Companion to East Timor - Invading East Timor and violating Portuguese neutrality

Invading East Timor and violating Portuguese neutrality

Britain requested Australia to send troops to East Timor, saying that Portugal had agreed to the plan. The Australian Government had very limited resources at the time but agreed to Britain's request, emphasizing that Portugal had to publicly approve of it. Assured by Britain that all arrangements were in place, Australia ordered its forces to land in East Timor. While they were doing so, Portugal expressed its opposition to the operation. Worried, Britain requested the Australians to not mention that Britain was in any way associated with the operation even though the plan was primarily a British one. Although annoyed at being placed in this difficult position, the Australians agreed. Britain then proceeded to express its regret to Portugal about the action of 'Allied military authorities on the spot', implying that it was not involved and that the entire operation was the result of decisions made by lower-level tactical commanders from Australia and the Netherlands.

It was only after Australian, Dutch and British troops had deployed to Portuguese Timor and violated Portuguese neutrality that Japan decided to send its own forces there. Allied forces conducted aerial bombing sorties against both halves of the island. Aerial bombing operations against Timor were conducted by 79 Wing RAAF (No 2 Squadron), which was manned by Australian airmen, 18 (NEI) Squadron, which was manned by both Australian and Dutch airmen, and 380 Bombardment Group (528, 529, 530 and 531 Squadrons) of the USAAF Fifth Air Force. The war resulted in the deaths of as many as 60,000 East Timorese. The population of East Timor in 1930 was 472,221. Seventeen years later the population had fallen by 38,809. James Dunn allows for a normal population growth to show that the loss of life was up to 60,000. [See J.S. Dunn, Timor, a People Betrayed. (Queensland: Jacaranda Press, 1983)]. No international investigation was ever conducted into war crimes committed by Australian or Japanese forces against the people of East Timor, who never received war reparations for their suffering in this conflict. Catholic churches sheltered members of the clergy who fled East Timor in 1942 but made no further contact with the Timorese church until twenty years after World War II.