The Japanese occupation of the Netherlands Indies, 1942-1945

On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Netherlands Indies declared war on Japan. That same month the Japanese attacked the Indies several times, and a large invasion followed in January 1942. The Netherlands Indies capitulated on March 8, 1942, and the Japanese proceeded to occupy the archipelago. As the Indies consisted of tens of thousands of islands spread out over thousands of kilometers of sea, some islands were not occupied until the middle of 1943. It is, therefore, impossible to give a single date for when the Japanese occupation began. It should also be pointed out that the southern part of Dutch New Guinea was never occupied by the Japanese, and continued to use pre-war stamps until they ran out in 1943/1944.

The Japanese divided the Indies into three areas. Java and Sumatra were placed under control of the Army, whereas Borneo, and the many islands to the east (known as the Great East) were placed under Navy control. Each of these three regions were considered separate countries, and each issued their own stamps. In addition, the Riouw Archipelago, a group of Dutch East Indies islands off the east coast of Sumatra, was incorporated into Malaya. As a result, in this part of the occupied Indies stamps of the Japanese occupation of Malaya were used.

The Japanese capitulated on August 15, 1945. However, as they were required to maintain law and order until Allied/Dutch troops arrived, the Japanese occupation lasted on some islands until well into 1946. As a result, a specific date for when the Japanese occupation ended depends on when an island was liberated. It is also for that reason that we still find Japanese occupation issues regularly used as late as April 1946 on islands such as Bali.

To view some of the occupation stamps, click on the following regional links: Java, Sumatra, Navy area, and the Riouw, Lingga, and Anambas Islands.

NICA Soemba, NICA Timor, 1945

The Dutch took over authority on the islands of Timor and Soemba from the Australians in late 1945. The islands were placed under the Netherlands Indies Civil Affairs (NICA) which was tasked with restoring Dutch civil authority in liberated areas.

As the post office on Timor had been looted at the end of the war, the NICA ordered remaining stamp supplies overprinted with NICA Timor. Similarly the stamps on the island of Soemba were overprinted with NICA Soemba. A few of the NICA Timor / NICA Soemba stamps are known genuinely used.

Click here to view some NICA stamps.

Repoeblik Indonesia, 1945-1949

On August 17, 1945, two days after the Japanese capitulation, Indonesia declared its independence from the Netherlands. As the Dutch were concentrating on rebuilding their country in Europe, it were the British and Australians who essentially liberated the Indies from the Japanese. While the Dutch quickly took over from the Australians on Borneo and the Great East, the situation on Java and Sumatra was very different. There we see a clear divide between Republican and Dutch controled territory, each with their own civil administration.

The British, who had liberated Java and Sumatra, wanted a negotiated settlement between the Dutch and the Indonesians. Negotiations started in October 1945, but they essentially led nowhere and the Dutch resorted to force to restore their authority by so-called “police actions” in 1947 and 1948. In January 1949 the UN Security Council issued resolutions ordering the Dutch to end the police actions. Moreover, the United States had imposed sanctions on the Netherlands. As a result, negotiations were resumed and an agreement was reached.

On December 27, 1949, sovereignty of the Netherlands Indies (excluding New Guinea) was transferred to the Republik Indonesia Serikat (R.I.S. or United States of Indonesia). The R.I.S. was a federal republic consisting of the states Java, Sumatra, and Borneo and the Great East. A few months later, in April 1950, the R.I.S. was disbanded and the unitary state Republik Indonesia was founded.

During the turbulent years from August 1945 to December 1949, the Repoeblik overprinted pre-war Dutch East Indies and Japanese occupation stamps with Republican overprints. They also issued new stamps and stationery. These were readily available and used in areas under Republican control.

Click here to view some of the stamps.

Vienna & Philadelphia printings, Repoeblik Indonesia, 1949

In 1948 Indonesian representatives in New York placed an order with J. & H. Stolow & Co. for Repoeblik Indonesia stamps. The primary purpose of the stamps was propaganda, although Indonesian officials say that they also intended to have them issued in Indonesia.

