March 8

This Day in History

World War II

Mar 8, 1942:

Dutch surrender on Java

On this day, Dutch forces surrender to the Japanese after two months of fighting.

Java is an island of modern-day Indonesia, and it lies southeast of Malaysia and Sumatra, south of Borneo, and west of Bali. The Dutch had been in Java since 1596, establishing the Dutch East India Company, a trading company with headquarters at Batavia (modern-day Jakarta), which the Dutch commandeered in 1619. The Dutch East India Company began to assert greater and greater control over the Muslim kingdoms of the East Indies, transforming them into vassal states, with peasants growing rice, sugar, pepper, and coffee for the Dutch government. The company was dissolved in 1799 because of debts and corruption, and the Dutch government took control of the East Indies directly.

The British supplanted the Dutch in Java for a brief period (1811-1816), but the Dutch returned to power, slowly granting native Javanese more local control, even giving them a majority on the People's Council. But on January 11, 1942, the Japanese declared war on the Royal Dutch government with its invasion of Borneo and the Island of Celebes, a date that also marked the beginning of the end of the Dutch presence in the East Indies. Sumatra was the next site of Japanese occupation, with paratroopers and troops landing from transports on February 14-16. Seven thousand British and Australian troops reinforced the Dutch fighters on Java, but the Allies pulled out of the fight in late February at the approach of two more large Japanese invasion forces that arrived on March 1.

The Dutch finally ended all resistance to the superior Japanese forces on March 8, surrendering on Java. Java's independence of colonial control became a final fact of history in 1950, when it became part of the newly independent Republic of Indonesia.

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