As promised a few days ago here's the first part in my series about the bombing of Darwin, Australia in 1942. This post focuses on a couple of the combatants not the actual bombings. I just wanted to start with a more personal side of it. I hope you stick with me. See the introduction post here
The early days
In the late 1800's the Northern Territory (NT) was administered by my home state of South Australia (SA) after having been passed around between New South Wales and Queensland. It was a thorn in the side of each of these States. In 1876 South Australia offered it up for the settlement of the Japanese. (Yes really).
They were enticed with assistance to come here as free settlers, owners of the land, and were offered free passage, and the ability to come and go as they pleased. They refused the offer.
With the NT becoming more and more of a financial drain on SA it was again offered (in the early 1900's) to the Japanese who, once more, refused the offer.
The offer from the South Australian government was part financial, to reduce the strain of the NT, and part defence-oriented with Germany becoming a rising threat in the early 1900's as they had already taken part of New Guinea just north of Australia. But the Japanese weren't interested.
Years later, in 1942, they were very interested however.
There were many involved in the bombings of Darwin, and its defence, so it's difficult to single any out but I'd like to mention two right at the outset and will introduce more as the story unfolds.
Flight Commander Mitsuo Fuchida - This brilliant tactician and pilot was instrumental in convincing Admiral Yamomoto that air power and carriers were the way to achieve superiority. It was based on arguments made by Fuchida that Japans navy went from protecting battle ships with carriers, to the opposite, the battleships protecting the aircraft carriers which is how it is today with any country that has aircraft carriers.
Fuchida personally commanded both the Pearl Harbor attack and the Darwin raids from his high-level bomber. Based on experiences in the attacks on Pearl he adjusted formation tactics bringing horizontal bombing accuracy up to 70% and dive bombing to a respectable 40% when he attacked Australia. Darwin can attest to the accuracy of the revised tactics.
Flight Commander Mitsuo Fuchida was an instrumental factor in the success of the Pearl Harbor and Darwin raids, a masterful pilot and tactician. He was to survive the battle of Midway ten weeks after the Darwin attack (movie about this battle coming out soon in Australia - Movie trailer here.) He survived, although the Japanese fleet was sent to the bottom of the ocean. Fuchida survived the war too, and was often heard saying, "there was a guiding presence looking over him." src
Only ten weeks after the Pearl Harbor attacks Flight Commander Mitsuo Fuchida would be leading the same men and planes over Darwin and the result would be equally devastating.
Flight Lieutenant (Granville) Allen Mawar - Spitfire Pilot - A Sydney boy, from the beaches of Manly, he learned to fly in A DH-82 Tiger Moth in Narranderra, New South Wales. He gained his wings in Canada and flew sorties over Europe qualifying as an ace. Allen liked the girls, and to knock-about with the lads for some relaxation, but when in the sky he flew like a demon.
After excelling in the skies over Europe against the Germans he was stationed in Darwin with 54 Squadron RAF (Royal Air Force) and then 452 Squadron RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force.) He flew many sorties against the Japanese bombers and their fighter-escorts.
These were a rare breed, both...The Japanese and Australian combatants, both equally committed although for different reasons, and all understanding that every day could be their last...
Flight Lieutenant Allen Mawar writes in his log:
"Climbed to 31,000 feet. Very cold. I liked it though. It was a long way above the rest of the world and the blue of the sky was so intense. I just hope that it won't be too bad when I get mine. Short and sweet I guess."
There were many players in the Darwin bombings of course, far too many to mention, but all who deserve a mention. You'll note I have brought your attention to a Japanese pilot here...I've done that because whist I'm an Aussie and obviously a patriotic one, the men and women on both sides of war deserve a mention...One wouldn't exist without the other.
As I'm trying to keep these posts bite-sized I'll leave it here...But not before I let you know what happened to the warriors mentioned above.
Flight Commander Mitsuo Fuchida
He was bombed whilst standing on the flight deck of the carrier Akagi during the battle of Midway. Dragged into a lifeboat he watched the carrier sink then was returned to Japan and hospital to convalesce. Promoted to Captain, Fuchida spent the rest of the war teaching at a Naval War College.
After the war he scratched out a living as a farmer, a sad demise for such a brilliant military mind and brave pilot. In 1950 he became Christian and went on many preaching tours with an American bomber pilot after a chance meeting - As it turns out the American was one of the pilots on the Doolittle Raid which was an American bombing raid in response to the Pearl Harbour attacks. Small world huh? (This story in itself is worth telling and I may one day.)
Fuchida went on to speak at many Veterans Associations in America and his two children moved to America to live. Mitsuo Fuchida revisited both Pearl Harbor late in the 1960's and Darwin in the 1970's, this time without his bomber and as a friend.
The man known and the Destroyer of Darwin and the Destroyer of Pearl Harbor died an American citizen, in Japan, on the 30th May 1976.
Flight Lieutenant Allen Mawar
Unfortunately this Aussie larrikin and ace fighter pilot didn't survive the war. On the 26th of September 1943 his Spitfire collided with that of Pilot Officer John Adam during a training exercise.
They were in tight manoeuvres with Adam simulating a port-rear-quarter attack upon Mawar. With John coming in from out of the sun Mawar began a climbing turn to the right but their wings touched. At only 500 feet above the deck, and with damage, neither pilot could regain control of their aircraft and they rolled left and into the bush bursting into flames. Both pilots died only 800 metres from one another.
They were laid to rest that day, side by side, in the Adelaide River War Cemetery. I have visited the cemetery and seen their graves.
As an aside...Back in England Allen Mawar had a lady love called Winnie and when he was reposted back to Australia she stayed behind promising to write - He never heard from her once...But not because she didn't write, just because the letters were not forwarded from his mother in Sydney who was receiving them - She didn't want to distract Allen whilst he was at war. Sad huh?
As it turns out Winnie was pregnant with his child before he left England and I wonder, had he known, would he have taken less risks in the aircraft, not fought so hard to be the best had he known?
After the War Allen's mother brought Winnie and her son Granville Allen Mawar Jnr to Sydney to live. At least his son would grow up an Aussie and know the country his father died for.
Remember those words Allen wrote in his log?
"I just hope that it won't be too bad when I get mine. Short and sweet I guess."
I hope it was in the end. RIP to an Aussie champ who left us too soon and for no good reason other than a sense of duty.
So, there ends what I guess is part one of my little series. I know it doesn't say much about the bombings, but I'll get to that at some point. I think it is important to show that it wasn't all about speeding planes, dog fights and dropping bombs...There was a human element, there is in all war, and whilst I can't pick out all of those that were involved I wanted to tell you these two stories. I'll mention others of course too.
Thanks for reading.
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