82nd Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin

On the 82nd anniversary of the bombing of Darwin, we honoured and remembered those who served, those who lost their lives and those whose lives were forever changed.

On 19 February 1942, Australia faced its first direct attack on home soil during the WWII when Darwin became the target of Japanese bombing raids.

In early 1942, Darwin was used as a military base and as a transit point for forces and aircraft being sent to Timor, Ambon and Java in the Netherlands East Indies (modern Indonesia) before these islands fell to the Japanese.

The first attack of 188 naval aircraft at 9.58 am was from a Japanese fleet that included two battleships and four aircraft carriers that would invade Timor 24 hours later. The raid on Darwin was designed to hinder Darwin’s potential as a base to launch a counter-offensive and also to damage Australian morale. The first attack lasted 40 minutes. 

Air raid alerts were not sounded until just before the first wave of aircraft appeared over Darwin. Nine of ten United States Army Air Force Kittyhawk fighters were destroyed - four in the air, four trying to take off and the ninth destroyed on the ground. Three Allied naval ships and five merchant ships were sunk and another ten ships were damaged.

Most of the 280 or so people killed that day were victims of the first wave, mainly Allied service personnel, merchant seamen and wharf labourers in and around Darwin harbour.

The first attack lasted 42 minutes with the second wave coming just over an hour later. This time the RAAF base was the main target. Six RAAF servicemen were killed and nine aircraft on the ground were destroyed. Most of the base's buildings were destroyed or damaged. Civilians in the township also died during the attacks, including several killed when the Post Office and a bomb shelter next to it received a direct hit.

Northern Australia endured almost 100 raids over the course of the Second World War including Broome, Townsville, Horn Island and Wyndham, with 64 raids in Darwin alone, but none as devastating as 19 February.

Read more about the attacks on Australia in 1942 on the Anzac Portal



Above (L): Painting by acclaimed Australian maritime and aviation artist, Ray Honisett (1931-2109) depicting the Japanese bombing raid on Darwin Harbour. (Image source: The Australian War Memorial London).

Above (R): The Bombing of Darwin Memorial commemorates the Japanese bombing attacks on Darwin and all subsequent air raids on the Northern territory from 1942-1943.



Above (L): Scenes of destruction during the first Japanese air raid on Darwin harbour on 19February 1942 (Image source: The Australian War Memorial London).

Above (R): Damage to Darwin Harbour showing ships sunk in the first wave of bombing on 19 February 1942. (Image source: Australian War Memorial)



Above (L): One of the bombed hangars at Darwin aerodrome following the Japanese bombing raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942 (Image source: Australian War Memorial).

Above (R):: Exterior of ruined buildings of the Darwin hospital damaged after being hit by Japanese bombs during air raids on 19 February 1942. (Image source: Australian War Memorial).


Above: A Japanese aerial photograph taken during a reconnaissance flight over Darwin (Image source: The Australian War Memorial London).


19 February 2024 


Share this with your friendss