A WWII Warship Disguised as an Island to Evade Enemy Attacks
In February 1942, in the midst of World War II, the Japanese fleet completely wrecked a combined Dutch-American-Australian-British fleet at the Battle of the Java Sea.
Only four Dutch warships were left in the Dutch East Indies and seeing that there’s no way they’ll be able to take down the Japanese fleet by themselves, they decided to try and escape to Australia.
There’s just one hitch: the seas were full of Japanese warships and the skies were swarming with Japanese planes. The chances of sailing through 1,000 miles of hostile ocean to safety were not looking good. Sure enough, all but one of the ships were sunk within days.
The only survivor was the minesweeper HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen. The ship had hardly any guns and was ponderously slow. The crew knew that making a run straight for Australia would mean getting spotted from the air and bombed into pieces.
So they got an idea: They would disguise their ship as an island. The crew went on to cut down trees and set them up on the deck to look like a jungle canopy. Vertical surfaces were painted to look like rock cliffs.
An island slowly moving toward Australia? Who would’ve thought this’ll work?
To avoid detection, they could only move after dark. During daylight hours the ship anchored close to shore to look like just another island. Since there are 17,508 islands in Indonesia, they were gambling that the Japanese probably wouldn’t notice that there were now 17,509, and one of them just happened to appear in a different place every day.
By patiently moving a little bit each night, the Abraham Crijnssen evaded a Japanese destroyer that sank some of the other ships trying to get away. No aircraft recognized that one of the islands below them was boat-shaped and had antennae and was changing places every night. After eight days, the ship reached Australia and fought with the Allies until the end of the war.