First Look Review
Java Sea 1942
Java Sea 1942 Japan's conquest of the Netherlands East Indies
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Modelers are often inspired to make models of subjects they read about. Java Sea 1942 has a lot to read about. Every type of ship was involved - carriers, battleships, cruisers, destroyers, patrol boats, subs. Every type of combat occurred - day and night, surface, undersea, aerial. Gun duels, torpedo attacks. Organized coordinated engagements, and chaotic brawls. Those battles included the largest surface action since Jutland, with Japan facing off against Americans, Australians, British and Dutch forces.

Regardless of what one models, there should be inspiration in this book.

Java Sea 1942 Japan's conquest of the Netherlands East Indies is a new Campaign series book from Osprey Publishing LTD. It is Campaign 344 and authored by naval authority Mark Stille, supported with artwork by illustrator Jim Laurier. Osprey catalogues the book with their Short code CAM 344, and with ISBN 9781472831613.

The publication date is 28 Nov 2019.

This subject is personal for me - my father was aboard the heavy cruiser USS Houston, the heaviest unit in the Allied fleet. He survived and made it to Australia. His friend he joined the Navy with survived but spent three-and-a-half brutal years as a POW.

Osprey describes the story:
    The battle of the Java Sea, fought in February 1942, was the first major surface engagement of the Pacific War and one of the few naval battles of the entire war fought to a decisive victory. It was the culminating point of the Japanese drive to occupy the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) and, to defend the territory, the Allies assembled a striking force comprised of Dutch, American, British and even an Australian ship, all under the command of a resolute Dutch admiral.

    On 27 February 1942, the Allied striking force set course to intercept the Japanese invasion force in the Java Sea. In one of the few such times during the whole of World War II a protracted surface engagement was fought unmolested by airpower. For over seven hours, the Allied force attempted to attack the Japanese invasion force, finally breaking off in the early evening. Some three hours later, the Allied force, now reduced to just four remaining cruisers and two destroyers, attempted another attack on the invasion convoy during which Japanese torpedoes scored heavily, sinking two Dutch cruisers and bringing the battle to a conclusion. Over the next two days, as the Allies attempted to flee, five more ships were sunk. From that point on, Allied naval power was eliminated from Southeast Asia.

    In this illustrated title, Mark Stille tells the full story of the battle of the Java Sea, explaining how and why the Japanese achieved such a resounding victory, and delving into the tremendous impact of the battle on the course of the Pacific War.

Modelers will find a vast array of subjects to inspire their modeling interest.

Java Sea 1942 is told through 28 sections in 96 pages:

    The Naval Balance of Power
    The Initial Japanese Attacks
    The Destruction of Force Z
    Japanese Command Structure and Commanders
    Allied Command Structure and Commanders
    Imperial Japanese Nay
    Allied Naval Forces
    Orders of Battle
    The Japanese Plan
    The Allied Plan
    The Battle of Balikpapan
    The ABDA Striking Force is Formed
    The Invasion of Sumatra
    The Battle of Badoeng Strait
    The Japanese Approach to Java
    The Battle of the Java Sea
    The Allied Route is Complete
    The Battle of the Sunda Strait
    The End of Exeter

The Java campaign is a fascinating chapter of World War II in the Pacific. Mr. Stille organizes the text in an efficient manner and writes clearly. I think his balance of detail and narration is good.

Origins of the Campaign starts with Japan in the 1930s and why they started the war. It leads us through the opening shots of the war, and a detailed account of the legendary air attack that destroyed the Royal Navy Force Z.

Opposing Commanders through seven pages presents overviews of the main commanders of the campaign, 10 Japanese and 17 Allied (American, Australian, British and Dutch. Their relationships, cooperation, conflicts, and intrigues are narrated. Fourteen pages presents Opposing Fleets, which details the ships and aircraft involved, including weapons, combat doctrine, unit descriptions and compositions. Training of the opposing forces is explained, with a section focusing on Japanese night combat.

Opposing Plans is a short three-page description of Japanese plans to invade and Allied plans to repel them, within the context of forces available with a severe war raging on the other side of the world.

