Transport vehicles: Chevrolet 4x2 trucks
Tandjong Priok, the large port of the Dutch East Indies capital Batavia (Djakarta), saw the advent of a
large assembly plant of General Motors in 1927. This factory would produce large amounts of GM
products throughout the 1930s: mainly Chevrolets, but also Opels. This picture (by KNIL-Militaire
Luchtvaart) shows the plant around 1935. Note the test range on the far side of the factory grounds.
During WW2 GM would play a keyrole in supplying K.N.I.L. with much desired transport.
The first evidence of K.N.I.L. using GM products hails from the early 1930s. We have seen the GMC T18
6x4 artillery tractors and many ambulance variants. Later Chevrolet and Opel staff cars and gun trucks
were acquired (see the Overvalwagens! chapters on artillery tractors, staffcars, ambulances and gun
trucks). On this enlarged picture (from Heshusius/Zwitzer) a 1932 Chevrolet truck participates in a parade
in Soerabaja in the late 1930s. It is towing a 40mm Bofors (not on the picture).
The Bofors crew is seated upright in three rows in the back of the truck on wooden boards. Well before
WW2 Chevrolet had become the favorite brand of K.N.I.L. vehicles. In local Malay it was often pronounced
The early years of K.N.I.L. motorisation saw the establishment of an Automobielcompagnie, later with
several detachments throughout Java. This was supplemented in the early 1930's by the Motordienst.
If transport was required for non-motorised units, commanders could call in the help of the Motordienst
to supply them with trucks. This picture (from Heshusius, het KNIL van Tempo Doeloe) shows a
Motordienst truck on Java in the 1930s. The troops sit facing backwards, ready to dismount, on
wooden improvised benches. They will have to hold on to their bamboo hats after departure!
Large K.N.I.L. parades were held annually in various places (Batavia,
Bandung/Andir AFB, Soerabaja). Several pictures of these parades survive and
they show most Chevrolet model years. Here one of many 1938 Chevrolets (and
the odd Ford - exceptions make the rule) can be seen towing searchlights.
The Australian Army captured this ex-K.N.I.L. 1938 Chevrolet truck from the Japanese Imperial Army
and brought it under new management (picture from the AWM site). It seems to be in pretty good
shape, though the grill has been removed, possibly to provide better cooling of the engine in the hot
tropical climate. K.N.I.L. Chevrolet trucks usually did not have their cab doors fitted. We have no
information, but K.N.I.L. truck cabs may have been of local fabrication, as most trucks arrived CKD
(completely knocked down) chassis and cowl at the GM assembly plant.
This is a lighter version of the Chevrolet truck: a 1939 pick-up or autolette. It has single rear wheels, a
short wooden body and the K.N.I.L. cab without doors (picture from Indisch Militair Tijdschrift). We have
seen this autolette also as guntruck and ambulance (see the respective pages). Again, vehicles of several
model years were used.
A lady of the volunteer Women's Drivers Corps moves a newly delivered and assembled
1940 Chevrolet chassis backwards around at the GM plant in Batavia.
The door-less cab is well visible.
A local product?
Most K.N.I.L. Chevrolet 1 1/2 ton trucks were probably equipped with dual rear wheels.
Picture from Bandjir.
Here's one during a parade in Bandung: a 1939 or 1940 Chevrolet right hand drive WB 1 1/2 ton 4x2 GS truck
with wooden stake and platform body, no cab doors, spare wheel mounted to the left of the cab, troops on
transverse benches (picture form Tanda Mata KNIL). The emblematic K.N.I.L. truck!
In 1942 K.N.I.L. probably possessed some 1700 1 1/2 ton Chevrolet trucks of 1940 and earlier models. A further
3000 trucks of various makes were confiscated from civilian and other sources.
There were survivors.
This picture from AWM shows just one of these in use with the allies
after the Japanese surrender.
This particular version has a low cargo (dropsides?) body.
But the typical K.N.I.L. cab gives its origins away.
1940 1 1/2 ton 4x2 Chevrolet COE (cab over engine or forward control) trucks were also delivered.
In fact they served as basis for the Braat overvalwagens (see the chapter on Army
This picture (through Hans Heesakkers) shows one of these trucks, albeit as a left hand drive
vehicle, in the Dutch West Indies (Antilles).
