Operation OBOE - Strategic & Defence Studies Centre Study Tour to Borneo

22 October 2018

ANU Strategic & Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) took nine students bush-bashing across Borneo to interact with the remnants of Australia’s largest amphibious military campaign.

The study tour titled ‘Operation OBOE’ is named after the string of operations conducted in 1945 by Australian forces which led the Allied liberation of Borneo from Japanese occupation.

The tour took students to the sites of OBOE ONE, TWO and SIX. OBOE ONE was the invasion of Tarakan Island to secure its infrastructure. OBOE TWO was the invasion of Balikpapan for its oil and infrastructure, and OBOE SIX was the liberation of Labuan and Brunei to secure its strategic natural resources.

Under the guidance of SDSC Senior Military Historian, Dr Garth Pratten, students navigated (using paper maps) through the Bornean jungle to uncover hidden battlefields and gain insights into the dynamics and execution of a military campaign. At each site, topics such as the allied air operations against Balikpapan, the Dutch defence of the Netherlands East Indies, civil military operations in north Borneo and the Japanese occupation of north Borneo were presented.

Bush bashing

In addition to the tour, there was a broader study component which began with a series of pre-departure seminars. These introduced students to the campaign’s background and taught necessary research skills. Each student also received a $2000 Endeavour Mobility Grant to help with expenses and $1000 for Indonesian language training so they could converse with locals.

“The highlight for me was when we were jungle bashing in Tarakan. I felt immersed in history. The terrain was untouched, it was the same as it would have been in WWII” says Greta Piazzoli.

She also mentioned another highlight was that the trip was ‘physically demanding’. “The physical toll of the climate and terrain helped me to understand and empathise with what Australian soldiers would have endured”.

Master of Strategic Studies student, Thomas Paterson, summed up his experience saying; “I not only learned a lot about WWII history in Borneo and Australian military operations there, but this trip also gave us students an opportunity to bond and get to know each other. I was also able to significantly improve my Indonesian language skills which was great”.

“Being given the opportunity to grow my historical knowledge, practice my language skills and get to know my fellow study tour compatriots was the perfect trinity!”

Tags: SDSC

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