World: The Golden Isle

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The brown, lean men gazed down the barrels of their Dutch and American rifles at the yellow visitors. The brown men fired. The yellow men fell. Dutch officers urged on the Amboinese—the best native troops in The Netherlands East Indian Army. Japanese aircraft appeared again & again with bombs for Amboina. There were very few Dutch, U.S. or Australian planes to meet them. Soon more yellow men came than the brown men could kill. The brown men's green uniforms melted back into the green jungles. So fell Amboina, the Indies' second naval base, a key to Java.

Japanese bombers ravaged the hot and busy streets of Surabaya in eastern Java, heralding a seaborne drive at the Indies' No. 1 naval base. The U.S. Asiatic Fleet was based at Surabaya, and before the bombs came U.S. sailors strolling among the stucco shops, the bright roadways, the bungalowed suburbs thought it was all remarkably like home.

At the northern approaches to Java the Jap strengthened his footholds in Borneo and Celebes. From ruined Balikpapan patrols fought southward toward Banjermasin on Borneo's south coast, 300 miles from Java.

Japanese planes dropped their first bombs on Batavia, the capital. Slowly the lines tightened about Java. The Dutch bombed back, claimed the sinking of a Japanese cruiser and a transport. A few U.S. P-40 fighters joined a few U.S. Flying Fortresses in the Indies air. A few hundred more could save Java.

When & if Jap wins Java, he wins the Indies with their riches and mastery of seaways which link the Western Hemisphere, Australia, Africa, India, Suez and their imperial routes.

Crocodiles & Cannon. This week a new book about Java and all Oceania appears: Australian Paul McGuire's Westward the Course! (Morrow; $3.75). Author McGuire is a professional traveler, lecturer, writer of mystery stories. His book was written before the Jap struck, but Westward the Course! is a timely introduction to the coming Battle for Java.

In Batavia, doves cluster at dusk on the crocodile cages, supple natives bathe in the filthy canals ("They are a very clean people, but they like their water dirty"). An ancient cannon, sacred but now annoyingly useless, stands at Batavia's Amsterdam Gate. The native women pray to it for fertility and have so many babies that Java has 817 people per square mile. According to native superstition, the cannon has a wife at Bantam on the western end of the island. When the two meet, Dutch rule in Java will end.

High in the western interior lies Bandung, the Indies Army's main citadel and headquarters. From its suburban gardens, its well-guarded bastions, civilians and soldiers can see the great, three-cratered volcano of Tangkoeban Prahu ("The Overturned Boat"). (Volcanoes—some dangerously alive, some long dead—rib the narrow island from end to end.) The city of Bandung lies in a flat-bottomed bowl in the hills. And "the thunderstorms roll about the hills all the afternoons, retired Dutch officers roll about the golf courses all the mornings, tanks and machine-gun carriers roll across the fields . . . and practice jungle war on the higher slopes."

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