An eye-witness account by Gerrit Vermeulen, a young Dutch soldier from Renswoude
In his own words:
Gendang Tambak, 28 July, 1946 – Continued
Along the road are low embankments which provide cover for us as we open deadly fire at the enemy. Immediately several of them quickly disappear behind the hilltop ahead of us. We also see one man tumble and fall and lie still. He lies pretty close by. Now we don’t see anyone anymore. But there, there! A few of them jump up and try to reach the hilltop up ahead. But there is no escaping for them any more. Immediately we open fire with brens, stens and guns, and they fall down. This is repeated a couple of times and then nothing. Five or six of our men dash forward to see if there are any enemies left behind the hilltop. But there are none, and on the way back they count the dead bodies and take their weapons. About a kilometer up ahead another part of our patrol is still in heavy combat. But we relax, light a cigarette, drink something and wipe our sweaty faces, while closely looking around. One of us got a bullet through his leg but he can still walk. Slowly, the firing diminishes, until only a single shot in the distance disturbs the silence. We are master of the terrain. The enemy is completely defeated.
We start heading home. With great caution still, because the enemy may still be hiding somewhere. Far behind us we hear several more shots, but they can’t harm us. The majority of the patrol takes the road and others go through the forest to provide side cover. But all remains quiet. We get home at 10:30 a.m. after eight heavy hours. The booty consists of 16 guns, 2 heavy machine guns, about 10 grenades and a nice pile of ammo. We guess the number of enemy casualties to be 50, of which 32 dead: a hefty loss for the extremists in men and weapons. Apparently they thought that we would be intimidated again by loud gunfire. They must have been totally surprised by our offensive. There is no telling of how strong the enemy is, but they sure exceed our troops in numbers. We have 13 prisoners, five men, three women, a child of 4 or 5, two babies of 6 and 2 months, and two goats. I don’t really know if they are prisoners or liberated evacuees, but extremists they are not.
However, even though this fight was successful for us, I hope they will soon reach a cease-fire, so that we won’t have to shoot at our fellow human beings any more, our fellow citizens really, (even though they are straying citizens). We count one Japanese among the dead, but I know there were more of them. In the afternoon I go into town for a little while on the bike. That is the life of a soldier on the front line: a deadly fight in the morning and a bike ride in the afternoon.
Most of our men go to bed around 7:00 p.m. We get up again at 1:30 a.m. for a long, hard day on patrol. Not in the mountains this time, but on level terrain: along a jungle path, through a field and a kampong, in between fish ponds, across a small kali, then crossing a large kali. This river has a ferry, and we can get across in a rowboat. On the other side we find a kampong, where we rest for a while and talk to the people. When we leave none of us has any cigarettes left. We get home at 9:30. That has been the last patrol for us for a while.
29 July, 1946
Today we are moving again. We have to watch a bridge in an occupied kampong with friendly, helpful people. Nothing dangerous happens.
Kalianak, 1 August 1946
Reflecting on the heavy battle we fought against the extremists, I think they are just a bunch of young men in their twenties, armed and instigated by the Japanese and by each other, led by a few of the Japs. They realize that they are no match for a real army and try to lure us into ambushes and attempt nocturnal attacks. But when it comes down to a real battle, their fate is a fast retreat or destruction. In the mean time, they make our lives stressful.
In the afternoon we get a telephone order that Ab de Bruin and I will have to join the patrol tomorrow. It will be a very large patrol with several men from each post and also one or two platoons stationed in town.
Kalianak, 5 August 1946
They pick us up at 5 p.m. but it is already dark when we arrive. In the dark we find an empty hut, hoist our klamboes and go to sleep, because we have to get up again at 3:00. Extremists disturb our sleep by shooting at our camp a few times but they don’t cause any damage.
Friday morning. Usually we are among the first, but today among the last, designated to protect the First Aid post, a little behind the front. I am ordered to carry the injured, a stretcher on my shoulders. We stay behind in a kampong until, at the break of dawn, the shooting starts: confrontation with the enemy. Now it is silent again, then it starts again, from various directions. When the enemy keeps shooting from one spot, we use artillery fire and sometimes mortar fire. We clearly discern our guns and brens as well as the enemy carbines and machine guns. The battles last more than three hours. We have nothing else to do than keep an eye on the vicinity. Kind of boring after a while, sometimes it is better to join the fight.
Finally we get the message: We will be coming back. The enemy fires another few mortar grenades, a little too close for comfort, I think. It still takes quite a while before our men get back. The enemy has several casualties, we have none. We have four prisoners: three natives and one critically injured. I have to help carry the injured man. The booty consists of two guns and the bottom part of a heavy machine gun.
On Saturday I have to do kitchen chores. Wash, polish, clean up, take out the trash in the truck, make sandwiches and so on. We get shot at for a while longer. Bullets fly over and around the kitchen, hitting the ground. But as usual, nobody gets hit. I work until six and then have to get up twice in the night to stand guard.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, my dear friends. I’m going to be celebrating with my family and will return with the story of Gerrit Vermeulen two weeks from now.