Newly delivered and assembled 1941 Chevrolets 1 1/2 ton 4x2 trucks, right hand drive
chassis/cowl driven by women drivers (picture from Bandjir). These trucks clearly shows their
civilian origin: lots of chrome. Note dual rear wheels.
K.N.I.L. 1941 and 1942 Chevrolets were delivered both as chassis/cowl and chassis/cab. All seem
to have been right hand drive trucks, with dual rear wheels. Delivery may have been a mixture
from US and Canadian sources and from both military and civilian stocks. We do not have exact
These chassis/cowl trucks have been converted to trooper trucks (manschappenauto's).
They are about to be handed over to the territorials of the Batavia Stadswacht.
Note the beautiful wooden troop benches. The chrome grill has been painted over.
Picture from Bandjir.
Before handing over the trucks, the ladies of the Women's Drivers Corps
made a propaganda run through Batavia city (source Bandjir).
These slightly different trucks (the seat configuration is not the same as the Batavia
Stadswacht trucks) are used to transport Dutch Marines from Soerabaja Naval Dockyard
in a demonstration for the international press (still from the BritishPathe film: Dutch
Marines land on Java).
These trucks were probably on loan from the Soerebaja Stadswacht as Dutch Marine
veterans do not recall these trucks in service with the Navy Battalion.
The Soerabaja Stadswacht on parade.
Note the trooper sitting on the side.
The Chevrolet trooper trucks operated in the Stadswacht mobile columns on a ratio of
two trooper trucks and one Overvalwagen, as was envisaged in the Stadswacht plans.
Total numbers of these trooper trucks may have been around 120 units.
Picture from Soerebaja: Beeld van een stad.
Parade of the Soerakarta Stadswacht in Central Java.
Note the ratio of one Overvalwagen and two unarmoured trooper
This picture stems from a Polish publication on the Imperial Japanese army in
WW2. It shows Japanese troopers apparently in New-Guinea. They are clearly
manning a Dutch East Indies Stadswacht Chevrolet trooper truck. Note the bench
configuration and the rear steps! These trucks must have been shipped out from
Java to New Guinea...
|Information from David Hayward, GM historian, reveals that at least two orders were placed by the Dutch authorities after 1940 for Chevrolet
trucks: one of 750 trucks and one of 2000! The first order must have been completed and must have consisted of 1941 models. The second
order was placed by February 1942 and cannot have been executed fully.
A week after Pearl Harbour the NEI carried out an emergency plan for the GM plant. All equipment at Batavia was loaded on a hundred newly
assembled trucks and these drove off to Central Java, to the isolated village of Wonosari near Djokjakarta, where a new camouflaged plant was
set up. 400 experienced workmen came with the plant and output was 15 vehicles per day rising soon to no less than 30 per day! Shipments came
in through the still safe port of Tjilatjap on Java's south coast.
Apparently drinking water had to be brought to Wonosari from miles away! There was no power, so diesel generators had to be commandeered
from all over Java. The staff improvised an open-sided teakwood cab with canvas cover, because steel was in short supply. The factory escaped
Japanese detection. After the fall of Java, the factory became a Japanese run facility, probably under Toyota management
Though it is not possible to identify this truck as a Chevrolet, this trooper truck in service with
the Navy Battalion in Eastern Java shows a simple improvised wooden body with canvas cover
(picture from a publication of the Mariniers Museum).
The Navy Battalion (a 400 men ad hoc unit created just before the invasion of Java that was
made up of the remaining Dutch Marines and local European conscripts) received its vehicles
through K.N.I.L. (see also the Jeeps chapter).
So K.N.I.L. may have used trucks with similar body types.
This picture (taken from Jacob Zwaan, Gouvernementeel Intermezzo) shows an ex-K.N.I.L.
Chevrolet truck loaded with Japanese troops entering Soerabaja in March 1942.
The truck must have been taken over by the Imperial Japanese Army on its way to the city,
a practice not uncommon to invading armies in a hurry that are short of transport.
Semarang, May 1942. A Japanese commander honors his
troops during a (victory?) parade in the occupied city.
The trucks look quite smart and may have been brand new.
Picture from Semarang: Beeld van een stad.
These trucks survived the war to be used again by the
allies on Bali in late 1945 (picture from Vrij!).
Note the Japanese star on top of the grill.
Another survivor, this time in Australian service.
This one looks slightly battered and the cab doors are
Picture from the AWM site.