Anniversary of Darwin Bombing

USS Peary – built in 1922 and sunk at Darwin in 1942

February 19th, 1942, Darwin itself was bombed by 260 Japanese fighters and bombers twice during the day. The attacks were directed against the port and shipping and 252 Allied service personnel and Darwin citizens were killed during the two raids. Over the coming months raids were also made against Broome, Wyndham, Port Hedland, Derby, Darwin, Katherine, Townsville, Mossman and Horn Island (in the Torres Strait).

There were a total of 97 Japanese air raids against targets in the north of Australia which, along with the attacks on Sydney, mean that three of Australia’s six states were attacked as well as one of the territories.

HMAS Mavie
HMAS Mavie and 19 ton wooden patrol boat built in 1903 – also sunk at Darwin.

The air raids did tie up a great deal of anti-aircraft defenses and managed to interrupt the shipping in the port so from a strategic point of view were probably considered successful by the Japanese High Command.

Interestingly, although a much less strategic target than Pearl Harbour, more bombs were dropped on Darwin in these first two raids and a total of 10 ships out of 45 were sunk. 23 Allied aircraft were destroyed for the loss of seven Japanese aircraft.

The four IJN aircraft carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Hiryū and Sōryū) that participated in the bombing of Darwin were later sunk during the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

Strangely enough there is some debate to the number of ships actually lost with estimates ranging from seven to eleven. Ships lost include, however:

  • USS Peary, a United States Navy destroyer
  • USAT Meigs, a large US Army troop transport ship
  • MV Neptuna (used as a troop transport)
  • SS Zealandia (used as a troop transport)
  • HMAS Mavie, a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat
  • SS Mauna Loa, a 5,436-ton US merchant freighter
  • British Motorist, a UK-registered merchant refuelling oiler
  • Kelat, a 1,849-ton coal storage hulk

Another two ships were beached and subsequently refloated bring the total to 10. 25 ships in total were damaged.

Aircraft lost were mostly US aircraft:

  • 10 x P-40
  • 1 x B-24 bomber
  • 3 x C-45 transport planes
  • 3 x PBY Catalina flying boats, and their moorers outside the harbour
  • 6 x Lockheed Hudsons (RAAF losses)

All-in-all, an effective raid and along with the next 60-odd raids, it was enough to persuade the allies to use Brisbane and Fremantle as naval stations rather than Darwin.

Khalkin-gol – Nomonhan 1939 – New Books

A nice parcel arrived from Amazon today with some books I’ve been waiting for. These are three works on the Battle of Khalkin-gol (Nomonhan in the Japanese) that occurred between Russia and Mongolia on one side and Japan and Manchuoko on the other side.

As readers here will know I have a particular fascination with things Mongolian as well as some of the more esoteric areas of the wars of the 20th century (and indeed, the 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th centuries).

The hard copy books go with the Kindle version of Leavenworth Papers – Nomonhan: Japanese-Soviet Tactical Combat 1939 by Edward Drea that I picked up a while ago.

The three books in today’s bundle were:

  • Nomonhan 1939 – The Red Army’s Victory that Shaped World War II by Stuart D Goldman (ISBN 978-1-59114-329-1)
  • In the Skies of Nomonhan – Japan versus Russia May-September 1939 by Col Prof Dimitar Nedialkov PhD (ISBN 978-0-85979-152-6)
  • Nomonhan: Japanese-Soviet Tactical Combat, 1939 by Edward Drea (ISBN 978-1-105-65014-7) – and yes, this is the same as the Kindle version but I wanted a hard copy of it as it is:
    • easier to read in hard copy
    • permanently with me, not at the whim of Amazon.

For those unfamiliar, the Battle at Khalkin-gol started as a border skirmish and escalated.

I have some serious reading to do now – then some research and maybe turn this into a couple of games.

Japanese Fart Scrolls

image Yes, dear reader, it is difficult for me to describe these any other way. Had they not been so ribald, perhaps I could have found gentler words … but they are not. Waseda University in Japan has a wonderful collection of these. So, in the tradition of the Bayeux Tapestry, I bring you the full set of screens.

