Book 1 of ‘The Java Gold does not go into details concerning the air defence of the East Indies (now Indonesia). Air power, however, played an important role during the fierce fight for these islands. It took the Japanese forces nearly three months to overcome the stubborn Dutch resistance.
The Dutch Air Force was hopelessly outnumbered, especially in the critical area of fighter – interceptors. The neutralist and pacifist view in the homeland prevailed too long and the necessary funds to re-arm were not made available until it was much too late.
By the time the Netherlands Purchasing Commission started negotiating in the US the only types they could find for sale were either obsolete or from second tier manufacturers. The Brewster Corporation was one of the latter. Nevertheless, the NPC ordered 72 ‘Buffaloes’ (as the type was called by the RAF) and they became the backbone of the Dutch Air Defence in Java and the other islands. It was another example of ‘too little, too late…’ The fighters started arriving during 1941 and deliveries were not completed when the Japanese attacked.
Here is a compilation of newsreel pictures and footage from propaganda films that shows the Buffalo in action.
For a long time a discussion has been going on whether the Buffalo was a success or a failure as a fighter. Objectively speaking the plane was reasonably successful, despite a host of drawbacks that had nothing to do with the plane itself.
Read more about ‘The Buffalo Controversy’ on the Brewster Buffalo page