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Darwin Raids 1942-1943

Raids No. 1 & 2
Feburary 19 1942
243 killed, 350 wounded. Two ships set on fire, one blown up damaging the pier. Six ships sunk and seven more damaged; three Catalina aircraft destroyed and two US vessels destroyed. Post and Telegraph offices destroyed, Police Station, Barracks, Cable Office, and Government offices destroyed and hospital damaged. RAAF hospital, recreation hall, equipment store, many houses and living quarters destroyed.

On 19 February 1942 four of the six Japanese carriers that bombed Pearl Harbor launched another surprise attack. Eighty-one planes were launched against Darwin whose harbour was full of ships. Eight ships were sunk, two were beached and later refloated and many of the other thirty-five ships in the harbour were damaged by bomb or machine gun fire. Darwin town and the RAAF aerodrome were also heavily damaged by the raid.

Darwin would have been without any air defence except that ten Kittyhawks of the US 33rd Pursuit Squadron en route to Java had turned back to Darwin. Five of the aircraft landed while the other five remained in the air. In command in the air was Lieut Robert G Oestreicher who spotted Japanese planes diving on the Kittyhawks. He shouted a warning that Zeros were attacking. However three of the Kittyhawks were quickly shot down with two of the pilots being killed. A fourth American airman, although wounded, managed to land his damaged aircraft. Lieut Oestreicher was the only pilot who stayed in the air during the raid and was able to shoot down two Japanese planes although only one kill was confirmed. The five Kittyhawks that had landed were either destroyed on the ground or were shot down before they were able to regain combat altitude. Two of these pilots, including their Commanding Officer, Major Floyd Pell, were also killed. A second raid of 54 bombers two hours later on the same day met no resistance in the air. Antiaircraft guns that day destroyed four Japanese aircraft and probably destroyed another four. The raids on 19 February were the first two of sixty-four raids against the Darwin area. There is no authoritative list of either Allied or Japanese aircraft losses so the accompanying chart is the best estimate from a number of sources.

Raid No. 3. March 4 1942
Nil casualties. One Hudson aircraft destroyed..    The third Japanese raid against Darwin was on 4 March with eight Zeros making the attack.

Raid No. 4 16 Mar 1942
Two airmen killed and four wounded. Officers' Mess and one Hudson damaged.    Darwin remained without any air defence until the arrival, on 17 March, of the United States 49th Fighter Group flying Kittyhawks. While moving to Darwin, the Fighter Group staged through Horn Island.

Raid No. 5 19 Mar 1942
Two killed. Naval HQ and residential area damaged. 14 bombers attacking and on 19 March with 7 bombers attacking.

Raid No. 6. 22 Mar 1942
Nil casualties. Scub near Nightcliffs hit.

Raid No. 7. 28 Mar 1942
Nil casualties. Runway and Wirraway hit.    The 49th Fighter Group was not up to full strength at Darwin until mid April but the Group achieved its first victory during the Japanese raid of 22 March 1942 in what was the first successful radar controlled interception in Australia. During the period 28 March to 27 April, the Kittyhawks intercepted the Japanese on seven occasions and brought down 31 bombers and fighters. Antiaircraft guns brought down another two bombers. Eight Kittyhawks were lost and three American pilots were killed. Damage was not extensive although 30,000 gallons of fuel was lost on 2 April.

Raid No. 8. 30 Mar 1942
Nil casualties. Nil damage.

Raids No. 9 & 10 31 Mar 1942
Nil casualties. Bombs dropped in bush.

Raid No. 11 02 Apr 1942
Nil casualties. Frog's Hollow fuel tank and civilian houses damaged.

Raid No. 12 04 Apr 1942
One killed and two wounded. Civil aerodrome strafed.

Raid No. 13 05 Apr 1942
Nil casualties. RAAF aerodrome cratered.

Raid No. 14 25 Apr 1942
One killed RAAF aerodrome damaged

Raid No. 15 27 Apr 1942
Four killed. RAAF station hit. three wounded. The Japanese did not attack Darwin during May but the following month saw a concentrated series of attacks on four consecutive days. From 13 to 16 June, the Japanese attacked each day with 27 bombers escorted by about 20 fighters except for 14 June when only the fighters attacked. Despite the weight of the attacks, casualties were light and so was damage to the installations. The Kittyhawks destroyed 13 Japanese aircraft for the loss of 9 of their own. Second Lieut Andrew Reynolds shot down his fifth victim over Darwin on 16 June and became the first of five allied aces in the Darwin area.

Raid No. 16 13 Jun 1942
Nil casualties. Buildings, airfield and fuel stocks hit.

Raid No. 17 14 Jun 1942
Nil casualties. Nil damage.

