Areas struck by bombs during 58 raids between 1942 1944
Bofors anti-aircraft guns
Oil storage tanks
Vesteys meat works
Darwin Civil Aerodrome
Bofors anti-aircraft guns
w Series 12
In February 1942 Australians were stunned when Japanese aircraft descended on Darwin, bombing the town. It was the first time enemy bombs had fallen on Australia. The raid came 10 weeks after Japanese
forces bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, bringing the United States into World War II. But while the details of Pearl Harbor were widely publicised and used to recruit for the war against Japan, many details of the raid on Darwin were covered up at the time. Another 63 raids on Darwin followed over the next year. Japanese bombing raids also extended to other parts of northern Australia, including Broome and Townsville.
Darwin Post Office destroyed by Japanese bombs in the first raid on Australian soil on February 19, 1942. Killing the postmaster, his family and several staff members
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Prime minister John Curtin, February 20, 1942
We must face this test with fortitude
and fight grimly and unflinchingly. Australian
forces and civilians conducted themselves
with gallantry. Darwin had been bombed, but
Lead-up to attacksThe attacks on Darwin came as part of Japanese conquests in South-East Asia, particularly against China, since the early 1930s. Japan had occupied Indo-China and Thailand in 1941. Since the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Japan had also taken Hong Kong, Malaya and the Australian territory of New Britain. Japanese forces were advancing into the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia). Four days before the attacks, Japanese forces had captured Singapore. Military strategists say Japan had no intention of landing in Australia, but wanted to seize raw materials and economic resources in South-East Asia and secure a defensible perimeter around the region. Darwin was a major Allied (Australian, British and US) base. Ships and planes based there were supporting the defenders of Timor, which was to fall within a week, and Java, which was overwhelmed by the end of February. Darwin was attacked to support Japans seizure of the Netherlands East Indies.
SoURcES & FURThER STUDYBooksAn Awkward Truth by Peter Grose (Allen & Unwin)Australias Military History For Dummies by David Horner (Wiley)The Encyclopaedia of Australias Battles by Chris Clark (Allen & Unwin)WebsitesThe Bombing of Darwin http://orford.tased.edu.au/bombing%20of%20dawin.htmAustralian War Memorial http://www.awm.gov.au/units/event_59.asp
WarningsAn Australian coastwatcher on Melville Island, off Darwin, reportedly spotted the Japanese planes at about 9.15am. Father John McGrath, a Catholic priest and missionary on Bathurst Island, sent a message: An unusually large air formation bearing down on us from the northwest. Darwin received both warnings at least twice by radio, no later than 9.37am. But the Australian duty officer assumed the reports referred to returning US fighters and its B-17 escort. The warnings were not acted upon.
T h e b o m b i n g o f
HMAS Southern CrossHMAS Katoomba
MV Tulagi(beached) USAT Meigs
12,568 tons (sunk)
SS Mauna Loa5436 tons (sunk)
SS Benjamin Franklin(damaged) SS Admiral
HMAS KirraSS Barossa (damaged)
MV Neptuna 5952 tons (sunk)
HMAS Swan (damaged)HMAS Warrego
HMAS DeloraineHMAS Platypus (damaged)
MV Neptuna 5952 tons (sunk)
HMAS Platypus (damaged)HMAS Mavie (sunk)
SS Zealandia 6683 tons (sunk)
USS Peary 1190 tons (sunk)
Supply Hulk Kelat (sunk)USS William B Preston(damaged)
USN PBY5 Catalina flying boats (3 sunk)
SS Port Mar (beached)
SS British Motorist (sunk)
Oil storage areaSunk
HS Manunda (damaged)
To Adelaide River
FirST raiD: 9.58am, February 19, 1942A bomb blast near Stokes Hill wharf shattered the sunny peace of Darwin Harbour, crowded with 47 naval and merchant ships.Nine low-flying Japanese Zero fighters
launched the attack, strafing minesweeper HMAS Gunbar.
