Major General Simon de Waal, ‘the Hero of Tarakan’ and Territorial Commander of Central Java: a study on the role of one of the most important Dutch commanders in the Indonesian war of independence 1945-1949
Sprong, W.M. van der
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This paper studies the role of the Dutch commander Major General Simon de Waal in the decolonization war between the Netherlands and Indonesia that lasted between 1945 and 1949. Research into the role of individuals is lacking in the existing literature, while the main focus is laid on structural arguments. Primary sources with regard to the actions of De Waal during the Second World War at the battle of Tarakan (January 1942) are used to get a better understanding of the man, his motives and his actions. Also primary sources with regard to experiences of the first police actions at Java (21 July – 5 August 1947) in the Dutch Indies provide a better understanding of this man. In combination with secondary literature this paper aims to contribute to the existing debate with regard to the reasons for waging this war and the course of direction the war took. The paper argues that individual commanders on key positions in the Dutch Indies could have heavily influenced the direction of the war and argues that more attention should be paid on the role of other induvial commanders in this war. In the case of De Waal, he was able to act on his own behalf due to the respect he received from his men and the respect his superiors had for his stature. In the end structural causes and agency can be seen a choral symphony, sometimes playing out of tune and seemingly contradiction each other, but without each other, the war could not have happened the way it did.