Wednesday, 16 February 2022
Statements by Members
World War II: Bombing of Darwin
Almost 80 years ago, on 19 February 1942, the Second World War came to Australia's shores when Darwin was bombed for the first time. It was a chaotic day of suffering but also acts of heroism. I've spoken before about nurse Margaret de Mestre, Gunner Hudson, the brave waterside workers and many more. But today I want to talk about a United States hero, Lieutenant Robert Oestreicher of the 33rd Pursuit Squadron of the United States Air Force, who was flying with 10 P-40 Kitty Hawk flyers on the morning of the attack. His squadron first encountered the Japanese Zeros as they flew towards Darwin, and he called out, 'Zero, zero, zero!' Lieutenant Oestreicher flew into the clouds and engaged the enemy, taking down two Japanese aircraft with little or no support from other aircraft. When the battle was over and he landed at what was left of Darwin air base, he discovered that his was the last surviving aircraft of the original 10 and several of his comrades had been killed. Historians have examined Japanese war archives, which are incomplete, and confirmed the details of Lieutenant Oestreicher's exploits. He returned to Darwin for the 40th anniversary, 40 years ago, and was warmly welcomed. The story of Lieutenant Oestreicher is a manifestation of the cooperation of our relationship with the United States, the bonds we forged in the heat of battle and the bonds we continue today.