Between February 1942 and November 1943, during the Pacific War, the Australian mainland, domestic airspace, offshore islands and coastal shipping were attacked at least 97 times by aircraft from the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force and Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. These attacks came in various forms; from large-scale raids by medium bombers, to torpedo attacks on ships, and to strafing runs by fighters.
The Pacific War, sometimes called the Asia–Pacific War, was the theater of World War II that was fought in the Pacific and Asia. It was fought over a vast area that included the Pacific Ocean and islands, the South West Pacific, South-East Asia, and in China.
The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service was the air arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The organization was responsible for the operation of naval aircraft and the conduct of aerial warfare in the Pacific War.
A medium bomber is a military bomber aircraft designed to operate with medium-sized bombloads over medium range distances; the name serves to distinguish this type from larger heavy bombers and smaller light bombers. Mediums generally carried about two tons of bombs, compared to light bombers that carried one ton, and heavies that carried four or more.
In the first and deadliest set of attacks, 242 aircraft hit Darwin on the morning of 19 February 1942. Killing at least 235 people and causing immense damage, the attacks made hundreds of people homeless and resulted in the abandonment of Darwin as a major naval base.
The Bombing of Darwin, also known as the Battle of Darwin, on 19 February 1942 was the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. On that day, 242 Japanese aircraft, in two separate raids, attacked the town, ships in Darwin's harbour and the town's two airfields in an attempt to prevent the Allies from using them as bases to contest the invasion of Timor and Java during World War II.
Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia, situated on the Timor Sea. It is the largest city in the sparsely populated Northern Territory, with a population of 145,916. It is the smallest and most northerly of the Australian capital cities, and acts as the Top End's regional centre.
These attacks were opposed by, and often aimed at, units and personnel from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, United States Army Air Forces, United States Navy, British Royal Air Force and Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force. Japanese aircrews also targeted civil infrastructure, including harbours, civil airfields, railways and fuel tanks. Some civilians were also killed.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), formed March 1921, is the aerial warfare branch of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). It operates the majority of the ADF's fixed wing aircraft, although both the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy also operate aircraft in various roles. It directly continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC), formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF provides support across a spectrum of operations such as air superiority, precision strikes, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air mobility, space surveillance, and humanitarian support.
The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. It is part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) commands the ADF, the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army (CA). The CA is therefore subordinate to the CDF, but is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence. Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout its history, only in World War II has Australian territory come under direct attack.
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force, called the Commonwealth Naval Forces. Originally intended for local defence, the navy was granted the title of 'Royal Australian Navy' in 1911, and became increasingly responsible for defence of the region.
Although the main defence was provided by RAAF and Allied fighters, a number of Australian Army anti-aircraft batteries in northern Australia were also involved in dealing with the threat of Japanese air raids.
The following is a list of anti-aircraft defences of Australia during World War II. Prior to the war Australia possessed only very limited air defences. However, by late-1942 an extensive anti-aircraft defence organisation had been developed, with anti-aircraft batteries in place around all the major cities as well as the key towns in northern Australia. A total of two Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) regiments, 32 static HAA batteries, 11 Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) regiments, 16 independent LAA batteries, three anti-aircraft training regiments and one anti-aircraft training battery were formed. These units were equipped with a range of weapon systems including 3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns and 40 mm Bofors guns. In addition six US Army anti-aircraft battalions were stationed in Australia, operating in Fremantle, Darwin, Townsville, and Brisbane.
The Japanese conducted a series of air raids on Australia during February and March 1942. These raids sought to prevent the Allies from using bases in northern Australia to contest the conquest of the Netherlands East Indies.
The unofficial geographic term Northern Australia includes those parts of Queensland and Western Australia north of latitude 26° and all of the Northern Territory. Those local government areas of Western Australia and Queensland that lie partially in the north are included.
The bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 was both the first and the largest attack mounted by Japan against mainland Australia, when four Japanese aircraft carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryū and Sōryū) launched a total of 188 aircraft from a position in the Timor Sea.These 188 naval aircraft inflicted heavy damage on Darwin and sank eight ships. A raid conducted by 54 land-based army bombers later the same day inflicted further damage on the town and RAAF Base Darwin and resulted in the destruction of 20 military aircraft. Allied casualties were 235 killed and between 300 and 400 wounded, the majority of whom were non-Australian Allied sailors. Only four Japanese aircraft (all navy carrier-borne) were confirmed to have been destroyed by Darwin's defenders.
