Bombing of Darwin Day

Crew members of the depot ship HMAS Platypus survey the harbour shortly after the Japanese air raid on Darwin

Australians in Darwin and across the country paused on 19 February to observe Bombing of Darwin Day, marking the 81st anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin in the Second World War.

On 19 February 1942, some 240 Japanese aircraft attacked Darwin in two separate raids. More than 250 people lost their lives including members of all three services, Allied personnel, merchant mariners and civilians.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Matt Keogh spoke at the official commemorative service.

‘I am honoured to be in Darwin to attend the Bombing of Darwin Day commemorations and to stand with the local community as they honour those who fought to defend their home in 1942,’ Minister Keogh said.

‘This anniversary is an important opportunity to honour those who served, their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families.’

During the first raid, 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 attacks on Darwin were the first in a series of raids on northern Australia throughout 1942 and 1943. Air raids took place on towns and military bases from Broome to 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.

On 12 November 1943, the 64th and final air raid on Darwin occurred. Over almost two years, northern Australia had seen a total of 97 air attacks, and when these ceased, enemy air reconnaissance continued over the region during 1944.

‘The war had come to Australia, and for those here in Darwin at that time, they experienced firsthand the fear, devastation and loss that war brings,’ Minister Keogh said. ‘While 81 years may have passed, we will never forget the sacrifices of our service men, women and civilians who defended our country in the Second World War.’

On this national day of remembrance, we honoured those who died in the bombing of Darwin and northern Australia, and all those who served in the defence of Australia during the Second World War.

Learn more about the 1942 bombing of Darwin and the other air raids the nation faced on DVA’s Anzac Portal.

(Image: Crew members of the depot ship HMAS Platypus survey the harbour shortly after the Japanese air raid on Darwin.)