The Royal Dutch Indies Army (KNIL) decided in 1936 to defend the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) against an invader with what could be called a ‘rapid intervention bomber force’. It was a momentous and fateful decision. A defense strategy was developed, based upon fast bombers operating from a string of secret airfields. (1).
The Dutch government bought a large number of the export version of the Glenn-Martin B-10, then one of the fastest and most advanced combat aircraft available. But by the time the squadrons in the East-Indies were fully equipped the B-10 was already obsolete. It was overtaken in the technological leap-frog race by the next generation of single engine fighters.
When the Japanese attacked Malaya, Singapore and the NEI the strategy of destroying an invasion fleet from the air proved to be a fatal misconception. When the Glenn-Martins went into action, initially unescorted, they were met by clouds of fast, heavily armed fighters. Only in a few cases were the bomber crews able to release their bombs on the intended targets. Few ships were damaged, even fewer sunk.
By March 1942 the bomber force was decimated. The final throw came on March 1, 1942 when the last three operational Glenn-Martins took off to raid a Japanese invasion convoy off Eretan Wetan, Java. None came back. I think we all owe a tribute to those who went to war in these machines, knowing their chances of survival were almost nil. But still, they went…
I have posted a more detailed history of the Dutch Glenn-Martins on this site. Look under ‘Background Information – Aircraft’,
(1) See also: Military Background – Secret Airfields in the Dutch East Indies