Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Red and White Flies Over West Irian

Of the numerous heroic incidents during the Trikora campaign, the airborne operation at Teminabuan stands out. On 19 May 1962 under the name of Operation Serigala, a total of eighty-one PGT paratroopers under Air First Lieutenant Soehadi boarded a C-130 transport plane at Laha airfield in Ambon. In anticipation of this mission, the PGT commandos had been freshly outfitted with Heckler & Koch G-3 automatic rifles, Hongkong-made camouflage jumpsuits and Czechoslovakian jumpboots.
The aircraft took off at 01.00 a.m local time. By 02.30 a.m, they were over the drop zone. One by one, the PGT soldiers exited the plane. At that early hour, it was still dark and they could not see the ground. As it turned out, some of them landed directly in a top of Dutch military barrack, waking the Dutch troops. Both sides were understandably startled. The situations became confused as the Dutch hit back, but they were finally pushed out of the barracks and toward the small town of Teminabuan. As the sunrise, the PGT troops attempted to regroup. Seeking each other out in the thick jungle, by 20 May forty of the PGT had come together. This group was led by Sergeant Martin Paulus Mengko.
As the Teminabuan incident was a psychological hit to the Dutch, the colonial authorities moved to counter-attack. In response, the Dutch Royal Airforce dropped paratroopers in the area on 19 and 21 May, together with the local Papuan Voluntary Army (PVA) or Papuan battalion. Two marine companies also dispatched aboard from two warships, while Neptune and Firefly came overhead to combat the Indonesian invaders. Four days later, Dutch marines and PVK soldiers killed around 20 Indonesian paratroopers in the forest between Wersar, Beriat, and Konda, and two Indonesian soldiers in Teminabuan town on 27 May.
By 21 May, fifty of the PGT had been able to regroup at nearby Wersar village. At they gathered, Sergeant Mengko wanted to fly the Indonesian flag and ordered his men to look for a four-meter pole. At 10.00 a.m, the flag was raised. This was the first time the Red and White colors flew above West Irian.
The PGT only stayed for a short time at this locale so as not to be discovered by the Dutch forces. That same day, the came upon a local Irianese who told them to wait while his mother returned with fried bananas. Lieutenant Soehadi, however, become suspicious and confronted him. The suspicious were confirmed a short while later when Neptune and Firefly appeared overhead. The commandos entered into the jungle to evade the enemy. They all faced severe hardships from weather, the terrain and the enemy.
Through 26 May, the PGT were getting constantly hit by air and land, so the commandos spread out in the jungle in small groups. Overwhelmed by the Dutch, their positions were getting squeezed. In the end, many got killed including Air First Lieutenant Soehadi, while others were wounded or captured. During their internment, they were treated harshly and move among detention centers at Teminabuan, Sorong and Wundi island. In June, after many more deaths, the Netherlands’ control over Teminabuan was re-established. Totally during Operation Serigala in Teminabuan PGT lost 54 men, 30 personnel were killed and 24 personnel declared as missing in action.

1 comment:

  1. From: CPL of The Royal Netherlands Marine Corps,
    I my self was in Dutch New Guinea from 1961-1962. I was in action against Indonesian Paratroopers myself on the Onin Peninsula above Fak Fak. Your story is fully besides all truth. The Netherlands Forces didn.t had Paratroopers at that time, and None of the Indonesian Paratroopers have ever landed on barracks of Dutch Army, also they never captured any City or Village. Most of all the Indonesian landed Forces by parachute or by sea were captured or killde by Royal Netherlands Marines or Royal Netherland Army Forces. There is NOT any succes made by Indonesian Forces in Dutch New Guinea, even NOT by Benny Moerdani. Operation Trikora was a total Failure of Indonesia, untill forced negotations by the US, between The Netherlands and Indonesia through United Nations became effective on August 1th 1962. Benny Moerdani and 30 of his troops came at last on August 29th 1962 out of the bush near Merauke, to surrender to Dutch and UN Forces.