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Prewar, Borneo was divided between the Dutch and British into three regions: Sarawak, North Borneo (British North Borneo) and Borneo. Today, the northern and western parts of Borneo are Malaysia known as "Malaysian Borneo". The southern portion is part of Indonesia known as "Indonesian Borneo". A small area on the northwest Borneo is Brunei (Sultanate of Brunei).

Wartime History
On December 16, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Borneo, it was defended by a battalion of Punjabi infantry. The small force of Allied aircraft could do little against greatly superior Japanese air power. Allied naval strength in the area consisted of only 9 cruisers, 23 destroyers, and 36 submarines. Although no match for the vastly superior Japanese Fleet, the Allied warships attacked repeatedly.

On January 24, 1942 during the early morning, four Allied destroyers attacked a large convoy off Balikpapan during the Battle of Makassar Strait, the destroyers escaped unharmed after sinking four Japanese transports and a patrol ship and damaging other vessels. Subsequent engagements: Battle of Lombok Strait (February 18-19, 1942) and the Battle of the Java Sea (February 27) were not as successful for the Allies. Their losses from Japanese air and naval attacks were so severe that the surviving Allied warships were withdrawn from the Java Sea to Tjilatjap (Chilachap) on the south coast of Java. On February 28, 1942 two Allied cruisers, USS Houston and USS Perth were attempting to escape southward through the Sunda Strait, and ran into the Japanese invasion armada assaulting Batavia (Jakarta). Both cruisers were sunk after sinking three Japanese transports. Afterwards, the surviving Allied aircraft and warships were evacuated to Australia. On March 9, 1942 the Dutch surrendered the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) to the Japanese.

At the end of the Pacific War, Borneo was targeted by Allied aircraft. Because Commonwealth air forces were not allowed to use the American airfields in the recently liberated Philippines they sought Borneo as a staging area for their next planned operation to liberate Singapore. During May-July 1945, the Australian Army 1st Corps commanded by Lt. General Morshead landed on Borneo at the end of the war, considered the "forgotten war" because it is often overlooked as a campaign, in the final weeks of the Pacific war, and because its invasion was largely due to rivalry between Generals, and concerned battle plans that never came to fruition before the surrender of Japan. When the Pacific War ended in August 1945, Borneo's strategic significance ended.

Brunei (Sultanate of Brunei)
Brunei (Sultanate of Brunei)  located in northwest Borneo.

Malaysia Borneo (East Malaysia)
Malaysia Borneo (East Malaysia)  northern and western Borneo
Sarawak State  city and airfield on the northwestern coast.
Sabah State  located on the northeastern coast of Borneo.

Indonesian Borneo
Indonesian Borneo  southern portion of Borneo
East Kalimantan Province (Kalimantan Timur)  located on the eastern side of southern Borneo.
South Kalimantan Province (Kalimantan Timur)  located at the southeast tip of Borneo
Central Kalimantan Province (Kalimantan Tengah)  located at the southern tip of Borneo
West Kalimantan Province (Kalimantan Barat)  located at the southwest tip of Borneo

Australian Army Campaign on Borneo

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019


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