Bombing of Darwin Day — The first air raids on Australia

Thursday, February 18 2021

The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel

Tomorrow, 19 February, on Bombing of Darwin Day, we remember the lives lost and the impact of the air raids on the Australian mainland during the Second World War.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester said the Second World War arrived on the shores of mainland Australia for the first time on 19 February 1942, when Japanese aircraft attacked Darwin, the location of a major Allied base.

“The enemy aircraft bombed and strafed Darwin for about 40 minutes, resulting in eight of the 47 ships at the harbour being sunk with one ship’s cargo of 200 depth charges exploding alongside the Darwin wharf,” Mr Chester said.

“During this attack, the American Destroyer U.S.S. Peary was sunk, killing 88 American sailors and wounding 13 — the greatest single loss of life on any ship attacked that day.

“Some 80 minutes later, a second wave of bombers arrived, continuing the attack, but this time it was concentrated on the Royal Australian Air Force station inland.

“During the two raids, tragically more than 250 people were killed in and around Darwin, including Australian service men and women and Allied forces personnel. No one was safe, with casualties including civilians, cooks, merchant seamen and postal workers.”

The attacks on 19 February were only the beginning, as a total of 64 raids were made on Darwin between February 1942 and November 1943.

“Overall, 97 air attacks were carried out on Darwin and northern Australia during the Second World War and enemy air reconnaissance over the region continued for the majority of 1944,” Mr Chester said.

“Today, I encourage all Australians to remember and reflect on this event in our nation’s history, honouring those who died during these attacks and in the protection of our nation and way of life.”

Bombing of Darwin Day marks an attack that is etched in Australia’s history and this year we mark 10 years since the inaugural national day of observance in 2011.

Mr Chester will attend the annual commemoration for the Bombing of Darwin that will take place at the Cenotaph on the Esplanade, Darwin city, commencing at 9:30am local time on the 19th of February. Prior to the annual commemoration, he will also attend the 8.15am (local time) commemorative service to remember the sinking of U.S.S. Peary.

Learn more about the 1942 Bombing of Darwin and the courage shown by service personnel and civilians by visiting the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Anzac Portal.

Media contacts

Rachel Tharratt or Cedric Szigeti: 02 6277 7820

DVA Media: 02 6289 6466



Office of the Hon Darren Chester, Canberra ACT

Open Arms — Veterans and Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au