Wartime Borneo, 1941-1945: a tale of two occupied territories

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Author: Ooi Keat Gin
Date: Annual 2013
From: Borneo Research Bulletin(Vol. 44)
Publisher: Borneo Research Council, Inc
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,586 words
Lexile Measure: 1540L

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Within a brief campaign period of less than two months (December 1941 to February 1942), the whole island of Borneo was militarily occupied by Imperial Japanese forces. Bornean oil and rubber were assets coveted by Imperial Japan. Strategic-wise, Borneo was a stepping stone for the invasion of British Singapore and Dutch Batavia. Therefore the early and swift capture of the island fulfilled Imperial Japan's needs for resources as well as facilitated the capture of Singapore, Malaya, and the Netherlands East Indies.

The Japanese Occupation of Borneo, 1941-1945 (1) is a long overdue piece of scholarly work that detailed the circumstances leading to the invasion and occupation of Borneo by Imperial Japan. There had been works on the wartime occupation of the respective territories of Borneo particularly of Sarawak but none covered and/or treated the entire island as a whole during the Pacific War (1941-1945) until the present volume. Undoubtedly the significance of The Japanese Occupation of Borneo is its scope of coverage that envelops all of the various diverse territories that comprised the island of Borneo, each with its respective background and historical developments under different European colonial powers. Moreover, the fact of the partitioning of Borneo between the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) makes comparison an imperative aspect that the present work attempts to explore.

Occupied Borneo was administratively partitioned into two halves, namely Kita Boruneo (Northern Borneo) that coincided with pre-war British Borneo (Sarawak, Brunei, and North Borneo) was governed by the IJA, whereas Minami Boruneo (Southern Borneo), formerly Dutch Borneo (western and southern portion of the island) came under the control of the IJN. This territorial separation between the military services was in line with Tokyo's policy that differentiated occupied areas in Southeast Asia in terms of their respective nature and importance.

In general, the Army has been charged with the administration of densely populated areas which demand complex administrative tasks, while sparsely populated primitive areas, which shall be retained in the future for the benefit of the Empire, have been assigned to the Navy (Ooi 2011:39).

It was the intention of Imperial Japan to possess "permanent retention" of the southern and western portion of Borneo that were then resource-rich (especially oil) and sparsely populated. The IJN having fewer personnel than the IJA was entrusted with military administration of this vast territory. The IJA on the other hand took...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A375949172