Raid No. 18 15 Jun 1942
Four killed twelve wounded. Two buildings hit.

Raid No. 19 16 Jun 1942
Nil casualties. Buildings hit.

Raid No. 20 25 Jul 1942
Nil casualties. Power and water supplies Buildings damaged. The formation of RAAF radio location stations Nos 31, 105 and 109 enhanced the ability of the Kittyhawks to intercept the Japanese raiders. However, in July the Japanese switched to night raids and from 25 July to 30 July sent small groups of bombers without escort to attack Darwin. Without air-to-air radar these night raids were difficult to intercept. On the afternoon of 30 July, 27 bombers with an escort of 15 to 20 fighters were intercepted by Kittyhawks. Nine Japanese aircraft were confirmed as destroyed with a further ten probably destroyed or damaged.

Raid No. 21 26 Jul 1942
Two wounded. Three houses destroyed.

Raid No. 22 27 Jul 1942
Nil casualties. Searchlight station hit.

Raid No. 23 28 Jul 1942
Nil casualties. Airfields hit.

Raid No. 24 29 Jul 1942
Nil casualties. Naval repair shop damaged.

Raids No. 25 & 26 30 Jul 1942
One killed. Fuel dumps, power, water, and telephone lines damaged.

Raid No. 27 23 Aug 1942
Nil casualties. Hughes Field and aircraft damaged..    The Japanese launched their next attack against the Darwin area on 23 August 1942 with a heavy daylight raid against the RAAF airbase at Hughes, fifty kilometres south of Darwin. Fuel and ammunition as well as two aircraft on the ground were destroyed. The Japanese were intercepted by 18 Kittyhawks which achieved their greatest success in bringing down 15 Japanese aircraft without loss. Among the successful American pilots that day was First Lieut James B Morehead who became the second ace in the Darwin area with his fourth and fifth confirmed kills. This was to be the last fight of the US 49th Fighter Group in the Darwin area since a further seven raids during the remainder of August were minor raids at night which did not result in any interception. In five months in the Darwin area the US 49th Fighter Group had destroyed 72 Japanese aircraft for the loss of 17 Kittyhawks. Raids No. 28 & 29 24 Aug 1942 Nil casualties. Bombs dropped in swamp. Raid No. 30 25 Aug 1942 Nil casualities. Aeradio station and power lines damaged. Raid No. 31 27 Aug 1942 Nil casualties. Aeradio station hit. Raid No. 32 28 Aug 1942 Nil casualties. Railway damaged. Raid No. 33 30 Aug 1942 Nil casualties. Pipe line damaged. Raid No. 34 31 Aug 1942 Nil casualties. Nil damage. Raids No. 35 & 36 25 Sep 1942 Nil casualties. Power and fuel supplies hit. Raid No. 37 26 Sep 1942 Nil casualties. Nil damage. Raids No. 38 & 39 27 Sep 1942 Nil casualties. Nil damage. Raids No. 40, 41, 42 & 43 24 Oct 1942 Five wounded. Huts and water tanks damaged.. Raid No. 44 25 Oct 1942 Nil casualties. Nil damage. Raid No. 45 26 Oct 1942 Nil casualties. Buildings, power and telegraph lines damaged.. Raid No. 46 27 Oct 1942 Nil casualties. Power lines damaged.. Raid No. 47 23 Nov 1942 Nil casualties. Nil damage.    Australian Kittyhawks moved to Darwin to replace the US Kittyhawks. In August No 77 Squadron RAAF arrived in the area and was followed by No 76 Squadron RAAF in October. The Japanese changed tactics after the heavy losses in August and abandoned heavy daylight raids for six months. During September, five small raids were made in the last week of the month without causing much damage. The Japanese continued with the same tactics in seven raids in late October but this time they struck Batchelor, Pell and Cox Peninsular as well as Darwin. Without air-to-air radar the Australian pilots found it almost impossible to intercept these Japanese night raids. In the last week of November, the Japanese launched heavy raids of 12 to 18 bombers against Darwin and Hughes on three nights. The only success of No 77 Squadron in the Darwin area occurred on 23 November when Wing Commander Cresswell shot down a nine-man Betty bomber in the first successful night interception over Australia. Raid No. 48 26 Nov 1942 Nil casualties. Darwin and Hughes Field damaged. Raid No. 49 27 Nov 1942 Nil casualties. Nil damage. Raid No. 50 20 Jan 1943 Nil casualties. Nil damage.    No 1 Fighter Wing, RAAF moved to the Darwin area with three Spitfire squadrons, No 54 RAF at Darwin, No 452 RAAF at Strauss and No 457 RAAF at Livingstone, during January 1943. Two small raids causing only minor damage were not intercepted that month. Raid No. 51 21 Jan 1943 Nil casualties. Nil damage. Raid No. 52 02 Mar 1943 Two wounded. Coonallic strip strafed.    Spitfires had their first major clashes with the Japanese on 2 and 15 March 1943. On the 2nd, 16 bombers attacked the Beaufighter base at Coomalie about 100 kilometres south of Darwin. The Spitfires destroyed three aircraft. On the 15th, Darwin town was hit by a mixed group of 40 to 50 bombers and fighters. The Spitfires shot down seven and probably destroyed another seven aircraft. Four Spitfires were lost but the only casualty was the Commanding Officer of No. 452 Squadron. Raid No. 53 15 Mar 1943 Nil casualties. Fuel tanks, pipe lines and railway sheds hit. Raid No. 54 02 May 1943 Nil casualties. Buildings damaged.    On 2 May 1943 the Japanese again attacked with a force of 20 bombers and 20 Zeros. Spitfires intercepted the Japanese and shot down six aircraft and probably destroyed 4 more as well as damaging 8 others. Five Spitfires were shot down and two pilots killed. However eight Spitfires were forced to land through engine failure or shortage of fuel, although six of these aircraft were later recovered. The press obtained the casualty figures which resulted in press speculation that the Spitfires had not done well against the attacking Japanese. The next raids were against the airfield on Millingimbi Island east of Darwin. On 9 May, the Japanese raid killed twelve servicemen and civilians. Next day, the Japanese were back but six Spitfires were able to intercept the enemy force and brought down two Zeros and a float plane. However, the Japanese sank a store ship and destroyed two aircraft and damaged three others. The third and last attack on Millingimbi took place on 28 May. Spitfires destroyed three bombers but two Spitfires with their pilots disappeared into the Arafura Sea. Raid No. 55 20 Jun 1943 Three killed and eleven wounded. Winnellie area hit, also RAAF.    The Japanese returned to Darwin in strength on 20 June 1943. The Spitfires intercepted the formation of 21 bombers and 21 fighters, shooting down 9 bombers and 5 fighters. Two Spitfire pilots were shot down and killed. This was the most successful encounter by the RAAF over Darwin, during which Wing Commander Caldwell, an ace from the European theatre, shot down his fifth Japanese aircraft. The other two Darwin aces were RAF Squadron Leaders E M Gibbs and R W Foster of No 54, Squadron RAF.(18) The Japanese again attacked on 28 June with nine bombers and nine fighters. Four fighters were destroyed and two bombers probably destroyed. One Spitfire was destroyed as a result of a forced landing. However the pilot was uninjured. From 30 June the Japanese directed their main attacks against the US Liberator base at Fenton, about 150 kilometres south of Darwin. Spitfires that day intercepted 27 bombers and 23 fighters and shot down 6 bombers and 2 fighters. Six Spitfires were lost, three due to engine failure, and one Spitfire pilot was killed. On 6 July a similar sized Japanese force again attacked Fenton. Seven bombers and two fighters were destroyed with another three bombers damaged. Eight Spitfires were destroyed and three pilots killed. A Liberator was destroyed by fire on the ground. Raid No. 56 28 Jun 1943 Nil casualties. Three huts damaged. Raid No. 57 30 Jun 1943 Two wounded. Aircraft and vehicles damaged.

