Bombing of Darwin

The War in the Pacific

Australasia 1942.0219

Bombing of Darwin

Australia, New Zealand and World War II in the South Pacific (19 February 1942)

Historical Map of Australia, New Zealand & the Southwest Pacific

Allied efforts under ABDA proved unable to halt the Japanese offensive. In mid-February the vital British naval base of Singapore surrendered, followed 12 days later by the sinking of the main ABDA naval force when it tried to stop the Japanese invasion of Java. Inbetween the Japanese bombed Darwin, the first and largest foreign attack on Australia in history.

Main Events

N.T. Special Reconnaissance Unit

Australian anthropologist Donald Thomson departed Darwin, Northern Territory, aboard the Aroetta with a small group of followers bound for Arnhem Land. By 19 March he had recruited 50 Yolngu men to form the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit, one of a number of indigenous units trained to patrol the coasts of northern Australia in the face of a potential Japanese invasion.

Fall of Singapore

Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival, commanding officer in Malaya, surrenders the stronghold of Singapore - the most important British naval and military base in South-East Asia - to the invading Japanese after two months of British resistance in Malaya and 8 days fighting in Singapore itself. About 80,000 British, Indian, and Australian troops become prisoners of war - the largest surrender of British-led personnel in history.

Bombing of Darwin

In the single largest attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia, 242 Japanese aircraft bomb Darwin, Northern Territory, in two separate raids. The attack kills 236 Australians, wounds 300-400 more, destroys 30 aircraft, and sinks 11 vessels for a handful of Japanese casualties. In response, over half of Darwin's civilian population flees south.

Japanese invasion of Timor

On the night of 19/20 February 1,500 troops of the Imperial Japanese Army under Colonel Sadashichi Doi began landing in Dili, Portuguese Timor. Initially taken by surprise, the mostly Australian defenders withdrew into the interior. At the same time, the Japanese landed near Kupang in Dutch Timor; here too the defenders withdrew into the interior.

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