icon



"The Lost Oppurtunity !"
The Badung Strait Battle, February 1942


The battle of Badung strait was an attempt to finally achieve a big naval succes in the war, as the previous actions all had to be aborted due to the air attacks the Japanese forces launched against the Striking Force. This time, the Striking Force needn't cross a large distance in daylight in order to be at the battleground at night. Bali was invaded on February 19th, and the circumstances were favourable to the Allies. It looked like air attacks seemed to cause great damage to the Japanese invasion force. Unfortunately, the aircraft participating in these attacks also thought they sighted larger ships than destroyers, even up to heavy cruisers. At Bali, there were initially just four Japanese destroyers (Oshio, Asashio, Michisio and Arashio) and two transports carrying the invasion force (Sagami Maru and Sasago Maru). Previous air attacks damaged the Sagami Maru, and she had to be sent to safer waters under the protection of the destroyers Michishio and Arashio. The Sasago Maru and the other two destroyers remained near the landing site in order to pick up the landingboats, which hadn't returned yet. The Striking Force on the other hand had the bigger firepower in this conflict, the only time they did during the whole Netherlands East Indies campaign. When the landing force was sighted on February 18, there was immediately a plan designed to attack and destroy these forces. The Dutch light cruisers Java and De Ruyter were still in Tjilatjap on the south coast of Java, along with 2 Dutch destroyers (Kortenaer and Piet Hein) and 2 American fourstackers (Ford and Pope). The Tromp and Destroyer Division 58 of the US navy (USS Stewart, Parrott, Pillsbury and John D. Edwards) were in Soerabaja. The plan was to go through the narrow Badung Strait in two waves, in the first the group from Tjilatjap, in the second the group from Soerabaja. On the initiative of a staff officer in Soerabaja, there were also 9 Dutch MTB's added, making up the third wave. The first group left Tjiltjap in the evening of February 18th, but immediately lost the Dutch destroyer Kortenaer while exiting the narrow passage leading to the harbour. She ran aground and had to be left behind. The force steamed at 25 knots towards Bali. The second group left Soerabaja in late afternoon of February 19th.  


The first group attacks


At about 21.30 hours (local time) the first group had reached the south cape of Bali, and prepared for action, forming a line ahead (first De Ruyter, then Java, Piet Hein, Ford, Pope). Speed was increased to 27 knots and all expected this to be the first real victory by the Striking Force. This was the first time the Japanese and Allied ships actually faced eachother in a fight. The sea was calm and the visibility was very good. The group rushed into Badung Strait, and the first ship they encountered was probably one of the destroyers. De Ruyter had her main battery trained over the wrong side and let the target pass by, and so did the other ships. Suddenly, the Java spotted a merchant ship and a destroyer over the port side. Rear-Admiral Karel Doorman was warned and she awaited to order to fire. The targets were well in range, but the order to fire wasn't given, since the captain wanted to await orders from Doorman. As the ships finally came within such a range that opening fire would be very favourable, the captain of the Java judged is was time to let the gunners do their job. She first fired flare shells, making day out of night, she opened fire and thought to score numerous hits on the Japanese destroyer, which was now about 2000 meters away. The Java took the Japanese destroyer (Asashio) totally by surprise. Asashio first searched the area with a searchlight, but the 40 mm battery of the Java acted very quickly and blew it overboard. When the Java at this time was firing as quickly as she could, De Ruyter hadn't opened fire yet as a result of an order from the Rear-Admiral, that the Java would open fire on targets on their port side, and De Ruyter on the starboard side, where there were none. The high rate of fire continued until the destroyer moved out of sight. Both of the cruisers continued north to Soerabaja. The rest of the battle was more or less chaos. The Dutch destroyer Piet Hein (Lt.Cdr. J.M.L.I. Chömpff) had launched three torpedoes and opened fire with her main guns on the transport near the Bali shore. She came under fire of the Oshio and Asashio and possibly also by mistake by the Ford, Pope or both. She launched another two torpedoes and was then hit severely by shells in the rear boiler room. The turbines had to be shut down, and now she was a dead in the water. Later she managed to regain at least part of her propulsion, but by then she had received numerous shell and torpedo hits. She rolled overto starboard and sank with waving flag. The US destroyers also made contact with the Japanese destroyers, and used both their guns and their torpedoes. The battle became so fierce that the division commander, Commander Parker, decided to leave Badung Strait to the south instead of the north. The first part of the Battle of Badung Strait was over.


