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Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich
Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich
Born (1886-10-11)October 11, 1886
Died 20 September 1962(1962-09-20) (aged 75)
Place of birth Semarang, Indonesia
Place of death The Hague, Netherlands
Allegiance  Netherlands
Service/branch  Royal Netherlands Navy
Years of service 1907 - 1948
Rank Lieutenant Admiral
Battles/wars World War II

Luitenant-Admiraal Conrad Emil Lambert Helfrich, GNL, KCB (October 11, 1886 – September 20, 1962) of the Royal Netherlands Navy was a leading Dutch naval figure of World War II. He was born in Semarang.

"In the early 1920s, when he was teaching other young sprouts at Den Helder, his favorite lecture was on the coming war between the U.S. and Japan. "When?" his students would ask him, and he would boom: "In this generation." Then he would stride to a blackboard map and chalk three Xs— on Pearl Harbor, the Panama Canal, San Francisco. 'There,' he would say, 'the attacks will fall.' "[1]

Helfrich was appointed overall commander of all forces in the Netherlands East Indies in October 1939.[2] At the outbreak of the war in the Pacific he gave instructions to wage war aggressively. His small force of submarines sank more Japanese ships in the first weeks of the war than the entire British and US navies together, an exploit which earned him the nickname "Ship-a-day Helfrich".[3] Admiral Helfrich worked tirelessly to establish co-operation with the Allied navies in the area since he knew that the Dutch could not hope to protect the Dutch East Indies by themselves.

Vice Adm. Conrad E.L. Helfrich and United States Navy Admiral Thomas C. Hart

When a combined command (ABDA) was finally created in January 1942, he was bypassed for the post of commander of the navy, in favour of Admiral Thomas C. Hart of the United States Navy. Helfrich's mission to defend Java at all costs clashed with Hart's desire to conserve as many naval units as possible. On February 12, 1942, Helfrich succeeded Hart as commander of the American-British-Dutch-Australian naval forces in the Pacific and immediately went on the offensive.[3] Unfortunately, the courage of the 'Striking Force' was to no avail in the face of the overwhelming superiority of the Japanese navy and after the disastrous Battle of the Java Sea most of the ABDA ships under his command had been put out of action and ABDA itself was dismantled. Helfrich spent the remainder of the war in Ceylon preparing the return of Dutch administration to the Dutch East Indies.

Tokyo Bay, Japan -- Surrender of Japanese aboard USS "Missouri." Luitenant-Admiraal C.E.L. Helfrich, representing the Kingdom of the Netherlands, signs the instrument of surrender. He is being watched by a compatriot and by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander, at the microphone.

In 1945, he was given command of all Dutch naval forces and promoted to Luitenant-Admiraal. On September 2, 1945, he signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.[2]

He remained in command until his retirement from the navy on January 1, 1949.[2]

He wrote his memoires which were published in 1950 and died in the Hague, on September 20, 1962.[2]

Honours and awards

For his services during the World War, Helfrich received several awards. He was Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau with Swords, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion, Honorary Knight Commander of the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (UK) and awarded the Silver Cross (5th grade) of the Virtuti Militari (Poland).


External links

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