Gepubliceerd op: wo, aug 13th, 2014

The firm stand of the state of Vanuatu

With the firm stand of the state of Vanuatu to support West Papua’s stolen right to self determination, see THIS LINK, we are confident that more states will follow by helping to restore the political injustice of the 1962 brokered New York Agreement without the Papua peoples consent. More pressure on the Dutch government to follow up on their decolonization obligation is needed.

With the recent tension between The Russian Federation and the western Allies, history might repeat itself on creating powerblocs. See the 1962 scenario and below illustration of huge power politics on the break of Soviet intervention in Dutch New Guinea. A confrontation on which genuine decolonisation policy has been put aside and the Netherlands had to bow.


This has been translated from Dutch into English language, see link at the bottom for the original article:

Russian submarines in front of New Guinea

By: Martin Bossenbroek
HN no. 11 / 2013 The Soviet Union and the decolonization of Papua New Guinea

In August 1962 Russian submarines off the coast of New Guinea lay ready to attack a Dutch frigate. In the conflict over the decolonization of the island, the Soviet Union played a crucial role.

Submarine Officers never get much explanation. A price, a timetable, a target – that’s about it. The Russian Gennadi Melkov was not accustomed. The depth remain unfathomable, that was the point. At the time indicated with the S-235 he had to enter a bay firing two torpedoes, one on the fuel tanks on the dock and one on the warship that was anchored there. Then he had to make himself got away.

The instructions were clear enough. It was a gamble, but that was not what made Melkov uncertain. It was the puppet show all around it. He sailed in a Russian submarine, but the crew had to wore Indonesian uniforms. He himself included. And the target was a Dutch frigate – Melkov had no idea what it was called. He knew the name of the bay: Manokwari in the Bird’s Head Peninsula of New Guinea.

In what kind of shadow play had he ended up? He looked at his watch. It was exactly three o’clock, Thursday morning, August 16 1962, in two hours it had to happen.

The above seems to be an excerpt from Tears over Hollandia, the fiction thriller Tomas Ross wrote in 2001 on the New Guinea conflict between the Netherlands and Indonesia. But on the S-235 story nothing is fabricated. It was one of the six Russian submarines that were part of an Indonesian invasion force bound for New Guinea. Operasi Djajawidjaja was a bold plan, in three steps: First to dismantle Dutch air force and navy, then 30,000 men landing troops to carry out a concentrated attack at the island of Biak, north of New Guinea, and then proceed to the capital Hollandia. The Russian submarines were necessary for the first stage and were already in position.

While the S-235 headed for Manokwari, in New York negotiations over Dutch New Guinea reached their completion. Under great pressure The Netherlands negotiated with Indonesia about the transfer of Dutch New Guinea.

afb: wikimedia_commons

afb: wikimedia_commons

The Dutch Royal Navy in their logs didn’t noticed the S-235 and the other submarines and also in the long history, the ships remained invisible. In 2012 the standard Pugno Pro Patria appeared. “The Royal Navy during the Cold War” by naval historian DCL Schoonoord, and one cannot find any reports off the six Russian submarines in August 1962 preparing a surprise attack on NATO member the Netherlands.

For the ‘definitive’ study of the New Guinea conflict, commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the same applies. In “An act of free choice. The Papuans of western New Guinea and the limits of self-determination” (2005) PJ Drooglever did not mention at all active Russian involvement in the Indonesian invasion plans.

This is surprising. The story is going around for decades. On January 6, 1971 Dutch newspaper Het Vrije Volk opened with the headline ‘Russians deployed in New Guinea. Great news! But the article also contained immediately commentary of the Departement of Foreign Affairs. Dit The Hague knew about the military active Russians? Their laconic reply: “Maybe, maybe not. It’s all so long ago. ” This was enough to reduce the story to a unimportant scoop.

