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Doorman, Karel Willem Frederick Marie (1889-1942)


Photograph of Karel W.F.M. Doorman

NetherlandsNavy.nl. Fair use may apply.

Doorman one of the pioneering naval aviators of the Dutch navy, surviving 33 emergency landings before attended the Naval Staff College in 1921. He served with the naval department at Batavia and commanded destroyers and cruisers prior to taking command of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service in the Netherlands East Indies in 1938.

By 1941 Doorman was a rear admiral in command of all Dutch naval forces in the Netherlands East Indies. For political reasons, Doorman was placed in command of the combined ABDA naval squadron defending the islands. This was a nearly hopeless task, as the ships had had no experience working together, used different equipment, and had different communications protocols. As a result, the Allied squadron was soundly defeated in the Battle of the Java Sea, and Doorman chose to go down with his flagship.

The famous American historian Samuel Eliot Morison obliquely criticized Doorman in his monumental history of the naval war, charging that he was inexperienced and not sufficiently aggressive. This assessment does not stand up well. Doorman had been a naval officer for 32 years and had been one of the first flying instructors in the Dutch Navy. If anything, his conduct as a commander reflects an element of recklessness, perhaps reflecting the desperation of the Dutch to defend Java. Given the disadvantages under which he operated, it would have been remarkable if Doorman had achieved much more than he did.

Karel (1999) describes him as "a very special and very difficult man" in poor health from tropical dysentery, but praises him for his airmindedness.

Service record

1889-4-23     

Born at Utrecht
1910-8-24
Ensign
Coastal defense ship Tromp
1912-8-24
Lieutenant

1914-4

CL Noord Brabant
1915-8

Flight training
1916

Instructor, flight school
1917-8-18

Commander, De Mok Naval Air Station
1920

Executive officer, De Kooy Naval Air Station
1920-11-1
Lieutenant commander      
Commander, De Kooy Naval Air Station
1921-11-2

Naval War College, The Hague
1923

Staff, Navy Ministry, Batavia
1926-5-14

Coastal defense ship Zeven Provincien
1928-3-12

Head, Technical Department, The Hague
1928-4-14

Executibe officer, De Kooy Naval Air Station
1932

Commander, CM Prins van Oranje
1933-2-1
Commander
Commander, DD Witte de With
1934

Commander, Destroyer Division 1
1934-6

Chief of staff, Den Helder Naval Base
1937-9-6
Captain

1937-10-25

Commander, CL Sumatra
1938-6-15

Commander, CL Java
1938-8-17

Commander, Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service
1940-6-17 Rear admiral     
Commander, Netherlands East Indies Naval Forces
1942-2-28      

Killed in action

References

Klemen (1999; accessed 2012-4-19)

Morison (1948)

NetherlandsNavy.nl (accessed 2012-4-19)



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