The Japanese bombing of Darwin, Broome and northern Australia
Merchant vessels Barossa and Neptuna burning in Darwin Harbour near the jetty after receiving direct hits during the first Japanese air raid on 19 February 1942.
Merchant vessels Barossa and Neptuna burning in Darwin Harbour near the jetty after receiving direct hits during the first Japanese air raid on 19 February 1942. SS Neptuna later exploded and sank while the Barossa was towed clear of the explosion and was later salvaged. Photograph courtesy of A Oliver and the Australian War Memorial: P02759.011.
During the Second World War, the Japanese flew 64 raids on Darwin and 33 raids on other targets in Northern Australia.
On 19 February 1942, 188 Japanese planes were launched against Darwin, whose harbour was full of Allied ships. It was the largest Japanese attack since Pearl Harbour, 7 December 1941, and followed a reconnaissance flight on 10 February 1942. On that day there were 27 Allied ships in the harbour and approximately 30 aircraft at the Darwin Civil and RAAF airfields.
The USS Houston convoy departed Darwin on 15 February 1942, followed by a Japanese flying boat which later engaged in an air strike. The USS Peary returned to Darwin on 19 February after an encounter with a possible Japanese submarine. On 19 February 1942 there were 46 ships packed into Darwin Harbour.
From the first raid on 19 February 1942 until the last on 12 November 1943, Australia and its allies lost about 900 people, 77 aircraft and several ships. Many military and civilian facilities were destroyed. The Japanese lost about 131 aircraft in total during the attacks.
At the time, there were many rumours alluding to the Australian Government's suppression of information about the bombings - it was thought that reports of casualties were intentionally diminished to maintain national morale.
Local sources estimated that between 900 and 1100 people were killed. For many years, government censorship...