Sunday, February 27, 2005

On this day in military 1942 and 1991

On this day in military history….in 1942. The ABDA naval squadron is destroyed at the Battle of the Java Sea. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces were running rampant throughout the Pacific. The Japanese decided to invade the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, to gain access to its oil and raw materials. The assorted naval forces of America, Britain, the Netherlands and Australia (ABDA) were gathered together under one command, Admiral Karel Doorman, to oppose these landings.

Small groups of ABDA forces had attacked the Japanese invasions at Balikpapan in Borneo and Palembang in eastern Sumatra, but without any visible effect. As the main Japanese invasion fleet gathered to attack Java, the entire ABDA squadron sailed forth to attack the Japanese troop transports. The ABDA force consisted of five cruisers and nine destroyers. However, due to the lack of modern warships (most of the ABDA squadron ships were World War I vintage) and lack of training time together, the attacks didn’t go off as well as expected. The Dutch light cruisers and a number of destroyers were sunk by Japanese “Long Lance” torpedoes and the HMS Exeter (veteran of the Battle of the River Platte with the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee) was damaged by torpedoes and retired from the battle. The only ships that were undamaged, the USS Houston and HMAS Perth escaped to the west towards the Sunda Strait (where they were sunk the next day). The HMS Exeter and the other two destroyers were sunk the next day also while trying to escape to the Sunda Strait. Only four old American destroyers (which had exited the battle early to refuel) sailed south thru the Bali Strait (between the islands of Java and Bali), evaded the Japanese squadron stationed there and managed to escape to Australia.

On this day in military history….in 1991. Retreating Iraqi forces on the Kuwait-Basra Highway are decimated by coalition air forces. As the coalition armored forces started rolling up the Iraqi flanks in Kuwait, the Iraqi forces started pulling back to Iraq along the Kuwait-Basra Highway. The somewhat orderly withdrawal quickly degenerated into a veritable “sauve-qui-peut” (a French word for “get the f**k out of Dodge”) and in a repeat of the bombing of withdrawing German troops by Allied air power during the Battle for the Falaise Pocket in World War II, coalition forces bomb, strafe and destroy Iraqi forces along the “Highway of Death”. After the war, about 1500 burned out and destroyed vehicles were found along the highway, but the number of Iraqi dead will never be known.


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