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The lesson of history is that vigilance must be eternal

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 21 February 2013


Australia's involvement in World War I is defined and remembered by the heroism and sacrifice of our troops at Gallipoli.

While many Australians also fought on the battlefields of France and elsewhere, which is recognised and recorded, it is the Gallipoli campaign that captured the imagination of the Australian public and gave rise to the ANZAC legend.

Similarly in World War II, the trials and tribulations of our diggers trudging along the famed KokodaTrack, magnificently assisted by the people of Papua New Guinea, have inspired thousands of Australians in recent years, paying tribute to their heroism by walking the same trail.

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It is intriguing that the only large-scale attack on Australian soil during World War II has not, until recently, featured prominently in our embrace of Australian military history.

The initial bombing of Darwin by the Japanese airforce on 19 February 1942 was the largest attack on the Allies following the December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbour.

The raids on Darwin by 242 Japanese planes caused enormous damage to military and civilian targets.

While the first wave of planes focused on military targets of ships and airstrips, communications infrastructure such as the telegraph and post offices were also destroyed.

This attack lasted about 40 minutes with a second wave of planes an hour later targeting the Air Force base.

Darwin’s only defence was 10 fighter planes - nine of which were destroyed during the first attack.

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Eight ships in the harbour were sunk with significant damage to numerous other vessels.

The US naval destroyer USS Peary was hit with five bombs and 91 crew went down with the ship.

The two attacks that day caused the deaths of 243 people, with than 400 people suffering wounds and injury.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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