Sunday History Photo..NT

Submitted: Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 04:24
ThreadID: 65985 Views:7372 Replies:11 FollowUps:5
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On this coming Thursday 19th February will be the 67th year since Darwin was attacked by the Japanese Naval Air Force.

On Thursday, 19 February 1942, the population of Darwin was only about 2000. Most of the women had been evacuated to the south as Allied armies in South-East Asia succumbed to Japan's apparently invincible soldiers and Darwin came within range of Japanese warplanes based on forward airstrips in conquered areas of the Dutch East Indies. Australia's military leaders had given little serious thought to the defence of Darwin, believing that it would not be seen as a threat to Japan. They were wrong
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The first notice of the Japanese attack received by the hapless citizens of Darwin was the terrifying sound of falling bombs. Within two hours of the first attack, Japanese aircraft struck Darwin again.188 naval aircraft led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida inflicted heavy damage on Darwin and sank nine ships. A raid conducted by 54 land based bombers later the same day inflicted further damage on the town and RAAF Base.
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Owing to the lack of response to Father McGrath's warning, heavy damage was inflicted on the town, shipping in the harbour, and the RAAF airfield in the two initial air raids on 19 February. Eight ships were sunk in the harbour and many were damaged.The first raid was followed by twenty seven Betty-type bombers and twenty seven Nell-type bombers, a total of 54 heavy bombers (all manufactured by Mitsubishi) which arrived in one shining silver formation over Darwin at 12:00 noon. A Japanese dive bomber attacked and severely damaged the clearly marked hospital ship Manunda.
Nineteen Allied warplanes were destroyed on the ground at the RAAF base and civilian airstrip, including six front-line American P40 fighters. Four American P40s had been on patrol over Darwin. They were taken by surprise by Japanese Zero fighters and shot down. The Darwin post office took a direct hit from a bomb which killed 10 civilian employees. Two hundred and forty-three people were killed at Darwin on 19 February, and between 300 and 400 were wounded.
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The township was bleep tered by the bombing. It was the heaviest loss of life on Australian soil since European settlement in 1788, and the first time that an enemy nation had attacked our mainland. Although the bombing of Darwin was front page news in Australia next day, the full extent of the damage and loss of life was not revealed by the Curtin government.
The four Japanese aircraft carriers involved in the attack on Darwin were sunk during the Battle of Midway in June 1942.
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Reply By: Member - Craig M (QLD) - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 08:43

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 08:43
Keep up the good work Doug
I am enjoying your posts immensley.

AnswerID: 349122

Reply By: Member - KC (TAS) - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 08:45

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 08:45
Excellent DougT. More father was posted up there just after the first bombing. His brother was in the navy and the ship he was on was in the Harbour when another raid hit town..
Thanks for this...great stuff......
AnswerID: 349123

Reply By: Trevor R (QLD) - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 10:47

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 10:47
Good onya Doug, hopefully posts like this will serve as a good reminder to young fellas like me what our forefathers went through to leave us in the postion we are in today.

Darwin lost 10% of it's population that day and a further 20% injured.......what an unbelievable toll.

Cheers, Trevor.
AnswerID: 349150

Follow Up By: Member - Wayne David (NSW) - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 14:36

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 14:36
Trevor R (Qld)
You make a good point mate.

I for one definitely do appreciate what 'those who went before' sacrificed for us. But then I was lucky enough to have a Grandfather (a quite achiever type) who was able to put war and suffering into perspective. He even had good things to say about the enemy. How's that for perspective and balance?

So things like Doug's Darwin photo's, Anzac Day, passing a war memorial in a country town and seeing reports of our troops under fire overseas, makes me thankful to the past & present.

But then in this day and age of me, me, me....... how to keep that message being passed on to future generations? That's the real question.
FollowupID: 617418

Reply By: Member - Michael O (NSW) - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 15:12

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 15:12
Doug, it's interesting that the Curtin Government kept a lot of what went on up there quiet.

I can remember standing at the Adelaide River cemetery in 1987 on my way to a job in Darwin, and seeing a memorial there to the Post Office employees.

I was stunned that there was so much death and devastation in Darwin. I was 23 and had done history at school, but never was there any mention of the Darwin bombings, or any of the other raids on the Australian mainland.

Even this week, my Mr 9 is doing "Australian History" at primary school and it still doesn't rate a mention...

Monday I have Friday on my mind...
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AnswerID: 349196

Reply By: Max - Sydney - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 19:13

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 19:13
The Government sure covered it up. My Uncle was in the army and transferred to Darwin after the raids, but Mum explained to me after the war that he was never in great danger - there were only 9 people killed and that on the first day.

The propaganda stayed that way until the 30 year limit on making archives public was reached - in 1972 - and people first found out the true toll. My Uncle certainly never said anything, so we don't know how tough it was for him as he is long gone.

