A defining moment in Australia’s history
On the 19th of February 1942 an event occurred which would change Australia’s history.
Australia’s most northern capital was bombed by enemy forces. The official government death toll was more than 240 with hundreds of causalities, but it’s a figure many veterans say is nowhere near the mark. Nine ships were sunk in Darwin Harbour and up to 15 others were damaged.
For the first time, the effects of a war that had raged for the most part in countries on the other side of the world, was now being felt on home soil.
The events of 19 February 1942 were as shocking and calculated as the attack on Pearl Harbour just weeks before. It brought the war home to a country previously untouched by foreign conflict.
In the initial attack on Darwin at 9.58am, there were 188 Japanese planes. A greater number of bombs were dropped over Darwin on that day than were used in the attack on Pearl Harbour. These were the most serious of at least 64 air raids on the Top End of Australia which continued until 12 November 1943.
Despite its drama and importance, the impact of the Bombing of Darwin and the war fought over northern Australia often remains overshadowed by subsequent events in Australia.
The devastation suffered by Territorian families was profound, but it also highlighted the tenacity of those living in the Territory as well as the Australian spirit. The rebuilding of Darwin took courage and commitment which helped shape the city into what it is today.
Remnants of WWII are still visible at many locations across Darwin, Katherine and Adelaide River. These sites offer visitors a chance to pay homage to both the heroes who fought on the frontline and the Territory’s multi-cultural community affected by the bombing raids. Asian, European and Indigenous people worked alongside the allied servicemen as Darwin was attacked over an 18 month period.
The evacuees who returned and the wide community came together to rebuild Darwin after the war, and many stories of tragedy and survival have been shared during the years in which Darwin has grown into the cosmopolitan, tropical city it is today.