Academic journal article Military Review

The Admiral's Baby

Academic journal article Military Review

The Admiral's Baby

Article excerpt

THE ADMIRALS BABY by Laurens van der Post. 340 pages. William Morrow & Co., New York. 1996. $27.00. Nothing fails like bad policy poorly executed, and soldiers too often unfairly bear the brunt of it. The Admiral's Baby is a remarkable story of how a lone British officer tried in vain to broker peace when the Dutch colonial Far Eastern empire was crumbling under the frenzy of nationalism following World War II.

When the Japanese surrendered in 1945, former European colonies in the Far East were left adrift. The French wanted to return to Indochina, and the Dutch were eager to reclaim the Netherlands East Indies, including Indonesia. British forces had the unenviable tasks of disarming the Japanese; recovering civilian and military prisoners of war (POWs); maintaining law and order and establishing a return to civil administration; and providing food, medicine and other essential supplies to Japanese-upied territory in Southeast Asia.

Colonel Laurens van der Post, nighted in 1961 for his World War II service, was a POW for more than three years on Java. After his release, he remained to supervise the Japanese surrender and the British relief forces' arrival. He stayed two more years in a desperate struggle to quell civil war between the Dutch and Indonesians.

Japan's defeat awakened the nationalist movement and sealed the old colonial empire's fate in Southeast Asia. Failing to recognize things had changed, the Dutch stubbornly insisted Indonesia return to its prewar colonial status and demanded the British prepare the way for Dutch reoccupation. …

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