The full archive of the Fart Scrolls can be seen here at the Waseda University website, although be warned, some of the images are, as you can imagine, quite ribald and a little explicit.

These scrolls do, apparently, have some value. On 8 October 1992 Christies in London sold

a collection of twelve small Japanese prints depicting ‘He-gassen’ (The Fart Battle) with officials in combat in interiors, possibly by Kyosai — each 4in.x 5¼in., paper wrapper; a double sided album containing twenty-four prints by Watanabe Seitei (Shotei) and other artists variously depicting figures at leisure, birds, animals and flowers; another double sided album by Ikkei with thirty-six prints of scenes around Edo; three further albums; and a large print divided into three sections with a procession of figures travelling through a river landscape

for £935 when they were expecting a figure of £200 – £300 to be realised.

This adds a whole new dimension to wargaming Samurai battles. 😆


image One of the recent searches in Thomo’s Hole was the word “imjin”. There are two Imjins I can think of, both military (well three really, there is that Korean river, the Imjin river too, of course).

The first I can recall is the Battle of Imjin River in the Korean War. This was a battle principally between Chinese forces and British and Belgian troops, with support later from Philippine and US troops. Perhaps the most famous incident of this battle was the defence of the “Glosters”, the 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment, and in particular their defence when surrounded on Hill 235. One company of the Glosters, Company D, eventually escaped, the others being killed or captured.

The other Imjin I can recall refers to the Imjin War. These refer particularly to two Japanese invasions of Korea. The first was when Toyotomi Hideyoshi decided to conquer Korea, Ming Dynasty China, the Jurchens and India – just a small easily completed task. This was in 1592 and 1593.

The second invasion of Korea was in 1594 and lasted until 1596. In this second effort Hideyoshi’s expectations had been managed somewhat and his target was only Korea. These invasions finally finished in 1598 so this was Korea’s 7 Year War. The Imjin War is the name this is principally known as (in Korean, 임진왜란).

The part of the Imjin war that interests me the most is the naval aspect, especially in that the Imjin War saw the introduction of then famous Turtle Ship under the control of Admiral Yi SunSin. Perhaps the most significant battle of this was the last battle, the Battle of Noryang Point. In this battle, the Korean fleet under Admiral YiSunSin was joined by a Chinese fleet un Chen Lin. They caught the Japanese with about 500 ships anchored in the narrow straits of Noryang. At about 2:00 am, the Korean and Chinese fleets attacked.

The battle ended with an allied victory. The Japanese lost nearly 300 warships out of the original 500. Unfortunately, at his moment of truimph, Admiral Yi SunSin was mortally wounded and died before the battle and his victory was complete.

Admiral Yi SunSin's crane formation

Happy Tsagaan Sar … and New Year

Tonight is bituun so the home is cleaned and now the belly is full. Tomorrow is Tsagaan Sar (Цагаан сар) for Mongolians, the White Month. So, to my Mongolian friends – I hope you have a happy Tsagaan Sar.

This year it also coincides (well, is one day different really) with the Lunar New Year celebrated across the rest of Asia. So, to my Korean friends – 새해 복 많이 받으세요.

And to my Chinese friends – 新年快樂 or for those who are Cantonese, 恭喜發財  (did I get that right Pauline?).

Prosperity, peace and happiness for all in the year of the Tiger.

Khalkhin Gol or Nomonhan

From 11 May to 16 September 1939 Japanese and Manchurian forces clashed with Mongolian and Soviet forces on the border of Mongolia and Manchuria (at that time called Manchukuo by many nations) around the village of Nomonhan near the Khalkhin gol (Khalkhin River). Having spent time in Mongolia my office at the bank used to look out on Jukov Square, next to the Jukov Museum. Jukov is the Mongolian spelling of Zhukov, as in Georgy Zhukov (well, it’s the Mongolian spelling when it’s Latinised). Zhukov, having given the combined Mongolian Soviet Army a victory over the Japanese is a hero in Mongolia. For the record, the Mongolians fought with the Russians during the Second World War with Mongolian troops marching into Berlin as part of the Red Army forces in that campaign.

