Invasion 1975 – Photographs

Indonesian soldiers inside East Timor, 1975

The smiles of these Indonesian soldiers inside East Timor in late 1975 belie their deadly mission. Under orders from their President (Suharto) and military superiors, they were part of the first wave of Indonesian forces launched to stifle the establishment of an independent East Timor. Many such soldiers didn’t return home. Countless numbers of Timorese died or were brutalised at their hands.

Photographs of the Indonesian military presence inside Timor in the first years of the invasion are rare. This image is one of 52 pictures posted on Facebook in mid-2009 by an East Timorese.

The images, while generally of low quality, are a valuable addition to the pictorial record of the early occupation years. Along with photographs of Indonesian troops, equipment and some senior Indonesian officers, there are also some  rare images of UDT/Apodeti forces and key personalities – presumably in the 1975 post-civil war period.

To make all these images more visible outside the Facebook community, we have created a public album – Indonesian Invasion 1975.

Where do they come from?

Our source got the digital versions from friends at an East Timorese NGO but suspects they may also not know about the origins of the set.

A small subset (11) of these images does appear on the website of the Timorese Resistance Archive & Museum (AMRT).

In addition to some more detailed captions on content of the images, AMRT attributes their origin to the collection of Mario Carrascalao (formerly Indonesian-appointed governor of Timor-Timur and now vice prime-minister of Timor-Leste). Given the varied nature of the images, it is probable Sr. Carrascalao was a collector rather than the original photographer.

It is unclear whether AMRT holds copies of all 52 images shown here, or just the ones displayed on its website (see images among those under the heading “09.01. Invasão” ).

Some of the images appear to be professionally composed. Perhaps they were originally taken by Indonesian reporters like Hendro Subroto who were ’embedded’ with Indonesian forces before and after the invasion.

How you can help

A key aim of the Timor Archives project is to connect the creators/photographers to images swirling around the internet, to get more information on them and to establish any copyright claims. Timor Archives readers can help us establish more data about these images. The obvious questions are:

  • Who took the photographs?
  • When and where were they taken?
  • Can we identify faces and locations in some of the images?
  • Who holds original or better copies?
  • Does anyone claim legal copyright?

If you can help with answers to any of these questions, please send comments through the Leave a reply/comment link immediately below or add comments to individual images in the Album.

Note on captions: Many image captions in the album may need correction. They are reproduced from the Facebook album as found and supplemented with AMRT captions where available. Comments in [square brackets] are mine.

19 Responses to Invasion 1975 – Photographs

  1. Ernie Chamberlain says:

    Hi John,
    Great photos – I can offer some comments as follows. I believe that almost all the photographs were taken by two Indonesian civilian photographers: Djumaryo of Berita Yudha and Saleh Kamah of Antara – and some by the TVRI cameraman, Ucin Nusirwan. All landed from the ABRI vessel Teluk Bone (LST 511) at Dili on 7 December 1975. I have seen some of the photographs that you have posted in Indonesian publications with the journalists appropriately credited – particularly Saleh Kamah (who I believe took the “early” photographs from the deck of the Teluk Bone). Later, another TVRI cameraman – M.Tampubolon, covered the landing at Laga (and advance to Baucau) on 10 December 1975.
    On the individual photographs, I can offer only some minor comments as follows:
    1 and 2 – were taken at Pantai Kelapa/Kampong Alor; 6 – is the LST Teluk Bone (511) which transported the ABRI Marine Battalion Landing Team 5 which had moved from Atabae and boarded the vessel at Tailaco – it also carried PT-76 amphibious tanks and BTR-50PK armoured personnel carriers (both Soviet bloc vehicles); 3 – taken by Saleh Kamah shows parachute landing of soldiers of 502 Airborne Raider Battalion in the dry bed of the Comoro, second sortie, 7 December 1975. There are also other photographs of groups of descending ABRI parachutists – both sorties 1 and 2, taken by Djumayo and Saleh Kamah. Saleh Kamah’s “sortie 2” photograph is in the AMRT collection as 05735.002.006 but not attributed; 12 – shows the Taiwanese Consul – Huang Ying Chuan, centre with glasses and handkerchief on his head (he had reportedly been “wounded in the head”). This photo was almost certainly taken by Ucin Nusirwan; 17 – agree, the entrance to the port complex is on the right; 20 – This may be a Portuguese artillery piece ie mountain gun – although I have seen a report that Fretilin had moved the small number of Portuguese guns to Baucau – I will check; 21 – LST Teluk Bone 511; 24 – BTR-50PK armoured personnel carrier (Marines); 25 PT-76 amphibious tank (Marines); 26 – column of BTR-50PK armoured personnel carriers; 27 – PT-76 amphibious tank (Marines); 28 – PT-76 amphibious tank (Marines); 30 – PT-76 amphibious tank (Marines); 32 – General Moerdani talking with ABRI personnel and journalists in Dili, 8 December 1975; 33 – Colonel Dading Kalbuadi (left) and ABRI officers; 34 – MAC (ie UDT/Apodeti) fighters; 35 – agree: Guilherme Maria Goncalves; 36 – agree: Francisco Lopes da Cruz; 38 – looks more like Batugade to me; 43 – the “fighters” in this “staged” photograph appear to be MAC; 44 – MAC troops (the man wearing the glasses appears in other photographs with Indonesian troops) – man in centre appears to be carrying a communist-bloc SKS semi-automatic rifle supplied by ABRI; 45 – agree refugees in West Timor, “penungsi” ie “refugees” is written on the photograph; 51 – man with grey beard (centre left) is Arnaldo dos Reis Araujo – the Apodeti leader, who escaped from a Fretilin prison on 7 December and flew to Koepang with General Moerdani at midday on 8 December (to do a radio broadcast) before returning to Dili.
    If I find any other information of interest, I’ll let you know.
    Best wishes, Ernie Chamberlain

