Crisis in a Backwater 1941 in Portuguese Timor

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Robert Lee, Lusotopie 2000 : 175-189

Crisis in a Backwater

1941 in Portuguese Timor


uring 1941 the hitherto neglected and obscure Portuguese colony in Timor became the object of international attention as a possible flashpoint for the coming war in the Pacific and, by consequence, a centre of espionage and intrigue. For the Japanese, Portuguese Timor represented an opportunity, a neutral colony where they could reasonably expect some hospitality in the midst of the Dutch possessions whose resources – above all oil – they so desperately needed. For the Allies, the colony was thus a threat – a potential Japanese base for espionage or, at worst, military action against these same Dutch possessions. These fears were intensified both by Portugal’s status as a neutral power in the European war and by the quasi-fascist nature of the Salazar dictatorship. Indeed, among the Allies there was concern that some fascistically-inclined Portuguese colonial officials might be sympathetic to the Japanese.

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