Aichi ‘Val’ Dive-bomber D3A1 .Aichi ‘Val’ Dive-bomber D3A1 B5N Kate bomber from the first

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  • Areas struck by bombs during 58 raids between 1942 1944

    Coastal guns

    Anti-aircraft guns

    Bofors anti-aircraft guns


    Anti-aircraft guns

    Anti-aircraft guns

    Anti-aircraft HQ


    Post Office

    Court House

    Oil storage tanks

    Railway Hill

    China Town

    DarwinRailway Station

    Vesteys meat works

    Darwin Civil Aerodrome

    Bofors anti-aircraft guns




    Darwin Hospital

    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

    Cl@ssmateEmail Phone 9288 2542


    Editor: Troy Lennon Writer: Marea Donnelly Graphics: Paul Leigh and Will Pearce

    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

    not conquered.

    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 War Memorial

    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

    DarWinFrances Bay

    West PointAnt


    arine b

    oom ne



    Fannie Bay

    East Point

    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)

    Mangrove swamp

    Oil storage areaSunk



    HS Manunda (damaged)

    RAAF Base

    Stuart Highway

    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

    7 ships

    in the harbour and about 30 aircraft at the


    Civil and RAAF airfields.

    n Police officer E. A. McNab wrote that

    one bomb

    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

    s said

    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

    useful information.

    n The Japanese dropped 683 bombs on D

    arwin in

    February 1942, far more than the 271 drop

    ped on

    Pearl Harbour. The Darwin raid killed mor

    e civilians

    and sunk more ships than the Pearl Harbo

    r raid.

    But larger bombs were used in Pearl Harb

    or to

    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

    n. This

    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

    om Minto

    heard prime minister Curtin announce that


    had been bombed, injuring 35 people. Fun

    ny thing,

    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.

    Well, the

    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