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    Battle of Balikpapan  Indonesia
Location
The Battle of Balikpapan occurred on January 23-24, 1942 in the Makassar Strait off Balikpapan. The battle was between Allied aircraft bombing the Japanese landing force and the Naval battle was U. S. Navy (USN) destroyers attacking the Japanese landing force. The battle occurred in the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), today Indonesia. Note, the Battle of Balikpapan was unrelated to the Battle of Makassar Strait (Battle of the Flores Sea, Action off Madura Strait, Battle of Bali Sea) on February 4, 1942 that occurred in the Flores Sea near the Kangean Islands.

Wartime History

On January 22, 1942 a PBY Catalina spots a Japanese force from Tarakan steaming southward via the Celebes Sea and Makassar Strait bound for Balikpapan.

On January 23, 1942 the Japanese convoy was in the Makassar Strait. At 10:50am bombed by U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) B-17 Flying Fortresses ineffectively. At 4:25pm attacked by Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF) bombers including nine Martin 166 (B-10) bombers and four light bombers escorted by twenty Brewster Brewster 339s from 2-VLG-V and 3-VLG-V bombed the convoy sinking Nana Maru and damaging Tatsugami Maru and Sanyo Maru. By 8:45pm the Japanese invasion force was southeast of Balikpapan and by 9:30pm begins landing troops of the "Sakaguchi Brigade" including the 56th Mixed Infantry Group and Kure No. 2 Special Naval Landing Force (No. 2 SNLF).

On January 24, 1942 in the early morning, the escorting Japanese destroyers were searching for a Dutch submarine leaving their transports unguarded. Meanwhile at at 3:16am four U. S. Navy (USN) destroyers from Destroyer Division 59 (DesDiv 59) including USS Paul Jones (DD-230), USS Parrott (DD-218), USS Pope (DD-225) and USS John D. Ford (DD-228) attack the Japanese transports with gunfire and torpedoes. Although many of the Mark 15 torpedoes they released ran too deep, the managed to sink Kuretake Maru, Nana Maru, Sumanoura Maru, Tatsukami Maru and Patrol Boat P-37 plus damage two other transports. During the attack, Ford was damaged by gunfire before withdrawing at 4:00am.

Outcome
This was the first surface engagement of the U. S. Navy (USN) in Southeast Asia during the Pacific War. Although the Allied aircraft and U. S. destroyers inflicted damage on the Japanese landing force, they failed to stop the landing at Balikpapan.

References
Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) - H-003-2: Japanese Offensive and Navy Response
"The first surface action by the U.S. Navy since the Spanish-American War was a victory, and was about the only bright spot in the entire effort to counter the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies (and was played up by U.S. media into a much greater victory than it actually was.) The great victory was marred by the fact that U.S. surface torpedoes didn't work any better than submarine torpedoes; the older MK10 warshots used at Balikpapan ran 10 or more feet deeper than their setting (the newer Mk14/15 torpedoes had even bigger problems.)"

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Last Updated
January 24, 2021

 

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