World War II
On 17 December 1941 t he first of 400 men of the 2/2nd Independent Company began to arrive in Dili, violating Portuguese neutrality. Later, another 300 of the 2/4th Independent Company landed There were never more than 700 Australians on Timor at any one time.
Japan, which had respected the neutrality of other Portuguese possessions, decided to invade East Timor on 19 February 1942 in view of the Australian presence. For 14 months the Timorese befriended and supported the Australians by feeding, nursing, guiding, and logistics. The Australians remained a formidable fighting force as a result. Forty Australians died during the Timorese campaign. 1500 Japanese died.
Up to 60,000 East Timorese died because of Japanese reprisals and Allied aerial bombing.
Australian troops were withdrawn in February 1943, leaving a few Z Special Forces to report on Japanese positions. Some Australians are captured and tortured, compromising Defence communications. About 30 Australians were killed as a result. Japan remained in control until 1945.
Our Australian men owed their lives to the people of Timor. A returned serviceman said: “The only people I can’t look in the eye are the Timorese”.