December 7, 1941, opened up a new theater of war in the Pacific and a new threat for what was then the Netherlands East Indies. The Dutch, with their Naval Air Force or Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD), made a significant - and often overlooked - contribution to the Allied effort. With their 175 aircraft, the MLD in Southeast Asia outnumbered American and British naval air reconnaissance forces combined. Three months of intense fighting left the Dutch bereft of thousands of naval personnel and over 80 percent of their aircraft. This work details the actions of MLD during the Japanese invasion of the Netherlands East Indies. Beginning with a look at the origins of the MLD, it provides an overview of the force, including an analysis of its aircraft, equipment, personnel and training. Operations of the United States Navy and Royal Air Force seaplane units are included in order to provide a thorough history of the campaign. Final chapters cover the MLD's ill-fated attempts at evacuation of the island battleground and offer an overall review of the MLD's performance. Appendices contain such information as Allied and Japanese aircraft specifications, squadron tables of organization, and MLD bases and operational areas. The result is by far the most comprehensive English-language account of the Allied naval air war in the Netherlands East Indies.
This is an area of warfare I am very interested in. Unfortunately, books like this only come along once every 10 to 20 years. This fills a gap in our knowledge of events leading up to and through the Pacific War against Japan. The MLD, or Dutch Naval Air Force of the Netherlands East Indies, probably had the best organized reconnaissance force in the southwest Pacific area at the time. Maintaining neutrality in wars spreading around the globe was difficult, but the Netherlands East Indies were doing all they could not to become involved, and to be a haven for those trying to escape the European, African and Chinese theatre wars. The Japanese had different plans. Once the fighting started though, the MLD was right in the thick of it, fighting hard right alongside their British, Australian and American allies against a Japanese war machine far superior to anything the allies could cobble together. Flying older German designed Do-24s, American PBYs, and Fokker seaplanes, the MLD kept up what pressure they could as the Japanese invasion forces swept through the East Indies, southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean in the late fall of 1941, and the winter and spring of 1942. Most of the MLD crews paid with their lives to keep the allies abreast of where the Japanese forces were located and what they were doing. Some of the "invincibility" that became associated with the superb Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, and in general the Japanese naval forces, was established and enhanced during this campaign. When the smoke cleared, the Japanese were in control of the Netherlands East Indies, and the remaining MLD crews and ground personnel, if not captured, were evacuated to Australia or Ceylon. It was a story of too little, too late. The Dutch had tried to get more aircraft, AA guns and ordinance prior to the Japanese invasion, but a lack of interest on the part of her future allies, and a greater concern for the European conflict, even by the Dutch government-in-exile, left the MLD with only a handful of aircraft and hardware with which to face battle-hardened Japanese forces. The book has many excellent and previously unpublished photographs of personnel, aircraft, and bases of the MLD. If your interests are for stories of some of the little known campaigns and more exotic places that became embroiled in the global conflagration known as World War Two, you will enjoy this book. Tom Womack is to be commended for researching, compiling and fleshing out this story,
An Unknown War gets some light shined upon it2007/4/5
Over the past few years I've been expanding my knowledge of WWII by focusing on the early portion of the war, more specifically, the war in the South Pacific. For awhile, Amazon has been recommended this book to me because of my rating of other related books. Anyway, I decided to give this book a try.
I'll open by saying this book only deals with the Dutch Naval Air Force (referred to as the MLD [Marine Luchtvaart Dienst]), the aircraft they flew, and the missions they performed in defense of the Netherlands East Indies. Passing references are made to US, British, Australian, and the Dutch Army Air Force (ML-KNIL). These passing references are usually related to the different patrol aircraft used by these forces, occasionally to the fighters or bombers.
Mr. Womack opens by describing the aircraft used by the MLD and the MLD's state of condition, prior to the start of WWII for the Dutch and once the Netherlands had been overrun by the Germans. While Mr. Womack describes all of the aircraft used by the Dutch, particular attention should be paid to his descriptions of the Dornier Do24's (called X boats by the MLD) and the PBY Catalina (Y boats). At times the other aircraft of the MLD are mentioned, but usually it's the X and Y boats going to war with the Japanese.
Having established pre-war conditions and how the Dutch attempted to improve their position, Mr. Womack brings us to December 1941 and the initial actions between the Japanese and Dutch. This is followed (rather rapidly) by the steady advancements the Japanese made in the South West Pacific and ending with the fall of Java. The book concludes by describing how the MLD evacuated from the East Indies and their general participation in the rest of WWII.
This book is a very solid 4.5 star book. The writing is clean, Mr. Womack describes things as a historian, not one translating oral history. There are some great photo's in the book showing the Dutch aircraft and other equipment. The maps are nice, but a little on the weak side, they show where the Japanese are able to threaten at any one time but I found it a little difficult finding where the different bases were that the aircraft were operating from. The appendices are nicely put together, providing very good information on the aircraft (there's a breakdown of what happened to every X and Y boat), squadrons, and losses. The charts should have been done considering a black and white printing (because of the grey scaling used, you can tell that the originals were in color). Also I wish Mr. Womack would have given us a little more of his analysis than he did. However, since Amazon doesn't grade on half stars, I need to decide on 4 or 5. Since this is obscure material and Mr. Womack has put together a very informative book on something most people aren't aware of, and he used excellent references (without regurgating what the original author said), I'll give him the nod to 5 stars. A very good job sir!
Only for the true amateur historian.2008/4/10
A great book about a relatively unknown aspect of WWII. Where's the one on the Dutch Army Air Force againt Japan?
A great read2010/2/6
David M. Knights
I was able to read this book over the last week. I've always had a special interest for the period of history in the Pacific that is covered by the first few months of WWII. A friend recently allowed me to borrow this book, which he read and highly recommended.
As usual, he was right. This is an excellent book and a quick read. It covers the subject well. I particularly liked the fact that even though it was a big picture history of the events of the time, it had lots of personal stories and detail. The appendix alone makes it a must have for any modeler considering building any of the MLD (Dutch Naval Air Service) aircraft of the period. Highly recommended.
A decent book about a little known part of World War II2009/1/12
This is a decent book about a part of World War II that is little known to most Americans. It is the story of the Dutch Naval Air Force (MLD) in the Netherlands East Indies, what is today the country of Indonesia. Mr. Womack has researched Dutch language sources, mostly secondary sources and some primary sources to write the story of how these men opposed Japan's drive south. The book discusses the aircraft they flew, which were mostly a collection of German, Dutch and American flying boats. The MLD was primarily a reconnaisance force, though it also performed anti-submarine patrols, escorted convoys, and conducted a few bombing attacks. He discusses the MLD's combat actions at the squadron/individual aircraft level. The MLD drew blood, sinking a Japanese ship, damaging others, and shot down some Japanese airplanes. They suffered massive losses over the course of the campaign as one might expect, but still kept fighting. I have two problems with the book, one in how the author approached the subject and another with the writing. The author often puts too much or too little in the endnotes. For example, the Queen gave all members of the MLD a medal for bravery, one that is normally awarded to individuals for specific acts of bravery. That is significant, but the fact is buried in a footnote. The citation does appear at the start, but its real significance is not explaned, except in the end note. In many end notes the author gives his opinions, which appear unsubstantiated. The quality of writing is at times uneven. In some areas he seems to repeat himself. The maps are useful. There is detailed information about the performance characteristics of the airplanes the MLD flew. There is also detailed information about the bases and seaplane tenders in the appendix. The book also features pictures from musuems and private collections. While the book discusses a little known aspect of the war to most Americans, the problems I have noted above only justify rating it three stars. I recommend it for aviation and World War II buffs.