In 1977 the story surfaced again, this time much stronger documented. For his book “Tomorrow, at the dawn of day: Netherlands three times on the eve of war” former ambassador JG de Beus had discussions with several high-ranked Indonesian soldiers who were involved in Operasi Djajawidjaja. All confirmed the concrete commitment of six Russian submarines – with Tupolev bombers with Russian crews as a firm back up. This time there was no response at all from the Dutch State departement.

Twenty-two years later, denyal was no option. This because of the front page of Dutch newspaper Volkskrant on February 10, 1999 with too many spectacular revelations. These came from three former officers of the Russian navy who themselves had participated in Operasi Djajawidjaja. Among them Gennadi Melkov. To Bart Rijst, Moscow correspondent of the newspaper, they unveiled salient details, including the planned torpedo attack on Manokwari Bay.

There had to be a reaction to follow. It came a day later, the director of the Institute of Maritime History. “On August 15 there definetely was no Dutch frigate present at the naval base Manokwari,” he declared. Therefore, according to him, the story could not be correct.

It all seemed to be the cover-up of a successful operation. The Russian submarines disappeared under the surface for years. When Lambert Giebels in 2001 in the second volume of his biography Soekarno-even alluded to these facts, in these columns (Historic Nieuwsblad, 2001/8) he got scolded by Joop de Jong, Asia expert at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Giebels’ assumption that the United States was highly worried on “a looming confrontation between […] NATO ally Netherlands and Russians fighting along the Indonesian side was qualified by De Jong as” richly absurd”.

Since last year, however, there is little to deny it. In his UvA Master’s thesis “The New Guinea conflict in new perspective”, Lieutenant ​at sea Second Division Matthijs Ooms at once ended all doubts about the ‘submarine’ stories. They proved to be true. In the bay of Manokwari indeed there was a Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen. The United States Intelligence was too well aware of – and concerned about – Russian participation in Operasi Djajawidjaja.

afb: wikimedia_commons

afb: wikimedia_commons

The Dutch Naval Intelligence knew of the existence of the six Russian submarines – but not of their exact position at the decisive moment. Similarly goes for the Dutch Navy command in The Hague. Remarkably there the flow of information about this mentioned moment was stopped. The official intelligence reports for the Dutch government described an overall threat assessment. Russian submarines or bombers were not mentioned within the Ministerial debates.

With what purpose one choose not to inform the board of Dutch ministers, needs to be examined. This article is about something else, namely the Russian submarines as a symbol. They stand for THE blind spot in the Dutch New Guinea policy, and in our Dutch national history: the crucial role of the Soviet Union in a decisive phase of the conflict between the Netherlands and Indonesia.

In a generally accepted explanation, its own allies – the United States, Great Britain and Australia – forced an outcome, a frustrating one for the Netherlands. This part of history remains. But the United States, Great Brittain and Australia in their turn, were put on the spot by the Russians. The moment that the fight got mixed, the New Guinea issue was developed from a decolonization conflict into a part of the global Cold War, with all the ingedient risks of escalation.

This conflict-transformation is fairly exactly to date. In early January 1961, the Indonesian Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff Nasution and his counterpart Foreign Affairs Soebandrio joined themselves in Moscow. They came to buy weapons, lots of weapons, and unlike the United States, the Soviet Union didn’t ask any questions. In no time an agreement was reached on the delivery of submarines, destroyers, aircraft and heavy artillery. Worth $ 500 million – by today’s standards expected around 3.5 billion dollars. Nobody was secretive about the destination of the weaponry. It was necessary, said Nasution, to “cope with the threat in Dutch New Guinea”.

The Russian leader Khrushchev pulled no punches. He grabbed the presence of the Indonesian delegation for a memorable speech on 6 January 1961, the decolonization movement in the Third World, he noted, brought new leaders to power who turned away from the West and are seeking refuge in the communist ideals of the Soviet Union.

