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In Darwin, Australia every year, the people hold a memorial ceremony to commemorate the Darwin bombing by the Japanese on February 19, 1942. Although Australia suffered relatively minor damage from Japanese air raids, this bombing was the first large attack against the country by a foreign power. Militarily, the air raid on Darwin as well as the subsequent bombings on other parts of Australia represented a psychological campaign by the Japanese.

Many historians considered the Darwin bombing the  Australian  version of the attack on Pearl Harbor. More bombs were dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor although there were lesser military targets at the time. Darwin at the time of the bombing had only about 2000 population out of 5000. The rest either fled or relocated to the central regions of the subcontinent soon after hostilities started.

About 188 planes, led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, attacked the sleepy town of Darwin. The planes took off from Imperial Japanese Navy’s carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryu, and Soryu). These carriers would later be sunk or damaged in the coming months at the battle of Midway. Darwin was lightly defended by the 14th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery and some light automatic weapons. Some of heavier guns from the defending battery were positioned at the harbor entrance. Although there was an airfield in Darwin, it was only defended by a few Royal  Australian  Air Force (RAAF) since the bulk of the RAAF were already sent to Europe, Middle East, and North Africa. The US Army has about 11 P-40s stationed in the airfield. Experimental radar was not yet operational during the bombing.

Just like Pearl Harbor, the defenders at Darwin ignored advanced warnings provided by  Australian  Coastwatchers and a Catholic priest based in Bathurst Island. The warnings were received loud and clear on the radio twice. The commander at Darwin thought that it was the 11 P-40E Kittyhawk fighter squadron that had just left the airfield.

About 45 vessels anchored at the harbor were attacked with bombs and torpedoes, while the airfield was strafed repeatedly by Japanese Zeros. Even the hospital was not spared.

After the initial wave of attackers withdrew, another wave of high-altitude bombers attacked the Darwin RAAF Airfield which lasted for about 25 minutes.

Although casualties on the population as well as to the military were disputed, the government identified an estimated 243 victims. A USN destroyer was sunk as well as US Army Troop ship. The  Australian  Navy lost a single patrol boat in the attack but two commercial ships used as merchant troop transports were also sunk. Another US merchant freighter ship was sent to the bottom, while a UK-registered refueling oiler was destroyed. Additionally, the US Army lost all but one of its P-40s in Darwin and one B-24 bomber.

The most terrible casualty however, was the minds of the general populace. A spread of panic was created after the attack as many people believed that an invasion was coming. Almost half of the populace fled the area at once. Civic services such as water and electricity were damaged adding to the chaos. The attack was significant Australia news at the time. Fear and panic reached even the farthest ends of the country. Moreover, even the  Australian  Army found it difficult to control its own troops looting vacated private properties. There was a total breakdown of order in Darwin. Although the attack resulted to Japanese victory after destroying several Allied assets, the real victory was the psychological effect it had on the population and the country in general.

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