The Caledonia Company

Today’s post is written by Tina Ligon, a processing archivist in College Park.

The U.S. Navy Flag Files (RG 313) contain a myriad of information generated by high-level commanders. These records consist of intelligence reports, memorandums, administrative files, correspondence, and photographs related to such subjects as administration, logistics, and personnel. The Flag Files are divided into “Red”, records from commands that oversaw large geographic areas or operational theaters, including Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) and Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANT) and “Blue”, records from lower commands, which includes Commander, Service Forces, Pacific Fleet (COMSERVPAC) and Commander, Amphibious Training, Atlantic Fleet (COMPHIBTRALANT).

The processing of the Flag Files is always intriguing, challenging, and entertaining. I never know what to expect when surveying the contents of each box. I worked on “Red 179” Counter-Intelligence Files, ca. 1942-1945, (see citation below) which consisted of documents dealing with the day-to-day operations of the South Pacific Area (SOPAC). While processing this segment, I discovered investigation reports, memorandums, and personal data files about individual members of Persatoean Boedi Roekoen (Committee for the Defense of the Underprivileged), also known as the Caledonia Company (NFM: EF48-1 Dutch East Indies. Javanese).

The Caledonia Company was established by Wirjoseronto, an alleged Javanese Communist, in November 1929. The membership was composed mostly of the native peoples on New Caledonia, a small island just east of Australia. The memorandums and administrative notes revealed that several Japanese soldiers and Communists supported the group and the primary purpose of the Caledonia Company was to incite a revolution against the government of the Dutch East Indies. Leaders planned to achieve this objective by stealing arms, ammunition, and money, and sending it to workers in Java, who would lead the rebellion.

The documentation highlights the existence of this indigenous organization. Within the series are combined investigative reports from SOPAC, French officials, and confidential informants in New Caledonia. The investigation reports provide a detailed history of the Caledonia Company and describe the various activities of its members. The personal data sheets contains each known member’s photograph, employment information, physical description, and additional remarks such as prior arrests, work ethic, and their eligibility to remain in New Caledonia.

The Caledonia Company disbanded in December 1929 after several leaders were arrested for robbery. The investigation reports also showed that although the Caledonia Company was no longer active, former members in New Caledonia still participated in Communist activities. The majority of the membership was allowed to remain in New Caledonia and those who were ineligible were extradited to Java. The suspicious activity of remaining members caused SOPAC and other commands in the South Pacific to maintain pending case files that monitored their movement during the war years.

See: Counter-Intelligence Files, ca. 1942 – 1945 (NAID 5896718). Department of the Navy. Pacific Ocean Areas. Commander, South Pacific Area and Force. Record Group 313: Records of Naval Operating Forces.