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Australia remembers Japanese air offensive against Darwin and Australia's north

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MEDIA RELEASET he H on C on S ciacca MP M in is t e r for V e t e r a n s ' A ffa ir s Embargoed until February 19

February 19 1995 C7/95

Australia Remembers Japanese air offensive against Darwin and Australia’s north

FIFTY THREE years ago the Second World War came to Australia's shores when the might of the Japanese military machine was unleashed on Darwin.

Aircraftxarriers from the force which had attacked Pearl Harbour sent 188"- aircraft to strike at Darwin on 19 February 1942. Two hundred and forty three people were killed in the first raid and a similar number injured. Shipping and aircraft losses were heavy.

"Despite the ferocity of this and subsequent raids on Darwin and other parts of northern Australia, our resolve was not shaken," the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Mr Con Sciacca, said today.

"Australians stood firm during the 64 Japanese raids against Darwin and the Top End and continued to take the fight to the enemy.

"The fortitude of the people of Darwin and the other towns of the Top End are being commemorated today as part of the Australia Remembers 1945-1995 programme," the Minister added.

Mr Sciacca attended several commemorative services in Darwin today - including one for the U.S.S. "Peary" which was sunk during the first raid. He then travelled to Bathurst Island to commemorate the efforts of the Tiwi Islanders during the war. The Tiwi Islanders worked as coast watchers and gave early warning of Japanese air attacks as the aircraft flew over Bathurst Island on their way to Darwin.

Mr Sciacca also paid tribute to Australia's American allies, saying that the only air defence in Darwin at the time of the first Japanese raid had been 10 U.S. fighters on their way to Java. 2/

"Ignoring the overwhelming odds - and the fact that five of their aircraft were caught on the ground - the Americans attacked the Japanese and, despite suffering heavy losses, shot down two Japanese dive bombers," he said.

"That courage in the face of the enemy gave heart to the people of Darwin and helped cement relations with our American allies."

M E D I A R E L E A S ET he H on C on S ciacca MP M in is t e r for V e t e r a n s ' A ffa ir s

Contact: Peter Thomas Minister's Office 06 2777820 018 622660 Paul Lewer Australia Remembers Task Force 06 2896611

Note editors: Background information on the bombing of Darwin is available from Paul Lewer

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