The Tromp and Destroyer Division 58 attack


The Tromp and Destroyer Division 58 arrived at Badung Strait at about 1 o'clock in the morning of the 20th February. They entered at 28 knots with the US destroyers leading the group, and with the Tromp last.

The plan was that Destroyer Division 58 would cause as much damage and trouble as possible with a torpedo attack, and the Tromp would finish off the ships still afloat. They had received no news at all from the first group. At about 1.30 the Stewart sighted morse code which she couldn't decipher. The Stewart, Parrott and Pillsbury fired torpedoes, more or less at random and then came under fire of the Asashio and Oshio. The Stewart received two hits causing one casualty and the XO to be wounded. After the Americans had lost them, they suddenly came across the Arashio and Michisio, which had left the damaged Sagami Maru and rushed back to Badung Strait to help the others. The Pillsbury almost rammed the Parrot and fell out of formation. By this time, the destroyers achieved their biggest success. The Michisio was hit in her engine room by a 4 inch shell and was left dead in the water. The destroyers left Badung Strait to the . The Tromp on the other hand had waited for a signal of the destroyers that the latter were retiring from the battles. As gunfire ceased Tromp increased speed to maximum (31 knots) and prepared for action. At 2.07, a lookout reported morse code which couldn't be deciphered. The Tromp shone her searchlight and the captain ordered "open fire". The 5.9 inch battery opened fire along with the 40 mm. The torpedo battery was also ready to be fired. The first enemy salvo caused the crew of the starboard torpedo battery to be thrown across the deck. Then the fire control system was hit, and now the turrets had to fire by themselves. The Tromp received in a fire fight that only lasted six minutes no less than 10 to 12 hits, of which luckily none penetraded the armoured deck. No torpedoes were fired by Tromp either, probably thinking it was best to save them for the cruisers (of which there was none). The Tromp scored only one hit on the Oshio, which penetrated the hull and hit an ammo stack. Unfortunately, it didn't explode. An explosion in her ammo stack would surely have sunk Oshio. Tromp left Badung Strait and reached Soerabaja safely, after being attacked by Japanese planes on the way back.  


The Dutch MTB's attack


The battle of Badung strait was the first opportunity for the MTB's to show their skills in battle. Unfortunately, as they left Soerabaja, one of them, the TM-6, accidentally hit a light buoy, reducing the number of operation attack boats to 7 (the TM-13 was assigned as a rescue ship and apparently wasn't armed). They were in position at 1.40 AM in the vicinity of Lemblongan, an island near Bali. They saw the second assault group into action, and as those ships had left, it was time for action. They sailed to the centre of Badung Strait, and after a while they spotted a ship, which could be identified as Japanese. They tried to get in favourable attack positions, and even though they at one time did 30 knots, they didn't succeed. They left Badung Strait at daybreak back to the Dutch minelayer Krakatau, which acted as depot ship. The battle of Badung Strait had came to an end.


Aftermath


The Allied forces thought to have obtained a great victory over the Japanese. No less than one enemy cruiser was supposedly sunk, with two other cruisers and two destroyers heavily damaged. Post war research in Japanese records show that only three Japanese destroyers were damaged (Michisio, Asashio and Oshio). Michisio had to be towed back to Makassar, the other two managed to reach that destination on their own. The Allies had lost the Piet Hein as a direct result, they lost Tromp as an indirect result, since she had to be sent to Australia for repairs. The Allies thought to have won a great victory, but were actually defeated in the only battle they had the best chance. In the next battle, in the Java Sea, this wouldn't be the case.


Royal Netherlands Navy by H. T. Lenton

War at Sea Index . Bibliography . Article List . Geographic Names

Copyright © Jan Visser 1999-2000
Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942

logo