It all started when a Mongolian cavalry unit of about 90 men went searching for grazing in the area between Nomonhan an the river. Manchukuo cavalry attacked the Mongolians and then forced them back over the Khalkhin gol. Two days later the Mongolians returned in greater numbers and the Manchukuans were not able to force them back this time.

The next day elements of two Japanese army arrived and forced the Mongolians out. Then a combined force of Mongolian and Soviet forces surrounded the Japanese causing many casualties. It all escalated. The 2nd Japanese Air Brigade then launched an unauthorised air attack on the Soviet air base at Tamsak-Bulak in Mongolia losing some aircraft but destroying more Soviet aircraft.

Lt. Gen. Georgy Zhukov then arrived to take control of the Soviet-Mongolian forces and so began a battle that lasted until 31 August with the defeat of the Japanese in the area. I’ll provide more detail about individual engagements at a later time. The battle though was significant as it was the first reverse the Japanese Army took in World War 2. At the same time, the result of this battle was that Japan looked southwards for the future which released valuable Soviet (and Mongolian) divisions to the fighting in the West.

Some selections from the Canberra Times about the fighting in Manchukuo and Mongolia.

The Canberra Times Tuesday 4 July 1939


Threat of Force to Achieve Objectives

LONDON, Monday.

A message from Peking declares that the Japanese controlled Chinese Government dispatched to the English and French Embassies a list of demands for a basis of settlement at Tientsin, and said that the Japanese army in North China supported them.

The Japanese spokesman declares that no compromise regarding the demands would be accepted and force may be used to obtain the objectives.

They include demands that the English and French Concessions support the new Japanese currency; secondly, that the Peking Government be allowed to inspect banks and business houses in the Concession; thirdly, that a rigorous control be exercised over publications and organisations acting contrary to the policy of Peking, and fourthly, that, a Chinese – speaking Government be appointed to control the Concession.

The army spokesman announced that gendarmes are holding in custody Mr. E. T. Griffiths, a British engineer from a British steamer, allegedly for insulting the Japanese army.

He added that the reported stripping of John Anderson at the Concession barricades yesterday was being investigated.

Renewed Fighting in Manchukuo

DARIEN, Monday.

It is officially announced that the Japanese army launched an offensive against the Soviet-Mongolian forces with the object of expelling them from Manchukuan territory.

The British United Press reports heavy fighting on the western border of Manchukuo and Outer Mongolia. Tanks, machine guns, cavalry and planes are engaged.

The Canberra Times Tuesday 18 July 1939


TOKYO, Monday.

Eight Russian planes dropped bombs in the vicinity of Nalunarshan railway station, 30 miles inside the Manchukuan frontier, and injured four Manchukuans, as well as destroying four carriages and setting fire to a number of buildings.

The Japanese have protested to Moscow.

In an earlier raid on Sularki station, 180 miles north-west of Harbin, seven were injured.

The Canberra Times Thursday 27 July 1939



TOKYO, Wednesday.

In “view of continued trouble on the Manchukuan border, the Government has announced the reinforcing of forces throughout the Japanese Empire.

An army communiqué claims that 59 Soviet war planes were brought down on the Manchukuan frontier on Tuesday.

Japanese artillery heavily bombarded the Soviet position on the west bank of the Khalha River throughout the day.

and lest we forget that the Japanese were fighting the Chinese at the same time, this piece followed in the same issue of the Canberra times the following article was found:

Japanese Claim Major Victory

TOKYO, Wednesday.

The Japanese north of Hankow claim lo have trapped 30,000 Chinese as a result of a fierce offensive launched on Tuesday.

Supported by aircraft, the Japanese are advancing to the north along he Pekin-Hankow railway.

A second force is manoeuvring in order to cut off the Chinese retreat.

From the Canberra Times Thursday 31 August 1939


Effect of Russo-German Pact

TOKYO, Wednesday

Large forces are being sent lo Manchukuo as the result of the Russo-German pact

The Premier (General Abe), in a nation-wide broadcast viewed with delicacy the international situation, and stated that the Government was establishing independent diplomacy, and also taking measures at home and abroad with the Chinese incident
as a focal point.

