The Japanese Empire occupied the Dutch East Indies
, now Indonesia
, during World War II
from March 1942 until after the end of the War in September 1945. The period was one of the most critical in Indonesian history
. The Dutch East Indies had been a colony of the Netherlands
(the Dutch) since 1819. However, the Netherlands itself had been occupied by Germany
, and thus had little ability to defend its colony against the Japanese army
, and less than three months after the first attacks on Borneo
, the Japanese navy and army overran Dutch and allied forces. Initially, most Indonesians joyfully welcomed the Japanese as liberators from their Dutch colonial masters. The sentiment changed, however, as Indonesians realized that they were expected to endure more hardship for the Japanese war effort. In 1944–1945, Allied troops largely bypassed Indonesia and did not fight their way into the most populous parts such as Java
. As such, most of Indonesia was still under Japanese occupation at the time of its surrender in August 1945.
The occupation was the first serious challenge to the Dutch
in Indonesia and ended the Dutch colonial rule, and, by its end, changes were so numerous and extraordinary that the subsequent watershed, the Indonesian National Revolution
, was possible in a manner unfeasible just three years earlier. Unlike the Dutch, the Japanese facilitated the politicisation of Indonesians down to the village level. Particularly in Java and, to a lesser extent, Sumatra, the Japanese educated, trained and armed many young Indonesians and gave their nationalist leaders a political voice. Thus, through both the destruction of the Dutch colonial regime and the facilitation of Indonesian nationalism, the Japanese occupation created the conditions for the proclamation of Indonesian independence within days of the Japanese surrender in the Pacific. However, the Netherlands sought to reclaim the Indies, and a bitter five-year diplomatic, military and social struggle ensued, resulting in the Netherlands recognising Indonesian sovereignty in December 1949. Read more...