Borneo – a world forgotten / Lt. Gen. E.M. Flanagan Jr.

Australians landing on Borneo

Part of the wider Borneo campaign of the Pacific War, was fought between 10 June and 15 August 1945 in North Borneo (later known as Sabah). The battle involved a series of amphibious landings by Australian forces on various points on the mainland around Brunei Bay and upon islands situated around the bay. Japanese opposition to the landings was sporadic initially, although as the campaign progressed a number of considerable clashes occurred and both sides suffered relatively significant casualties. Ultimately, however, the Australians were successful in seizing control of the region.

Codenamed Operation Oboe Six, the battle was part of the second phase of the Allied operations to capture the island of Borneo. Previously in May a brigade-sized force had been put ashore on Tarakan. A total of 29,000–30,000 men were committed to the operation by the Allies, with the majority of the ground forces being provided by the Australian 9th Division, under the command of Major General George Wootten and consisting of the 20th and 24th Brigades, along with naval support from the United States Navy and Royal Australian Navy and aerial support from the United States Army Air Forces, the United States Marine Corps and elements of the Royal Australian Air Force’s 1st Tactical Air Force.

Borneo

Two United States Army units, the 727th Amphibian Tractor Battalion who manned the LVTs and the 593rd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment’s Boat Battalion, were also attached to the Australians. Having been planned by General Douglas MacArthur to take place in three stages—preparatory bombardment, forced landings, advance—the objective of the operation was to enable the Allies to establish “an advanced fleet base” in order to enable subsequent naval operations, to capture the vast oil and rubber supplies available in the area and to re-establish British civil administration.  Intelligence estimated that there were approximately 31,000 Japanese troops on Borneo.

Borneo map

Despite the progress that had been made on the southern mainland,  the fighting intensified as the Japanese defenders retreated inland to a heavily fortified position known as “the Pocket.” After the battle 180 Japanese dead were counted, bringing the total killed during the fighting on Labuan to 389. Against this the Australians suffered 34 killed and 93 wounded.

The second main landing came on 16 June on the mainland at Weston, in the north-eastern part of Brunei Bay. Many times the fighting came down to hand-to-hand combat.

In early August 1945, two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and on 15 August the Japanese Emperor, Hirohito, effectively announced an end to hostilities, with the formal surrender being signed on 2 September 1945. As a result of the ceasefire, the planned Allied invasion of Japan was no longer required and as a result, the strategic gains provided by the capture of North Borneo were arguably negated.

Combat in Borneo

Throughout the course of the fighting on North Borneo, the Australians lost 114 men killed or died of wounds while another 221 men were wounded. Against this, the Japanese lost at least 1,234 men, while 130 had been captured. On top of this, a further 1,800 Japanese were estimated to have been killed by guerrilla forces operating as part of the clandestine Services Reconnaissance Department.

Borneo

After the fighting was over, the Australians began the task for establishing British civil administration, rebuilding the infrastructure that had been damaged and providing for the civilians that had been displaced in the fighting. Following the ceasefire, there were still a large number of Japanese troops in North Borneo—by October 1945 it was estimated that there was over 21,000 Japanese soldiers and civilians still in North Borneo—and the 9th Division was made responsible for organizing the surrender, provisioning and protection of these personnel.

Lt. Gen. Masao Baba at Borneo surrender

They were also tasked with liberating the Allied civilian internees and prisoners of war that were being held at Batu Lintang camp in Kuching, Sarawak. As civil administration was slowly restored, in October 1945, the Australian demobilization process began. Initially this process was slow as there were few troops able to relieve the Australian forces in Borneo and as such only long service personnel were released for return to Australia. The 9th Division remained in North Borneo performing garrison duties until January 1946, when it was relieved by the 32nd Indian Brigade, and subsequently disbanded.

This situation remained until 1963, when the region was subsumed by the Malaysian state of Sabah.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

“Did you hear about the cruise ship that got stranded for 5 days? Must have been tough.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salute to Lt. General Edward M. Flanagan Jr. –

Lt.General E.M. Flanagan

 

Edward Flanagan Jr. Beaufort, SC – Lt. General (retired) Edward M. (Fly) Flanagan, 98, made his final jump on Thursday, November 7, 2019 at his home on Lady’s Island. He spent his life in daily acts of adoration of his wife and devotion to God. A three-star Army General, accomplished author and military historian.

Born and raised in Saugerties, NY, the son of Edward and Marie (Sinnot) Flanagan, he was a career military officer stationed at home and abroad including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Germany. After graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1943 he became a paratrooper and fought in the Pacific during World War II. He had a combat jump into the Philippines with the 11th Airborne Division and participated in the occupation of Japan at the end of the war.

