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NUSANTARA UNDER THE RISING SUN: Japanese Rule in Indonesia, 1942-45

Paramilitary Organizations

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'Seinendan' members with theirs sharp bamboos in parade.

On April 29, 1943, coincidentally with ‘Tenscho Setsu’ (the Emperor Birthday), ‘Gunseikan’ in Jakarta gave an order to form a total defense system from big cities to remote places by including military discipline within it. Thus, they start to organized Indonesian settlement like in Japan. According the rule, a settlement that consisted of 10 to 15 families must be organized into a ‘Tonari Gumi’ (block organization). ‘Tonari Gumi’ leader was chosen by its member and called as ‘Kumicho’. Five or six ‘Tonari Gumis’ were joined into a ‘Chokai’ (orchard organization). The ‘chokai’ was lead by a ‘Chokaicho’, whom chose by ‘kumichos’.

In every ‘chokai’, Japanese formed ‘Keibodan’ (security column or police auxiliary) consisted from local youths between 20-25 years (later become 26-35 years). ‘Keibodan’ got a ‘kyoren’ training, like how to handle fire, to face an air attack, etc. To handle theirs job, ‘Keibodan’ members have an obligation to stand by in guardhouses in their ‘Chokai’ area and made a night watching. Theirs weapons are ‘takeyari’ (sharp bamboos). In Java, there were one million ‘Keibodan’ members.In Sumatra, ‘Keibodan’ was known as ‘Bogadan’ while in Borneo known as ‘Borneo Konen Hokokudan’. The formation itself had been under a tight control by Japanese to avoid Indonesian nationalist influences among theirs rank.

Japanese also tried to seed militaristic spirit among Indonesian teenagers. Thus, Indonesian teenagers between 14 to 20 years were formed into ‘Seinendan’ (Youth Column). According Japan propaganda, ‘Seinendan’ was a tool to educate and to train Indonesian youths, thus would enable them to defend their homeland by theirs own strength. The ‘Seinendan’ had been control by ‘Gunseikan’ himself as theirs ‘dancho’ (commander). There were ‘Seinendan’ formations in every level area. Japanese also formed ‘Seinendan’ in factories (called as ‘Seinendan Kojo’) and farms (called as ‘Seinendan Jogyojo’).

To handle the ‘Keibodan’, ‘Gunseikan’ got help from ‘Somubucho’ and ‘Naixeibucho’ (Japanese officials in ‘Gunseikanbu’) who appointed as ’fuku dancho’ (the commander second-in-chief). Every local official were appointed as ‘Seinendan’ leader in his area. the ‘Gunseikan’ appointed Japanese local commanders, the local police chief in the area, and the local junior and senior high school headmasters to help him as ‘komon’ (advisor), ‘sanyo’ (advisor council) or ‘kanji’ (administrator).

In every residency, Japanese formed ‘Seinen Kurensho’ (‘Seinendan’ Training Ground). In Jakarta, there was a ‘Chuo Seinen Kurensho’ (‘Seinendan Training Centre’) to train ‘Seinendan’ regional leaders for three to six months. There were almost a half million ‘Seinendan’ members in Java during the war.

Japanese also formed a paramilitary formations in junior and senior high schools called ‘Gokkutotai’ (Student Column). They were train in basic military education, included how to fight. Every high schools became a ‘chutai’ (company) headquarter; every class became a ‘shotai’ (section). Some ‘shotais’ were joined to form a ‘butai’ (squad). Japanese military leaders hope that ‘Gokkutotai’ will become seed for ‘heiho’, ‘kaigun’ (Japanese Navy) or ‘jibakutai’ (suicide troops).

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'Fujinkai' in defile.

Indonesian girls and women also didn’t escape from Japanese military mobilization. In August 1943, Japanese formed ‘Fujinkai’ (Women Column). The organization members were girls and women above 15 years. They got military basic training, but their main training were to handle general kitchen and first-aid. They also were mobilized for ‘kinrohoshi’ (labor voluntary service) because many of theirs men were use for military service. Existed in every villages, ‘Fujinkai’ were ordered by Japanese to help them to collected obliged donation like jewelry, livestocks, foodstuffs, etc. for theirs war efforts.

By forming these paramilitary units, every Indonesian between 14 to 35 years were train to become militants to help Japanese war efforts against possibility Allied landing in Indonesia.