An awkward truth : the bombing of Darwin, February 1942 by Peter Grose

By Peter Grose

Darwin used to be a conflict Australia might fairly fail to remember. but the japanese assault on 19 February 1942 was once the 1st wartime attack on Australian soil. the japanese struck with a similar carrier-borne strength that devastated Pearl Harbor simply ten weeks past. there has been a distinction. extra bombs fell on Darwin, extra civilians have been killed, and extra ships have been sunk. The raid ended in the worst demise toll from any occasion in Australia. The attackers bombed and strafed 3 hospitals, flattened retailers, workplaces and the police barracks, shattered the put up workplace and communications centre, wrecked executive apartment, and left the harbour and airfields burning and ruined. the folk of Darwin deserted their city, leaving it to looters, a couple of anti-aircraft batteries and a handful of dogged defenders with single-shot .303 rifles. but the tale has remained within the shadows. Drawing on long-hidden records and first-person debts, Peter Grose tells what particularly occurred and takes us into the lives of the folk who have been there. there has been a lot to be happy with in Darwin that day: braveness, mateship, selection and improvisation. however the darkish aspect of the tale includes looting, desertion and a calamitous failure of management. Australians ran away simply because they didn't be aware of what else to do. soaking up, lively and fast moving, an ungainly fact is a compelling and revealing tale of the day warfare quite got here to Australia, and the motley bunch of infantrymen and civilians who have been left to guard the kingdom.

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It lived on cattle, mining, fish and pearls. It had no elected government, only an appointed Administrator who held its citizens in contempt. It was hardly going to present a united front in a crisis. An Awkward Truth 9/1/09 12:59 PM Page 27 Chapter 3 Horribly strained relations he Japanese fought on the allied side in the First World War but felt cheated of a proper reward for their part in the victory over Germany. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930 limited Japanese sea power to 60 per cent of the sea strength of the United States and of Britain.

Next came one of the great fiascos of the Second World War. The Philippines, then an American colony, provided a home for the US Navy’s Asiatic Fleet. Within 30 minutes of the first bomb falling on Pearl Harbor, American forces in the Philippines were informed that war had broken out. Herb Kriloff, Officer of the Deck on the seaplane tender USS William B. Preston, was anchored in Davao Gulf, off Mindanao in the southern Philippines. m. the deck watch woke him to pass on a decoded message from the Commanderin-Chief, US Asiatic Fleet: ‘Japan has commenced hostilities.

Next the Vals attacked Hickam Field, near the entrance to Pearl Harbor, before moving on to the main naval base on Ford Island in mid-harbour. The torpedo bombers now joined the fray, concentrating on the battleships anchored in tightly packed rows along the eastern side of Ford Island. Fuchida watched as a An Awkward Truth 9/1/09 12:59 PM Page 39 H O R R I B LY S T R A I N E D R E L AT I O N S ◆ 39 series of white waterspouts in the harbour marked the sites of exploding torpedoes. With no enemy aircraft to challenge them in the air, the Zeroes switched to strafing the airfields, wrecking any planes they could find on the ground.

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