Within minutes the wharf was burning, two ships at the wharf
had been hit and one was on fire. Ships in the harbour were also hit. Two American destroyers were blazing and one bomb narrowly missed an Australian hospital ship, the Manunda.The first raid, with 188 aircraft which approached from the southeast, continued for about 40
minutes. It targeted the harbour, military and civil
aerodromes, the harbour front and Berrimah hospital.
The first planes took off from four Japanese aircraft-carriers, Carrier
Division 1 (Akagi and Kaga) and Carrier Division 2 (Hiryu and Soryu) in the Arafura Sea off the eastern tip of Timor at 8.45am, the fleet was
commanded by Vice-Admiral Chuichi Nagumo. Leading the raid from the air was Japanese naval Commander Mitsuo Fuchida who had also led the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
SECOnD raiD: 11.15amIt lasted about 20 minutes and involved high altitude bombing of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Parap. This wave of 54 planes, consisting of G4M Betty and G3M Nell bombers, was launched from airfields at Kendari in the Celebes and from Ambon, off Indonesia. Their target was the RAAF airfield. The raiders destroyed hangars, aircraft, barracks, officers quarters and the mess hall. At least six people were killed.
SEcond raidLaunched from airfields in the Celibes and Ambon27 G4M1 Betty Bombers27 G3M Nell Bombers
FirSt raidLaunched from aircraft carriers. It came in over Shoal Bay, turning northwest over Noonamah and up the harbour81 B5N Kate bombers71 D3A Val dive bombers36 A6M2 Zero fighters
CasualtiesThe two raids killed between 243 and 270 people, including 68 civilians, and wounded between 300 and 400. Dive-bomb, pattern bomb and machine-gun
sweeps destroyed 20 military aircraft, sunk eight ships anchored in the harbour, damaged 11 ships and damaged or destroyed most civil and military facilities in Darwin.At least 21 labourers, some trapped on the open
wharf when a section was destroyed, perished.A one-tonne bomb that fell on the postmasters house, adjacent to the post office, killed nine people, including the postmaster, his wife and daughter, and six female telephonists.Allied forces also downed at least four Japanese
planes, killing 32 unidentified Japanese airmen.
Did you know?
n On February 10, the Japanese sent a Mi
C5M reconnaissance aircraft of the 3rd Ko
based at Ambon, over Darwin. It spotted 2
in the harbour and about 30 aircraft at the
Civil and RAAF airfields.
n Police officer E. A. McNab wrote that
burst near by. It made a crater 25ft (abou
t 7.6m) and
14ft (about 4.2m) deep. I was bomb shocke
d and had
some ribs broken and was spitting blood, b
ut I can
remember getting around after the others
. He then
helped attend to the wounded and went t
o the police
quarters where he dug out mangled bodies
n On January 5, 1942, Berlin radio report
Darwin had been twice attacked by Japane
planes. Australian army minister Frank Fo
said the Axis (Germans) were making fals
announcements in the hope that
denials would include
n The Japanese dropped 683 bombs on D
February 1942, far more than the 271 drop
Pearl Harbour. The Darwin raid killed mor
and sunk more ships than the Pearl Harbo
But larger bombs were used in Pearl Harb
destroy bigger ships.
n A report found poor leadership and dis
after the bombing raids led to drunkness,
and unauthorised actions by servicemen,
soldiers advising residents to flee the tow
saw a stream of cars, cyclists and pedestr
heading south past the Adelaide River in s
reminiscent of images of European war re
n Eight days after the attack, the HMAS M
which had been in Darwin during the bomb
berthed in Fremantle, where chief officer T
heard prime minister Curtin announce that
had been bombed, injuring 35 people. Fun
he thought. We had 200 wounded on the
Curtin also said the results of the raid we
re not such
as to give any satisfaction to the enemy.
enemy must have been very hard to
please, Minto said.
rescuesThe crew of hospital ship HMAS Manunda manned a motor life-boat and picked up more than 30 badly wounded and burnt men. Other