KNIL KST, Ok?

As we have touched on in past articles, the Dutch East Indies had its own army, totally separate from the one based in Europe, that dated back to 1814– the Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger, or KNIL. Coming up on the losing side (among good company) against the Empire of Japan in 1942, the KNIL was rebuilt in exile with the “Free Dutch” forces that ran a clandestine infiltration and intelligence gathering campaign behind Japanese lines (see Korps Insulinde) and helped liberate Borneo in 1945. Post-war, it was tossed into the maelstrom (along with British Army– mostly Indian troops– and, curiously, recycled Japanese occupation forces) that was the four-year, often very bloody, conflict that is listed in the history books as the Indonesian War of Independence.

As the history books and any map of the globe will tell you, the Dutch politionele acties (“police actions”) in what is now Indonesia would ultimately fail, and a Sukarno-led independent country would emerge and enter the greater Soviet influence, but that is going past the point of this post.

No, what I want to highlight here is the special COIN unit set up by the KNIL to fight Sukarno and company, one whose model would be recycled throughout the Cold War to tackle insurgent guerillas in bush wars ranging from Malaysia to Mozambique and Bolivia. The company-sized (Depot Speciale Troepen) and later battalion-sized Korps Speciale Troepen, literally the Special Troops Corps, was formed from a mix of Dutch volunteers– including veterans of the disbanded British No. 2 (Dutch) Troop and the Korps Insulinde— along with Eurasians and native soldiers– often drawn heavily from minorities in the islands such as the Moluccans. The latter was a tactic used in Vietnam by the U.S. a decade later with the persecuted ethnic Degar, Bahnar, Hmong, Nung, Jarai, Khmer Krom, and Montagnards who made up the core of the Mike Force and CIDG units fighting the Viet Cong and NVA.

Led by such men as the infamous Capt. Raymond Westerling, aka “The Turk,” who had become so good in commando training with the Free Dutch in 1942 that Fairbairn had selected him to become an instructor, the KSK was sent to islands and regions where guerilla fighters held more sway than the Dutch government. To get to these remote regions, the Dutch established a local parachute school on Java, forming 1e Paracompagnie (1st Para Company), to augment amphibious operations.

Due to their lineage, they were equipped with a strange mix of American, Australian, British, and– sometimes– even Dutch kit. They often wore a green beret, a holdover from the old No. 2 (Dutch) Commando days of WWII. 

Photo dump ensues.

KST paratrooper in school at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea 1946-47. Note the Australian-made Owen submachine gun. NIMH AKL023561

A stick of 1e Parachutisten Compagnie troopers loaded in a Dakota on Operatie Ekster (Magpie) 12.29.49. Note the American chutes, British HSAT helmets and the SMLE .303 rifle. NIMH AKL023617

KST training paratrooper school, Hollandia (New Guinea) 1946-1947. Providing fire support. Note the Bren gun, centered, flanked by two Own SMGs, and American M1 helmets. AKL023560

Paratroopers from the KST gather in the field after a jump during an action or exercise. Dutch East Indies. 1948. One could easily imagine this photo captioned to be French paras in Dien Bien Phu. NIMH 2155_502065

KST Paratroopers are being prepared for an action 1948-50. Note the American frogskin “duck hunter” camo pants to the left, USMC HBT shirts, M1 Carbines, US-marked canteens and aid kits, and field knives, coupled with British HSAT para helmets. NIMH AKL023638

KST troops training in an old factory complex near the barracks, 1949. Dutch East Indies. This photo could almost pass for commando training in Scotland in 1945. NIMH AKL023619

Troop II of the 1st Para Company in action northeast of Krawang in West Java. 2.1948. Note the Owen gun in the foreground, sans magazine, and American M1 helmets

The advance of Dutch airborne troops from Magoewo airport to Djokjakarta at the start of the Second Police Action in Central Java. A Bren gunner positions his weapon at a signpost 4 km away from the city to be captured. 12.19.1948. NIMH AKL024567

Paratroopers of the Special Troops Corps walk at Magoewo airport near Djokjakarta to a number of (not visible) Dakotas. Note the PBY Catalina on the tarmac and slung SMLEs. NIMH AKL024539

Korps Speciale troepen Padalarang, West Java 11.29.1949. Note the skrim’d helmets and SMLEs

KST two man rubber rafts Padalarang, West Java 11.29.1949 AKL023586

KST assault boat with Bren gun Padalarang, West Java 11.29.1949 AKL023606

American paramarines, err, never mind, KST exercise, Batoedjadjar, Java, Dutch East Indies, 1949. NIMH

KST troops late in the conflict with locally-made Dutch camouflagekleding uniforms.

While we aren’t getting into the more controversial aspects of the KST such as its record of extrajudicial killings– the somewhat factually incorrect film The East (De Ost), which is currently available on Hulu, does plenty of that– the KST did go on to be the stepping stone that today’s professional Korps Commandotroepen of the Dutch Army counts in its linage.

4 comments

  • Charles P. Flick

    A most interesting article on a conflict that most Americans barely remember or never heard of.

    In your comments on the K.N.I.L. weapons you might also have mentioned the 10,000 S&W Military & Police revolvers in .38 S&W (.38-200) that were purchased by the Netherlands Purchasing Commission and shipped by the S&W factory in lots of 1000 in May, 1947. With Black Magic finish, lanyard rings, five inch barrels and smooth walnut stocks those revolvers were almost identical to the British Service Revolver aka the Victory Model that was provided under Lend Lease to the UK during WW2. The K.N.I.L. guns from S&W had the added feature of a roll-marking of K.N.I.L. on the back strap. Very few of these revolvers are believed to have survived and only 2 are known to U.S. collectors.

    I hoped that I might spot one in the photos you posted but none were visible to me. If you have any photos of K.N.I.L troops wearing or using revolvers I would be most interested to see them.

    Thanks for an informative post.

    Regards,
    Charlie Flick

  • Charles P. Flick

    Yes, I do. I am not sure if the Reply/Comments feature here allows for posting of photos but I will try to post a couple of images of one of the two KNIL S&W Military & Police revolvers mentioned in my reply above.

    [img]http://smith-wessonforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=289562&d=1498018423[/img]

    [img]http://smith-wessonforum.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=289564&d=1498018455[/img]

    Regards,
    Charlie

  • Charles P. Flick

    Yes, I do have a couple of photos. I would be happy to post them here but cannot figure out how to do so.

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