He met his wife, Marguerite Farrell while on leave from West Point and they were married in 1945 when he returned from the war. He had a distinguished military career, rising to the rank of Lt. General and his commands included the 25th Infantry Division (Assistant Division Commander), 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Army center for Special Warfare and U.S. Army Special Warfare School (Green Berets), Eighth United States Army and Sixth United States Army. He retired from active duty in 1978.

11th Airborne Division patch

During his retirement he did extensive research and wrote a number of military history books including Angels at Dawn; The History of the 11th Airborne Division; Rakkasans; The Los Banos Raid; Airborne A Combat History of American Airborne Forces; and Lighting: The 101st in the Gulf War.

The General was kind enough to call me twice when he heard my father had served with the 11th Airborne and that I was using many of his well-researched books as a resource of my information.  He was only too eager to help.

The General will be buried with fellow graduates at the West Point Military Academy.

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on November 18, 2019, in Current News, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 131 Comments.

  1. Excellent post gp, great look back into the role of North Borneo and Brunei Bay in the war years, appreciated the tribute to Lt. General Edward M. Flanagan Jr. – definitely from Irish heritage, same surname as my Mother.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to admit that I have never heard of Operatio Oboe Six or the battle for Borneo Island. Thank you for the interesting blog and info!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Whatever the details of the battles, the leadership, and so on, I always profit by beginning each of your posts by looking at the photos and maps. The map of Borneo was especially interesting. I’ve heard of Sarawak, but have no idea where, or why. What is certain is that i didn’t know it was part of Borneo; I love having the geographical details filled out as well as the historical!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always learn something when I visit here, GP. Another fascinating post. Gosh though, in that first picture, they all look so very young.
    The tribute to General Flanagan is wonderful, a lovely personal touch. Hugs on the wing.
    PS: I just “granted your wish” for a KITT car in my story. I had dropped a could of vague hints in my manuscript, early on. But I just now “committed” to it in the story. Although this KITT will have a woman’s voice… and I have a hunch she might have a rather jealous personality. LOL.

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    • Thank you very much, Teagan, for your kind remarks on the post.
      Kitt was my personal favorite of that series, I’m thrilled his female counterpart will be making an entrance!!

      Like

  5. Great article as usual GP. Yes, even here the Borneo campaigns get very little publicity, but I think that will change over time. My father of course was with the 7th division at the Balikpapan landing but my wife’s father was in the 9th and had been in the Middle East and New Guinea. He would have gone to Borneo but was recovering from wounds at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do you recall any stories they might have told?

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      • I never met my wife’s father but certainly my father told plenty of stories about his various campaigns including Borneo, mainly funny ones, but some tragic ones as well. He told me that when going to Borneo it was the first time that he had worried about surviving the war as he knew it was almost finished. He said that prior to that he had thought he wouldn’t survive as he had joined up early and had seen so many of his mates killed — he figured he’d run out of luck eventually. Had not the atomic bombs been dropped I’m sure he would have. He married Mum before going to Borneo. I will get together a few stories and send them to you.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent post, GP. I always learn so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, those Aussies 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. One of the long forgotten theatres of the war. In the 1960s another conflict would break out as the pro-Communist guerrillas of Indonesia tried to get their hands on recently independent Malaysia (including Sarawak and Sabah) and the Sultanate of Brunei.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. At one point in his service, my dad was a guard for captured Japanese soldiers.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I suppose, MacArthur’s island-hopping strategy funneled most of the fighting elsewhere – and rightly so. From a strategic point of view, I could not understand the need for side shows such as the Borneo campaign. It is like trying to smash the enemy’s toe instead of going for something vital.

    Frankly, it is an island. And after Midway, the US Navy controlled the seas. It would have been less costly in terms of human lives to simply blockade Borneo. One does not need to commit capital ships – subs could have done a pretty good job, as proven by the Nazis in the Atlantic.

    Perhaps I’m missing something – and I welcome your insights.

    Thanks 🙂
    Eric

    Liked by 1 person

    • The island hopping is what got the Allies to Japan, but they had lost pilots over Borneo that needed to be rescued and no one wants to fight with the enemy on the rear. The situation in Borneo, much like New Guinea, was a special circumstance that the Australians were more capable of dealing with.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can understand the Aussies wanting to take out PNG – the Japs were too close for comfort. But Borneo… I still don’t see the rational.

        After the disasters in Malaya-Singapore, could this have been some face-saving campaign? And brave soldiers died for it.

        I’ve looked at several military campaigns during WW2 and would sure like to put those pushing for it – while sitting far behind the lines – on trial.

        I would rather fight and die for those true warriors like Patton, who led from the front.

        Sorry mate, but just venting off…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Understood, but comparisons between the Pacific and Europe are impossible. Europe was a compact war, units could assist one another and Allied help was across the channel. The Pacific was huge and spread out, units would have to be shipped in for back-up assistance, etc. The logistics between the two theaters were drastically different.

