Sunday, 19 February 2012

Darwin was bombed

for the first time in World War II seventy years ago today. It was, I believe, bombed another sixty-four times after that.  Northern Australia was bombed from Broome to Townsville.
Few Australians know anything about it even now. My father tells me that there was a news blackout during the war. The government did not want people to know. Most Australians lived in ignorance of what was going on. They are still ignorant.
A friend of ours was interviewed on television last night. They have flown him to Darwin for the remembrance ceremony being held today.  He is 92 now. Back then he was a young serviceman on the beach in Darwin, a young man wondering if he would see and other ninety-two days. The experience affected the rest of his life and the lives of many other young men.
When I was in my early teens we moved to a "soldier settlement". My father was appointed the head of the school there. We met many more men who had experienced active service. Some had experienced the bombing of Darwin and other places. There were survivors from elsewhere in the Pacific and South East Asia. There were men who knew first hand about the Kokoda Track, Changi and the Burma Railway. We were not taught about these things in school but my brother and I learned about them on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. In that community the school students attended the services held to remember the men and women who did not come back. Most of them were there to support their fathers.
In that community the families did not own Japanese cars. They avoided buying anything Japanese. If a Japanese had visited they would have been polite but they would not have made them welcome. Their children are still wary of things Japanese.
One of the universities I attended was the Australian National University in Canberra. There were a number of Japanese students there. We used to send them over to the War Memorial. It was probably not a kind thing to do. They were not taught about that war either. They knew about the bombing of Hiroshima and the dreadful things that were done to the Japanese but they knew literally nothing about their own country's role. Some tell me they still know very little.
Their reactions varied. Some came back saying that the War Memorial was a lie and their country was not responsible for anything like that. Others came back puzzled and uncertain. Some felt embarrassed, a particularly difficult emotion for them. Two girls came back and literally wept on my shoulder.
Australian students do tend to know about Hiroshima, not enough perhaps but they do know something. They still do not know what happened in northern Australia during WWII.  Japanese students now know more - but they are taught that this was a part of the war they "won".
If you win something by almost destroying it then perhaps they did but nobody really won anything. You can only win history by ignoring the facts. You can only win history by destroying the truth.
Today though we are going to remember people like our friend. We would not be here without him and all those who were there with him.


the fly in the web said...

Many of my father's friends went into the bag when Singapore fell.
He would have nothing Japanese in the house....but he thought Hiroshima an abomination.

Anonymous said...

My father is the same even now. When his grandchildren were at school and we were told that they were thinking of introducing Japanese as a language he went to the meeting and had his say. The school ended up retaining French and German and adding Italian and Modern Greek - more suited to the needs of the students - but, without his intervention, they may have introduced Japanese. (Seeing the results in other places I think I am glad our three had the chance to do French and Italian.) Ros