Borneo - Operation Oboe July - August 1945 (World War 2, 16 April 1945 to 15 August 1945)

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About This Campaign

Borneo - Operation Oboe July - August 1945

Borneo. Source: Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Series 1 (Army), Vol VII, p. 453.

 Map of Borneo. Source: Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Series 1 (Army), Vol. VII, p. 453.


The Borneo Campaign, code-named OBOE, consisted of three operations; the taking of Tarakan, Labuan Island and Balikpapan. The “brainchild” of General Douglas MacArthur, in command of the South-West Pacific Area, later evaluations of OBOE attributed to the three operations none of the advantages that MacArthur had claimed.[1]

Instead it has been suggested that the Australian government’s determination to take Borneo, against the express recommendations of General Blamey, was not merely to accede to MacArthur’s wish. Wheate and Gilbert have contended that the government’s decision may have been influence by the perception that Borneo was an opportunity for Australia “to confirm its place at the table during later peace talks” by helping to defeat the Japanese.[2]

At Tarakan, OBOE ONE was ostensibly aimed at the airfields that were of strategic interest. Nevertheless, there is little evidence they would have been able to prepare the airfields in time for operations at Brunei and Balikpapan and, in the end, the airfields were beyond repair.[3] Australian losses were also considerable. While 1,540 Japanese were killed, 245 Australians were killed and 669 wounded.[4]

At Labuan Island in Brunei Bay, the objective of OBOE SIX was resource-driven; to establish an advanced fleet base that could protect oil and rubber reserves in the bay.[5] However, this would have little effect in the way of diminishing Japanese oil resources as they were already blocked by Allied operations, particularly the relentless and very effective US submarine campaign, to the north, which also greatly hampered Japanese re-supply by this late stage in the war.[6] Australian casualties numbered 114 killed, 221 wounded with an estimated 1400 Japanese killed.[7]

OBOE TWO, aimed at the capture of Borneo from Balikpapan was the final large-scale Allied operation of the war, and the largest amphibious assault ever mounted by Australian forces. Balikpapan had the advantage of “oil reserves, two suitable airfields, and a deep sheltered harbour.”[8]

However the Australian Commander-in-Chief, Thomas A. Blamey, considered the operation to be “strategically unsound.”[9] While the operation was successful, arguably due in no small part to the significant air and naval support, 229 Australians lost their lives with a further 634 wounded.

[1] Coates, John, “Borneo,” in The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press, 2008, 98.
[2] Wheate, Nial and Gilbert, Gregory, “Borneo, 1945 – An Amphibious Success Story,” Royal Australian Navy, viewed 04/04/2016,
[3] Coates, John, “Borneo,”98; 100.
[4] Ibid, 100.
[5] Ibid, 101.
[6] Ibid, 98.
[7] Ibid, 102
[8] Wheate, Nial and Gilbert, Gregory, “Borneo, 1945 – An Amphibious Success Story.”
[9] Coates, “Borneo,” 98.



Showing 8 people of interest from campaign

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O'DWYER, James Joseph

Service number QX38645
"Z" Special Unit
2nd AIF WW 2
Born 19 Sep 1921

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RYAN, Timothy Joseph

Service number WX9876
2nd/48th Infantry Battalion
2nd AIF WW 2
Born 8 Dec 1917

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TALBOT, Ronald George Edward

Service number SX19108
2nd/14th Infantry Battalion
2nd AIF WW 2
Born 28 May 1920

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BEATTIE, Roy McDowall

Service number 404228
Flight Lieutenant
No. 24 Squadron (RAAF)
Royal Australian Air Force
Born 20 Aug 1920

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JOHNSON, Charles Thomas

Service number QX2851
2nd/32nd Infantry Battalion
2nd AIF WW 2
Born 30 Jan 1918

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WILLIAMS, Graham Montague

Service number VX8288
Lance Corporal
2nd/9th Cavalry (Commando) Regiment
2nd AIF WW 2
Born 7 Apr 1916

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NUM, Gordon

Service number SX15214
2nd/43rd Infantry Battalion
2nd AIF WW 2
Born 8 Apr 1921

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RUSSELL, Oswald Henry

Service number NX46644
2nd/4th Infantry Battalion
2nd AIF WW 2
Born 7 Feb 1918