The Forgotten Battle of Leuwiliang: A Tale of Valor and Sacrifice

In the quietude of the morning, before the sun’s rays became too intense, our journey took us on a winding path, about an hour and a half from the outskirts of Jakarta, to the tranquil banks of the Cianten River in the western part of Bogor Regency. Here, we were greeted by a solemn monument standing sentinel on the riverbank, not far from the Pasir Angin Museum. The monument, adorned with gray hues, bore kanji characters that immediately captured our attention.

According to Iwan Santosa’s account in “Remembering the Battle of Leuwiliang at the Pasundan Archaeological Site,” the inscription on the monument commemorates the valiant efforts of Colonel Hiroyasu, the commander of the regiment, and his soldiers who fought in the Battle of Leuwiliang. The inscription reads, “Hiroyasu Teitai, or Colonel Hiroyasu, as the Commander of the Regiment who fought; Senbotsusha Ireihi (a memorial for the fallen); Nihon Koku Niigataken (they came from Niigata Prefecture); Shibata Kyu-Hohei from the 16th Infantry Regiment Senyu-kai (established by veteran infantry regiment 16 from Shibata City).”

The monument, protected by a simple canopy, stands as a silent witness to the Battle of Leuwiliang, a historic confrontation between the Japanese army and the Allies from March 3 to 5, 1942. It serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made and the valor displayed by those who fought on these hallowed grounds.

Adjacent to the Pasir Angin Museum, remnants of two pillboxes, once used as lookout points, stand as testament to the fierce battles that raged in this area. These pillboxes, though weathered by time, bear witness to the intensity of the fighting that took place along the banks of the Cianten River.

The Battle of Leuwiliang was part of Japan’s larger campaign to seize control of the Dutch East Indies, particularly Java, in its quest for valuable resources, including oil. The Japanese forces, after securing key oil resources in Kalimantan and Sumatra, turned their attention to Java, the political heart of the Dutch East Indies.

On March 1, 1942, Japanese troops landed in Merak, Eretan, and Tuban, marking the beginning of a pivotal chapter in Indonesia’s history. The Allied forces, led by Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, put up a valiant defense in the Java Sea but were ultimately overwhelmed by the Japanese fleet. The fall of Java was imminent.

The Japanese forces, under the leadership of Noguchi Kin’ichi and Juro Hiroyasu, arrived in Leuwiliang on March 3, 1942. Their advance was met with fierce resistance from the Allied forces, including the Black Force, commanded by Arthur Blackburn. The ensuing battle, marked by intense gunfire and strategic maneuvers, culminated in the Japanese forces gaining control of key locations around Leuwiliang.

The battle took a heavy toll on both sides, with hundreds of soldiers from both the Japanese army and the Allied forces meeting their fate along the banks of the Cianten River. The battle finally came to an end on March 5, 1942, when the Allied forces were ordered to retreat to Buitenzorg.

Today, as we stand on the banks of the Cianten River, gazing at the monument and the remnants of the pillboxes, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by those who fought in the Battle of Leuwiliang. Their courage and valor serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who fought for freedom and independence.

As we reflect on this forgotten chapter of history, let us honor the memory of those who gave their lives so that we may live in peace and freedom. Let us never forget the Battle of Leuwiliang and the brave souls who fought on these hallowed grounds.