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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

February 4th, 1942 - The Battle of Makassar Strait

Conflict: World War II

Combatants: American/Dutch vs. Japanese

Location: Java Sea

Outcome: Japanese victory


On this day in 1942, Dutch Rear Admiral Karl Doorman was in command of a Combined Striking Force in the Java Sea. This force was composed of one American and two Dutch light cruisers, one American heavy cruiser, and four destroyers. On receiving word of a Japanese fleet in the nearby Makassar Strait, Doorman chose to intercept.


The USS Marblehead in 1942 by an unknown photographer


The Allied fleet was attacked by a squadron of thirty-six Japanese bombers. In this attack, Doorman's flagship was damaged and the American light cruiser Marblehead so badly hit that it had to return to port using its engines to steer. The American heavy cruiser Houston sustained a bomb strike that destroyed an entire gun turret and killed over fifty men.


Bomb damage to USS Marblehead (CL-12) following the Battle of Makassar Strait, February 1942 by a US Navy Photographer


Doorman then called off the attempted intercept. The allied warships retreated through the Lombak Strait.


Points of Interest:

  • With Doorman's Combined Surface Force out of the way, the Japanese seized Makassar two days later.

  • Despite another defeat, an American submarine did manage to sink a Japanese destroyer with the Makassar attack force.


Commander (later Rear Admiral) Karel Doorman by an unknown photographer

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Sources:


Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, & Bongard, David L. (1992). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: Castle Books (HarperCollins).


Dupuy, R. Ernest & Dupuy, Trevor N. (1993). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: HarperCollins.


Eggenberger, David (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.


Gailey, Harry A.. (1995). The War in the Pacific. Novato, CA: Presidio Press.

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