An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as a seagoing airbase, equipped with a full-length flight deck and facilities for carrying, arming, deploying, and recovering aircraft. Typically, it is the capital ship of a fleet, as it allows a naval force to project air power worldwide without depending on local bases for staging aircraft operations. Carriers have evolved since their inception in the early twentieth century from wooden vessels used to deploy balloons to nuclear-powered warships that carry numerous fighters, strike aircraft, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. While heavier aircraft such as fixed-wing gunships and bombers have been launched from aircraft carriers, it is currently not possible to land them. By its diplomatic and tactical power, its mobility, its autonomy and the variety of its means, the aircraft carrier is often the centerpiece of modern combat fleets. Tactically or even strategically, it replaced the battleship in the role of flagship of a fleet. One of its great advantages is that, by sailing in international waters, it does not interfere with any territorial sovereignty and thus obviates the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries, reduce the times and transit distances of aircraft and therefore significantly increase the time of availability on the combat zone.
Akagi was an aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), named after Mount Akagi in present-day Gunma Prefecture. Though she was laid down as an Amagi-class battlecruiser, Akagi was converted to an aircraft carrier while still under construction to comply with the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. The ship was rebuilt from 1935 to 1938 with her original three flight decks consolidated into a single enlarged flight deck and an island superstructure. The second Japanese aircraft carrier to enter service, and the first large or "fleet" carrier, Akagi and the related Kaga figured prominently in the development of the IJN's new carrier striking force doctrine that grouped carriers together, concentrating their air power. This doctrine enabled Japan to attain its strategic goals during the early stages of the Pacific War from December 1941 until mid-1942.
Kaga (加賀) was an aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and was named after the former Kaga Province in present-day Ishikawa Prefecture. Originally intended to be one of two Tosa-class battleships, Kaga was converted under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty to an aircraft carrier as the replacement for the battlecruiser Amagi, which had been damaged during the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake. Kaga was rebuilt in 1933–35, increasing her top speed, improving her exhaust systems, and adapting her flight decks to more modern, heavier aircraft.
On 3 March 1942, nine Japanese A6M3 Zero fighters attacked the town of Broome, in northern Western Australia. Although Broome was a small town, it had become a significant air base and route of escape for refugees and retreating military personnel, following the Japanese invasion of Java. During the attack, which consisted of strafing runs only by the Zeros, at least 88 Allied civilians and military personnel were killed and 24 aircraft were lost. As Broome was almost undefended, Japanese losses were light, with only a single Zero being shot down over Broome and another one failing to reach its base.
Japanese naval flying boats conducted four small air raids on the north Queensland towns of Townsville and Mossman in late July 1942. Townsville, which was an important military base, was raided by Japanese Kawanishi H8K1 "Emily" flying boats operating from Rabaul on three nights in late July 1942. On the night of 25/26 July, the town was attacked by two flying boats but did not suffer any damage as the six bombs dropped by these aircraft fell into the sea. Townsville was attacked for the second time in the early hours of 28 July when a single flying boat dropped eight bombs which landed in bushland outside the town. Six P-39 Airacobras unsuccessfully attempted to intercept the Japanese aircraft. The third raid on Townsville occurred in the early hours of 29 July when a single flying boat again attacked the town, dropping seven bombs into the sea and an eighth which fell on an agricultural research station at Oonoonba, damaging a coconut plantation. This aircraft was intercepted by four Airacobras and was damaged. The fourth raid on north Queensland occurred on the night of 31 July when a single flying boat dropped a bomb which exploded near a house outside of Mossman, injuring a child.
The town of Broome, Western Australia was attacked by Japanese fighter planes on 3 March 1942, during World War II. At least 88 people were killed.
RAAF Base Townsville is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) air base located in Garbutt, 2 nautical miles west of Townsville in Queensland, Australia. The base houses a squadron of light transport aircraft, and is used for training purposes by combat aircraft. It is also headquarters for No. 1 Wing Australian Air Force Cadets and, along with Lavarack Barracks, establishes Townsville as a key military centre. The base's airfield is shared with the Townsville Airport.
Air traffic control in Australia is provided by two independent organisations, one civilian and one military. The civilian provider is Airservices Australia, which controls civilian airfields and airspace. The military provider is the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), which controls military airfields and adjoining airspace. This includes Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy aviation bases. Some airfields in Australia are categorised as Joint User airfields, where there are both civilian and military operations based at the airfield. Normally, Joint User airfields have air traffic control provided by the RAAF.
No. 87 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) air intelligence squadron. It saw action during World War II as a photo reconnaissance squadron, being raised in September 1944 through the re-designation of No. 1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit, which had been formed in June 1942. Throughout the war, No. 87 Squadron flew a variety of aircraft from bases in Australia, gathering photographic intelligence on Japanese forces and installations throughout the Pacific. At the conclusion of hostilities, the squadron was disbanded but was later re-formed in 1948, carrying out aerial survey operations in Australia until 1953. In 2006, it was re-raised again as a non-flying squadron tasked with air intelligence analysis as part of the Information Warfare Directorate within the RAAF's Air Warfare Centre.
