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TIME Correspondent Robert Sherrod last week cabled from Melbourne this account of how the Dutchmen of Java died fighting:

When the history of War II is written, that page belonging to the indomitable Dutch should be illuminated with the blood of heroes. For a thousand years free men should stand and uncover whenever the Battle of Java is mentioned. They never had a chance, those Dutchmen, but they freely gave their lives in the hope that others might have a chance.

Throughout Australia the Dutch are revered, especially by the Americans. The opinion is unanimous that the Dutchmen of Java fought as bravely as the Spartans at Thermopylae or the Texans in the Alamo. "I'll fight the man who says anything against the Dutch," drawls a fierce little towheaded Kentucky mountaineer who piloted a big bomber during the Battle of Java.

"Their equipment was pitiful; they had nothing except the courage of lions and some baling wire," he continued. "Some of their planes were so ancient that our oldest officers had forgotten what models they were. But they went up cheerfully. They knew they were going to die, but they knew they had a chance to knock off some Japs first. And, believe me, they killed a lot of Japs."

A young lieutenant not long out of Yale, a Flying Fortress bombardier, spoke up: "Let me tell you a story. After we left Java and landed at an airport in the north of Australia, we heard a single plane coming in at midnight. There was a hell of a crash as an old box-kite biplane zoomed crazily and nearly nosed over. We rushed out and there was an old Curtiss-God knows what model, but it must have been early experimental—smashed badly. None of us would have been allowed to fly it, let alone fight in it. Under the plane there lay a Dutch pilot about 40. He was beating the ground and sobbing, not because he was hurt but because he had no more tools to fight with.

"Well, we were short of pilots and we had a dive-bomber we had to abandon to Jap strafers. So we told this Dutch pilot he could have it. Mind you, he had never flown one before. But the Dutchman's face lit up like the South Seas' full moon. He took only 20 minutes' instructions, and then said he was ready to have the gasoline tanks and bomb bays filled because it was getting late and he had a date at dawn with some Jap transports. He took off to the north, leaving only an exhaust stream visible against the starry sky. I know he isn't alive now, but I'll bet he caused a lot of damage before he went down. He died happy. God rest his immortal soul."

"There was a Dutchman up in Broome, where the Japs killed so many civilians," said a captain. "This Dutchman had escaped from Java. During that surprise attack, which caught us on the ground without anti-aircraft or pursuit, the Dutchman ran out to one of the Fortresses and wrenched a 30-calibre machine gun out of it. He started firing like mad, and damned if he didn't shoot one down. You know, it's a hellish job even to hold a machine gun. This Dutchman had held it by the barrel, which was almost red-hot. He held up his left hand. The flesh was burned off. He just smiled and said: 'But I got him, yes?' "

A lieutenant said soberly: "After the raid up there, a Dutchman buried his wife and three children with his own hands. I'll bet he tries to get back somehow."

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