The Ship That Masked Itself as an Island to Avoid the Japanese in WWII

The primary danger of  being spotted was from the air. To efficaciously  disguise themselves they covered the whole surface  of the boat with leafage.

Disguise for ships and other marine ships was generally utilized in both the First and Second World Wars, yet the team of one Dutch boat – a Second World War minesweeper of the Royal Netherlands Navy named HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, which was performing in the Java Sea – took the idea of ship cover to the higness level.

They effectively masked the ship as a tropical island and as a result of that avoid the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The ancestor to Crijnssen’s brave strategy of avoidance was the Battle of the Java Sea, which was battled on February 27th, 1942. In this marine fight the Allied navy lose the battle from the Imperial Japanese Navy. After the loss just four Dutch boats remained alive  in the Java Sea, and in the next days after the battle, the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed three of them.

The last survived boat – Crijnssen – was a Jan Van Amstel-class minesweeper, 184 feet in length, with a desposition of 525 tons. A sluggish ship, Crijnssen was an obvious target for any Japanese airplane or marine ships that may detect her, and being just lightly armed wouldn’t be capable to stand the fight if it came down to a battle.

The minesweeper’s only opportunity of endurance in the now-Japanese-ruled territory was to evade, as fast as possible under the circumstances, to the safety of Australia. The trouble, surely, was that there was no chance the sluggish Crijnssen could leave behind any Japanese ship.

The single choice was to in some way smuggle past the Japanese without being noticed… and the team of the minesweeper thought of one of those plans that are insane to such an extent that they might work: masking the boat as an island.

Considering a couple of circumstances, the idea wasn’t as crazy as at first sight.The Java Sea around Malaysia and Indonesia is spotted with more than 18,000 islands, from enormous ones like Borneo to mini ones with hardly more than a bunch of trees on them. Crijnssen was not an enormous boat, but  the minesweeper was huge enough to potentially be made look like a small island.

The 45 individuals from the group visited on the nearest island and started chopping down as much vegetation as possible. The major danger of being spotted was from the air, and to succesfully masked themselves they expected to cover the whole surface of the boat with leafage.

With much strain they done that, absolutely covering Crijnssen’s deck with vegetation, and in convincing way they imitated the jungle canopy. Any metal pieces was painted in grey to imitate rocks. After they have finished the work, Crijnssen really was looking as an island convincingly – from a distance.

 Significant contrast among boats and islands is that one moves and the other doesn’t. To keep up the camouflage that HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen was a little tropical island, the boat tied down near the real islands during sunshine hours and remained totally fixed.

When sun is down, Crijnssen would set off, excruciatingly  moving slowly toward Australia and out of the unfriendly zone of the Java Sea. After eight troublesome days, Crijnssen came to the safe Australian waters.

Despite all, the insane idea of transforming the minesweeper into a tropical island had really worked, and the Imperial Japanese Navy had been unaware to the way that an Allied boat had sneaked past them.

Crijnssen turned into the only Dutch ship to get away from the Java Sea, and was the last Allied marine ship to get away from the territory, which at that point came completely under Japanese control.

Crijnssen’s story didn’t stop there. However, when Crijnssen arrived at the waters of Australia, she was ordered into the Royal Australian Navy. In the RAN, Crijnssen was reoutfitted and renamed as an anti-submarine convoy escort.

After the war Crijnssen was recommissioned to the Royal Netherlands Navy and used to guard the Netherlands East Indies, until coming back to Europe and being withdrawed from the RNN in 1960. HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen remains the only boat to have escaped the opponent by being masked as an island during WWII.

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