No. 13 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) squadron. The squadron saw combat during World War II as a bomber and maritime patrol squadron and is currently active as a mixed regular and reserve RAAF unit located in Darwin, fulfilling both operational support and training duties.
No. 452 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) air traffic control unit. It was established in 1941 as a fighter squadron, in accordance with Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme during World War II. The squadron flew Supermarine Spitfires for the entire war, initially over the United Kingdom and Nazi-occupied Europe. It was later based in Australia and the Netherlands East Indies, before being disbanded in 1945. It was re-raised in its current role in February 2011.
No. 1 Wireless Unit RAAF was an Australian signals intelligence unit of World War II. The Unit was established on 25 April 1942.
Kalumburu and Kalumburu Community are both bounded localities within the Shire of Wyndham-East Kimberley Western Australia. Kalumburu Community is the northernmost settlement in Western Australia. According to the 2011 census, it has a population of 467 people and is inhabited mostly by Aboriginal people from the Wunambal and Kwini language groups. Kalumburu Community is remote from any main roads — the nearest is the Gibb River Road, 270 km to the south via the Kalumburu Road. It was the site of a World War II airbase, which was attacked by Japanese planes in 1943.
No. 457 Squadron was a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter squadron of World War II. Equipped with Supermarine Spitfire fighters, it was formed in England during June 1941 under Article XV of the Empire Air Training Scheme. The squadron was transferred to Australia in June 1942 and saw combat in the South West Pacific Area before being disbanded in November 1945.
MV Koolama was an Australian merchant vessel which sank as a result of several attacks by Japanese aircraft in February–March 1942. It was also the centre of the Koolama Incident, an alleged mutiny resulting from these attacks.
No. 31 Squadron is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) airbase support squadron. It was formed in August 1942 and disbanded in July 1946 after seeing action against the Japanese in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II. During the war, it operated the Bristol Beaufighter, which it operated in long-range fighter and ground-attack missions. The squadron was re-raised for its current role in July 2010.
Due to Australia's geographic position there were relatively few attacks on Australia during World War II. Axis surface raiders and submarines periodically attacked shipping in Australian waters from 1940 to early 1945 and Japanese aircraft bombed towns and airfields in Northern Australia on 97 occasions during 1942 and 1943. Technically Papua New Guinea was part of Australia until 1975, so the large Japanese invasion in 1942 was a significant invasion of Australia - just not as it is considered now.
Parap Airfield was the civilian aerodrome of Darwin, Northern Territory, in Australia between 1919 and 1946. Located in the coastal suburb of Parap, it was also known as Darwin Aerodrome and Ross Smith Aerodrome.
Fenton Airfield was a World War II military airfield located at Tipperary Station, Hayes Creek, Northern Territory, Australia and named after flight lieutenant Clyde Fenton.
The North-Western Area Campaign was an air campaign fought between the Allied and Japanese air forces over northern Australia and the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) between 1942 and 1945. The campaign began with the Japanese bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 and continued until the end of the war.
John Margrave Lerew, DFC was an officer and pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during World War II, and later a senior manager in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). As commander of No. 24 Squadron, based in New Britain, he became famous in the annals of Air Force history for his irreverent response to orders by headquarters in Australia during the Battle of Rabaul in January 1942. After his squadron was directed to assist in repelling the invading Japanese fleet with its one serviceable bomber, and to keep its damaged airfield open, Lerew signalled headquarters with the ancient Latin phrase supposedly used by gladiators honouring their Emperor: "Morituri vos salutamus". He also defied an order to abandon his staff, and organised their escape from Rabaul.
No. 1 Wing was an Australian Flying Corps (AFC) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) wing active during World War I and World War II. The wing was established on 1 September 1917 as the 1st Training Wing and commanded the AFC's pilot training squadrons in England until April 1919, when it was disbanded. It was reformed on 7 October 1942 as a fighter unit comprising two Australian and one British flying squadrons equipped with Supermarine Spitfire aircraft, and a mobile fighter sector headquarters. The wing provided air defence to Darwin and several other key Allied bases in northern Australia until the end of the war, and was again disbanded in October 1945.
North-Western Area Command was one of several geographically based commands raised by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during World War II. Its wartime sphere of operations included the Northern Territory, adjacent portions of Queensland and Western Australia, and the Dutch East Indies. The command was formed in January 1942, following the outbreak of the Pacific War, from the western part of Northern Area Command, which had covered all of northern Australia and Papua. Headquartered at Darwin, North-Western Area Command was initially responsible for air defence, aerial reconnaissance and protection of the sea lanes within its boundaries.