Time Magazine, Monday, Aug. 04, 1947
Their acts, said the Dutch last week, were only "police measures of a strictly limited character." They looked more like war. The Dutch claimed that they could rebuild the Indies only after they had subdued obstructive Republican leaders. The Dutch had a detailed plan of attack for vermiform Java: cut off the head and tail (richest rice-growing regions), then hit the heart of the Republican government at Jogjakarta in south central Java. In a week the Dutch plan had all but succeeded.
Dutch Marines, trained by the U.S. Marines, staged amphibious landings in the east and quickly took Java's richest agricultural area. Throughout Java the Dutch seized plantations, sugar mills, port installations, roads.
Indonesian scorched-earth tactics had caused some damage, chiefly to the Chinese merchant class whose houses the Republicans burned. "The population's attitude," claimed the Dutch, ". . . could hardly be bettered. . . .
From a military standpoint there is hardly any resistance worth the name." Fleeing Republican soldiers shed their shoes—the faster to run and the better to disguise themselves as peasants.
Suicide Squads. But from Jogjakarta the Republican government was still shouting defiance. The Dutch drive on the capital was stalled in the mountains north of the Republican capital. The Dutch might seize key centers of Java, but the Republicans hoped to wear them down in a long guerrilla war. Youthful (24) Major General Soetomo was organizing suicide squads called Berani Mati (Those Who Dare to Die). To belong, said Soetomo, an Indonesian must kill at least ten Dutch soldiers. He also had some advice for women fighters: sprinkle pepper in Dutch soldiers' eyes, then stone them to death.
The Dutch had gambled everything on quick military success. (Their well-trained, well-equipped army had no supplies for a long campaign.) But the political problem could not be so quickly solved. After a week of fighting, Acting Governor General Hubertus van Mook promised a "regular government." The Dutch talked of splitting the Indonesian Republic into seven autonomous (and more manageable) areas. Van Mook asked "prominent Indonesian personalities" to join him in rebuilding the country.
The Ever-Present Comrades.
But the Dutch strong-arm policy had played into the hands of extremists like top Communist Alimin Prawirodirdjo. Last year Alimin returned to Java from long exile with an up-to-the-minute party line. Like Viet Nam's Ho Chi-minh, China's Chou En-lai and Mao Tse-tung, he is a graduate of Moscow's Far Eastern University. Alimin's influence with Indonesian President Soekarno had long been strong. Now, since Alimin controlled the best-organized underground in Indonesia, it was stronger than ever. Alimin's advice to Soekarno: don't cooperate with the Dutch.
Meanwhile, moderate ex-Premier Sutan Sjahrir, favorite Dutch candidate to head a new Indonesian government, flew to India to mobilize world opinion against the Dutch. He found one sympathetic listener in Jawaharlal Nehru. Said Nehru last week: India will bar Dutch traffic from Indian ports and airfields. But, he added, India will not send arms to the Indonesians ; "we do not intend to be at war with the Dutch Government." Nehru promised to bring the Indonesian problem before the United Nations immediately.