2017 marks the year of the 75th anniversary of a Japanese fighter plane attack on Broome in Western Australia – an attack that occurred on 3 March 1942 – just two weeks after the infamous bombing of Darwin. Unlike the Darwin raid, the Broome attack consisted of a fighter force that strafed the area using their machine guns, with no bombs used.
On the morning of 3 March, nine Japanese Zero fighters took off from a base in Timor, with orders to attack the northern Australian town of Broome, an important refuelling point for aircraft flying between the Netherlands East Indies and various locations across the Australian mainland.
Just before 9.30 in the morning they swooped in low and machine-gunned the flying boat base in Roebuck Bay and also the Royal Australian Air Force base at Broome Airport. There were no defending fighter aircraft in the area at the time, so the Japanese pilots had an easy mission, destroying numerous aircraft – including Catalina flying boats and bombers from Australia, the Netherlands and the United States.
Many Dutch refugees, including women and children, were killed in the attacks on the flying boat base and Frank Russel, one of the Air Force pilots, later wrote
.. a scene of ghastly devastation! Our flying boats all over the place were sending up huge clouds of black smoke. Burning petrol in sinister patches floated all over the sea… All around us there fell a ceaseless stream of tracer bullets. Several of the Dutch Dorniers had been full of women and kids, waiting to take off to … safety.
The raid resulted in 88 deaths and twenty-two aircraft destroyed, with the Japanese losing one of their fighters from ground fire.
This attack, following so soon after the Darwin raid produced mounting concern in Australia that a Japanese invasion was imminent, and this concern was to be heightened in June when a Japanese midget submarine attack was launched in Sydney harbour.
Image: An American Bomber destroyed at Broome Airport during the attack, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.