    • timorarchives says:

      Thanks a million Ernie. Great stuff, as usual. Over the next day or so, I will append your specific notes to the relevant images in the album. John W.

  2. trina supit says:

    On a visit to the Brawijaya museum in Malang, East Java, in 2004 only the photos from the Timor campaign were missing i,e. the spaces where they were formerly displayed are now empty.

    • timorarchives says:

      Very interesting Trina. Thank you. My guess is the Timor issue is especially problematic for museums and many other institutions in determining how to handle and present the matter. I know nothing of how Timor is now thought of in a range of different circles in Indonesia – and this is a topic for much exploration (hopefully by Indonesians!).

      The question which occurred to me on reading your comment was: Does this mean the issue is being erased from memory & history or does it mean a withdrawal of materials to allow rethinking how to present/discuss the issue. I fervently hope it is the latter.

      John Waddingham

    • Malae Hula Hula says:

      From 1990 until 2000 there was a display of captured Falintil equipment, a few photos, and related Operation Seroja artifacts at the Brawijaya Museum, on Ijien had perhaps two small display cases. It wasn’t anything noteworthy.

      The ABRI museum on Gatot Subonto Subroto only had a small exhibit and diorama as late as 2006. The displays were actually unlit and labels removed at that time.

      I met some disabled war vets “cacat” who had between them several dozen pictures of the invasion and occupation through 1980. Perhaps someone should poke around Bekasi at the Seroja village. I haven’t been back since since 1997.

      • timorarchives says:

        Thank you for the comment ‘MHH’. Yes, there is undoubtedly a vast but largely hidden treasure of memory and documentation about ‘Tim-Tim’ in Indonesia today. Of untold value to emerging East Timorese archival institutions and vital to understanding, recording and telling the story inside Indonesia itself. Collecting such materials in these still early years since the end of Indonesian rule probably needs sensitive handling by interested Indonesians. Any ideas, anyone? John Waddingham.

  3. I am the main editor for Timor-Leste in German Wikipedia. If you have some images for free use, it would be great, if you can load them up at Commons: for use on international Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

  4. James Dunn says:

    I have some photos in the period just before the invasion but invasion photos are rare. I guess TNI photographs would have been carefully edited in order not to seen by those of us who investigated the early atrocities immediately after the invasion. James Dunn – former UN expert on crimes against humanity and author of East Timor: A Rough Passage to Independence

    • timorarchives says:

      Thanks for the comment Jim. Ernie Chamberlain’s information on the names of civilian photographers and cameramen present at the main invasion moment was new to me and made me wonder just how much of those images and footage survive and whether any is or will become available for public use/access outside Indonesia over time. Probably remains a sensitive question, but one that needs to be pursued.

