Air raids on Australia, 1942–43

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An Australian gun camera photograph of two Japanese Mitsubishi G4M2 "Betty" medium bombers during a raid on Darwin in June 1943. Betty bomber Darwin (AWM P02822-001).jpg
An Australian gun camera photograph of two Japanese Mitsubishi G4M2 "Betty" medium bombers during a raid on Darwin in June 1943.
"Fighter Guide Map No. 1B, Darwin Area", March 1944. Produced for air defence purposes by the Royal Australian Air Force. The map includes many of the air fields which were targeted by Japanese aircraft. Darwin air defence map 1944.jpg
"Fighter Guide Map No. 1B, Darwin Area", March 1944. Produced for air defence purposes by the Royal Australian Air Force. The map includes many of the air fields which were targeted by Japanese aircraft.

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.

Pacific War theatre of war in the Second World War

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.

Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service air arm of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II

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.

Medium bomber moderately large bomber aircraft

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.

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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.

Bombing of Darwin Japanese attack on Darwin, Australia during World War II

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, Northern Territory City in the Northern Territory, Australia

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.

Royal Australian Air Force Air warfare branch of Australias armed forces

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.

Australian Army land warfare branch of Australias defence forces

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.

Royal Australian Navy naval warfare branch of the Australian Defence Force

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. [1]

Anti-aircraft defences of Australia during World War II

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.

Early Japanese air raids

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.

Northern Australia Area

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 first air raid on Darwin

The explosion of the MV Neptuna, hit during the first Japanese air raid on Darwin. In the foreground is HMAS Deloraine, which escaped damage. Darwin 42.jpg
The explosion of the MV Neptuna, hit during the first Japanese air raid on Darwin. In the foreground is HMAS Deloraine, which escaped damage.

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. [2] 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. [3]

Aircraft carrier Warship that serves as a seagoing airbase

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.

Japanese aircraft carrier <i>Akagi</i> aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy

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.

Japanese aircraft carrier <i>Kaga</i> Tosa-class battleship converted to an aircraft carrier

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.

The attack on Broome

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. [4]

Attacks on north Queensland, July 1942

Two Australian soldiers searching for fragments of a bomb dropped during the third raid on Townsville. Townsville bombing (AWM 150159).jpg
Two Australian soldiers searching for fragments of a bomb dropped during the third raid on Townsville.

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. [5]

List of attacks by date

1942

February

19
Bombing of Darwin
(10:00) Attack by 188 carrier-based aircraft at Darwin, Northern Territory (NT)
(11:55) Attack by 54 land-based high-level bombers at Darwin, NT
Bathurst Island, NT
20
(11:30) Off Cape Londonderry, Western Australia (WA). MV Koolama damaged by a Kawanishi H6K5 flying boat. Attacked again at 13:30 and severely damaged, with injuries to three passengers.
21
Rulhieres Bay, WA (later known as Koolama Bay) Koolama attacked again, no damage or injuries.

March

3
(09:20) Broome, WA. Attack on Broome: a strafing raid by nine A6M3 Zeros. At least 88 people were killed and 24 Allied aircraft were destroyed. A Sikh pilot of the Royal Indian Air Force Flying Officer Manmohan Singh, in one of the RAF Catalina flying boats died. He was the first Indian casualty on Australian soil.
(~10:30) Carnot Bay, WA. PK-AFV (Pelikaan)—a Douglas DC-3 airliner owned by KLM—was shot down by Zeros returning from the attack on Broome. It crash-landed 50 mi (80 km) north of Broome. Four passengers were killed. Diamonds worth £150,000–300,000 were lost or stolen following the crash.
Wyndham, WA. Strafing attack by Zeroes. No casualties. Koolama, which is in port by this time (see above), sinks as an indirect result of the attack.
Wyndham Airfield, WA [6]
4
Wreckage and passengers from PK-AFV attacked again by a Kawanishi H6K5 flying boat, no damage or casualties.
(14:00) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
14
Horn Island, Queensland (Qld) [7]
15
Darwin, NT. Sgt. Albert Cooper, 28, (RAF, 54 Squadron) from Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, shot down, and killed, in his Spitfire over Darwin harbour [8]
16
(13:30) Darwin RAAF Airfield and Bagot, NT
17
Darwin, NT
18
Horn Island, Qld
19
(11:40) Darwin (Myilly Point and Larrakeyah), NT
20
Broome Airfield, WA. Attack by Mitsubishi G4M2 "Betty" medium bombers. One civilian killed. Minor damage to airfield.
Derby, WA [9]
22
(00:51) Darwin, NT
22
Katherine, NT [10] (Furthest air raid into the Australian interior – over 200 km from the coast).
23
Darwin, NT
Wyndham, WA (two raids) [6]
28
(12:30) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
30
(05:40?) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
30
Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
31
(13:20) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
(22:19) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT

April

2
(15:30) Darwin (Harvey St, McMinn St, Shell Oil Tanks), NT
Sattler Airfield, NT
4
(13:48) Darwin Civil Airfield and Parap Hotel, NT
5
(12:29) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
25
(14:00) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
27
(12:07) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
30
Horn Island, QLD

June

13
(11:52) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
14
(13:14) Darwin (town area), NT
15
(12:20) Darwin (Larrakeyah to Stokes Hill), NT
16
(12:01) Darwin (town area), NT
26
(20:50) Darwin, NT

