8. The first Politionele Action from 20 July till 5 August 1947

29 July 1947 – Operation Product
It was 0400 hours in the morning. The tanks, trucks and personnel carriers, that looked like metal tins on tracks) were lined up and ready for departure.

Again I was not on the list to move out. The Sergeant-Major came to me in the mess and asked: “Are you coming too?”. I replied that I was not told I had to go and he responded: “Do you want to come?”. Of course I want to come I replied, all my friends are going.

After about one hour the Sergeant-Major came back and told me to get ready, you are going.

This was how I got to Pematang-Siantar, a small city compared to Medan. It was situated between high mountains covered in tall trees and the area where the Bataks used to live and as I later would find out the Headquarters of the TNI (Tentara Nationale Indonesia).

The roads and the trees were covered with thousands of monkeys. We were advised by one of the KNIL soldiers not to shoot at the monkeys, because if you hit or kill one the rest of the tribe will attack you. The monkeys disappeared in the space of a couple of days because of the heavy traffic we created. The monkeys left but the Bataks and TNI stayed.

The charge of the Infantry VI had been so swift and had surprised the TNI, that Pematang-Siantar fell without any damage to buildings or casualties.

What had once been the Hotel became out barracks. I slept down stairs in rooms that held 5 men, where the others slept upstairs in 15 men rooms. We arrived in Siantar at 1900 hours and the first night, when all of us had just gone to sleep, we took fire from three different directions. In a split second we responded to the hostile fire. The surprise had sent a young soldier next to me into a tailspin and he started firing in all directions. It was so bad that we had to take cover from him as well as the enemy.

Once things had settled down we went out to take stock and found four bodies in the areas where we had returned fire. Who had shot them was hard to tell as we were all firing at the time, but they were the first people killed in action and it made a deep impression on all of us.

I became part of the (TD) Technische Dienst (Technical Services). We used to work in open warehouses where everything that had wheels or tracks was housed. It was my task to service and maintain the rolling equipment as we called it and use the vehicles to pick up cargo, to go shopping and pick up broken down vehicles.

We would never travel without a gunner who would place his machine gun on the roof of the cab, with a lookout in the loading area of the vehicle, because we were told that the whole area was riddled with rebels.

Under the red and white flag they were fighting each other and the Dutch. Soldiers of the Government troops, the TNI, Revolutionary Extremists, Sympathisers of the Islam Party, and Bataks versus Maleiresen and the Chinese. Bataks versus Bataks about old arguments and new ones. In short it was an absolute shambles.

For most of them they were fighting for a piece of land where they could live and work and for those living in the inlands the word “own state” meant absolutely nothing. But one thing was certain; No-one wanted to go back to the days of suppression and being a servant.

The population hated being servant to the Dutch. They used to be friendly to your face but once they had walked passed you they would spit on the ground. They also hated the Chinese because they were such good businessmen and were able to wheel and deal in everything. The locals were often envious for the wealth of the Chinese. To draw a comparison you could compare them with the pre-German war Jews. You could often see a Chinese body float in a Kali (River). The body would be carried downstream from the mountains and passed our barracks. Most bodies got stuck in the grill under the bridge that was placed there to collect rubbish. Most bodies had been in the water for so long that the stench was unbearable. One of the boys of the Hupva (Nurse), who we used to call John the Cowboy, used to throw a lasso to catch the bodies and drag them ashore for burial. The grill under the bridge did not only collect men, but also woman and children…..

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