Monthly Archives: February 2013

Pacific War: the Battle of Badung Strait

It was a tough time for Bali seventy-one years ago, when the Japanese forces conquering Southeast Asia reached the paradise island soon after the start of the Pacific War in December 1941. They had swept down from Thailand through the Malay Peninsula and also from the Philippines past Borneo, with a battalion landing on Bali on 18 February 1942. A small garrison of Indonesian militia were no match for them, and the Japanese met no real resistance on land. The sea was a different story.

Bali is the little brown island under the letter 'O' in Indonesia

Bali is directly below the letter ‘O’ in Indonesia.

The ABDA (Allied) sea power in the region was under the command of Dutch Admiral Doorman, based at Surabaya in Eastern Java, across the water from Bali. Learning of the imminent danger, he quickly cobbled together what Allied vessels he could and dispatched them that very day to confront the Japanese. The vanguard were two submarines and 20 planes, which inflicted virtually no damage on the enemy. Then the first Allied ships on the scene engaged the Japanese vessels, again with no damage, but a Dutch destroyer was sunk and two American destroyers were obliged to retreat.

Map from

Map from

Several hours later, a small fleet of Allied ships reached Badung Strait, between today’s tourist resort of Sanua and Nusa Penida island. This time mutual damage was inflicted, but without any ship being sunk. A third Allied fleet arrived later, but failed to encounter the enemy.

The battle was a significant victory for the Japanese, who had driven off a larger Allied force and protected their transport ships. To the east, they invaded the island of Timor next day and, though resistance there was stiffer and lasted longer, the ultimate outcome was inevitable.

[This is mainly paraphrased from “Battle of Badung Strait”. For a detailed account, see

cover.edEast Java in the late 1940s forms the setting for a major strand of my novel, Shadow Chase. Check it out at, where you can also find other material related to Indonesia.