Downunder’s Pearl Harbour.
To the sounds of air sirens and exploding artillery shells, Northern Australians yesterday, commemorated the 73rd anniversary of the day the Japanese Air Force deployed more than 260 enemy aircraft to bomb Darwin and the port and shipping of Darwin Harbour.
On 19 February 1942, Japanese fighters and bombers launched a surprise attack on the port and shipping in Darwin Harbour twice during the day, killing 252 Allied service personnel and civilians and injuring 311. On 3 March, Broome in Western Australia was strafed. In succeeding months air attacks were made on many towns in northern Australia including Wyndham, Port Hedland and Derby in Western Australia, Darwin and Katherine in the Northern Territory, Townsville and Mossman in Queensland, and Horn Island in the Torres Strait.
In total there were 97 air attacks on northern Australia and enemy air reconnaissance over the region continued through much of 1944.
The main force involved in the raid was from the 1st Carrier Air Fleet which comprised the aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Hiryū, and Sōryū and a powerful force of escorting surface ships. All four carriers had participated in the attack on Pearl Harbour at the start of the Pacific War.
The Darwin attacks resulted in the sinking of three warships and five merchant vessels and damage to another ten ships. The ships sunk were the USS Peary with 88 US navy personnel lives lost, HMAS Mavie, USAT Meigs, MV Neptuna (which exploded while docked at Darwin’s main wharf), Zealandia, SS Mauna Loa, MV British Motorist, and the coal storage hulk Kelat
Historical records can be sourced from the National Archives Of Australia.