      The other thing which occurred to me: Given what we know about the violent nature of the assault in December 1975, did these Indonesian civilian witnesses record any of the military actions or did they, by direction or self-censorship, keep their cameras turned away from the action.?
      John W

  5. Ernie Chamberlain says:

    Photo 20 – Artillery piece at the Farol.
    I can confirm that it is not an Indonesian howitzer. Rather, it is a former Portuguese howitzer apparently brought to Portuguese Timor in September 1945 by the post-War expeditionary force. Of Italian manufacture, it is an Obice 75mm L18 Mod 34 – a mountain howitzer of 75mm calibre which fired a 6.3 kg shell out to 9,560 meters, weighed 780 kg and was capable of 65° elevation. I believe that this weapon is now in the Army Museum in Jakarta – or at least one of its “fellows”.
    According to Indonesian military sources, Falintil also inherited six Rheinmetall-Borsig Pak.40 75mm howitzers (German manufacture). According to Major Mota – when debriefed in Lisbon in early September 1975, “no Timorese could use the artillery and the shells would only be useful for explosives.” However, on 7 December 1975, Falintil did fire their artillery at the ABRI vessels off Dili and into the occupied harbour area – but without effect. On 11 December however, a 75mm shell reportedly landed outside a building in which Vice Admiral Sudharmono was giving a briefing (casualties not known). With the advantage of observation helicopters, ABRI used counter-battery fire from their 122mm D-30 artillery (Soviet) and 140mm BM-14 multi-barrel rocket launchers (Czech) to silence the Falintil guns. According to ABRI sources, all six Falintil 75mm Pak.40 howitzers were captured – however, I believe two were “spirited” away by Falintil (which I hope to confirm shortly).
    Photo 29 – Indonesian troops (“volunteers”) in civilian clothing (or perhaps MAC elements) at the rear of a Ferret Mk2 armoured car (note these two “volunteers” also appear in photo 44 ie confirming that photo 44 is of “volunteers/MAC” and not Fretilin/Falintil.
    Photo 45: In my first comment, “penungsi” should be “pengungsi” – my “typo” error.
    Best wishes, Ernie Chamberlain
    Regards, Ernie Chamberlain

  6. John says:

    Andrew McNaughtan’s photo exhibit from the mid-1990s includes two very fuzzy photos of paratroopers over Dili. They were taken from Atauro before the Portuguese evacuated. I have hi-res scanned files of them.

    • timorarchives says:

      Thanks John. With luck, copies of those images survive in Andrew McNaughtan’s collection at the Mitchell Library in Sydney (a rough guide to which can be found in the ‘Collections’ section of this blog).

      Have you put those hi-res scans up somewhere for others to see? I’d be happy to include a link to them from here or, indeed, be happy to have copies to put up on this site. Best regards, John W

  7. mike says:

    These photos and others, along with captions, can all be found in Saleh Kamah’s 1997 book ‘Seroja’, published in Palu. Regards

