2.14 Trap (interview)

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There were major differences between the Dutch armed forces and the Indonesian fighting forces. The Dutch army was better trained and equipped than the Indonesians and it had far more heavy weaponry. However, the Indonesian army had a numerical advantage. This imbalance between the two sides pushed the Republican side into a guerrilla war. They fought back against the Dutch military with lightning-quick attacks and ambushes. Mr H.J., who had both Dutch and Javanese forebears, joined a laskar pemuda, an army unit for young men. Together with his father, he marched into the mountains with the Republican troops, staying ahead of the Dutch army. He talks about their guerrilla tactics. When he and his uncle trapped two Dutch conscripts in an ambush, captured them and interrogated them, he got a glimpse of the Dutch perspective on the war in Indonesia.

Anonymized interview with Mr H.J. SMGI 1697.1 (12), 2000.


HJ: “It wasn’t a real war on West Java. A real war is like what happened with [the Dutch military officer] Westerling in Sulawesi [Celebes]. The Dutch did the shooting as they had the weapons and munitions. We would make a bom batok, a roadside bomb that explodes with a big bang when a military vehicle goes by on the road. Or stretch a liana vine across a road. I saw first-hand how one of my uncles did that. Then you could capture a Dutch motorbike rider.
Two [Dutch] conscripts were caught. They were dragged to the kampongs straight away. We had a quiet chat with those two. They said they were military conscripts. If they had refused, they would have been put in prison. I was amazed to hear them say that. Because how were they prepared for being sent to Indonesia?
‘Well, there’s a group that goes around that they call rampokkers [robbers] or pemudas endangering the lives of the Dutch. We’ve come to liberate the country.’ They used the word ‘extremists’ a lot too. ‘Right, but what do they look like, how do I recognize them?’ I believe in the end we swapped those two.” [laughs hard]

I: “Were they exchanged for Indonesian prisoners?”

HJ: “Well yes, two Dutchmen for twenty or forty Indonesians!” [laughs hard]