The 1940-1950 Period in an International Perspective
Great Britain, Australia and the United States all played important parts in the history of the Netherlands East Indies from 1940 to 1950, not only during the pre-war period but also during the years of the Japanese occupation and the turbulent times that followed the end of World War II in Asia. The strategic goals and interests of Great Britain, the United States and Australia did not always correspond to those of the Netherlands.
After the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940 the Dutch East Indies were left without financial and military support from their home country. The immense archipelago was forced to meet the growing threat from Japan on its own, although it silently counted on the help of its natural allies in the region: Britain, Australia and America. In 1940 and 1941 military delegations from the four countries met to discuss a common strategy in the event Japan should begin a war. When the war broke out, the Allies created a joint command organisation called ABDACOM - the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command. Units and ships from all four countries were active in the defence of the Netherlands East Indies. During the war the government of the East Indies was completely dependent on American military support for the liberation of the archipelago, as the entire area was in the operational zone of the South West Pacific Area, under General Douglas MacArthur (with the exception of Sumatra, which fell under the British South East Asia Command).
Immediately following the end of the war, Great Britain was charged with the re-occupation of Java, Sumatra, Bali and Lombok. Australia sent troops to the areas of Borneo, Celebes, the Moluccas and New Guinea that had not yet been liberated.
In the months following the Japanese surrender, Great Britain played a vital role in providing relief to Allied prisoners of war and civilian internees. During the difficult negotiation process between the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia, the United States and Australia often expressed their opinions through the medium of the United Nations.
Some knowledge of the broader international political context is a prerequisite for a better insight into the history of the Netherlands East Indies in the 1940s.