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An awkward truth : the bombing of Darwin, February 1942

de Peter Grose

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"Darwin was a battle Australia would rather forget, yet the Japanese attack on 16 February 1942 was the first foreign assault on Australian soil since 1788. The raid was bigger than the first wave that attacked Pearl Harbor. Hundreds of Australians were killed. The police station and police barracks were totally destroyed, the hospital wrecked, the administration building shattered. And the people of Darwin abandoned their town leaving it to looters and a few dogged defenders with single-shot .303 rifles and a few anti-aircraft batteries. 'In an awkward truth' Peter Grose tells the real story of the attack and takes us into the lives of the people who were there."--Provided by publisher.… (més)
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A good history of a significant event in Australia's WW2 - the bombing of Darwin 10 weeks after Pearl Harbour.
The content is well researched, and the author provides the right level of detail - enough to give confidence in the commentary, but not so much as to drown the reader. And the writing style is clean and clear - a pleasure to read.
One of the surprises, for me, was that the force sent by Japan was the same group as attacked Pearl Harbour, and was actually slightly larger for the Darwin attack. ( )
  mbmackay | Mar 24, 2019 |
When I went to Canberra recently, and knew I would have a few hours of waiting, I absent-mindedly left my current book sitting on the table at home. It was after 5pm in Canberra, so of course my options for purchasing a book were limited. I found that Target at Belconnen was still open, and I thought that, worse case, this book might provide me with some historical knowledge. It did. But I must say that as I was reading, I found Grose's tone to be rather grating (probably like mine when I get on my high-horse about Australia and Australians). Grose doesn't pretend that he likes Administrator Abbott (the Northern Territory's head-honcho in the '30s and '40s). Indeed, he states that he finds it hard to like him. Grose, too, makes an inadvertent claim that "Canberra" did this and that in the early 1900s when appointing a man to run the Territory. Of course, "Canberra" was not the centre of the federal government until 1927 - it was run from Melbourne. I am sure that Grose knows this, but the anachronism grated. And having previously lived in Canberra for near-on twenty years, the use of the city's name to represent all that is bad in our political system still annoys me no end. As the book develops, Grose indicates that he was writing as a counter to Paul Hasluck's history. Hasluck saw the reaction of the people of Darwin to be a case of national shame. Grose brought me back to the fold when he mentions the popular Australian dislike of "reffos" (refugees) and the way "these people" behave. Grose tells us that when Australians, following the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese in '42 became "reffos", they behaved like every other group of refugees. The book was not everything I expected, and upon completion, I was pleased that it was not a "white" armbanding of the omnipotence of ordinary Australians who, unlike the rest of the people of the world, are somehow superior because they just are, and Grose was at pains to make this clear that he was not of that brigade. For this I was truly grateful. There are numerous historical facts and corrections to the record, and I have a much better historical understanding of what happened in the first attack on Australian soil since 1788. But I didn't like Grose's tone, especially where he puts his personality into his work. This is remarkable in that I do the same thing, yet here I am reacting as others do to my own work. Surely there is a lesson for me in the reading of this book. It is unfair to lump all of this on Grose, and given my lack of knowledge on the historical subject, I am hardly one to judge. Yet the lesson I have learnt from this book is very powerful, even though I lament readers' aversion to any form of personality in one's writing that does not display enthusiasm for a cause one way or another. As La Rochefoucauld wrote in 1665: "Enthusiasm is the only convincing orator; it is like the infallible rule of some function of Nature. An enthusiastic simpleton is more convincing than a silver-tongued orator". I suppose had I liked this book more, I would have respected Grose less. ( )
  madepercy | Nov 7, 2017 |
On 19 February 1942 Darwin was attacked by a Japanese air raid and Australian myth has it that the city was defended by poorly armed doughty locals. As with most myths there might be some truth in the story but in real life things are never quite so simple. As to the bigger picture one might read Graham Freudenberg’s magnum opus “Churchill and Australia” but for an understanding of the immediate threat one cannot go past this book.

It is a detailed and eminently readable account of one of the critical events in Australian history. It is worth reminding ourselves that more bombs fell on Darwin, more civilians were killed, and more ships were sunk than at Pearl Harbor ten weeks earlier. It is hard to imagine in today’s era of instantaneous communications across the world that Darwin was effectively cut off from the rest of Australia. It took 18 hours for the information of the attack to reach Cabinet which as meeting in Sydney. The locals had to cope. Grose has drawn on survivors recollections; contemporary newspaper and similar accounts (which may have been heavily censored); private correspondence; official archival material, and evidence given before the Lowe Royal Commission.

While some stayed to defend the city others headed south on the only road available: others took the opportunity to loot abandoned homes and businesses. Darwin was a small community and all of the cultural, social, class and racial tensions came to the fore.
The book itself is set with a clear typeface that makes it easy (for older eyes) to physically read. It is recommended to anyone with an interest in Australian history; or the entry of Japan and the United States into the war in the South Pacific. ( )
1 vota BlinkingSam | Mar 27, 2011 |
This was non fiction book chosen for my f2f bookgroup. Tells the story of the first wartime attack on Australian soil in February 1942. It was a Japanese led invasion , the same force that had attacked Pearl Harbour only weeks before. This led to the worst death toll known in Australian history. They bombed three hospitals, flattened shops, the Post Office and communications centre and destroyed Government House, and bombed the harbour and airfields. The people of Darwin abandoned their town which was left to looters and the only people left were a few dogged defenders with single shot rifles. What is highlighted by this book was the lack of leadership and the fact that most people ran because they did not know what else to do.
I found parts of this book contained a lot of statistics and not a read I felt compelled to pick up. However it is part of our history of which I knew very little and for that I feel that it was worthwhile and sections were interesting when told from the personal perspectives. ( )
2 vota jeniwren | Jul 18, 2009 |
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"Darwin was a battle Australia would rather forget, yet the Japanese attack on 16 February 1942 was the first foreign assault on Australian soil since 1788. The raid was bigger than the first wave that attacked Pearl Harbor. Hundreds of Australians were killed. The police station and police barracks were totally destroyed, the hospital wrecked, the administration building shattered. And the people of Darwin abandoned their town leaving it to looters and a few dogged defenders with single-shot .303 rifles and a few anti-aircraft batteries. 'In an awkward truth' Peter Grose tells the real story of the attack and takes us into the lives of the people who were there."--Provided by publisher.

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