They would not be disappointed, he promised. Moscow would do all it can to support, both politically, economically and militarily. In their struggle against Western imperialism In the evening he even specified the commitment in his famous spontaneous style. During the farewell reception for the Indonesians, he loudly shouted across the room that it was done with the Dutch domination in New Guinea.

photo: wikimedia_commons

photo: wikimedia_commons

Khrushchev’s words struck in, at least in the government centers that had their antennae tuned to the Kremlin. To begin with, in Jakarta. For years, President Soekarno already used his diplomatic skills to acquire international support for the transfer of West Irian, the Indonesian name of New Guinea, all his efforts left in vain. In the United Nations, he was invariably faltered in the Americans, and all their clientele states. On the distant Republican President Eisenhower and on Dulles as a moralist in the Foreign Office, he had never gotten any barrel.

Thanks to the agreement with the Soviet Union, Sukarno could now throw in a new bow, or reinvigorate a rather old time-tested strategy. In the war of independence against the Netherlands, combining diplomasi and Perjuangan (fight) had led to the transfer of sovereignty back in December 1949. The Russian military support made ​​it possible once again to unfold this game, and now even more credible than at that time. Especially when the Russian arms deliveries actually got under way. From July 1961, Sukarno felt strong enough to built up and increase the pressure on the Netherlands – and thus indirectly on the United States.

His threatening language reached a climax on 19 December of that year, when he called the Indonesian people to prepare oneself to pick up the arms “to break West Irian free from the shackles of Dutch colonialism.” That he was serious, was shown on January 15, 1962, when it came to a first encounter off the coast of New Guinea at Flat Angle (Vlakke Hoek) between Indonesian and Dutch warships.

In Washington D.C. Sukarno’s saber rattling was followed with increasing concern. Also there an essential change took place since January 1961. Eisenhower was succeeded by the action-hungry Democrat John F. Kennedy. With him Khrushchev’s embrace of the Third World had once rung alarm bells especially because Kennedy had similar intentions himself – obviously from the opposite ideology. In Asia, he wanted at any case to keep his power on the ‘dominoes’ threatened by communism.
In the eyes of the action intellectuals with whom Kennedy surrounded himself, Indonesia was one of those dominoes. In the U.S. they actually saw no better option than Sukarno. He was the only one who could contain the two major internal power blocks, the army and the Partai Komunis Indonesia. If he fells off, the communists will take over the country, of this Kennedy’s inner circle was convinced. Especially now Khrushchev pontificially offered his services. There was only one thing to do: to keep Sukarno – not to mention the rest of the developing world – as a friend. Which means for the Netherlands at any moment, to give up New Guinea.

For Kennedy and his confidants in the National Security Council this was a clear and foregone conclusion, but elsewhere in Washington D.C. they faced resistance. At the State Department, major reservations lived about offending a NATO ally for the sake of an unpredictable dictator. Until the end of 1961 Kennedy tolerated this internal opposition. Then, shocked by the collision course of Sukarno, he forced a decision.

Key positions at the State Department were taken over at the infamous ‘Thanksgiving Day Massacre’. Henceforth, the president himself led the Indonesia policy. To prove this, in February 1962 he sent in his brother Robert as a personal envoy to Jakarta and The Hague to explain how America wanted it: Negotiations to arrange the transfer of New Guinea peacefully; absolutely no arms.

In the meantime, the main allies were also manipulated. Just before Christmas 1961 at Bermuda, Kennedy had a meeting with British Prime Minister Macmillan. Little persuasion was necessary to win the pragmatic conservative for the new U.S. position, affraid of any discord within the British Commonwealth .

Ad mid January 1962 also the Australian government turned. Until that time Canberra had supported the idea of self-determination for the Papuans – the last Dutch diplomatic line of defense. However the total sum of Russian military involvement, Sukarno’s aggressive confrontational politics and the change in Washington and London now led to a different conclusion.

According to Australian Foreign Minister Barwick an armed conflict between Indonesia and the Netherlands could escalate into a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. He considered that danger in New Guinea, even greater than in Berlin – where half a year earlier they had begun with the construction of the Berlin Wall. For Australia this could be a disastrous scenario. To prevent more serious harm Sukarno better then had to get his way. Unfortunately for the Papuans.

