Remembering the Battle for Australia

Following the Fall of Singapore, Royal Australian Navy and merchant navy vessels were attacked and sunk in the waters of the Pacific as the Japanese set their sights on the Australian mainland.

On 19 February 1942, war reached Australia’s shores when Japanese aircraft attacked Darwin. More than 250 Australians, Allied service personnel and civilians were killed during the bombing of Darwin. 

The Japanese continued to attack the northern coast of Australia for almost two years. On 12 November 1943, the 64th and final air raid on Darwin occurred. A total of 97 air raids took place, including an attack on Broome on 3 March 1943, which killed around 70 people. 

On 4-8 May 1942, Allied forces handed the Japanese a decisive naval defeat during the Battle of the Coral Sea. No Australians were killed during the ‘battle that saved Australia’, but the United States aircraft carrier USS Lexington was sunk. 

The victory in the Coral Sea prevented a Japanese seaborne invasion of Port Moresby, however, the Japanese Imperial Army continued their advance towards Australia along the Kokoda Track.

Australia was attacked again on the night of 31 May 1942. Three Japanese Imperial Navy Ko-hyoteki-class midget submarines infiltrated Sydney Harbour and sunk HMAS Kuttabul, killing 19 Australian and two British sailors. 

As the war in the Pacific raged on, Japanese Marines landed at Milne Bay on 25 August 1942 and attempted to secure the airfields. Australian soldiers and Royal Australian Air Force Kitty Hawk squadrons repelled the assault and handed the Japanese their first land defeat of the Second World War.  

Although the victory at the Battle of Milne Bay was minor, it was a major morale booster for the Allies. It proved that the relentless Japanese soldier, which had swept across the Pacific, was not invincible.  

By the end of the Second World War, over 39,000 Australians lost their lives, mostly in Asia and the Pacific campaigns. Some 22,000 Australians became Japanese prisoners of war, of whom about 8,000 lost their lives.  

Today on the Battle for Australia Day, we remember those who answered the call to defend our shores during the Second World War.  

Read more about the Battle for Australia on our Anzac Portal:

Lest We Forget.