Semut: The Untold Story of a Secret Australian Operation in WWII Borneo
Narrated By: ,
Date: July 2021
Duration: 13 hours 53 minutes
March 1945. A handful of very young Allied operatives are parachuted into the remote jungled heart of the Japanese-occupied island of Borneo, east of Singapore, there to recruit the island's indigenous Dayak peoples to fight the Japanese. Yet most speak next to no Borneo languages and know little about Dayaks, other than that they were once headhunters who might kill them on arrival. For their part, some Dayaks have never before seen a white face.
This is the story of Operation Semut, an Australian secret military operation launched by the organisation popularly known as Z Special Unit in the final months of WWII. Anthropologist Christine Helliwell has called on her years of first-hand knowledge of Borneo, interviewed more than one hundred Dayak people and all the remaining Semut operatives, and consulted thousands of military and other documents to piece together this astonishing story. Focusing on two of Borneo's great rivers - the Baram and Rejang - the book provides a detailed military history of Semut II's and Semut III's brutal guerrilla campaign against the Japanese, and reveals the decisive but long-overlooked Dayak role in the operation.
But this is no ordinary history. Helliwell captures vividly the terrors of the jungle environment into which the operatives are plunged. And she takes us into the lives and cavernous longhouses of the Dayaks on whom their survival depends. The result is a truly unique account of the meeting of two very different cultures amidst the savagery of the Pacific War.