|Battle of the Java Sea|
|Part of World War II (The War That Came Early)|
|Netherlands||Empire of Japan|
|Commanders and leaders|
When war began in January of 1941, the US Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor managed to defeat a Japanese attempt to put them out of action with a sneak attack on their main base in Hawaii. However, the US fleet in the Philippines wasn't so lucky. What was left, was forced to flee and they headed south to Java, making using Surabaya as their port of operations.
Ships from the US and the UK also gathered at the port creating an allied fleet. By mid February, the fleet was called into action when Japanese forces landed on eastern Borneo, in order to capture the military bases there.
The Allied fleet consisting of US and Dutch destroyers with a US and British light cruiser, all sailed for Borneo. Air cover was primarily the job of the Military Aviation of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army. However, lack of cooperation between the higher ups meant that their planes were ineffective at providing any air support.
Before night fell, the destroyers of the fleet all left to engage the Japanese transports and ships at their beach head with long range torpedoes, leaving the two light cruisers on their own. Later during the night, the destroyers engaged the enemy, but no more news was broadcast, leaving many to ponder a dire fate for them.
As dawn rose, the two cruisers were spotted by a Japanese float plane. Unable to shoot it down, the plane reported their location and flew away. This prompted what was left of the fleet to withdraw back to Surabaya.
Although the dead US sailors were remembered as heroes in the US press, it was of little consolation as the allied fleet broke up and were pushed further south. The failure to stop the Japanese at the Java sea, allowed the IJN to push as far south as Timor island, bombing the Australian port of Darwin, and effectively cutting the Dutch East Indies in two. Although a gallant effort, the attempts to stop the Japanese were thwarted by lack of coordination between various allied powers.