By Peter Grose
Darwin was once a conflict Australia could quite put out of your mind. but the japanese assault on 19 February 1942 was once the 1st wartime attack on Australian soil. the japanese struck with a similar carrier-borne strength that devastated Pearl Harbor merely ten weeks previous. there has been a distinction. extra bombs fell on Darwin, extra civilians have been killed, and extra ships have been sunk. The raid ended in the worst demise toll from any occasion in Australia. The attackers bombed and strafed 3 hospitals, flattened retailers, workplaces and the police barracks, shattered the publish workplace and communications centre, wrecked govt condo, and left the harbour and airfields burning and ruined. the folks of Darwin deserted their city, leaving it to looters, a number of anti-aircraft batteries and a handful of dogged defenders with single-shot .303 rifles. but the tale has remained within the shadows. Drawing on long-hidden records and first-person debts, Peter Grose tells what particularly occurred and takes us into the lives of the folks who have been there. there has been a lot to be pleased with in Darwin that day: braveness, mateship, choice and improvisation. however the darkish part of the tale includes looting, desertion and a calamitous failure of management. Australians ran away simply because they didn't be aware of what else to do. soaking up, lively and fast moving, a clumsy fact is a compelling and revealing tale of the day warfare fairly got here to Australia, and the motley bunch of squaddies and civilians who have been left to guard the country.
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Additional resources for An awkward truth : the bombing of Darwin, February 1942
Two months later, in August 1940, Miller reported: ‘A general appeal was issued for the construction of shelters by volunteer labour. Only two groups, Nos. 8 & 9, responded, but in a half-hearted manner. F. aerodrome, and commencement was made on one at Parap where eight men turned up on a Saturday afternoon. ’ By February 1941 the international situation had worsened. As we shall see in the next chapter, Japan looked increasingly likely to enter the war on the Axis side. If Japan declared war and struck south, the threat to Darwin from sea and air would be immense.
The problems did not end there. The first Stokes Hill Wharf was built in 1885 and promptly eaten by termites. The second wharf, generally known as Town Wharf, was built on the same site in 1904 and remained Darwin’s only wharf until the Japanese raid. It could take no more than two ships at a time, one berthed on the inside and one on the outside. The railway line from Birdum in the south led ultimately to the wharf. Tracks ran along the wharf itself for about 100 metres. Then, for reasons known only to the original designer, the wharf turned a right angle, known as the ‘Elbow’.
The most important US power base in the Pacific region after Pearl Harbor was now incapable of defending itself successfully. That same day the Japanese attacked American bases on Wake and Guam islands. Their rampaging Army and Navy could now turn their attention towards the real target of the Pacific War: the rich resources of the Dutch East Indies, particularly Java’s oil and Malaya’s rubber and tin. The whole eastern hemisphere seemingly lay at their feet. All in the space of a single day. ◆ ◆ ◆ In Darwin, tension was high even before news arrived of Pearl Harbor.
An awkward truth : the bombing of Darwin, February 1942 by Peter Grose