July

7
Horn Island, Qld
25
(20:50) Darwin (town area), NT
26
Townsville, Qld
(21:39–22:54) Darwin (Vesteys Meatworks), NT
27
(22:27) Knuckey's Lagoon, Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
28
(00:45) Darwin RAAF airfield, NT
Townsville, Qld
29
(00:59) Darwin (town area) and Knuckey's Lagoon, NT.
Townsville, Qld
30
(03:58) Darwin (town area) and Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
Horn Island, Qld
Port Hedland, WA. [11]
31
Mossman, Qld [11]
(13:33) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT

August

1
Horn Island, Qld
21
Wyndham, WA
23
(12:12) Hughes Airfield, NT
24
(21:24) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
(22:14) Noonamah, NT
25
(00:05) Darwin and Parap, NT
27
(03:45–05:37) Darwin (Botanical Gardens) and Cox Peninsula, NT
28
(03:35) Darwin (Railway Yards and Port Patterson), NT
30
(02:39) Darwin (town area), NT
31
(05:14) Darwin (town area) and Cox Peninsula), NT

September

25
(03:41) Darwin (town area) and Knuckey's Lagoon, NT
25
(05:48) Darwin (town area and Daly Street Bridge), NT
26
(05:22) Livingstone Airfield, NT
27
(04:56) Bynoe Harbour, NT
(05:44) Darwin (town area) (Frances Bay)

October

10
Horn Island, Qld
24
(04:42) Batchelor Airfield
(04:52) Pell Airfield
(04:57) Cox Peninsula
(05:12) Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
25
(05:30) Darwin (town area) and Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
26
(04:54) Darwin (town area) and Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
27
(02:20) Darwin (town area) and Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT

November

23
(03:00–04:39) Darwin (town area) and Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
Coomalie Creek Airfield, NT
26
(03:20) Darwin (town area), Strauss Airfield and Hughes Airfield, NT
27
(03:56–04:46) Coomalie Creek, Hughes Airfield and Strauss Airfield, NT

1943

Two Australian Supermarine Spitfire fighters taking off from Darwin to intercept Japanese raiders in March 1943 Spitfires Darwin (AWM 014484).jpg
Two Australian Supermarine Spitfire fighters taking off from Darwin to intercept Japanese raiders in March 1943

January

20
(22:44–00:15) Searchlight station, AWC Camp, Ironstone, NT
21
(21:54) Darwin (Frances Bay), NT
22
(13:30) HMAS Patricia Cam sunk, near Wessel Islands, NT.

March

2
(14:34) Coomalie Creek Airfield, NT
15
(11:20) Darwin (oil tanks), NT

May

HMAS Maroubra sinking after being attacked off Millingimbi on 10 May 1943 HMAS Maroubra (AWM 300992).jpg
HMAS Maroubra sinking after being attacked off Millingimbi on 10 May 1943
2
(10:15) Darwin RAAF Airfield and Darwin Floating Dock, NT
9
Millingimbi, NT
10
Millingimbi, NT. The cutter HMAS Maroubra was sunk.
20
Exmouth Gulf, WA
21
Exmouth Gulf, WA
28
Millingimbi, NT

June

18
Horn Island, Qld
20
(10:43) Winnellie and Darwin RAAF Airfield, NT
28
(11:07) Vesteys, NT
30
(12:30) Fenton Airfield, NT

July

6
(12:02) Fenton Airfield, NT

August

13
(21:45) Fenton Airfield, NT
(23:12) Fenton Airfield and Coomalie Creek Airfield, NT
(23:42) Coomalie Creek Airfield, NT
14
Long Airfield, NT
17
Port Hedland, WA [11]
21
(00:37) Fenton Airfield and Coomalie Creek Airfield, NT
(03:30) Pell Airfield, NT

September

15
(00:25) Fenton Airfield and Long Airfield, NT
15
Onslow, WA.
16
Exmouth Gulf, WA (The southernmost air raid in Australia.)
18
(03:50) Fenton Airfield and Long Airfield, NT
27
Drysdale River Mission (Kalumburu) airfield, WA. Six fatalities; Father Thomas Gil, the superior of the mission, and five Aboriginal Australians.

November

10
Coomalie Creek Airfield, NT
12
(03:53–05:30) Parap, Adelaide River and Batchelor Airfield, NT

See also

Notes

  1. Horner 1995, p. 379.
  2. Tom Lewis (2003). A War at Home. A Comprehensive guide to the first Japanese attacks on Darwin. Tall Stories, Darwin. Page 16.
  3. David Jenkins (1992), Battle Surface! Japan's Submarine War Against Australia 1942–44. Random House Australia, Sydney. Pages 118–120 and Lewis (2003). Pages 63–71.
  4. Coulthard-Clark (2001), pp. 211–212.
  5. Gillison (1962). Pages 562–563.
  6. 1 2 Coulthard-Clark, Chris (2001). The Encyclopedia of Australia's Battles. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. p.212
  7. Crowdey, Vanessa (1999). "The day the bombs fell" (PDF). Wartime (8): Pg 46–49. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2008.
  8. Cooper, Anthony, (2011), Darwin Spitfires: The Real Battle for Australia, University of New South Wales Press.
  9. Coulthard-Clark (2001), p.214
  10. Coulthard-Clark (2001), p.215
  11. 1 2 3 Coulthard-Clark (2001), p.224

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References