Battle of Sunda Strait
The Battle of Sunda Strait was a naval battle which occurred during World War II in the Sunda Strait between the islands of Java, and Sumatra. On the night of 28 February – 1 March 1942, the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth and the American heavy cruiser USS Houston faced a major Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) task force. After a fierce battle lasting several hours, both Allied ships were sunk. Five Japanese ships were sunk, three of them by friendly fire.
|Battle of Sunda Strait|
|Part of World War II, Pacific War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
In late February 1942, Japanese amphibious forces were preparing to invade Java, in the Dutch East Indies. On 27 February, the main American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDACOM) naval force, under Admiral Karel Doorman–a Dutch officer–steamed northeast from Surabaya to intercept an Imperial Japanese navy invasion fleet. This part of the ABDA force consisted of two heavy cruisers, including USS Houston under the command of Captain Albert H. Rooks, three light cruisers, including HMAS Perth under Captain Hector Waller, and nine destroyers. Only six out of nine of USS Houston's 8-inch (203 mm) heavy guns were operational because her aft gun turret had been knocked out in an earlier Japanese air raid. The ABDA force engaged the Japanese force in the Battle of the Java Sea. The Allied ships were all sunk or dispersed. Houston and Perth both retreated to Tanjung Priok, Java, the main port of Batavia, Dutch East Indies, where they arrived at 13:30 on 28 February.
In the early evening on 28 February, Houston, Perth and the Dutch destroyer HNLMS Evertsen received orders to depart Tanjung Priok and head through Sunda Strait to Tjilatjap, on the south coast of Java. Waller, who had seniority, was de facto commander of this force. The only ships they expected to encounter were Australian corvettes on patrol, in and around the strait itself. While Houston and Perth left at 19:00, Evertsen was not ready and followed the cruisers two hours later.
By chance, just after 22:00, a Japanese invasion convoy bound for West Java – including the entire Sixteenth Army, under Lieutenant General Hitoshi Imamura, in over 50 transport ships – was entering Bantam Bay, near the north-west tip of Java. The Japanese troop transports were escorted by the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, led by Rear Admiral Kenzaburo Hara, and the 7th Cruiser Division, under Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita. Light cruiser Natori (with Admiral Hara aboard), with the destroyers Harukaze, Hatakaze, Asakaze, Fubuki, Hatsuyuki, Shirayuki, Shirakumo, and Murakumo were closest to the convoy. Flanking the bay to the north were the heavy cruisers Mogami and Mikuma, accompanied by the destroyer Shikinami.
Slightly further north, though not involved in the action, was the aircraft carrier Ryūjō, with the heavy cruisers Suzuya and Kumano (with Admiral Kurita aboard), along with the seaplane tender Chiyoda, and the destroyers Isonami and Uranami.
Some time around 23:15,[page needed] the Allied ships were sighted by the patrolling Fubuki, which followed them surreptitiously. At 23:06, when they were about halfway across the mouth of Bantam Bay, Perth sighted a ship about 5 mi (4.3 nmi; 8.0 km) ahead, near Saint Nicolaas Point. It was thought at first that the ship was an Australian corvette, but when challenged, she made an unintelligible reply, with a lamp which was the wrong color, fired her nine Long Lance (Type 93) torpedoes from about 3,000 yards (2,700 m) and then turned away, making smoke. The ship was soon identified as a Japanese destroyer (probably Harukaze). Waller reported the contact and ordered his forward turrets to open fire.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2019)
During a ferocious night action, the Allied cruisers were surrounded. Following severe damage from torpedo and shell impacts, Perth and Houston were abandoned after midnight and sank.
About four Japanese transports and a minesweeper were sunk by friendly torpedoes that had missed their target. (Two of these transports were later refloated.) One of the Japanese transports sunk was Ryujo Maru, carrying Lieutenant General Imamura, who had to jump overboard. He was later rescued by the crew of a small boat and taken ashore.
Meanwhile, as Evertsen was trying to catch up with Houston and Perth, her crew spotted the tracers and intense shellfire of the main action. Her captain ordered a course northwest towards Pulau Mundu island, off the west coast of Sumatra, then hugged the Sumatran coast as Evertsen turned south to head through Sunda Strait.
