Jacob van Helsdingen

Jacob P. van Helsdingen was a pilot died in his birthday. He was born in Surabaya and he has Indonesia-Dutch blood. He died in battle against Japanese jet which was more advanced. In that period, Japanese jet took over the air in the early of Pasific War. Born in 7 March 1907, and he was one of few Indo-Ducth men who was accepted in Koninklikje Militaire Academie in Breda, The Netherland in 1929. He was graduated in 1931 and he returned to Indonesia (was East Indies) as a lieutenant in KNIL. One year later he was placed in KNIL air force as Fokker CV pilot. He liked challenge and brave, and he did very brave manuevers. He was popular for his handsome face, also a playboy and loved to drive fast on Batavia and Soerabaia roads. The war broke in 1939 and in 1940, Holland was occupied by Germany. East Indies was in alert to face enemies in Pasific, The Japanese which was after South East and South Asia which were rich of natural resources. Van Helsdingen was mobilized on 1 July 1941 and promoted as Commander of Squadron 2, Group 5 Air Force, ML KNIL strengthened by Brewster Buffalo jet. This was his culmination of his carreer. Van Helsdingen’s squadron was positioned at Kallang air strip, SIngapore as part of ABDA-Com (American, British, Dutch and Australian Command) defensive circle to protect South East Asia from Japanese attack. Japanese attacked Singapore on 12 January 1942 by releasing bombers. In this war, van Helsdingen with his Buffalo jet could lock Japanese lightweight fighter Ki 27 Nates. His squadron also shot other three Ki-27. Japanese then released A6M Zero to guard the bombers.Zoro advance on 15 January made van Helsdingen’s squadron overwhelmed, as Zero was more advanced than Buffalo. Finally on 18 January, Squadron 2 was withdrawn to West Java and spreaded in Semplak, Andir (currently Husein Sastranegara airport) and Cililitan. Japanese then targetted East Indied. The first attacked was in Balikpapan which was rich of oil.Squadron 2 was sent to Kalimantan to strengthen Balikpapan, they based as confidential base Samarinda II, on 22 and 23 January 1942. Buffaloes of van Helsdingen squadrons guarded Martin B-10 bomber and as well attacking Japanese fleets at the off shore of Balikpapan. This assault could sink 2 Japanese ship and van Helsdingen could shoot Ki-27. For his success he was awarded with Knight Third Class from Militaire Willems Orde, which was a great achievement for Indo-Dutch soldier like him.

Unfortunately, the location of confidential base was spotted by Japanese and was attached. Kalimantan was down. The arrivals of squadrons Zero made van Heldsingen squadron’s  and other air units must got away to Java to get ready for the last defense. With the last Buffaloes left, the squadron of van Helsdingen stayed at Andir for Japanese attack which landed at Eretan wetan beach, Central Java and then spread with attack to all over Java. IN the critical months , the highest commander of KNIL had escaped to Australia, asking van Helsdingen to also went to Australia  and trained Dutch new air force. However van Helsdingen chose to stay in ANdir and support KNIL army which was critically forced to move to Bogor and threatened to back down to Bandung. 

On the 7th of March 1942, where van Helsdingen is exactly 35 years old, he chose 4 volunteer pilots to fly the four Buffalo as he was expected to fly to Australia. Yet on the last minutes, va Helsdingen changed his mind, and asking the married pilot to quit and went to Australia, while van Helsdingen himself was married already.Once news about KNIL was forced to moved to Lembang, van Helsdingen and 3 other pilots took off to Lembang.  The air there had been taken control by the Japanese. And he died in an air battle there. Jacob Pieter Van Helsdingen died in Lembang on  March 7th  1942, on his 35th birthday.