is the 78th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese in the Second World War, recognising a time when our shores came under direct attack.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester will join the Northern Territory community at services held this morning to commemorate the bombing of Darwin, as well as the sinking of U.S.S. Peary.
“On 19 February 1942, Australia unexpectedly came under attack when Darwin was bombed, with more than 250 people killed, including Australian and Allied forces,” Mr Chester said.
“While the original raid on 19 February 1942 was by far the most damaging in terms of loss of life and in its impact on civilian and military infrastructure, some Australians may not know it was the beginning of a bombing campaign on northern Australia that continued for over a year and a half.
“These northern Australian towns, especially Darwin, held military importance and the raids were aimed at reducing Australia’s ability to counter the Japanese offensive in the Pacific.
“The 64th, and last, air raid on Darwin occurred on 12 November 1943, and the north of Australia was subject to almost 100 air raids which were directed against targets in Western Australia and Queensland as well as the Northern Territory.
While Australia had been involved in the war on the side of the Allies since 1939, the bombing of Darwin came soon after Japan entered the war and was the first occasion on which the Australian mainland came under attack.
During the first raid on Darwin, the American Destroyer U.S.S. Peary was sunk, killing 88 American sailors and wounding 13 – the greatest single loss of life on any ship attacked that day.
“The bombing of Darwin occurred just two months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Americans were our close allies in battle in the Pacific,” Mr Chester said.
“Reports tell the story of members of Peary’s crew returning fire at the Japanese aircraft with heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft weapons, even as their ship was sinking.
“We are forever indebted to these brave American sailors who gave their lives to help protect our nation from attack and they will always be remembered, particularly in Darwin.
“Today, I encourage all Australians to take a moment to reflect on this significant day in our history to remember those who died and honour those who fought to protect our nation and our way of life.”
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and we should never forget the sacrifice of the some 39,000 service men and women who died fighting to protect Australia and its allies and the almost one million men and women who fought in this terrible conflict which spanned more than half a decade.