And for the Netherlands. It was now a totally different ballgame, but this realization never fully landed in The Hague. Foreign Minister Luns was convulsively relying on vague promises of the Eisenhower administration. Premier De Quay was thought to have understood the message. He compared New Guinea with West Berlin: both bastions of freedom, threatened by aggression. But Kennedy shrook that comparison to pieces: West Berliners were “highly civilized and highly cultured ‘, the Papuans are living in’ the Stone Age ‘. If there was something to compare, it was ‘Indonesia, which had to be protected from the upcoming communism, like West Berlin.’

So negotiation was key. With the White House putting its full weight into the scale, there was no escape. On American soil negotiations were led by U.S. diplomat Bunker. Cautiously but surely he guided both sides to the desired end result. But the risk of war was not over.

Sukarno maintained its dual strategy of diplomasi and Perjuangan (battle). After the Battle of Flat Angle (Vlakke Hoek) armed infiltrations of Indonesian troops – by sea and air – were only increasing. As of June 1962, when negotiations reached an impasse, a violent apotheose was even dangerously near.
Sukarno had put his sights on a decision before 17 August, day of the Indonesian independence. The Russians were also getting impatient. The weapons as were supplied by them, now really need to be used, particularly before the Americans went smooth with all the diplomatic honor. Operasi Djajawidjaja was born. Because the Indonesians had too few trained staff, particularly for the bombers and submarines, Khrushchev deployed Russian “volunteers” .

This forms the explanation of the crew of the S-235 wearing Indonesian uniforms, on its way to the target in the Bay of Manokwari. Ten miles still to go. Suddenly the strict radio silence was broken. ‘Abort Attack, ‘ was the message. Melkov was relieved. Apparently at the last moment an agreement was reached. At 3:01 pm, August 16, 1962, New Guinea-time.

The Russian submarine surfaced and turned the prow. The Dutch navy personnel aboard the HMS Evertsen had no idea to which danger they had escaped from.


  • 1961 Prins Bernard bij John F. Kennedy



J. G. de Beus has the honor to have “discovered.” Russian submarines around New Guinea He wrote about it in the morning, at daybreak. Netherlands three times on the eve of war (1977).”

John Jansen van Galen also mentioned this in his classic “Our last little war. New Guinea: the Pax Neerlandica, diplomatic crusade and bygone dream of a Papuan nation (1984).”

Recently, the submarines rediscovered by Wies Platje in a sea of ​​secrets. Intelligence operations during the Cold War (2010), by Pierre Heijboer in the glory and misery. New Guinea 1962 (2012) and especially by Matthijs Ooms in his (UvA) The master’s thesis New Guinea conflict in new perspective. How in 1962 active Soviet military aid to Indonesia led to the loss of our last colony in the East (2012). In Herman van Roijen, 1905-1991: a diplomat Class (2013), Rimko van der Maar and Hans Meijer places this new information in a diplomatic context.

The most relevant foreign works on this topic are “Krushchev Remembers. The Last Testament” (1974), Strobe Talbott, Conflict and Confrontation in South East Asia, 1961-1965. Britain, the United States, Indonesia and the Creation of Malaysia (2009) by Matthew Jones and Articles’ Regimes in Motion. The Kennedy Administration and Indonesia’s New Frontier, 1960-1962 “by David Webster, Diplomatic History 33/1 (2009) and ‘Australia’s Actions towards Accepting Indonesian Control of Netherlands New Guinea’ by Hiroyuki Umetsu, in The Journal of Pacific History 41 / 1 (2006).

The basis of this article is formed by originally secret and now released sources, partly from the American Digital National Security Archive, partly to be found in the National Archives (Navy Archives) and the Dutch Institute for Military History (Navy) in The Hague

Please see the original article in Dutch language HERE

Also see Dutch article on newspaper Trouw HERE

See Dutch article on newspaper Reformatorisch Dagblad HERE



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The firm stand of the state of Vanuatu