hawkeye (hawkeye7) wrote,


Working my way through the thesis chapter on Borneo. I'm currently writing up Tarakan. This is one of the lesser known battles of the Second World War.

In May 1945, some 14,600 Australians (and 700 Americans) landed on Tarakan, an island off the coast of Borneo. Defending the island was around 2,000 Japanese troops. In six weeks of fighting, 251 Australians and 1,540 Japanese were killed.

While the infantry fought the Japanese in the hills, RAAF engineers undertook a desperate effort to bring Tarakan's airstrip into operation. It had been heavily bombed and its drainage had been destroyed. There was no good, hard material available for repair work and 50,000 cubic metres of what material there was had to be hauled over a muddy road. And there was constant rain. Reconstruction work fell behind schedule and the strip was only opened on 28 June, too late to play its intended part in other operations in Borneo. Instead, air strikes were flown from the southern Philippines captured by US troops in April and from escort carriers made available by the victory on Okinawa in late June.

Although covered in several books, there is only one book that is devoted to Tarakan: Peter Stanley's Tarakan: An Australian Tragedy. This might seem slim but most of the Australian and American battles of 1945 in the southwest Pacific have no books at all. The battle has been regarded as futile and the losses tragic by some historians because its ultimate objective was not achieved.

However, this is not military logic, which requires a certain amount of redundancy to deal with the unforseen and unexpected. The bottom line is that a battle which turns out to be unnecessary is not necessarily unwise.

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