Attack on Broome

Attack on Broome

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Attack on Broome

caption=Several months before the attack on Broome, personnel from a Royal Netherlands Navy Air Service Dornier Do 24 are transported by launch in Roebuck Bay, Broome.
partof=World War II, Pacific War
date=March 3 1942
place=Broome, Australia
result=Japanese victory
flag|United States|1912
combatant2=flag|Empire of Japan
commander1=flagicon|Australia Clifford Gibson
commander2=flagicon|Japan Zenjiro Miyano
strength1=22 aircraft
strength2=10 aircraft
casualties1=88 killed (official toll)
22 aircraft destroyed
casualties2=one aircrew confirmed killed,
two aircraft lost.|

The town of Broome, Western Australia was attacked by Japanese fighter planes on March 3, 1942, during World War II. At least 88 people were killed.

Although Broome was a small pearling port at the time, it was also a refuelling point for aircraft, on route between the Netherlands East Indies and major Australian cities. As a result, Broome was on a line of flight for Dutch and other refugees, following the Japanese invasion of Java, and had become a significant Allied military base. During a two-week period in February–March 1942, more than 8,000 refugees from the Dutch East Indies — many of them in flying boats, which often served as airliners at the time — passed through Broome. [ [ Lt (j.g.) Paul D. Petsu, 2002, "USS Sides pays tribute to Broome’s One Day War" ] (U.S. Seventh Fleet website.) Access date: April 18, 2007. ]

The attack

Lt Zenjiro Miyano, the commander of "3 Koku Sentai" (3rd Air Group) of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, led nine Mitsubishi Zeroes and a Mitsubishi C5M2 reconnaissance plane from their base at Kupang, Timor in the attack, on the morning of March 3.

From about 9.20am, the Zeroes made strafing attacks on the flying boat anchorage at Roebuck Bay and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Broome Airfield. No bombs were dropped, although some were reported, perhaps a result of witnesses seeing the Zero pilots releasing their drop tanks. The raid lasted an hour.

The Japanese fighters destroyed at least 22 Allied aircraft. These included an airborne U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) B-24A Liberator, full of wounded personnel — more than 30 died when it crashed in the sea, about 16 km (10 mi) off Broome. The Allies also lost 15 flying boats at anchorage; many Dutch refugees were on board and the exact number and identities of those killed is unknown. At the airfield the Japanese fighters destroyed two B-17E Flying Fortresses and a B-24 belonging to the USAAF, two Lockheed Hudsons belonging to the RAAF and a Lockheed Lodestar belonging to the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force (ML-KNIL).

The aircraft destroyed included: eight Catalinas belonging to the Royal Netherlands Navy Air Service (MLD), U.S. Navy and British Royal Air Force; two Short Empires belonging to the RAAF and QANTAS, and five Dornier Do 24s belonging to the MLD.

A KLM DC-3 airliner, PK-AFV, carrying refugees from Bandung, was also shot down, 80 km north of Broome, with the loss of four lives and diamonds worth £150,000-300,000 (now approximately A$20-40 million).

There were no Allied fighter planes based in Broome at the time. The Zeroes encountered some light arms fire from the ground. One Zero pilot, Warrant Officer Osamu Kudo, was killed by ground fire from an ML-KNIL pilot, First Lieutenant Gus Winckel, using a 7.9 mm machine gun he had removed from his Lodestar. Winckel balanced the weapon on his shoulder, and sustained burns to his left forearm, when it touched the barrel of the gun after firing. Another Zero ran out of fuel and ditched while returning to his base, although the pilot survived.


Following the attack, an RAAF officer, P/O Frank Russell who had been on one of the flying boats during the raid, wrote of

Charlie D'Antoine, an Aboriginal flying boat refueller, helped two passengers from the planes to reach the shore, swimming through burning fuel and wreckage. [ [ ABC-TV, "Broome Hero" ("Message Stick", February 5, 2006)] Access date: April 18, 2007.] D'Antoine later received a bravery award from the Dutch government and was invited to attend a royal reception in the Netherlands.

At least one U.S. serviceman, Sgt Melvin Donoho, managed to swim about 16 km (10 mi) from the crashed B-24 to shore, a journey which took him more than 36 hours. Some accounts say that a Sgt Willard J. Beatty also made it ashore but died soon afterwards; other sources suggest that this was a false report, emanating from one newspaper article. [ [ Western Australian Museum (no date), "The B24 Liberator crash"] Access date: April 18, 2007. ]

Japanese aircraft later made several smaller attacks on the Broome area. On March 20, Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" heavy bombers made a high altitude attack on the airfield. [ [, 1997-2007, "Broome"] & [ Australian War Museum, 2006, "The Japanese raid on Broome"] Access date for both references: April 18, 2007 ] One civilian was killed and there was some crater damage. The last attack was in August 1943. [ [ Veterans Review Board (no date), "Darwin"] Access date: April 18, 2007]



*Mervyn W. Prime, 1992, "Broome's one day war : the story of the Japanese raid on Broome, 3 March 1942" Broome: Shire of Broome (for Broome Historical Society)

*Mervyn W, Prime , n.d., "WA's Pearl Harbour - The Japanese Raid on Broome" Bull Creek WA (Royal Australian Air Force Association Aviation Museum)

External links

* [ M. McCarthy, J. Green, S. Jung, C. Souter, G Parker, G. Kimpton & J. Lashmar 2002, "Flying Boat Wreckage Site (1942)"] (Detailed report by the Western Australian Maritime Museum on the attack and the wreckage which remains.)
* [ Mervyn Prime, 1992 "Attack on Broome" (Netherlands Ex-Servicemen & Women's Association website)]
* [ "Air raids - Broome"]
* [ Australian War Memorial "Broome, 3 March 1942"]
* [ Peter Dunn, 2000,, "Crash of a Japanese Fighter Aircraft, Destruction of Fifteen Flying Boats, Two B-17 Flying Fortresses, Two B-24 Liberators, Two Lockheed Hudsons, Two DC-3's and a Lockheed Lodestar on 3 March 1942 During a Japanese Air Raid On Broome"]

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