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Tweede afdeling, vliegtuiggroep vijf (second division, squadron five) or short 2-VLG-V was a squadron of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force from the 1st of July 1941 to the 8th of March 1942.



Before of the war in Europe, the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force (ML-KNIL) consisted of old planes and a handful of pilots. The Netherlands already had plans to reorganize the ML-KNIL and when Nazi-Germany overcame the Netherlands, it was given the first priority. On 1 June 1941, the 'Tweede Afdeling' (second division) was formed on Semplak. This would be a fighter division, mainly consisting of Curtiss-Wright Model 21 Interceptors and Brewster B-339C/D Buffalos. The first squadron (1-VLG-V) would use the interceptors, but because those weren't delivered yet, 1-VLG-V was used as a test-squadron for the newly arrived Buffalos. When at the end of June the first interceptors arrived, a second squadron within this division was created on 1 July 1941, 2-VLG-V. The squadron leader was Capt. Jacob Pieter van Helsdingen. The plan was that 2-VLG-V, consisting of 12 pilots, would get 12 ready to use Buffalos, and 12 spare Buffalos. However, at the end of the war, only 17 Buffalos would have been used by 2-VLG-V.

Battle of Malaya

On 25 December 1941, 12 Buffalos together with 12 pilots of 2-VLG-V were stationed at Kallang, for the defence of Singapore. These Buffalos were fitted with a bomb-rack, so that they could be used for dive-bombing. The Buffalos of the ML-KNIL didn't have bulletproof glass (it was ordered but Brewster couldn't deliver it). However the Buffalos from 2-VLG-V that helped defend Singapore were fitted with bulletproof glass from damaged British buffalos. During several actions above and near Singapore, 2-VLG-V managed to sink a Japanese destroyer, and shot down four Japanese aircraft. During the actions above Singapore, one pilot from 2-VLG-V was killed. The pilots and Buffalos that flew above Singapore were:

Battle of Java

On the 18th of January 1942 the Buffalos that fought above Singapore were called back to help defend Java, prior to the Battle of Singapore. Because of several crashes and losses the squadron had to be reorganized. A couple of pilots from other squadrons were transferred to 2-VLG-V, and all the Buffalos were re-arranged. So did Deibel, who was shot down above Singapore with B-3100, and crashed with B-398 received the former aircraft of squadron leader Van Helsdingen. While Van Helsdingen received a new aircraft. Below is a short list of the re-arrangement as far as known:

On the 19th of January, 8 Buffalos from 2-VLG-V intercepted a formation of about 35 Japanese bombers with an escort of about 20 Zeros. The Buffalo pilots destroyed 11 Japanese aircraft. Vdg. J.P. Kuijpers, Sgt. N.G. de Groot, Vdg. J. Scheffer, and Sgt. P.C. 't Hart were all shot down, Kuijper and de Groot were killed.

Battle of Balikpapan

In the afternoon of January 23, all Buffalos from 2-VLG-V together with several Buffalos from 3-VLG-V and nine Martin Model 166 bombers attacked the Japanese fleet in the Makassar Strait. One pilot (Rothkrans) was shot down and killed during this action. The Buffalos were all fitted with bomb-racks and two 110 lbs bombs. The Buffalos from 2-VLG-V were given 8 positive hits on several ships. One ship, the Nana Maru was sunk.

On Sunday, March 1, at 5:30 nine Brewster Buffalos set out for Eretanwetan, one flight of four aircraft of 2-VLG-V led by Captain van Helsdingen, the other flight - from 1-VLG-V - led by Captain van Rest. Three Glenn Martin Bombers of 3-VLG-III also took part in this action. One Japanese transport was claimed sunk, but the Glenn Martins also lost one of their number; Lieutenant B. Groenendijk and his crew were killed in action. One of the Brewsters belly-landed at Andir airfield, the pilot being unable to lower his undercarriage.

Last Flight

On 7 March 1942, van Helsdingen was given the order to give air support to Royal Dutch East Indies Army forces fighting in Lembang. Despite the Japanese having an almost complete air superiority over Java, he nevertheless chose to take off from Andir airfield. He asked all available pilots who wanted to volunteer. All pilots volunteered and van Helsdingen picked four pilots who then jumped in the four last remaining Buffalos. Just before take-off, van Helsdingen was informed by another pilot that one of the chosen pilots was married. Despite being married himself van Helsdingen took the place of the married pilot, and the four Buffalos took off. The three other pilots were: 1st Lieutenant August Deibel, Sergeant Gerard Bruggink and Officer Cadet Jan Scheffer. After only travelling 200 meters they ran into three Mitsubishi A6Ms. Deibel's plane was hit in the oil tank and he had to break off from combat. His wingman, Scheffer, escorted him back to Andir airfield, where Deibel crash landed his aircraft without injury. The other two remained above Lembang, but were now dogfighting six Mitsubishi A6Ms. Van Helsdingen was soon shot down, but Bruggink managed to escape into the clouds before returning to Andir airfield. The Dutch forces in Lembang surrendered the next day. Bruggink and Deibel were awarded the Military William Order, the highest award available from the Netherlands, while van Helsdingen and Scheffer (who died a prisoner of war) were posthumously awarded the honour on 14 July 1948.


2-VLG-V (ML-KNIL) Wikipedia

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