Some 66 years ago, on the morning o 3 March 1942, nine Imperial JapaneseNavy Mitsubishi “Zero” ghters and areconnaissance aircrat sped on theirway rom Roti in West Timor to attackAllied aircrat in Broome (Rubibi – thetraditional lands o the Yawuru people),in Western Australia. On their arrival,it is recorded that the Japanese pilotswere shocked at the sight beore them:15 fying boats were on Broome’sRoebuck Bay with no discernabledeence. The ensuing Battle o Broomewas a spontaneous and ast encounterthat is generally believed to have lastedor only 20 minutes, with both protago-nists unaware o the other’s presenceand disposition until the moment o contact. It is important to consider thatalthough the Japanese knew thatBroome was being used as the aerialevacuation point, they were unawareo the presence o so many fying boatson Roebuck Bay until the morning o the air raid.In the terror, pain, killing and bloodshedthat ensued during their attack on thefying boats, the Japanese were probablyalso unaware that many o the Dutchfying boats had reugees onboard, mostly women andchildren feeing the all o Java in the Netherlands East Indies— NEI (now Indonesia). The total number o casualties maynever be known, but something like 100 people died duringthe attack. Most o the bodies were never recovered.The aerodrome at Broome was the planned target o the Japanese air raid and, contrary to popular belie, not thetown itsel. The aim o the air raid was to neutralise theaerodrome and to destroy all aircrat in the area in orderto close the aerial escape route rom Java in the NEI. Therapid Japanese expansion into the NEI orced the evacuationo thousands o Dutch civilians and Allied military personnelby sea and air to Australia. The Java airlit to Broome,however, nished on 27 February 1942. The Japanese invasiono Java on 1 March 1942 orced the remaining naval aviationunits o the Marineluchtvaartdienst (MLD), the Royal AirForce (RAF) and the United States Navy (USN) to evacuateto Australia. The evacuation point or these units wasalso Broome.While two fying boats o the USN and two Short Empirefying boats (one operated by the Royal Australia Air Force— RAAF and the other by the British Overseas AirwaysCorporation — BOAC) were already in Broome on the eveningo 2 March 1942, 11 Java-based fying boats were en routeto Broome, arriving there early in the morning o 3 March.The sight in Broome’s Roebuck Bay resembled a foatingarmada, juxtaposed or only a short time. Within hours, allthe fying boats and all the aircrat at the aerodrome wouldbe destroyed. While nothing remains o the terrestrial sites
The Battle of Broome
The Japanese air attack in the Battle o Broome in 1942 was quick and deadly.In 20 minutes, 100 people had lost their lives and 15 fying boats were on the seabed.Maritime archaeologist and PhD candidate
investigates the peoplewho were on the doomed fying boats that morning and records the condition andextent o the surviving archaeological material rom that event.