World War II and the Japanese Occupation, 1942–5
The three and a half years of Japanese occupation constitute one of the most crucial episodes of Indonesian history. Before the Japanese invasion, no serious challenge to the Dutch existed. By the time the Japanese surrendered, there had been so many extraordinary changes that the Indonesian Revolution was possible. The Japanese contributed directly to these developments. Especially in Java and to a lesser extent in Sumatra, they indoctrinated, trained and armed many of the younger generation and gave older leaders opportunities to forge links with the masses. Throughout the archipelago they politicised Indonesians down to village level both by intention and by subjecting Indonesia to the most oppressive and devastating colonial regime in its history. The villages were thus rudely shaken out of the lethargy and political isolation of the later Dutch period. In the end, the most helpful thing the Japanese did was to lose the war, for had they succeeded in their intentions for a ‘Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’ there would have been little prospect of real Indonesian independence.
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