The Japanese forces had nearly completed the encirclement of Java. And as it was now operating from Kendari and Balikpapan, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s 21st Air Flotilla was ready to carry out the first real attacks against targets in Java.
On Tuesday, February 3, 1942, the first savage strike came against the naval base at Surabaya, against Malang airfield, and the recently opened field at Madiun.
Their first victim was a B-17C , flown by 1st Lt. Ray Cox on a local test flight. The plane was shot down at 09.30, in the mountains some 10 miles south of Malang, killing the entire crew of 7.
At 1040, Malang was hit without warning by a wave of dive bombers. followed a little later by 27 Mitsubishi G3M ‘Nell’ medium bombers that paraded over the field at 15.000 feet and dropped their load. They were followed by 7 Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes of the Tainan Kokutai that strafed the field until 11.30.
After shooting up whatever they saw, they left, leaving some damage to buildings behind (the post-exchange was razed to the ground and the runway was cratered). But incredibly, the Japanese attacks had caused no casualties amongst the Americans; just some injured after diving into slit trenches or machine gun pits to escape the attack.
However, the Japanese strafers had hit four B-17’s, all fully fueled and bombed up and ready for take-off. Three of them blew up immediately; one of them was badly damaged and burned out later, after catching fire again .
The damage at Madiun was not serious, and Yogyakarta had not been touched. But, with Kendari and Balikpapan in Japanese hands, similar and continuing attacks could be expected and the outlook for the defense of Java was grim.
Surabaya, the main Dutch Naval Base in Java, had been the main target and was hit extremely hard. The small fighter force of Dutch Brewster Buffaloes and Curtiss CW-21 ‘Interceptors’ was literally swept from the skies by an overwhelming number of Mitsubishi Zeroes. And after 27 G3M ‘Nell’ bombers had hammered the Dutch naval installations, strafing Zeroes destroyed three Catalinas on the water.
The Zeroes also shot down one old B-18.
Tragically, it was 36-338, piloted by Major Straubel who was returning from his conference with Brereton in Bandung. He was making a detour via Surabaya to drop off some radar specialists . The unarmed old bomber ran into a swarm of Zeroes that shot it down approx. 30 miles west of Surabaya.
Straubel and his co-pilot Smith were miraculously thrown clear from the wreck, but they both sadly died the next day of the extensive burns they had suffered when they had tried to rescue their passengers from the flaming wreckage.
Major Kenneth B. Hobson took command, but the loss of a second Commanding Officer within just over a week was another setback for the already battered morale of the 7th BG.
– To be continued –
 B-17C No 40-2032
 B-17D No 40-3074, B-17D No 40-3078, and B-17E No 41-2470. B-17E No 41-2427
 Aboard were Lt. Col Murphy, a communications expert sent out by Brereton to supervise the set up of a radar network, and two members of the radar staff, 1st Lt. Glen H. Boes and 2nd Lt. Irvin A. Kriel