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.
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.