After the fall of Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942, the Japanese drive towards Australia appeared unstoppable. On 19 February 1942, Japan brought death and destruction to Australia's shore for the first time in its history as a nation when 188 Japanese aircraft bombed the northern port of Darwin. Darwin would be bombed by the Japanese sixty times between 19 February 1942 and 12 November 1943. While Japanese bombers were striking Darwin and other northern towns, the Japanese Navy was attacking mainland cities on Australia's eastern coast and sinking Australian ships.

On the night of 31 May 1942, Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour. A torpedo fired by one of the midget submarines struck and sank an Australian navy barracks ship, HMAS Kuttabul, killing nineteen sailors. On the night of 7 June 1942, Japanese submarines shelled Sydney and Newcastle. Off the coast of Australia, Japanese submarines were sinking Australian shipping. To many Australians, a Japanese invasion of their country appeared imminent.

Japan brings death and destruction to the tranquil beauty of Sydney Harbour. The Australian Navy barracks ship, HMAS Kuttabul lies on the bed of Sydney Harbour after a Japanese midget submarine attack in 1942.


19 February 1942 - The first Japanese air raids on Darwin

One man's photographic record of the first Darwin air raids

An eyewitness account of the first Darwin air raids

Another eyewitness account of the first Darwin air raids

Japanese attacks on Australia's eastern coast