However, Evertsen was spotted by Murakumo and Shirakumo, looking for more escaping Allied ships. Both immediately illuminated Evertsen with their searchlights and took her under fire. Evertsen attempted to evade by turning west, but after turning southward again, the Dutch destroyer again encountered the Japanese destroyers. Evertsen was hit repeatedly, but temporarily disengaged under a smokescreen. By then, however, Evertsen's stern was on fire. Still taking Japanese fire, the captain ordered his crew to ground Evertsen on a coastal reef. Firing all her torpedoes, the remaining crew escaped ashore before the fire reached the aft magazine, causing an explosion that blew off most of the stern.
Officially the Allied personnel killed during the battle included 696 members of the crew of Houston and 375 from Perth, including the captains of both vessels, Rooks and Waller. The survivors were picked up by Japanese vessels and taken prisoner, included 368 from Houston and 307 from Perth. Rooks was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. The majority of Evertsen's crew was taken prisoner on 9–10 March 1942 and were held by the Japanese for three and a half years.
The crew of the Japanese cruiser Mikuma suffered six killed and 11 wounded, as a result of damage caused by Houston. A direct shell hit to the bridge of the destroyer Shirayuki killed one crew member and wounded 11; Harukaze suffered hits to her bridge, engine room and rudder, killing three and wounding more than 15 others.[page needed]
- L, Klemen (2000). "Rear-Admiral Kenzaburo Hara". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. Archived from the original on 6 September 2020.
- L, Klemen (2000). "Rear-Admiral Takeo Kurita". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. Archived from the original on 8 October 2020.
- Muir 2020.
- Dull 1978.
- Hornfischer 2009.
- Visser, Jan (2000). "The Sunda Strait Battle". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. Archived from the original on 3 December 2014.
- L, Klemen (2000). "The conquest of Java Island, March 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942. Archived from the original on 8 October 2020.
- "Hr Ms Evertsen". PacificWrecks.com. 4 August 2020. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
- Hackett & Kingsepp 2019.
- Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941–1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1.
- Hackett, Bob; Kingsepp, Sander (2019). "HIJMS Mikuma: Tabular Record of Movement". CombinedFleet.com. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
- Hornfischer, James D. (2009). Ship of Ghosts: The Story of the USS Houston, FDR's Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of Her Survivors. Random House. ISBN 9780307490889. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
- Muir, Dan (9 January 2020). "Order of Battle, Battle of the Sunda Strait". Retrieved 21 December 2020.
- L, Klemen (2000). "Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942".
- D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X.
- Gill, G. Hermon (1957). "Chapter 16 – Defeat in Abda". Royal Australian Navy, 1939–1942. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 2 – Navy. Volume I. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 848228.
|volume=has extra text (help)
- Lacroix, Eric; Wells, Linton (1997). Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-311-3.
- Lewis, Tom (2011). The Submarine Six: Australian Naval Heroes. Kent Town, South Australia: Avonmore Books. ISBN 9780987151919.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot (2001) . The Rising Sun in the Pacific: 1931 – April 1942. History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. III. Castle Books. ISBN 0-7858-1304-7.
- Schultz, Duane (1985). The Last Battle Station: The Story of the USS Houston. St Martins Press. ISBN 0-312-46973-X.
- Skeels, Fred (2008). Java Rabble: A Story of a Ship, Slavery and Survival. Victoria Park: Hesperian Press. ISBN 978-0-85905-419-5.
- van Oosten, F. C. (1976). The Battle of the Java Sea (Sea battles in close-up; 15). Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-911-1.
- Spector, Ronald (1985). "The Short, Unhappy Life of ABDACOM". Eagle Against the Sun: The American War With Japan. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-394-74101-3.
- Whiting, Brendan (1995). Ship of Courage: The Epic Story of HMAS Perth and Her Crew. Australia: Allen & Unwin Pty. ISBN 1-86373-653-0.
- Winslow, Walter G. (1984). The Ghost that Died at Sunda Strait. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-218-4. – Firsthand account of the battle by a survivor from USS Houston
- Winslow, Walter G. (1994). The Fleet the Gods Forgot: The U.S. Asiatic Fleet in World War II. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-928-X.
- Naval History (no date), "1942 03 01 0100 Surface Action Battle Of Sunda Strait"
- "US Navy report of the battle from 1943". Archived from the original on 15 May 2006. Retrieved 17 May 2006 – via HyperWar Foundation.
- United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) – Naval Analysis Division (1946). "Chapter 3: The Japanese Invasion of the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, and Southeast Asia". The Campaigns of the Pacific War. United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 20 November 2006 – via HyperWar Foundation.