JAPANESE D3A "VAL" DIVE BOMBER
SHOT DOWN OVER DARWIN HARBOUR, NT
ON 19 FEBRUARY 1942

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visits since 14 February 2002

 

The Japanese launched a major air raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942. The aircraft in the first raid on 19 February 1942 comprised:-

36    A6M2 Type "O" fighter aircraft
71    D3A "Val" dive bombers
81    B5N "Kate" high level bombers

The Japanese aircraft were targeted by a number of ant-aircraft batteries as follows:-

2nd Anti-aircraft Battery
14th Anti-aircraft Battery

There were A-A Batteries at Darwin Oval, Fannie Bay, and other strategic locations around the town. After the high level bombers had completed their mission, the dive-bombers and fighter aircraft took over. 

The 14th Anti-aircraft Battery put their guns onto independent control. One of the guns manned by Jack Mulholland was assigned a 90 degree field of fire over Darwin Harbour. The dive-bombers were attacking the larger ships and the fighter aircraft were strafing the smaller vessels. The 14th's guns was too slow to engage the Japanese aircraft at such short range. The only strategy they could adopt was to put up a shield of fire above the ships in the harbour. The shortest recommended fuse setting was 2 seconds. They selected 1.5 seconds as the fuse setting to reduce the range before the shell would explode. Eventually one of the shells exploded near the nose of one of the dive-bombers. The damaged Japanese dive-bomber side slipped into the harbour.

 


 

The above information is based on Jack Mulholland's book "Darwin Bombed - The Unit History of 14 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery" There appears to be some confusion regarding the Japanese casualties in this first bombing raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942. From a number of sources I have now come across details of the loss of 4 Japanese aircraft:-

Aircraft No 1 The above "Val" dive bomber crashed in the sea, north of East Point after it was hit by a cone of gunfire from the town's defences. 
Aircraft No. 2 & 3 Lieutenant Bob Oestricher shot down two D3A "Vals" during the first air raid on Darwin.
Aircraft No. 4 Imperial Japanese Navy A6M2 "Zero" crashed on Melville Island after it was hit in the oil tank by a single .303" rifle bullet over Darwin Harbour.

A number of sources indicate that only two Japanese aircraft were shot down during the first raid on Darwin. Is it possible that Aircraft Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are actually the same aircraft or did Lt. Oestricher only shoot down one aircraft not two and that aircraft is the same as Aircraft No. 1 above. Or some other combination. Access to Japanese military records may possibly help to solve this problem. Can anyone help me unravel this mystery?

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Darwin Bombed"
"The Unit History of 14 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery"
by Jack Mulholland

 

Can anyone help me with more information on this incident?

 

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   Peter Dunn 2002
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This page first produced 14 February  2002

This page last updated 11 September 2002