The Campaign narrates the nine battles of the campaign through 53 pages. The text of the complicated naval battles are supported with maps. The cumbersome and ineffectual ABDA Striking Force is recounted in detail. Losses of crews are also laid bare.

The Battle of the Java Sea was the Allied Combined Striking Force, five cruisers with nine destroyers, against Sentai 5, a Japanese force of four cruisers with 14 destroyers. It was a long eight-hour battle fought over several phases. The author explains the severe handicaps the Allies operated under. He also describes Japanese blunders. The results of the battle and the effect upon the remaining Allied forces is examined, leading up to the tragic Battle of the Sunda Strait, and the Second Battle of the Java Sea. Naval battles are hard to describe but the author does a good job of it, in my opinion.

Finally, four pages of Analysis examines the facts, successes and failures, of the campaign. It is interesting in recounting the number of hits considering the number of shells and torpedoes fired.

Photographs, Artwork, Graphics
Osprey supports the text with a strong visual element. The quality of the photos vary but all are useful. Many are a boon to modelers. The majority are ships that took part. Many were taken during combat. I have read several books on the Java campaign and found some of the photos in this book to be new to me.

Illustrations and Maps
Several excellent full-Color illustrations by artist Jim Laurier support the text.
1. Map, Battle of Balikpapan, January 24, 1942
2. Map, Battle of Badoeng Strait, February 19-20, 1942
3. Map, Battle of the Java Sea: First Phase, 1555-1720hrs
4. Centerfold: Haguro in Action. Two-page deck level view of Japanese heavy cruisers firing on the Allied fleet, bracketed by Allied shells. This scene features a detailed narrative keyed to three main events.
5. Centerfold: Exeter in Distress. Two-page deck level view of heavy cruisers Exeter and USS Houston firing on the Japanese fleet, bracketed by Japanese shells. This scene features a detailed narrative keyed to five main events.
6. Map, Battle of the Java Sea: Second Phase, 1720-1810hrs
7. Map, Battle of the Java Sea: Third Phase, 1750-1820hrs
8. Map, Battle of the Java Sea: Fourth Phase, 1900-1950hrs
9. Map, Battle of the Java Sea: Fifth Phase, 2300-2400hrs
10. Centerfold: Death of De Ruyter. Two-page deck level view of heavy cruiser De Ruyter taking a torpedo. This scene features a detailed narrative keyed to three major events.

Tables & Charts
1. Pacific Naval Balance, December 7, 1941: six types of ships for each navy: US Navy; Royal Navy and Dominions; Royal Netherlands Navy, Japanese.
2. Orders of Battle: as noted above, detailing forces and ships involved.

Java Sea 1942 is an excellent book from Osprey. It recalls the desperate fight the Allies undertook during the early part of the war when the Japanese seemed unstoppable. It demonstrates the risk of sending mixed forces into battle with no realistic training or plans. It is also an example that sometimes circumstances do not allow cohesive planning, and a military must fight with what it has.

Strengths of this title are the detail and presentation of the text, reinforced with an impressive gallery of photographs, supported by excellent illustrations and other graphics.

Considering the constraints of the format, I do not have any meaningful complaints about the book. If one desires to read more on the Java campaign, Osprey published the book Rising Sun, Falling Skies: The Disastrous Java Sea Campaign of World War II.

Students of the early Pacific War, naval warfare, the Java Campaign, or the commanders and ships involved should find this book to be essential for their library. I highly recommend it.

Please remember to mention to Osprey and retailers that you saw this book here - on Model Shipwrights.
Highs: Strengths of this title are the detail and presentation of the text, reinforced with an impressive gallery of photographs, supported by excellent illustrations and other graphics.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: Students of the early Pacific War, naval warfare, the Java Campaign, or the commanders and ships involved should find this book to be essential for their library.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: CAM 344, 978147283
  PUBLISHED: Nov 22, 2019
  NATIONALITY: Indonesia

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Model Shipwrights. All rights reserved.


Hi Frederick, This looks to be a very cool read. I recently finished H.P. Willmott's The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Pacific Strategies, February to June 1942, but this one is much more compact - and with excellent illustrations! I'll have to pick up a copy. Thanks for the review.
MAY 25, 2020 - 02:14 PM

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