The Territory Museum in Darwin has a great display of the facts of those raids and the major attack it turned out to be. In fact for any visitor to Darwin darn near a day can be spent in that museum getting to know some of our history.

Thanks Doug for a beaut overview of it all.

AnswerID: 349253

Reply By: Member - Ian W (NSW) - Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 20:39

Sunday, Feb 15, 2009 at 20:39
Interesting to see some real facts about the raids.

Following that first series of raids the town was in chaos and many "people" did "shoot through".
The Yanks were threatening to take over control of the wharves and harbour. My father who was a merchant ships officer with experience in managing wharves and stevedores was sent up there to help get the harbour/wharfies back working.

He sailed from Sydney on a coastal steamer to Adelaide in company of "Diver Johnson" the diver who salvaged the gold from the "Niagara" that went down off New Zealand. I don't recall exactly how they did the rest of the trip but have a recollection that it may have been train to Alice Springs at least.

The old man said that Darwin was all but wiped out. Civilian losses not to mention armed forces were very high. Morale was at rock bottom with some troops, a minority, held at their posts at gun point.

For many many years he was told that he was bull bleep ting, that Darwin only experienced "nuisance" air raids. He experienced the later raids on the harbour and town, but was often accused of exaggerating because he had "never seen service".

If I recall correctly the tonnage of bombs dropped and the number of aircraft involved in that first days rid alone far exceeded that of the Pearl Harbour attack.

AnswerID: 349263

Follow Up By: Off-track - Monday, Feb 16, 2009 at 12:24

Monday, Feb 16, 2009 at 12:24
I have also been told that there were more ships lost in the Darwin raids than there were at Pearl.

Pearl however suffered much greater losses in tonnage of ships and lives of course.
FollowupID: 617610

Reply By: Rod, Sydney - Monday, Feb 16, 2009 at 08:07

Monday, Feb 16, 2009 at 08:07
Hi. This is one of the reasons I am enthusiastic about the movie "Australia" - it helps bring some focus on WWII in Australia.

There are now some very good books about the transport convoys to Darwin, the airbases around Darwin and the other towns that were bombed. Essential reading for all travellers!

Rod, Perth

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AnswerID: 349329

Follow Up By: Noel - Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 18:42

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 18:42

Having lived in Darwin (June 1981 Oct 1987, with 14 months in The Alice prior to leaving the Top End) I can attest to the above.

For the past five years I have been researching the NSW Tocumwal "McIntyre Field" of WWII. A heavy bomber & storage area covering 25 square miles.

Much information can be gleaned from the Australian National Archives.

Was anyone aware of the diplomatic struggles prior to & during WWII, that Australia was having with the Japanese?.
A certain WA harbour & yearly quantity of iron ore soil was almost legally the property of our enemy!.

Please keep up this excellent work. How do I look back through previous articles??


Noel Brettoner
FollowupID: 618209

Follow Up By: Rod, Sydney - Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 19:43

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 19:43
Hi Noel.

I have a picture of the aircraft hangers at Tocumwal in my profile - my father in law was a mechanic on B24 Liberators and spent some time in Tocumwal as well as in the Islands.

Tocumwal, Oaklands etc - they all have a good story to tell.

Rod, Perth

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FollowupID: 618225

Follow Up By: Noel - Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 22:28

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 22:28
Hi Rod,

Nice sunset shot there. Good to be reminded of some lovely parts of our wonderful country.
I lived in Deniliquin NSW (Jan 1962 to Dec 1967), before moving back to Sydney. Jan 2008 I returned 'home' to Oz, after 20 years in NZ.

Could you email me directly please. As I am only a visitor on this site, I cannot send you an IM.

I would like to continue our contact, but not clutter up this excellent thread.
BTW could you tell me please, how do I look at previous articles here?.
FollowupID: 618271

Reply By: maztez2 - Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 19:11

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 19:11
Some very interesting history here .Having lived in Darwin from the late 60's to1978 we were privaleged to be witness to the efforts of our forebears both military and civilian in the protection of our northern lands .
Early in the 70's they blew up the last remaining submarine nets in Darwin harbour and for a time ,air raid sirens were still tested each month .
The museum at East Point was a very interesting display and to explore the gun emplacements was almost a ritual .
My father was an intelligence officer and for a while was based in Darwin to enable sub trips to Timor etc .
I look forward to more history on this great site .

cheers Terry
AnswerID: 349917

Reply By: Member - Dennis P (Scotland) - Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 19:28

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 19:28
Story on this in NT News,



AnswerID: 349920

Reply By: Member - Chris B (SA) - Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 21:39

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 21:39
Doug & Dusty,
Excellent, I lived in the Top End for over 31 years, this is great, thanks.

AnswerID: 349953

Reply By: NoelH - Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 21:40

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009 at 21:40
For the full story on the raids and what happened afterwards read Douglas Lockwood's Book, Australia's Pearl Harbour, Darwin 1942.

Should be compulsory reading for all schools.
AnswerID: 349954

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