Anzac Day Posters 2012

70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin

On 19 February 1942, Japanese aircraft bombed Darwin, killing hundreds of service personnel and civilians. This was the first of a series of almost 100 Japanese aerial attacks on Australia, ending in November 1943. Australian War Memorial 134955

70th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign

During 1942 Australian soldiers fought the savage Kokoda campaign, which first halted the Japanese advance towards Port Moresby and then drove it back, forging the way for eventual victory in New Guinea. Local people assisted in the care and evacuation of Australian casualties. Australian War Memorial 026856

Series: Anzac Day posters

Wartime snapshot

70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin

Before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Darwin was a sleepy, tropical town. It had, however, been identified as an area of some importance for the defence of Australia when a decision was made in the late 1930s to increase navy and army presence there.

On 7 December 1941, when Japan entered the war against Australia and its allies, there were about 15,000 Australian and Allied personnel living in Darwin and the immediate surrounding areas. The air and naval defences of the region were not strong and Darwin’s defenders were not prepared for the devastating air raids mounted on the town, its port and airfields, on 19 February 1942. These raids resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and the widespread destruction of the town, port and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) station.

In the months following these air raids, the Japanese launched almost 100 raids across the north of Australia. With the exception of the raid on Broome on 3 March 1942, these did not come close to equalling the ferocity and destruction of the initial raids. They did highlight to the Australian authorities the vulnerability of Australia’s north.

As a result, the defences were rapidly expanded. Australian, British, Dutch and US fighter squadrons and warships were deployed to Darwin and other parts of the north, while Australian and US bomber squadrons began flying from bases around Darwin and other places in Australia’s north to engage the enemy.

The threat of attack on Australian soil decreased with the success of Australian and Allied campaigns against the Japanese in New Guinea, Asia and the Pacific. The defences in Darwin were then reduced, but not completely removed, until after the war ended in August 1945.

Due to distance and government censorship, detailed information about the bombing of Darwin did not reach all parts of Australia. Many Australians were not aware of the bombing or the loss of lives.


  • G. Hermon Gill, Australia in the War of 1939–1945: Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945, Series 2, Navy, Vol. II, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1968.
  • Douglas Gillison, Australia in the War of 1939–1945: Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942, Series 3, Air Force, Vol. 1, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1962.
  • Dudley McCarthy, Australia in the War of 1939–1945: South-West Pacific Area – The First Year, Series 1, Army, Vol. V, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1959.
  • Peter Stanley, Invading Australia: Japan and the Battle for Australia, 1942, Viking, 2008.
  • Bob Wurth, 1942: Australia’s Greatest Peril, Macmillan Australia, Sydney, 2008.

70th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign

The Kokoda campaign began with the Japanese landings on Papua's coast on 21 July 1942. Their strategy was to conduct an overland assault on Port Moresby by crossing the Owen Stanley Range on what was known as the Kokoda Track. Capturing Port Moresby would put the Japanese in a better position to launch attacks against the Australian mainland.

Australian and Papuan troops fought the Japanese in a series of engagements along the track at Kokoda, Deniki, Isurava, Eora, Efogi, Templeton's Crossing, Ioribaiwa and Oivi-Gorari. Other important battles of the campaign occurred when the Australians and their allies defeated Japanese landings at Milne Bay. On the Kokoda Track, the enemy was finally halted 40 kilometres from their objective in September 1942 and they retreated to the beachheads on the north coast at Buna, Gona and Sanananda. There Australian and US troops fought in battles that were more costly than those on the Kokoda Track, until they were victorious in January 1943.

While Kokoda was a successful campaign for the Australians, it was not without great cost. More than 600 Australians were killed in action and over 1 000 evacuated due to sickness in the treacherous conditions on the Kokoda Track.

About 120,000 people in total were engaged in the fighting in Papua New Guinea, either as combatants or working to support the fighting troops on both sides. Local villagers, referred to as 'Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels', supported the Australians in battle by carrying supplies forward for the troops and transporting wounded and sick Australian soldiers back along the track. Some Papua New Guineans were also involved on the Japanese side. The Kokoda Track appears much as it did in 1942 when the Australian soldiers fought there. Along the track, fighting pits and rusted weapons can still be seen. In recent years thousands of Australian tourists have undertaken the physically challenging task of walking the 96-kilometre Kokoda Track to admire the spectacular wild landscape and commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who once fought there.


  • Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA), Kokoda: Exploring the Second World War campaign in Papua New Guinea, 2012.
  • DVA, Australians in the Pacific War: Kokoda 1942, 2nd ed, 2007.
  • DVA, Australians in the Pacific War: Milne Bay 1942, 2nd ed, 2007.
  • DVA, Australians in the Pacific War: Battle of the Beachheads 1942–1943, 3rd ed, 2007.
  • Dudley McCarthy, South-West Pacific area – first year, Kokoda to Wau, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1959.
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