Japanese Vice-Admiral Chu'ichi Nagumo ordered the attack on Darwin on 19 February 1942. The day turned out to be a fine day (weatherwise). There were about 46 ships packed into Darwin Harbour on that fateful day.

By the early hours of the 19 February 1942 the Japanese naval force was located about 350 kms north west of Darwin. The Japanese aircraft carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu were arming their aircraft and warming up their engines. 

By 8:45am the force of 188 aircraft led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida had been launched. It comprised:-

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

 Some early warning of the Japanese raid was given by two sources but they were lost in the system and not acted on before the attack began. Lt. John Gribble (Navy Reserve) transmitted his sighting to the Naval Communications Station at HMAS Coonawarra at about 9:15 am. Father John McGrath at the Bathurst Island Mission radioed his sighting to the Area Combined Headquarters (ACH) at Darwin a few minutes later. While he was sending his message six Japanese fighters strafed the area where he was damaging some buildings and destroying a Douglas C-53 aircraft of the 22nd Transport Squadron

Mc Grath's message was received at the Coastal Radio Station V.I.D. Darwin at 9:37am and passed to the Area Combined Headquarters at the Darwin RAAF airfield. 


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This page first produced 10 February 2002

This page last updated 14 January 2020