  8. Ernie Chamberlain says:

    Hello John – and all,
    Further to my comments on 30 April and 1 May, I have now checked Saleh Kamah’s mid-1997 book – “Seroja: Pengalaman Seorang Wartawan dari Medan Tempur Timor-Timor”, and translated his captions for the photographs that you have disseminated – see below. Regrettably, the photographs in his book are not very good reproductions. Also, he does not include any technical data on the ABRI equipments – but see my earlier comments. Photographs 31 (flags) and 38 (personnel at the fort) are one photograph – that has been “split” into two. In summary, quite a number of the photographs were taken during the “Joint Forces/ABRI” advance/attacks from Batugade to Balibo/Maliana and along the coast through Palaka-Fatularan-Atabae to Tailaco. Following the identification of personnel by Kamah in the captions to some his photographs, personnel can also be identified in other photographs.
    Kamah’s captions translate as follows ((my notes are in double brackets)):
    Photo 1: Marines after successfully clearing the beach in the Comoro sector of Kampung Alor.
    2: Kopassandha troops moving along Comoro Beach (7 December 1975).
    3: Airborne troops landing by parachute near the Comoro River – 0800hrs, 7 December 1975.
    5: 0600hrs 7 December 1975 – smoke billowing from the centre of Dili, indicating that the battle was waging after the parachute units landed in Dili Town.
    6: Military equipment being loaded onto the “Teluk Bone” at Tailaco beach on 6 December 1975 for subsequent movement to Dili ((Note: I had previously incorrectly suggested that this was a photo of the Teluk Bone landing at Pantai Kelapa/Comoro)).
    7: The battle was quite violent in the Kampung Alor sector of Dili (7 December 1975).
    8. A section of airborne troops confronting a sudden attack from Tropas/Fretilin near the San Tai Ho shop in Dili.
    9. Marines on Comoro Beach (7 December 1975).
    11. Airborne troops in action at a street corner in Dili (7 December 1975).
    12. The Taiwanese Consul – Huang Yin Shuay, flanked by Kopassandha troops after Dili had been occupied.
    13. A parachutist experiencing a little difficulty after his parachute had become hooked on a electricity pole on the outskirts of Dili.
    14. Troops advancing towards Atabae.
    16. Marines engaged in the battle at the Biadaru River at Fatularan.
    17. Although on the morning of 7 December 1975, the city of Dili appeared deserted, in fact it was noisy with the sound of flying bullets.
    19. Saleh Kamah and Kopassandha troops at a street corner in Dili.
    20. A Fretilin artillery piece siezed in Dili ((ie an Obice 75mm howitzer)).
    26.Tanks and APCs entering Dili ((PT-76s and BTR-50PKs)).
    27. An amphibious tank in the scrub at Comoro Beach (7 December 1975) ((I believe that your photograph is probably a “reverse image” as the sub-hatch is on the “wrong side” of the cupola)).
    29. An armoured car on operations between Balibo and Maliana (October 1975).
    30. A tank advancing to its objective at Fatularan. ((PT-76))
    31. The Apodeti and UDT flags gloriously flying above the fort at Batugade (October 1975) – ((Note: this is the “top half” of photograph No.38)).
    32. Major General Moerdani accompanied by Colonel Dading Kalbuadi and Colonel Rodolf [sic] Kasenda inspecting Joint Forces fighting in Dili.
    33. Colonel Dading Kalbuadi leading an attack near Palaka/Fatularan.
    34. An Apodeti/UDT attack in the Palaka sector.
    35. Mario Congcalves [sic] – the raja of Atasabe (an Apodeti leader) inspecting his forces after an engagement in the battle against Fretilin. ((ie Guilherme Maria Goncalves))
    36. The UDT Commander Lopes da Crus [sic] congratulating his troops on the success on the battlefield. ((Lopes da Cruz))
    37. Apodeti, UDT, KOTA and Trabalista [sic] troops – complete with their weapons, after successfully liberating Batugade from Fretilin’s grip. ((Trabalhista))
    38. The Apodeti and UDT flags gloriously flying above the fort at Batugade (October 1975) – ((Note: this is the “bottom half” of photograph No.31)).
    41. The Fretilin flag that was successfully seized at Atabae.
    42. The five Australian journalists died in this burnt-out building.
    43. Apodeti and UDT troops during an attack in the Batugade-Balibo sector (October 1975).
    44. At a location near Balibo where an engagement took place between Fretilin units and Apodeti-UDT. Colonel Sinaga is shown in glasses.
    46. Captain Martino da Silva (right) – a Fretilin officer, after surrendering in the Atabae sector.
    47. An emergency church in Comoro. Hundreds of people sought protection in this church.
    48. The wharf at Dili immediately after a quite difficult battle.
    49. Dili citizens of Chinese descent that had come to seek the protection of the Joint Forces after the town of Dili had been successfully liberated from the grip of Fretilin.
    50. East Timorese children in Dili under the protection of – and being assisted by, the Joint Forces.
    51. Arnaldo dos Reis Araujo – the Apodeti leader, immediately after being freed from the Dili jail by Joint Forces. On the left of Araujo are Colonel Sinaga and Colonel Rudolf Kasenda.
    52. Youth who had become members of Fretilin units surrendering soon after the town of Dili had come under the control of the Joint Forces.

    Best wishes, Ernie Chamberlain

  9. Joana Ruas says:

    Alô Ernie Chamberlain
    As suas informações a partir da análise interpretativa destas fotografias formam uma extraordinária base para a reconstituição dos acontecimentos havidos entre 7 e 8 de Dezembro de 1975.Estes pequenos apontamentos da sua autoria dão-nos pistas para o preenchimento de lacunas nos relatos escritos.Talvez porque a fotografia com muitas armas mas com rostos,nos contam cada uma a sua história.Best Wishes,dear Ernie.
    Joana Ruas

  10. IWAN KAMAH says:

    That’s right Mike. Some of the rare photographs during Indonesian invasion can be found in my uncle’s book. I’d seen the rest. He want to make reprinted in next future.

    Thank you.

  11. James says:

    8 years past, but considering that Google has discontinued Picasa can you transfer the album into another host?

  12. Cristóvão Fausto Guterres says:

    Hi, we are planning to used some of the photos, but we concerned about the photo credit and the licence to use the photo in some of the internal report. Which office or institutions that I can go to response to my question in Timor-Leste? August 2019. Hope to get any response soon.

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