Aussies 'ignorant' about Darwin bombing 


Research from a prominent historian has shown an astonishing amount of ignorance in young Australians of Darwin's role in WWII.

Professor of History at Charles Darwin University, Professor Alan Powell, said that while many Australians were familiar with the WWII battlefields in Europe they remained ignorant of Darwin's integral role in the war.

"We celebrate the achievement of federation, we commemorate Gallipoli, yet the bombing of Darwin was an equally significant milestone in Australian history," he said.

Professor Powell said that findings from a recent survey illustrated an alarming lack of knowledge by young Australians of this important moment in their nation's history.

Newspoll research, commissioned by Tourism Northern Territory, found 77 per cent of Australians incorrectly believed a greater number of bombs were dropped by Japan on Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, in December 1941, than on Darwin in February 1942.

The poll also suggested many Australians did not know the importance of Darwin's defence role in WWII as a hub against Japanese aggression in South-east Asia.

Twelve per cent of Australians aged 18 to 34, who make up Generations X and Y, thought Sydney was the Australian city attacked most during the war.

"These events changed our nation forever,” Professor Powell said.

“It was a major event in Australian history and yet so few people know about it."

At least 243 people were killed and hundreds more injured in Australia's northern capital during Japanese bombing raids on February 19, 1942.

The first 40-minute raid badly damaged the town, demolishing eight ships including the destroyer USS Peary with the loss of 91 seamen, and all but one of Darwin's warplanes.

Alan Powell is an Emeritus Professor of History at Charles Darwin University and author of 'The Shadow's Edge: Australia's northern war'.

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