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The Japanese attack on Darwin on 19 February 1942 stunned the nation and has been a topic of
much folklore ever since. Indeed, it was incredible that the powerful Japanese aircraft carriers that
decimated the American Pearl Harbor fleet base in December 1941 turned their attention to tiny
Darwin just weeks later.
Such was the strength and ferocity of the Japanese attack that some 236 people were killed, eight
large ships were sunk, 30 aircraft destroyed and parts of Darwin were left in ruins. It was the
deadliest single attack ever suffered on Australian soil.
However, Darwin was a victim of its own geography, being close to the Netherlands East Indies
which the Japanese were then in the process of seizing. Darwin’s harbour and airfield were of great
strategic value and Allied forces utilising these facilities threatened the Japanese operations.
Since 2013 the Bombing of Darwin Day, 19 February, has been commemorated as a National Day of
Observance, the third such national date behind Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. Hence the need
for educational materials has never been greater. Darwin Bombed! is a fully illustrated guide for
school children of all ages.
Dr Tom Lewis is a long time Darwin resident and one of Australia’s foremost military historians. A
high school teacher and former naval officer, he is the author of 14 books.