The Battle of the Java Sea

IJNS Haguro running at speed
IJNS Haguro running at speed

I was walking through the city today on the way to a meeting next to Martin Place and there was a commemorative service occurring around the Cenotaph. Ex-servicemen and the Navy band, governor-general (I think) as well as representatives of the Dutch, English and American forces as well. The reason? Today is the anniversary of the Battle of the Java Sea, the battle that occurred on 27 February 1942.

The battle is important to Australian military tradition, especially in regard to the loss of HMAS Perth a couple of days later. Perth’s captain, Hector Waller, was a childhood hero of mine as I read about the way the Perth, all ammunition expent, was firing practice rounds at the Japanese ships that she was fighting. Waller also was the commander of HMAS Stuart in the Mediterranean, one of the member’s of the Scrap Iron Flotilla.

The forces involved in the battle were:

Ship Type Armament and Complement Fate
HMS Exeter Heavy Cruiser 630 sailors
6 x 8 inch
8 x 4-inch
8 x 2 pdr (40 mm) quad mounts Mk.VII
2 x 20 mm Oerlikon, single mounts
2 x triple tubes for 21 inch torpedoes
One Supermarine Walrus
Sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea 2 when after emergency repairs at Surabaya, the Exeter departed for Ceylon with the destroyers Encounter and Pope in company. The Japanese Heavy Cruisers Nachi and Haguro sank them on the morning of 1 March 1942.
USS Houston Heavy Cruiser 1155 officers and enlisted
9 × 8 in guns
4 × 5 in guns
8 × 50 cal machine guns
6 × 21 in torpedo tubes
4 aircraft
Sunk in the Battle of Sunda Strait, early morning 2 March 1942. Houston and Perth had received orders to sail from Tanjung Priok (where they had gone to after the Battle of the Java Sea) to Tjilatjap. They left in the evening of 28 February 1942 and were intercepted later that night by three Japanese cruisers and several destroyers. Perth was sunk as well.
HNLMS De Ruyter Light Cruiser 435 crew
7 × 150 mm guns
10 × Bofors 40 mm guns
8 × Browning .50 in machine guns
2 × Fokker C-11W floatplanes
Sunk by torpedo at the battle of the Java Sea.
HNLMS Java Light Cruiser 526 crew
10 x 150 mm guns
8 x Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns
8 x Browning .50″ machine guns
2 Fokker C-11W floatplanes
Sunk by torpedo at the battle of the Java Sea.
HMAS Perth Light Cruiser 646 sailors
8 × 6″ guns
8 × 4″ guns
12 x 0.5″ machine guns
10 x 0.303″ machine guns
8 × 21 in Torpedo tubes
Walrus aircraft
Sunk with Houston in the Battle of the Sunda Straits, 2 March 1942.
HMS Electra Destroyer 173 sailors
4 × 4.7 inch guns
8 × .50 inch Vickers machine guns
5 × .303 inch machine guns
1 × 3 in (76.2 mm) gun
2 × 20 mm Oerlikon
4 × 21 inch torpedo tubes
2 × depth charge racks
60 depth charges
Sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea covering the withdrawal of HMS Exeter from the battle. A truly gallant ship and one I will likely post about in the future here.
HMS Encounter Destroyer 173 sailors
4 × 4.7 inch guns
8 × .50 inch Vickers machine guns
5 × .303 inch machine guns
1 × 3 in (76.2 mm) gun
2 × 20 mm Oerlikon
4 × 21 inch torpedo tubes
2 × depth charge racks
60 depth charges
Sunk at the Second Battle of the Java Sea.
HMS Jupiter Destroyer 183 crew
6 x 4.7 in
4 x 2 pounder
8 x 0.5 in Vickers machine guns
10 21 in torpedo tubes
She was sunk off the north Java coast in the Java Sea on 28 February 1942 by a mine laid earlier in the day by the Dutch minelayer Gouden Leeuw.
HNLMS Kortenaer Destroyer 153 crew
4 x 4.7″ gun
2 x 3″ AA guns
4 x .50″ MG AA
6 x 21″ torpedo tubes
24 mines
1 Fokker floatplane
Sunk by torpedo at the battle of the Java Sea.
HNLMS Witte de With Destroyer 153 crew
4 x 4.7″ gun
2 x 3″ AA guns
4 x .50″ MG AA
6 x 21″ torpedo tubes
24 mines
1 Fokker floatplane
Damaged at the Battle of the Java Sea she was destroyed by Japanese planes in the harbor of Surabaya on 1 March 1942.
USS Alden Clemson class Destroyer 106 crew
4 × 4″ guns
1 × 3″ gun
12 × 21″ torpedo tubes
Decommissioned on 15 July 1945 and name taken off name register on 13 August 1945, she was then sold for scrapping.
USS John D. Edwards Clemson class Destroyer 124 crew
4 x 4″ guns
1 x 3″ gun
12 x 21″ Torpoedo Tubes
Decommissioned 28 July 1945 and sold for scrap January 1946.
USS John D. Ford Clemson class Destroyer 101 crew
4 x 4″ guns
1 x 3″ gun
2 x .30 (7.62 mm) cal MG
12 x 21″ torpedo tubes
Decommissioned on 2 November 1945 then sold for scrap 5 October 1947
USS Paul Jones Clemson class Destroyer 145 crew
4 x 4″ guns
1 x 3″ gun
12 x 21″ Torpedo Tubes.
Decommissioned on 5 November 1945 and then sold for scrap on 5 October 1947
Nachi Heavy Cruiser 773 crew
10 × 8.0″ guns
8 × 5.0″ guns
2 × 0.5″ machine guns
12 × 24″ torpedo tubes
2 aircraft
She was finally sunk by aircraft from USS Lexington and Ticonderoga in Manila Bay on 5 November 1944.
Haguro Heavy Cruiser 773 crew
10 × 8″ guns
8 × 5″ guns
2 × 0.5″ machine guns
12 × 24″ torpedo tubes
2 aircraft
In May 1945, Haguro was the target of the British “Operation Dukedom” and was ambushed and sunk.
Naka Sendai class Light Cruiser 452 crew
7 × 5.5 ” guns
2 × 80 mm guns,
4 × 24″ torpedo tubes
48 mines
1 x floatplane
sunk 18 February 1944 by being bombed by USN carrier aircraft near Truk
Sendai class Jintsu Light Cruiser 452 crew
7 × 5.5 ” guns
2 × 80 mm guns,
4 × 24″ torpedo tubes
48 mines
1 x floatplane
sunk 13 July 1943 by an Allied cruiser at the Battle of Kolombangara, Solomon Islands
Yudachi Shiratsuyu-class Destroyer 180 crew
5 × 5″ guns
up to 21 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
16 depth charges
Sunk, 13 November 1942
Samidare Shiratsuyu-class Destroyer 180 crew
5 × 5″ guns
up to 21 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
16 depth charges
Destroyed, 26 August 1944
Murasame Shiratsuyu-class Destroyer 180 crew
5 × 5″ guns
up to 21 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
16 depth charges
Sunk, 6 March 1943 when she broke in two from an “extremely violent” explosion after being hit by gunfire and torpedoes from USS Waller
Harusame Shiratsuyu-class Destroyer 180 crew
5 × 5″ guns
up to 21 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
16 depth charges
Sunk 8 June 1944
Minegumo Asashio-class destroyer 200 crew
6 × 5″ guns
up to 28 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
36 depth charges
sunk overnight on 6 March 1943 in the Battle of Blackett Strait
Asagumo Asashio-class destroyer 200 crew
6 × 5″ guns
up to 28 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
36 depth charges
Forced to retire from the battle due to damage. Eventually sunk 25 October 1944
Yukikaze Kagero-class destroyer 240 crew
6 × 5″ guns
up to 28 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
36 depth charges
Transferred to the Republic of China, 6 July 1947 where she was known as the Tang Yan (丹陽)
Tokitsukaze Kagero-class destroyer 240 crew
6 × 5″ guns
up to 28 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
36 depth charges
Sunk in action, 4 March 1943
Amatsukaze Kagero-class destroyer 240 crew
6 × 5″ guns
up to 28 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
36 depth charges
Sunk in action, 6 April 1945
Hatsukaze Kagero-class destroyer 240 crew
6 × 5″ guns
up to 28 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
36 depth charges
Sunk in action, 2 November 1943
Yamakaze Shiratsuyu-class destroyer 180 crew
5 × 5″ guns
up to 21 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
16 depth charges
Sunk 25 June 1942
Kawakaze Shiratsuyu-class destroyer 180 crew
5 × 5″ guns
up to 21 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 4 × 13 mm AA guns
8 × 24″ torpedo tubes
16 depth charges
Sunk 7 August 1943
Sazanami Fubuki-class destroyer 219 crew
6 × 5″ guns
up to 22 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 10 × 13 mm AA guns,
9 × 24″ torpedo tubes
36 × depth charges
Sunk, 14 January 1944
Ushio Fubuki-class destroyer 219 crew
6 × 5″ guns
up to 22 × 25 mm AA guns
up to 10 × 13 mm AA guns,
9 × 24″ torpedo tubes
36 × depth charges
Scrapped on August 4, 1948
USS Houston before the war
USS Houston before the war

