The day they bombed Darwin.

Exactly 70 years ago today the Japanese attacked and devastated Darwin in a morning bombing raid.

Unlike Pearl Harbour the bombing of Darwin was not widely known. In fact the authorities in Australia played down the bombing fearing widespread panic throughout the rest of Australia.

Australia and in particular Darwin was ill prepared for such an event. With only a population of around 4000 the town relied on telegraph to communicate with the rest of Australia.

The attacks came in two waves about an hour apart.

After the attacks chaos took over and because of looting/troop desertion/ bad leadership among both civilian and military personnel what happened at Darwin that day was like a dirty secret to be kept from the eyes and ears of anyone who wasn’t there.

Many feared invasion but the attacks were done to hinder Darwin’s ability as a base from which attacks could be launched as well as hopefully damage Australian morale. On both counts Japan was successful.

The 19th of February, 1942 saw the worst loss of life on Australian soil in wartime. Over 240 people died in Darwin.

This was first of many air attacks that continued through to 1943. People there at the time recall Darwin being bombed every full moon as pilots relied on the light of the moon to know where to drop their bombs.

More bombs were dropped on Darwin on the 19th of February than were dropped on Pearl Harbour.

Yet it is only recently that the day is being acknowledged and remembered.

Better late than never I guess.


41 thoughts on “The day they bombed Darwin.”

  1. Are guns legal in Australia? They say the reason the Japanese did not attack America’s mainland after they attacked Pearl Harbor was because the citizenry was so well armed and they knew we would fight for our homeland. This is the first time I was even aware that Australia was effected by WWII. It is amazing what we learn from each other on these blogs, isn’t it?


          1. It just shows – so many said it would never work…black market and all that, and yes there will always be a black market for illegal everything, but cutting down accessibility to firearms does work in cutting firearm deaths.


          1. Harry, I was replying to the original poster. It is an urban myth that the Japanese didn’t bomb mainland USA because all Americans own guns. Nothing to do with gun control in Australia or Briton.

            Clearly from my other comments I very much support gun control!


    1. You are welcome – I think it is an amazing story – my Dad was stationed in Darwin during the war. He never talked about it so I don’t know if he was anywhere near when this all happened, but it has always intrigued me.


  2. I knew Darwin had been attacked – and about the campaign in New Guinea.

    And If I hadn’t known about Darwin, there was always the film ‘Australia’ with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman to tell me…


    1. Of course…we always believe everything we see in Hugh Jackman films…hehehe
      ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just joshing with you !!!
      You would probably be in a minority, as even few Australians know much about the bombing of Darwin…or did until recently.


    1. You are like most people Eva. i only knew about it because my Dad let slip one day that he had spent time during WWII in Darwin and i looked in to what went on there. Dad being Dad though he never spoke of whether he was there during the bombings that went on for so long.


  3. As a lover of history I applaud your blog for bringing to light what many try to contain as undesirable evernts in history. History equals the truth, the unadulterated truth, truth with no spin, no lies no agenda. When history is shunned or altered, there is no learning from it and wqe will continue to make the same mistakes over again. My only wish here in the USA is that our Civil War between the States would be revisited in truth. We are becoming a divided country once again. It’s a shame, few today really know what drove our country to war then. If they did, they would recognise the same beast is again raising it’s head.


    1. Very true. I have some sympathy for those who are condemned as ‘not behaving well’ in Darwin. They were unprepared because of bureaucratic idiocy at the time. They did what they did I have often felt because of that, and there were many instances of true courage among the many who continued to try to hold Darwin together.


  4. True a lesser know event in the global history of the war era. I do recall this, thanks impart to intelligent history teachers in public school and high school. Australia, New Zealand and Canada are more akin than one might think. Politically we are related due to the 1931 formation of British Commonwealth, but likeness and similarity goes further back than that with details and events far to long to mention here. Am not sure how much history of Canada factored into your education, but rest assured your plight all those years ago was felt and noticed here in Canada, as your history is part of our history an thus part of our history book, One thing for certain, and we all can be proud of our history and of the stock we came from, when called on to fight, and when a dirty job needed doing, who was it that was called upon to do the task and clear the path. The three amigos. Separated by vast oceans but closer than we think.

    A good post, it made me think and go beyond. If that was your intent, than you succeeded big time.


    1. Not much is taught about Canada – or should I say was at the time I attended school, other than basic things.
      I have always been proud of where I came from and what Australia was and is. For a relatively new society (the European section that is) it is a very great land. Although it has been marked by some very dark deeds over the decades, particuarly in the treatment of its indigenous people. Shamefully we (Australians) are not the only country to have to admit to such a past.


          1. Can’t think of any off hand.

            I guess when you think about, everyone is guilty of doing injustices on another at some point – am sure it began with Homo Heidelbergensis ; it’s in our genes, sadly. We are a work in progress as they say.


  5. I read this earlier on my phone and couldn’t comment then but I’ve had it in my mind all day. The whole story is awful but it’s the looting that really got me, just terrible Jo. Well told.


    1. I actually understand the looting…these guys had no help from other parts of the country for a long time…they (I like to think) did it for reasons of survival. I try to imagine what I would have done to survive in all that chaos, and I am sure if I had the kiddywinkles to feed I would have considered it.


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