The Battle of Balikpapan
By Dale Byhre
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The Battle of Balikpapan’. Seventy- seven years ago on January 24, 1942, four elderly US Navy destroyers of the Asiatic Squadron, delivered a bold and audacious attack against the Imperial Japanese forces landing at the Dutch East Indies port and oil refining complex at Balikpapan, on the island of Borneo. Catching Japanese escorts by surprise, the four destroyers ran at high speed and in-line ahead, wreaking havoc amongst the anchored transports discharging men and equipment at the burning port. Sinking and damaging several of the transports with torpedoes and gunfire, the four flush-decked destroyers eventually made their escape suffering only light damage. It would do little to curb the Japanese onslaught, but at the time was a rare bright spot at a time of disastrous defeats suffered by the allies in the Far East.
The painting shows the destroyer John D Ford, leading its squadron as they make their high speed run through the rows of enemy ships caught unaware. The Ford is beginning a turn to starboard followed by the other destroyers to make another pass with torpedoes and guns while the burning oil facilities and an exploding Japanese ammunition ship light up the night.