It seems that aircraft did not play a huge part in the battle itself and on paper, the two sides are reasonably evenly matched. However, it looks as though the Allies suffered a little from poor Command and Control whilst the Japanese forces worked well with each other.

The Japanese were attempting to perform an amphibious strike at Java. On 27 February 1942 the main American-British-Dutch-Australian (ABDA) Command naval force sailed from Surabaya in an attempt to incercept the Japanese forces. The ABDA force was under the command of Admiral Karel Doorman of the Dutch navy. The ABDA force sailed northeast from Surabaya whilst the Japanese were approaching from the Makassar Strait.

It seems that during the battle, the Allies had more airpower available than the Japanese. These were land-based aircraft but they seem not to have had a significant effect on the battle.

The battle really consisted of a series of attacks by the ABDA force, attempting to brak through the Japanese screen and attack the invasion convoy however the Japanese fleet manager to keep the ABDA forces at bay. Interestingly, at one point, the Japanese launched two salvoes of torpedoes, 92 torpedoes in total being fired but only one of them actually hit anything, the Kortenaer.

The ABDA fleet broke off the engagement and turned away around 18:00 covered by a smoke screen laid by the four U.S. destroyers. Around Jupiter ran onto a mine and was sunk. The four remaining cruisers (Exeter having already been detached) encountered the Japanese escort group again at 23:00 with both sides exchanging fire in the dark at long range. De Ruyter and Java were both sunk at this stage – both hit by torpedoes. this effectively ended the battle.

And yes, I will be updating this post later – as I add the technical details of the vessels in. Maybe I’ll post a scenario for General Quarters III with this as well …. but later 🙂

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