Katherine for example had 90 bombs dropped upon it as there was an air base there. Today, as a tourist site, a bomb crater in a paddock has been preserved. Broome suffered perhaps the worst of all attacks when every Catalina flying boat in the harbour was sunk and streets full of people were strafed.
This subject is of interest to Well-Being Australia's Mark Tronson, as he recently undertook a Country Town Tour Mission to the Northern Territory and took the opportunity to investigate potential Tourism Ministry opportunities.
One of the tourist research projects he undertook while in Darwin was the 'Bombing of Darwin WWII Heritage Tour' which was very similar in concept to his Moruya Historic Bus Tour, which functioned between 1996 and 2005, at which time he relocated to The Tweed.
For reasons cited as 'security', successive Australian Governments played down the numbers actually lost in these raids, as well as the extent of the raids themselves. Others have speculated on the real reasons for not being open.
M V Tronson notes that security and information dissemination in times of War (particularly before the current ease of electronic communications) has always been 'moderated' by Governments everywhere; this helps to avoid unintended intelligence getting to the wrong hands, and also (as perhaps in the case of the Darwin Bombing) to avoid panic and potential hysteria by the population as a whole.
However, the truth about the casualties is now known, and the information is disseminated in the official 1991 film documentary that is replayed every day at the East Point Military Museum, and on various information websites put out by the Government, such as http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/darwinbombing/
Officially it is now estimated that approximately 250 civilians were killed on the first day, and 278 military personnel were still missing three days later. Over the entire raid, there were approximately 1,000 casualties. Unofficially and supported by local historians there were well over a 1,000 deaths plus injured.
Although attacked by air, and certainly the severity of the raids over Northern Australia, were not anticipated, an attack on Darwin was certainly known as a possibility. The Government had therefore already evacuated approximately 1,000 women and children, and was planning to get them all out. One ship of such refugees had left the harbour only hours before the bombing.
The Bombing of Darwin WWII Heritage Tour was the idea of Garry (whose surname is a mystery to everyone). Garry is your regular Aussie knock-about bloke who was a driver of one of those mega 'scoop' trucks in the open cut mines.
He has been well versed on the Bombing of Darwin since he was a child. His father was on HMAS Adelaide which left Darwin two days before the bombing; and his two uncles were in Darwin during the bombing. There is a photograph of his father in naval uniform at the Military Museum.
The Bombing of Darwin WWII Heritage Tour starts at the Darwin wharf. The 188 Japanese aircraft came to Darwin from the south, having done a wide circle over Arnhem Land so as to surprise the defenders. A warning message from the mission on Bathurst Island was somehow not passed on.
Garry pointed out where the ships were anchored in the Harbour along with the US Destroyer Peary which was hit and later sunk. The ship Neptuna was at the wharf loaded with ammunition, it too was hit and went sky high. A large piece from the bridge was later found in the city, such was the force of the explosions. Tourists can see photographs of a huge gap where wharf itself was hit.
The tour continued to the Catalina Base, to the restored historic Burnett House where bullet holes from the 'Zero' planes were still visible in the fence. Garry showed us an oil tank where a lone military rifleman shot down an attacking plane; as well as a plethora of other significant sites, such as the place where the Squadron 8 dog fights took place, and the Submarine Boom Cable that stretched for 3.5 km across the bay (in an attempt to stop the expected invasion by sea, that never happened) and the ammunition bunkers. The tour also includes the Museum.
Garry provided great background information from his first-hand knowledge of oral history, as well as documentary evidence from an array of books and publications. One such book was entitled 'No Stamp Available' by Albert James who was a young lad in Darwin at this time and whose father was an official ARP (Air Raid) director.
This book title (No Stamp Available) is an allusion to the fact that the Post Office was destroyed on that first day of bombing, killing the telephone exchange girls, the post master and his entire family. Letters were then given to people high-tailing it out of Darwin, travelling south and posting the letters at the first post office they came to.
In the book, Albert James also states that there were so many bodies washed up on the shore after that first day, that they were loaded into barges and buried at sea. However, this may also explain the missing military personnel that were never found, that are now mentioned in an official Government information sites mentioned above. No-one will ever know, now.
Garry spoke about the Japanese submarine 'I 124' and the many interesting stories of its war time exploits and its being sunk by Allied forces in the ocean waters out from Port Darwin.
It is not generally known that there were more bombs in numbers and tonnage dropped on Darwin in each of those first two raids on the 19 February 1942, than the same Japanese air fleet dropped on Pearl Harbour only 10 weeks previously.
One of the difficulties in attacking northern Australia by air (or by any other means, for that matter) was its vastness, and of attacking Darwin in particular, its sparseness - with significantly large distances between buildings.
Australia was no Asia where living quarters are packed together. One bomb might kill hundreds in any Asian city, whereas unless a bomb was right on target in Darwin, it would only hit bare earth. This can be seen in the newsreel footage of the bombing of Darwin.
Garry says that the many retired and serving military people who have been on his tour have commented with much enthusiasm about his information. His command of facts and anecdotes are combined in a larrikin-style format, it's engaging and leaves his customers pondering. Indeed many a customer has added more stories to his oral history."
M V Tronson was also able to add some information. He provided Garry with the title of a book: 'From Pearl Harbour to Pulpit' by Mitsuo Fuchida who led both the Pearl Harbour and Darwin raids, and who after the war became a Christian and a preacher and travelled the US extensively on speaking tours.
Because of his practical experience with his Tourism Ministry in Moruya, as well as Well-Being Australia's emphasis on respite, M V Tronson also made several suggestions to Garry. One is to train a back-up tour guide person for when Garry himself needs a break, as this was necessary for his own respite; and another was to package the tour for coach lines as a 'step on - step off' guide.
To learn more of this very interesting tour, go to www.bombingofdarwin.com.au