the area even before the war began. To reinforce the defences in the Indies, Australia sent units to Timor (Sparrow Force) and Ambon (Gull Force).
On 3 January 1942 British General Sir Archibald Wavell was appointed Supreme Commander of ABDACOM. He set up his headquarters in Lembang near Bandung. When it became clear that further reinforcements promised for Java would not arrive on time, Wavell asked for permission to disband ABDACOM and to evacuate Java. On 25 February 1942, the Allied command structure was disbanded and the defence of Java was left to the Dutch forces. The 3,000 Australian soldiers present were formed into the Blackforce Brigade and assigned to the defence of Western Java. A further 5,500 British Army soldiers, 6,000 RAF personnel and approximately 500 Americans were left in Java after ABDACOM was disbanded. These units were placed under the operational command of Dutch General Headquarters in Bandung. When the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army surrendered on 8 March 1942, the negotiators made no arrangements with the Japanese regarding these forces.


J.J. Nortier, P. Kuijt en P.M.H. Groen, De Japanse aanval op Java (Amsterdam, 1994).

Information a.o. in:

Access Number 2.22.21,
- 188, 514, 521, 545, 552, 555, 641, 647, 798, 804 and 805 (Staff conversations and conferences)
- 189, 351, 508, 509, 510, 511, 512, 513, 522, 523, 531, 532, 535, 552, 644, 645, 646, 790, 803 and 806 (ABDACOM)
- 685 to 706 (Serie Ambon (1941-1942)- Gull Force) (ABDACOM)
Access Number 2.05.80, 1128 (ABDACOM)
Access Number 2.12.44, 33 (Conference) and 34 (ABDACOM)

See also:

- Japanese Invasion

- War in the Pacfic

- Diplomatic and Military Relations with Australia

- Diplomatic and Military Relations with United States

- Diplomtaic and Military Relations with Great Britain