E-REA (Dec 2012)

Forgetting and Remembering the Darwin Bombings

  • Elizabeth RECHNIEWSKI

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10


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On 19 February 1942 Japanese warplanes struck Darwin harbour, where an important section of the American fleet was at anchor, with a force greater than that hurled against Pearl Harbour, causing the death of over 300 people and extensive damage to the harbour, airfields and city. Despite the extent of this attack - the most serious ever launched against Australian territory - it received comparatively little recognition in the post-war era outside of Darwin until November 2011 when Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced, during the visit of President Obama to Darwin, that 19 February would become an official national day of commemoration. This article considers whether the bombings were in fact ‘forgotten’ in the post-war era, and if this was the case, why it was so, and seeks to establish the reasons for the recent re-emergence of memory at the national and even international levels.