Commemoration of a nation

Many younger Australians are unaware of some of the darker days in our recent history – especially those that occurred during World War II. Sadly, as the years go on and the eyewitnesses leave us, some of our biggest disasters can be forgotten.

It is fitting then, that Northern Territory Tourism has prepared a comprehensive program to allow locals and tourists to remember the bombing of Darwin during the war – 75 years after the historic disaster.

The 75th anniversary of the bombing will be on February 19, with the city commemorating the tragedy through tours, receptions, film screenings and memorial services starting from Friday February 17.

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Liberator flying crew with the United States of America Air Force, 530 Squadron, 380 Bombardment Group, who were based in Darwin in December 1944

February 19 marks the day that 242 Japanese aircraft, in two separate raids, bombed the town as well as ships in the harbour during the war. Historians point out that these bombing raids actually killed more people (civilians and military personnel) than Pearl Harbor.

While the commemorative events planned will no doubt appeal to history buffs, they will also serve as a sober reminder for ordinary Australians to understand the difficult days and traumatic events that the northern half of the country experienced during the war.

The bombing of Darwin was the first military attack on Australian soil in history, but many historians feel its importance has been overlooked or largely ignored by the modern public. The NT Government is keen to make sure that the loss of life and heroics displayed during that time will not be forgotten.

Some of the events over the weekend from February 17 to 21 are open to the community, including a memorial service on The Esplanade on February 19 for the USS Peary, organised by the Australian American Association NT.

The USS Peary was a US Navy destroyer that was sunk by Japanese aircraft in the harbour on February 19, 1942, with the loss of 88 officers and men. It was the first destroyer of the Asiatic Fleet to be sunk in World War II. The service will be held at 8.15am and be followed by a Commemorative Service for the Bombing of Darwin Day at the Cenotaph from 9.30am. Both events are free and open to the public.

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Lest we forget.

(Feature image: Sarah Stewart / Flickr)

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