Raid No. 58 06 Jul 1943
Nil casualties. Four aircraft damaged.    The raid on 6 July 1943 was the last in strength over the Darwin area. Three raids in August were all at night and resulted in no casualties or damage. The Japanese were not intercepted on any of these raids but four Japanese reconnaissance aircraft were destroyed in mid August. August also saw the last raids against Broome and Port Hedland. On 7 September a twin engine aircraft escorted by fighters was intercepted by Spitfires. Five enemy fighters were destroyed and several others damaged for the loss of three Spitfires, with one pilot killed. Both raids in September were against Fenton but involved no casualties or aircraft losses. In the early morning of 12 November 1943, nine aircraft raided Darwin and Fenton. With the help of searchlights two bombers were shot down by Spitfires. This was the 64th and final raid on Darwin. Japanese reconnaissance aircraft continued to fly over the Darwin area. The last Japanese aircraft destroyed in the Darwin area was shot down on 25 June 1944.

Raids No. 59 & 60 13 Aug 1943
Nil casualties. Nil damage.

Raid No. 61 21 Aug 1943
Nil casualties. Fenton, Coomalic and Pell hit.

Raid No. 62 16 Sep 1943
Nil casualties. Camp hit.

Raid No. 63 19 Sep 1943
Nil casualties. Nil damage.

Raid No. 64 12 Nov 1943
Nil casualties. Slight damage around Darwin

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