MemoirStoriesWitness to the WarWorld War II

[Featured photo: Source: Wikepedia A6M2 Zero fighter]

By Frans Krajenbrink, California, USA

On May 10, 1940 Germany without warning invaded Holland The Dutch Army was no match for the German Army – the war lasted five days. Queen Wilhelmina and the Royal family escaped to Great Britain.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japan made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor where the American Pacific Fleet was located. The attack came by air. The Japanese used torpedo planes and Kamikaze pilots who intentionally crashed their planes with a load of bombs on their target.  It was an honor for these pilots to give their life for their emperor. Five of the eight battleships were sunk and 5,000 people lost their lives.  The airfield was totally destroyed and the damage was enormous.   Queen Wilhelmina immediately declared war with Japan because America was considered our ally.  When we heard the news on the radio we knew that war was imminent and we were prepared for it. Uncle Rudy, 20 years old, and his cousin Ferry,18 years old,  were immediately drafted into the KNIL, Koninklijk Nederlands Indies Leger, (Royal Dutch East Indies Army).

We also noticed that before the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese toy store in our  town had closed and we wondered what had happened to its personnel.

Because of the threat of war the Dutch Air Force was going to have exercises to simulate war conditions beginning March 1st.  I was in the 5th grade at the time.  Shortly after our 10:00 am recess break the sirens sounded.  Some of the kids wore a string necklace from which a rubber eraser was attached.  The purpose of the eraser was to protect their jaws and teeth by biting on it.  This would lessen the damage from the impact of bombs that might be dropped. It was still the monsoon season in the month of March. We were supposed to go into the air raid shelter, but they held about two feet of water from the heavy rains so we stayed outside on the school ground. We heard explosions in the distant and pretty soon we saw planes flying overhead.  The Dutch planes had a dark metallic color and an orange triangle on their wings – orange is the color of the Royal Dutch family.  The other planes had a very light metallic color and a red ball painted on their wings. They were Japanese “Zeros” made by Mitsubushi and had very little protection from their armoured plate which made them very maneuverable in dog fights.  In comparison, the Dutch planes could be shot down like birds.

When we came home that day we found out that we were officially at war with Japan.  They had bombed the harbor and a part of the city where we used to shop. Little did we know that the Japanese fleet was already in the Java Sea ready to invade.  Their  planes had to have come from an aircraft carrier and the infamous Battle of the Java Sea began.

Editor’s Note:  This is an excerpt from the manuscript of Frans Krajenbrink.  He is writing his biography for family and friends.

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  1. Funny to read about the erasers ! My Pop told me they would wear erasers on a string around their necks. Once he said there was an Air Raid so he and Opa was heading for the Shelter. He said they were locked out so he and Opa watched a Dog Fight over head. The Planes would also drop their ” Belly tanks ” out on the fields. Thinking they were bombs he said they wouldn’t go near those fields. In Jakarta he said he lived by an Air Base. He and his friends would play in the Japanese Plane wrecks that were there. Once he told of a B-24 or 25 ( He saw the crew members in the side windows ) was flying over dropping food or supplies to them. He saw the Bomber crash and said to his sister they’re dead. His sister scolded him for saying that saying they were trying to help them. He also remembers when the Japanese came too. He said they came right into his house went and grabbed Cokes out of his fridge. He said they sat in those jock straps they wore in his front yard. Yep my Pop had a million stories about the British too.

  2. Hello Frans,
    This excerpt of your story started the 2nd paragraph with the statement that “The Japanese used torpedo planes and kamikaze pilots …” at the Pearl Harbour attack on Dec. 7/1941. At that stage of the war, there was no need for the Japanese to use kamikaze pilots.
    The ‘Kamikaze’ wikipedia encyclopedia mentions that the first planned kamikaze attacks started at the Battle of Leyte Gulf on Oct. 25/1944, although there may have been some earlier kamikaze-like attacks by individual pilots.

    Are you the same Frans Krajenbrink who worked in the Wiskunde Afd. of the “Eerste Nederlandse Verzekeringsmij” in The Hague before joining the Indo-migrants to California in the early sixties?
    I left The Hague in 1964, and settled in Toronto.
    Greetings from Canada.
    Bouke de Jong

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