eCite Digital Repository

Pearl Harbor and Australia's War in the Pacific


Darian-Smith, K, Pearl Harbor and Australia's War in the Pacific, Beyond Pearl Harbor: A Pacific History, University Press of Kansas, B Bailey, D Farber (ed), Lawrence, pp. 173-193. ISBN 9780700628124 (2019) [Research Book Chapter]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2019 University Press of Kansas

Official URL:


On February 19, 2017, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Darwin was commemorated with a service attended by the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Governor General Peter Cosgrove at the memorial cenotaph on the city's esplanade. The piercing screech of an air-raid siren was sounded at 9:58 a.m., the exact time of the first Japanese raid in 1942, and military aircraft flew across the sky. Veteran survivor Mervyn Lloyd Ey, age ninety-five years, was among those who gathered to remember and reflect on the enemy attack. He vividly recalled the suddenness of the raid and the ensuing chaos: "The first we saw was a whole heap of bombers coming over, and it wasn't long before [there were] dive bombers and fighters, and there were planes . . . and explosions everywhere." The bombing of Darwin was the first and most devastating attack by an overseas power on the Australian mainland, killing 250 people and wounding hundreds more. The strike, which launched the Japanese air offensive against northern Australia, has grown in prominence within the national memory of Australia's role in World War II and has been increasingly referred to as "Australia's Pearl Harbor."

When the attack on Darwin occurred, Australia had been at war since September 3, 1939, following Great Britain into conflict with Germany. Its army, navy, and air force served with distinction in the European theater: in the defense of Tobruk in North Africa, during the Allied withdrawal from Greece during 1941, and in the Allied victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1942. However, the Japanese raid of Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941, brought war into the Asia Pacific and to Australia's "doorstep," with the military and civilian fronts brought into close proximity.2 Australian troops were recalled home from Europe, and with the extension of government controls the civilian population was geared up for total war. For Australia, unlike its allies Britain and the United States, the key theater during World War II was in the Pacific rather than Europe. This chapter provides an overview of Australia's war after Pearl Harbor, with a focus on Japanese attacks on Darwin and the Australian mainland, experiences on the home front, and the impact of the war in modernizing Australia's society and economy and reshaping its security alliances with the United States and the Asia-Pacific region.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:bombing of Darwin, Pacific war, Australian-Japanese relations, American GIs
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding Australia's past
UTAS Author:Darian-Smith, K (Professor Kate Darian-Smith)
ID Code:134587
Year Published:2019
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2019-08-21
Last Modified:2020-01-29
Downloads:2 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page