Most stamps were printed by the Austrian State Printer in Vienna. The three highest values of the postage and airmail stamps and a few stamps from the Blockade series were printed by E.A. Wright Bank Note Company in Philadelphia. Used stamps are known but only with philatelic cancellations.

Click here to view some of the stamps.

Infamy, Repoeblic Indonesia, 1949

To focus world attention on the Dutch police action in 1948, a number of post-war Netherlands Indies stamps were overprinted with

Repoeblic Indonesia, Two Days Of Infamy, 7 Dec. 1941 - Pearl Harbor, 18 Dec. 1948, - Jogjakarta.

The order for the overprint was placed with J. & H. Stolow & Co. Stamps are only known with philatelic cancellations.

Click here to view some of the stamps.

Republik Maluku Selatan, 1950

A few months after the sovereignty agreement, the federal republic R.I.S. was disbanded and the unitary Republik Indonesia was set up with Jakarta on Java as the capital. The South Moluccan islands rejected this centralization, and on April 25, 1950, they declared the independent Republik Maluku Selatan (R.M.S. or Republic of the South Moluccas).

They fought a war of independence for several years. During this period, stamps were overprinted with Republik Maluku Selatan, and although very rare, some are known genuinely used from the Moluccan islands of Ambon and Saparoea. The leaders of the R.M.S also ordered stamps from J. & H. Stolow & Co. These were printed by the Austrian State Printer in Vienna. They are not known used.

Click here to view some of the stamps.

Negara Islam Indonesia, 1953 (?)

In 1953 the leaders of Darul Islam (House of Islam) formed the Negara Islam Indonesia (Islamic State of Indonesia) with Sukarmadji Maridjan Kartosuwirjo as its leader. In 1962 Kartosuwirjo was captured and executed, and Negara Islam Indonesia was disbanded. When exactly the series of two stamps was issued is not known.

Click here to view the stamps.

Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia (P.R.R.I), 1959

In late 1957 there was an uprising on Sumatra and North Sulawesi (Celebes), and on February 15, 1958, the Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia (P.R.R.I. or Revolutionary Counter-government of the Republic of Indonesia) was proclaimed at Padang. The P.R.R.I. fought a Perdjoeangan Semesta (Permesta = all out war) against the government.

The dissident government issued a series of four stamps in North Sulawesi about a year after the initial uprising. Stamps are known with cancellations from Kotamobagu and Inobonto, and per the Kotamobagu postmaster, they were also used at several other towns.

Click here to view some of the stamps.

Negara Kesatuan Kalimantan Utara, 1964

The Indonesian government felt that parts of the archipelago not yet under their control should become part of Indonesia. As such, they started the so-called “Konfrontasi politik” (Confrontation politics) with Malaysia regarding the sovereignty of North Borneo. This was further supported by guerrilla activities from the Indonesian side of the island.

To celebrate the "annexation" a series of six stamps was printed with the inscription Negara Kesatuan Kalimantan Utara (United State North Borneo). They were not issued, but of one value misprints have survived.

Click here to view the stamp.

Republik Rakjat Indonesia, 1965

On September 30, 1965, the Indonesian Communist Party attempted to take over the government. In anticipation of victory, stamps of the 1964 Soekarno series were overprinted Republik Rakjat Indonesia (People’s Republic of Indonesia). However, the coup failed, and the stamps ended up in dealers’ packets in Hong Kong.

Click here to view some of the stamps.

Organisasi Papua Merdeka (O.P.M.), 1978

The Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Organization for a Free Papua) was a group of West Irian Papuans who fought for the independence of West New Guinea. In 1978 this organization placed an order for stamps to get more publicity for their cause. The stamps are, therefore, a private issue for publicity. As the Republik Maluku Selatan government-in-exile supported the O.P.M., they provided some RMS stamps to be overprinted.

Click here to view some of the stamps.

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