Minister for Veterans' Affairs Hugh Delahunty today joined members of the Darwin Defenders 1942-45, veterans, their friends, and families at the Shrine of Remembrance to commemorate 70 years since the first bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942.
"The bombing of Darwin marks one of the darkest chapters in Australia's wartime history," Mr Delahunty said.
"The Japanese air-raid on Darwin came early on February 19 1942, only 10 weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, and only four days after the fall of Singapore.
"The bombing was the first time an enemy attacked Australian shores. The then small isolated town of Darwin had a population of only 2,000 people and was ill-equipped to properly defend itself or the country.
"Although Darwin was a major allied base, crowded with Australian and American ships and planes, most of these were also under-resourced.
"As a result, eight of the 47 ships in the harbour were sunk, including Australia's Neptuna, whose captain and 45 crew were also killed; five merchant ships were sunk; 21 wharfies lost their lives, and hundreds of people were killed and wounded, including civilians," he said.
Mr Delahunty said in total, 683 bombs were dropped on Darwin that day.
"The raids were the first of over 60 Japanese air-raids in eighteen months, but none were as ferocious or deadly as those on February 19th," Mr Delahunty said.
"I was honoured to have had the opportunity to attend the 70th anniversary commemorations in Darwin at the weekend with two veterans who had served in Darwin at the time.
"Along with many of their former comrades these men were able to personally reflect on and honour the service and sacrifice of their mates in the defence of Darwin – one of many battles that became known as the "'Battle for Australia'", he said.
Mr Delahunty commended the organisers of today's commemoration at the Shrine of Remembrance for their dedication in ensuring the service and sacrifice of the brave men and women that defended Darwin s was not forgotten.
"As a community we are grateful to all who gave their lives in these terrible attacks," Mr Delahunty said.
"I am proud to join the Darwin Defenders and their families and friends today to honour the spirit and sacrifice of all who fought, and, indeed everyone who has defended this great nation."