Darwin bombing remembered

Published on LEUT Andrew Ragless (author), LAC Terry Hartin (photographer)

Location(s): Darwin, NT

Topic(s): Bombing of Darwin, Commemoration

(L-R) Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Commander John Navin RAN, Commander Northern Command, Commodore Brenton Smyth, Commanding Officer No.13 Squadron RAAF Base Darwin, Wing Commander Wes Perrett and Commander 1st Brigade, Brigadier John Frewen lay wreaths at the 72nd Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin commemorative service at the Darwin Cenotaph. (photo: LAC Terry Hartin)
(L-R) Commanding Officer HMAS Coonawarra, Commander John Navin RAN, Commander Northern Command, Commodore Brenton Smyth, Commanding Officer No.13 Squadron RAAF Base Darwin, Wing Commander Wes Perrett and Commander 1st Brigade, Brigadier John Frewen lay wreaths at the 72nd Anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin commemorative service at the Darwin Cenotaph.

Royal Australian Navy personnel stood side by side their United States counterparts yesterday in commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Darwin, which occurred on 19 February 1942.

The crew of visiting Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Kidd were joined by members of Headquarters Northern Command and HMAS Coonawarra for the USS Peary memorial service.

At 9:58am on Thursday 19 February 1942, a force of 188 aircraft from the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Darwin. The attack was launched from four Japanese aircraft carriers and accompanying battle group, which was undetected in the Timor Sea.

235 people were killed and around 400 wounded in the first and largest enemy air attack on Australian soil. Eleven ships were sunk in the attack, including USS Peary, which suffered the loss of 88 United States servicemen.

Commanding Officer of the USS Kidd, Commander Gabriel Varela addressed the gathering and said the ship’s company in USS Peary displayed steadfast courage, even in the face of a determined enemy.

The Assistant Minister for Defence, the Hon. Mr Stuart Robert MP, (second left)  Lieutenant Colonel Mathew Puglisi, Commanding Officer USS Kidd, Commander Gabe Varela and Consul General of the United States of America Ms Mary Warlick at the Flag raising ceremony at the USS Peary Memorial.

The Assistant Minister for Defence, the Hon. Mr Stuart Robert MP, (second left) Lieutenant Colonel Mathew Puglisi, Commanding Officer USS Kidd, Commander Gabe Varela and Consul General of the United States of America Ms Mary Warlick at the Flag raising ceremony at the USS Peary Memorial.


“Until the end, they displayed an unrelenting dedication to mission, and an enduring devotion to ship and shipmates. Indeed they epitomised what it means to be a sailor, and these attributes can be readily found in my crew and the sailors of the Royal Australian Navy both past and present,” he said.

“Today our navies can be justifiably proud and confident. The US and Australia are working hand in hand in the pacific, to ensure security and stability throughout the region. As we pause to remember the service and sacrifice of Peary’s crew, we honour their legacy by pledging to continue to work together to promote and defend the freedoms and ideals they, and the Australian Navy, helped to secure during World War II and continue to fight for today.”

Commander Northern Command, Commodore Brenton Smyth RAN said personnel serving in Darwin today continued to honour those who defended Darwin 72 years ago.

“A large majority of military members based in the Territory today have, or currently are, deployed in overseas and civil maritime security operations, and similarly they continue to perform their duties with dedication, commitment and a selfless sense of duty.”