Archives for June 2017

Japanese WWII war crime at Tiga Roenggoe


The murder of 21 City guards at TIGA ROENGGOE, · DELI, SUMATRA’S EAST COAST (WORLD WAR II).

  1. Introduction

In connection with the impending war danger in SE Asia the KNIL decided to strengthen its army with some relief Corps.
So there Relief Corps were established to secure certain places and important key areas; including the set up of City/Country guard units. Most city guards were exempt from reporting for militia duty, but they signed up as a volunteer at the local city guard, in order to contribute thereto by the security and defense of their private enterprises and plantations, as they also did in Deli on Sumatra’s East Coast.
Also Hendrik Jan Theodoor Hessing, who was born on the 26 of december 1906 in Semarang, considered it his duty to contribute to the defense of Deli, the country that he loved. He decided to sign up as a volunteer city guard; accordingly he became as Stw. Sld. Inf. KNIL. With the Deli Group.Hendrik Jan Theodoor profession was agricultural, “planter in the Cultures”, the way it was called in the old days, on the plantation of the Senembah Company.

Another city guard, who served in this unit, was Res. 1st Lieutenant INF. KNIL Paul Marinus VISSER. He was born on 11 February 1893 in Assen. Before WWII Paul was administrator of one of the company of the Deli My. He was married to Elisabeth Regina Visser-Veth and the family got 2 sons and a daughter.

Furthermore, Stw. Sgt. Jacobus Wilhelm MERKELBACH was also part of this group; by occupation he was a “Planter” on an established company of the Deli My.

2. Dramatic events at Tiga Roenggoe

In the night from 14 to 15 March 1942, 21 voluntary City guardians of the KNIL in Tiga Roenggoe, a village on the road from Pematang Siantar to Kabangdjahe, were killed by Japanese soldiers.
The city guards of the KNIL Hendrik Jan Theodoor HESSING, Paul M Visser and Jacobus Wilhelm Merkelbach also belonged to these victims.

The task of city guards was to guard some bridges and upon hearing messages that Japanese units had landed on the East coast of Sumatra – before their retreat for the highly powerful enemy – they acted in accordance with their entrusted mission-to dutifully destroyed the bridges. This brave decision was taken by them – despite being informed via the NIROM (Dutch-Indies Radio broadcaster) and newspapers – that the Japanese army, among other things, on the island of Tarakan and Balikpapan, had executed and beheaded our soldiers– who were involved in the destruction of bridges and important installations in their area.
In the meantime, on 12 March of 1942, the Japanese, who had landed, among others, at Laboean Roekoe, belonged to the motorized Regiment of the 2nd Division of the Imperial Guard.
After the landing this unit made a circulating movement and surprised the city guards at the village Tiga Roenggoe.
The city Guards were immediately captured, disarmed and then on 14 of March 1942 between 20.00 and 21:00 hours in cold blood murdered by the Japanese soldiers of the Cavalry scouting unit.
According to the later statements of 5 witnesses, namely, Pikir marga Poerba, Hendrien marga Poerba, Sarbia marga Poerba, Hasan marga Baragin en Janssen marga Manabe the next day around noon time the Japanese told the villagers to bury the bodies in a trench at a local school.
Their bodies lay scattered over a large area and there was a lot of blood everywhere. The victims were tied up with their arms on their backs. Some had a rope around their neck and one victim with a strongly build body turned out to beheaded. The victims were then dragged by villagers to the trench or on improvised bamboo stretchers to the place where they were buried.

Finally in nov. 1947 the remains of the City guards were discovered and all the victims could be identified by the Court doctor, Dr. TH. P.j. Boortman. Under the murdered victims were some very prominent “Delianen”, as the old-administrator of the Deli Mij, Mr. Visser and the former secretary of the Tobacco My “Arensburg”, Mr. W.F. van den Berg.

Furthermore, the Town Guards of KNIL Hendrik Jan Theodoor Hessing, Paul Marinus Visser and Jacobus Wilhelm Merkelbach belonged to the identified victims. Death appeared to be caused by shots in the “neck”, causing the head to be shattered. Afterwards all the victims were to be buried in a trench in the yard of the local school. From the investigation after World War II, it turned out that the one who had given the command to mass murder, was the major Junzaburo Nakamura, the Deputy Commander of the previously mentioned scouting unit.

However, during further investigation, Nakamura had been killed in WWII in New-Caledonia, so that the Netherlands Temporary Court Martial in Medan could not trial him for his serious war crimes.
The commander of the Scouting Unit, Col. Yuzo Kitayama was not present during the massacre at Tiga Roenggoe and the Temporary Martial Court spoke him free, because he was not aware of the criminal acts of Major Nakamura.

After the war the Dutch organization OGS reburied the victims on the Netherlands Field of Honor “Ancol” in Jakarta (Batavia), as to that Hendrik Jan Theodoor Hessing; box/row/nr.: VI 155 – the Netherlands Field of Honor “Ancol” in Jakarta as to that Res. 1st Lieutenant Paul M VISSER; box/row/nr.: V 185 – the Netherlands Field of Honor “Ancol” in Jakarta as to that Jacobus Wilhelm Markelbach; box/row/nr.: V 180.

May God’s blessings rest on all of them!

Jacq. Z. Brijl, Lieutenant- Colonel, Royal Neth. Army ret., BL.
The Hague, June 2017