As soon as he received word of the Japanese landing on Bali, Dutch Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, commander of the American-British-Dutch-Australia (ABDA) surface force, ordered a naval attack into Lombok Strait in hopes of destroying the Japanese invasion force. U.S. submarine attacks had earlier failed, largely because of faulty torpedoes, although Allied air strikes had damaged one Japanese transport that was escorted by two Japanese destroyers of Captain Abe Toshio's Destroyer Division 8.
Three waves of Allied warships attacked the two Japanese destroyers. Doorman led the first wave, consisting of the Dutch light cruisers De Ruyter and Java and three destroyers (one Dutch and two American) in a lengthy line-ahead formation at approximately 11:00 p.m. on 19 February. The two Japanese destroyers returned fire, disabling by gunfire the Dutch destroyer Piet Hein and then sinking her with torpedoes. After the first Allied attack had passed through the strait, the Japanese destroyers exchanged fire with one another, although without damage.
The second Allied attack wave arrived at about 1:30 a.m. on 20 February. It consisted of four American destroyers, followed by the small Dutch light cruiser Tromp. An exchange of gunfire and torpedoes at ranges as close as 2,000 yards resulted in damage to several Allied ships, including the Tromp, and both Japanese destroyers. The remaining two destroyers of Abe's Division 8 now arrived in Lombok Strait to reinforce.
Abe steamed in the opposite direction among three of the Allied destroyers and the Tromp. The Japanese destroyer Michishio was heavily damaged in the exchange of fire, with 96 killed and wounded. Both sides then disengaged. The third attacking Allied wave arrived in the strait about 5:30 a.m. It consisted of seven Dutch motor-torpedo boats, but these failed to locate the Japanese.
The Battle of Lombok forced the Tromp to steam for Australia and repairs, and the two Japanese destroyers returned to Japan for the same purpose. The damaged U.S. destroyer Stewart would enter dry dock at Surabaya in the Netherlands East Indies, where she was captured by the Japanese and recommissioned in their navy as a patrol ship. The mix of Allied ships manned by exhausted crews was insufficient to deter the Japanese from their advance on Java. A lack of Allied training, faulty tactics that did not allow for a coordinated attack, and poor luck accounted for this Allied defeat.
Dull, Paul S. A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941–1945). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1978.; Greene, Jack. The Midway Campaign, December 7, 1941–June 6, 1942. Rev. ed. Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, 1995.; Kirby, S. Woodburn. The War against Japan. Vol. 1. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1957.; Womack, Tom. "Naval Duel off Bali." World War II 10, no. 6 (February 1996): 50–56.