General Abe appealed to the nation for co-operation.

The four Chinese, who were arrested at Tientsin, are to be handed over to the Japanese on August 31.

From the Canberra Times of Tuesday 11 June 1940


TOKYO, Monday.

The Foreign Office issued a communiqué that Mr. Toga and M. Molotov, Ambassadors for Japan and Russia, reached an agreement yesterday on the precise demarcation of the frontier of Nomonhan area with mutual recognition of interests.

by special arrangement: Reuter’s World Service in addition to other special sources of information is used in the compilation of the overseas intelligence published in this issue and all rights therein in Australia and New Zealand are reserved.

I’ll give more detail on the battle and the Orders of Battle of both sides of the conflict in a later post.

Bloody Big Catfish

In a report, Sea Shepherd activists attack Japanese whaler, in the Sydney Morning Herald, there is a note of a conference in which:

Onodera spoke of the latest clash as he addressed a seminar in Tokyo with officials from 11 developing states that have recently joined or plan to join the deadlocked International Whaling Commission.

Japan is holding the meeting to win support for its position that the international body should allow “sustainable whaling”.

Western nations, led by Australia, strongly oppose Japan’s whaling.
The countries taking part in the seminar are Angola, Cambodia, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ghana, Laos, Malawi, Palau, Tanzania and Vanuatu, the Foreign Ministry said.

Of course, Laos is famous for its wonderful beaches and extensive pristine coastlines … not! Perhaps those Mekong River Catfish have gotten really really big 😆

Mekong River Catfish - from ESPN website

Perhaps Japan is really just trying to stack the numbers at the International Whaling Commission – a fistful of dollars to the developing countries and the Japanese can continue to enjoy their whaleburgers – surely not!

Read the full article about this catfish at ESPN’s website – Thais catch 646-pound catfish in Mekong and for the Imperially challenged that is 293 kilograms. Its length was 9 feet, or 2.7 metres. Now that is a fish!

For more information too, see Giant Catfish Critically Endangered, Group Says on the National Geographic website.

Bridges and Tunnels

It was a few days ago that the Lost Nomad commented on discussions about linking Korea and Japan by tunnel. It just so happened that this was the day after the Arab News here ran a piece about a Causeway Linking Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Seems the causeway is a bigger and better link than the “Junnel” or “Kunnel”. After all, the Korean-Japan tunnel simply links two countries (same really as the Sweden Denmark Bridge, the Channel Tunnel and so on). The Egypt-Saudi Causeway however is a much bigger event, after all, it links two continents, Asia and Africa.

The bridge is going to link Ras Hamid in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia with Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh and Tiran Island.

Ah, it is so nice to be able to put Japanese-Korean relations into perspective 🙂

Myth Debunking and the Truth

Recently there was a piece that did the rounds about Japanese buying sheep whilst thinking they were poodles. As is right, this was found to be an “urban myth” picked up by the news services (including CNN – not sure about BBC as the cable was playing up in my hotel room).

This was even picked up by a couple of my favourite Korean based Blogs. There is a blog in Japan called Cerebral Soup which is written by an Aussie and which was one of the debunkers of this myth. MJ on her blog goes on to note that:

Oh yes we published a story that was complete crap and xenophobic – but hey it’s ok because gosh we could then make silly puns and have a jolly laugh!

I must agree with her. Having spent a period of time in Mongolia, I have spent a fair bit of time debunking myths about Australia there (and at the same time having to shamefacedly admit some truths as well). I also spent time correcting myths about Mongolia from some foreigners.

I have even seen some of the racism working and it really piddles me off as well. Some of the worst though has been between the Asian nations. Korean attitudes to the Japanese. Japanese men’s attitudes to Korean women (I have not met many Japanese women so have no experience from that quarter). Chinese attitudes to the Mongolians (and that was made doubly worse as it was happening in front of my eyes).

So MJ, feel free to wear your citizen journalist boots. In the meantime, I am getting Pancho to saddle up the mule as there is a windmill turning just over there.