On 19 February 1942, an Imperial Japanese Navy A6M2 "Zero", Serial No. 5349, coded BII-124, was hit in the oil tank by a single .303" rifle bullet over Darwin Harbour during one of the largest Japanese bombing raids on Darwin.


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A6M2 "Zero", BII-124 on Melville Island


When the engine seized and the propeller sheared off, the pilot, Flight Sergeant Hajimi Toyoshima, crash landed his damaged aircraft on Melville Island, north-west of Darwin whilst returning to his aircraft carrier, Hiryu.


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Toyoshima under the watchful eye of Sergeant Les Powell.

Les was using Toyoshima's .32 calibre Belgian pistol to guard his prisoner



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 "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. (covered on this home page)


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?



"Darwin's Air War - 1942 - 1945 An Illustrated History"
By Bob Alford


"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

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 Peter Dunn OAM 2020


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This page first produced 17 October 1999

This page last updated 21 February 2020