Gun trucks in Surinam and on Java
K.N.I.L. (that was not only supposed to defend the East Indies, but also Surinam in South America)
intensively used light trucks, fitted with heavy AA machine guns to protect its troops, columns,
airbases, etcetera against enemy planes. Truck brands used were Ford, Ford/
Marmon-Herrington, Chevrolet and Opel. The latter two brands were imported in the Dutch East
Indies through the General Motors assembly plant at Tandjong Priok, the port of the capital
Batavia, now Jakarta. Most types were commercially available, some were purpose-built types.
In 1939 Surinam Governor Kielstra complained to the
Dutch government that he had no money and means
to defend the colony in the case of war, after which
he received NLG 100.000 for which he bought six of
these vehicles in 1940 among other things (JJ Nortier
in Stabelan Magazine). According to Bart Vanderveen
(picture), this was a 1/2 ton Ford 19c truck, modified
by Marmon-Herrington as a Machine gun truck (but
still 4x2). The truck was also fitted with stabilizing
The vehicle was nothing more that a chassis/cowl Ford commercial vehicle.
Simple wooden benches were fitted for the 3 men crew. A Colt-Browning .50
water-cooled heavy anti-aircraft machine gun was placed on a high mount.
The gunner hung himself in leather straps to move freely with the gun (Picture
from the Beeldbank/National Archives). For a colour picture of this truck and
more information on Marmon-Herrington trucks see Hanno Spoelstra's
A little later during the war Ford GTB's entered service with the
Dutch forces in Surinam, but we do not know at which stage. On
the picture, a tank unit (with Marmon-Herrington gun tanks)
prepares to move out the main barracks in the capital
Paramaribo. A platoon of 5 Ford GTB's (one with winch, four
with water-cooled .50) is ready to roll. There is little information,
but presumably these vehicles received the guns of the by then
obsolete Ford trucks (picture: Beeldbank/National Archives).
April 2005 picture of the month is a Ford guntruck
shot in Suriname during WW2. The truck appears to
be a Marmon-Herrington 4x4 conversion, fitted with a
watercooled Colt-Browning anti-aircraft machinegun.
It looks like a local job, with improvised troop
seats.K.N.I.L. used similarly converted trucks on Java
See also the guntrucks chapter on this site. Picture
courtesy Hans Heesakkers.
Back to Java, where K.N.I.L. had some experience with machine gun trucks of their own make.
In the late nineteen thirties the four Infantry regiments on Java (1, 2, 4, 6) all received a motorised
Afdeling Pantser- en Luchtafweer (APLA), or Anti-tank and Anti-aircraft Company. This regimental
unit was equipped with 6 Boehler 4,7cm AT guns (with Vickers tractors) and 9 light trucks with water
cooled .50 Colt-Browning heavy AA machine guns, fitted on an ex-naval mount. By January 1942
there was a total of 42 PLA-wagens (as these vehicles were called), distributed over the 4
regiments in this way: 15 in PLA-1, 9 each in PLA-2, PLA-4 and PLA-6.
In the fighting on Java many PLA-wagens saw action and the well-trained crews managed to shoot
down several planes. Read more on these units here.
Chevrolet 1940 model light
trucks or pick-ups (called
autolette in the Indies) were
mostly used. The design was
simple. The civilian style chassis
with cab received a wooden
body with low dropsides (picture
from Tanda Mata KNIL).
Another type of light vehicle used was the 1935 Opel
P4 delivery van (Lieferwagen) chassis. This vehicle
was significantly smaller and had no cab. Adam Opel
AG exported worldwide under orders of the Third
Reich from 1935. Right hand drive Opels were
exported everywhere including the UK, and this
would have been a Lieferwagen imported as a
chassis-cab by General Motors Java. According to
David Hayward, GM historian, Opel exported 10,676
Opels to the NEI and Indonesia from 1912 to 1962.
Another shot of the same
vehicle. All Opel pictures
show the APLA unit stationed
at Bandung before WW2.
These are still the nineteen
thirties: the troops are
wearing their peaked caps.
Later, in 1941-42 the crew
would have worn helmets
(picture from Tanda Mata
September 1941, the
big K.N.I.L. parade at
Batavia. Two heavy .50
machine guns have
been fitted on a
Chevrolet 1940 model
as used by K.N.I.L. and
its auxiliary forces
(Picture from Orient
trucks, guns and men
probably belonged to
the AA Battalion
stationed in Batavia.
In 1941 the Dutch authorities
purchased a number of these 4x4
LLDMG5-4 light trucks, similiar to
the ones used by the US Marines
at the time (picture through Bill
The vehicles were to be armed with 3 machine guns. "Its
intended use was to protect emergency landings, temporary
landing fields, fuel and ammunition dumps, etc. (Hanno
Spoelstra)". The machine guns were fitted on a dash mount, an
AA mount rear and a high mount to the right of the driver
respectively. The trucks were probably ordered for use in the
Netherlands East Indies, though we have no proof the vehicles
actually arrived before the Fall of Java. Some reportedly ended
up in Australia, where at least one truck survives.
Judging from the description of their use, it is likely the
vehicles were intended for territorial units and not for front
line troops. The unarmoured vehicles had to rely on speed.
This picture (Fred Crismon) shows an earlier model, in
service with US Army as training vehicle, but originally
designed as escort and anti-aircraft trucks. Note how the
crew in action is exposed to enemy fire.
A little off topic, but no less interesting is this picture (for the month of
June 2005). It has been published twice recently. Once in "Odyssee van
een Marinier" by Dutch Marine Arie van Wijk and once in "Het Korps
Mariniers in de Twintigste Eeuw. Van Peking tot Albanie" by the Dutch
Navy. It shows two of the 5 or 6 vehicles used by the Dutch Marines
stationed on Curacao in the 1930s. Both trucks are US sourced
Internationals. The trucks are loaded with AA-machineguns on a Navy
mount, probably just for the occasion.