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    Battle of the Java Sea  Indonesia
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Kevin Denlay 1996
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The Battle of the Java Sea happened over a three day period starting February 27, 1942 until March 1, 1942 in the Java Sea. Known to the Japanese as スラバヤ沖海戦 Surabaya oki kaisen (Battle of the Java Sea off Surabaya). The outcome was a decisive Japanese victory.

The Battle of the Java Sea was fought by Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) under the command of Rear-Admiral Takeo Takagi against the American, British, Dutch and Australian (ABDA) under the command of Rear-Admiral Karel Doorman. The three day battle had three engagements: Battle of the Java Sea, Second Battle of the Java Sea (Battle of Bawean Island) and Battle of Sunda Strait.

Wartime History
On February 27, 1942 a Japanese invasion force of ten transports approached Java guarded by warships under the command of Rear-Admiral Takeo Takagi including heavy cruisers Nachi and Haguro, two light cruisers Naka and Jintsū plus fourteen destroyers: Yūdachi, Samidare, Murasame, Harusame, Minegumo, Asagumo, Yukikaze, Tokitsukaze, Amatsukaze, Hatsukaze, Yamakaze, Kawakaze, Sazanami and Ushio.

To intercept, the ABDA Eastern Strike Force including two heavy cruisers HMS Exeter (68) equipped with radar and USS Houston (CA-30) with three light cruisers Hr. Ms. De Ruyter flagship of Rear-Admiral Karel Doorman, Hr. Ms. Java and HMAS Perth (D29) plus nine destroyers HMS Electra (H27), HMS Encounter (H10), HMS Jupiter (F85), Hr. Ms. Kortenaer, HNLMS Witte de With, USS Alden (DD-211), USS John D. Edwards (DD-216), USS John D. Ford (DD-228) and USS Paul Jones (DD-230).

Around 4:00pm the opposing warships and closed the range. At 4:16 they began exchanging gunfire and torpedoes but both sides had poor gunnery results with HMS Exeter missed the enemy and USS Houston managing to straddle a cruiser. During the exchange of gunfire, HMS Exeter was hit in the boiler room by an 8" shell and withdrew escorted by HNLMS Witte de With. Meanwhile, the Japanese fired a total of 92 torpedoes but only HNLMS Kortenaer was hit by one, broke into two and sank. Meanwhile, while covering the withdrawal, HMS Electra exchanged gunfire with Jintsu and Asagumo and claimed hits on both but was damaged, ran out of ammunition and was abandoned. Only Asagumo was forced to withdraw due to damage.

The second phase began February 27, 19412 in the afternoon south southwest of Bawean Island, known as the Second Battle of the Java Sea (Battle of Bawean Island). During the engagement, American, British, Dutch and Australian (ABDA) warships were defeated by the Japanese Navy. The Allies lost almost their entire fleet. A few U. S. Navy (USN) older World War I era four stack destroyers miraculously escaped before the battle ended because their armament and fuel was exhausted.

The American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDA) "Eastern Strike Force" under the command of RAdm Doorman, RNN consisted of two heavy cruisers: HMS Exeter (68) and USS Houston (CA-30), three light crusiers: HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java, HMAS Perth (D29) and nine destroyers: HMS Electra, HMS Encounter, HMS Jupiter, HNLMS Kortenaer, HNLMS Witte de With, USS Alden, USS John D. Edwards, USS John D. Ford, and USS Paul Jones. Also, Hr Ms Evertsen was delayed at Tanjung Priok then joined the cruisers two hours later.

At the start of the engagement, the Allied force was northeast of Surabaya that intercepted the Japanese Eastern Invasion Force approaching from the Makassar Strait. At the start of the battle, Japanese gunfire proves ineffective firing 1,271 rounds of 8" shells and achieves only five hits of which are four duds. The only shell that explodes damages HMS Exeter. A torpedo from Haguro sinks Hr. Ms. Kortenaer.

Japanese destroyer gunfire sinks destroyer HMS Electra while HMS Jupiter is sunk by a sea mine laid earlier that day by Dutch minelayer Gouden Leeuw. Allied gunfire damages two Japanese destroyers, but American destroyer torpedo attack proves ineffective.

The Allied forces put to sea on February 26 on the news that invasion convoys are approaching. Failing to find them, they head back to Surabaya the next day, but before arriving, more reports arrive and the Allied force goes out again towards a position to the northwest.

On February 27, 1942 around 4:00pm began the Battle of the Java Sea. The Japanese Navy force includes two heavy, two light cruisers and 14 destroyers covering the Japanese transports. Both Allied heavies open fire at long range, but HMS Exeter is soon hit and her speed reduced and Hr Ms Kortenaer is torpedoed and sunk. As Exeter returns to Surabaya with the second Dutch destroyer, the Royal Navy destroyers go into action and HMS Electra is sunk by gunfire. Adm Doorman aboard Hr Ms De Ruyter heads back south towards the Java coast and sends off the US destroyers to refuel. He then turns to the north with his remaining four cruisers and two British destroyers. By now it is late evening and HMS Jupiter is lost probably due to a Dutch mine. Encounter picks up survivors from the first Dutch destroyer and shortly follows the Americans to Surabaya. The four cruisers, now without any destroyers, are in action sometime before midnight and both Hr Ms De Ruyter and Hr Ms Java are sunk by Japanese torpedoes.

On March 1, 1942 in the morning the final phase was the Battle of Sunda Strait on that results in the sinking of HMAS Perth and USS Houston. Meanwhile, Japanese forces begin landing on Java with the western landing near Batavia (Jakarta) and eastern landing force lands 100 miles west of Surabaja.

HMS Electra (H27)
During the Battle of the Java Sea, in afternoon of February 27, 1942 sunk by gunfire from IJN destroyers. Shipwreck discovered August 19, 2003.

Hr. Ms. Kortenaer
During the Battle of the Java Sea, in the afternoon of February 27, 1942 sunk by a torpedo fired from Harugo. Shipwreck discovered August 12, 2004.

HMS Jupiter (F85)
During the Battle of the Java Sea, in the evening of February 27, 1942 sunk by a Dutch mine. Shipwreck known prior to 2002, discoverers unknown.

Hr. Ms. Java
During the Battle of the Java Sea around midnight of February 27, 1942 sunk by a torpedo fired from Nachi. Shipwreck discovered December 1, 2002.

Hr. Ms. De Ruyter
During the Battle of the Java Sea around midnight of February 27, 1942 sunk by a torpedo fired from Harugo. Shipwreck discovered December 1, 2002.

HMS Exeter (68)
Sunk late morning of March 1, 1942 by gunfire and two torpedo from Inazuma and scuttling. Shipwreck discovered February 21, 2007.

HMS Encounter (H10)
Sunk late morning of March 1, 1942 by gunfire and scuttling. Shipwreck discovered February 21, 2007.

USS Pope (DD-225)
Sunk early afternoon, March 1, 1942 by D3A Val dive bombers, gunfire and scuttling. Shipwreck discovered December 2008.

USS Perch SS-176
Scuttled March 3, 1942. Shipwreck discovered November 23, 2006.

References
Naval History and Heritage Command NHHC (NHHC) - Battle of the Java Sea

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Last Updated
March 1, 2021

 

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