          Liked by 2 people

  11. Very interesting information, GP!
    Never heard of it. You can see how limited information about such things is provided in schools. Thank you very much! Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  12. For me Borneo always shouts Sandakan Death March. The majority were Australians, but four of my father’s youngest men lost their lives between Sandakan and Ranau. There were a total of six (Australian) survivors.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It is very interesting that the “guerrilla forces…part of the clandestine Services Reconnaissance Department” were so very effective. Do you know who were in these groups and what their methods were?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The Pacific campaign is very much sidelined by Europe, and within that, Borneo is even further down the list. It is a forgotten war, but a very important one and we need reminding every now and again that it did happen and at a cost too. Thanks for this GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am constantly surprised at the involvement of the Australians in the war. But Borneo would have been close to their homeland so can see their reason for trying to protect it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I still think it would have been a great idea—everywhere applicable—when the tables were turned for the liberated allied prisoners to have been used as guards for their former captors. With no more supervision than their own memories and sense of humour …

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for sharing about the Lt. General.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Bless those Aussies who fought for us.
    And I hope the General gets the send off he deserves.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. “Operation Oboe Six” Had to wonder about the name, G. Also the cartoon. Aren’t very many deer running around in the Serengeti 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Interesting information, as always, GP, and a great tribute to General Flanagan.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. You mean, we did not win the war in the Pacific by ourselves? She asked incredulously with her fingers crossed behind her back. Another great post. Nice sendoff for LTG Flanagan The poor jumpmaster was a sad way to start the comment section.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. A beautiful tribute to Gen Flanagan. Thanks too for the information on Borneo. Well done, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. The lions and the trooper brings back a sad memory. Some of the 82nd were to jump on the beach in Panama and carry out an exercise. A jump-master, not hooked up, was standing in the open door looking down at the ocean. The plane hit and air pocket and he fell out. He pulled his reserve and floated down. The pilot radioed and a rescue boat got there quickly. All they found was a torn chute, a red patch of water and a pool of sharks.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Thank you for putting out information on the lesser known theatres of war.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Excellent history–again, didn’t know. And honors to Gen. Flannagan. It sounds like he will be missed.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. GP – Thank you for your fine farewell salute to General Flanagan.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. This got me thinking of how many lesser wars have continued to be fought and forgotten with how many young men dying needlessly.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. A nice tribute to Lt. Gen. Flanagan, Jr. who served his country well. I salute him for his service in my old country. Glad to hear you were able to talk to him.
    Borneo being so close to the Philippines has been a part of Philippine History. There were areas of jungle in Borneo just like the Philippines where enemies could hide so easily. I believe some Japanese soldiers were discovered there in the 70s still thinking the war was still on. Kurita passed through Borneo on his way to the Battle of Leyte Gulf as you know.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It is hard to imagine anyone surviving in those jungles. I doubt the people on the TV show ‘Survivor’ have a clue what life like that would be all about! (Maybe that’s why I don’t watch that show – ya think? haha)

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      • I can’t imagine them either. Those Japanese warriors were trained well for surviving in the jungles. FYI, I don’t watch the ‘Survivor’ either. Talking of surviving in the jungle, read the book, Lost in Sangri-La – servicemen lost in the jungle of Dutch New Guinea. I believe I saw the book on your bookshelf list months ago.

        Liked by 1 person

  29. The Aussies saw some savage fighting in the war, and proved just how tough they are.

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  30. I fail to see the need for this action, in the same way so many lives were lost taking Peleliu, for an airfield which was never used afterward. Especially that late in the war, with Okinawa already in allied control.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Interesting information on the fighting on the island of Borneo in the final weeks of the war! I heard that some Japanese troupes refused to surrender on some remote islands because they had no word about Japan’s surrender. Was this also the case on Borneo?

    Liked by 1 person

    • As remote as they were, I would venture to say yes. Japanese communication systems weren’t all that spectacular even in the beginning of the war, and even many who heard the news refused to believe it.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. A good reminder that war doesn’t just eend, there’s so much to do after. The general sounds like he was a class act, and you’ll miss him :/

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Lovely salute to General Flanagan, and the post on Borneo was very informative. Thanks for all your insightful posts, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Wow! What an honor it must have been for you to meet him. I know little about Batu Lintang camp in Kuching, Sarawak or the Borneo occupation. Thanks very much, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Appreciated your personal note about General Flanagan. I’ve been so heartened to learn that so many of our war heroes were men of honor and of truly celebrating.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Put this in the “never knew” column, GP. Very interesting reading. Sorry to hear about General Flanagan. It seems he had a rich full life, but it’s still sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Nice farewell to the General, GP.
    Borneo must have been tough. Fighting in jungle conditions anywhere was bad enough, but those Aussie troops were up to the challenge.. The surrender came just at the right time, to save more loss of life.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

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