Japanese bombing sites (2nd Air Raid)
Town Common National Park, Mount Marlow
Many Peaks Range (Northern end), Pallarenda 4810
In July 1942, the 2nd Group of 14th Kokutai (Air Group), Japanese Naval Air-Force, under the command of Major Misaburo Koizumi, decided to undertake night raids on harbour facilities and airfields at Townsville. In all, five raids were planned; three actually occurred. The raids occurred over three nights between 25 and 29 July 1942.
Later code named by the Allies as “Emily", the Kawanishi H8K1 flying boat was an advanced design and regarded as extremely difficult to shoot down. Heavily defended, its armaments comprised dorsal and tail turrets cannons, with machine-guns in two beam blisters, ventral and cockpit hatches and bow turret. Not only did it carry considerable protective armour, its fuel tanks were partially self-sealing and designed that if punctured, fuel was collected and pumped into undamaged tanks. Additionally, the hull tanks carried a carbon-dioxide fire extinguisher system. With a range of 2567 miles, this meant that a fifteen hour flight to a target such as Townsville and returning to base was possible.
The second Japanese air raid on Townsville occurred early on the morning of 28 July 1942. At 1950 hours on 27 July, a message between an enemy plane and its base at Rabaul was detected by 1 Wireless Unit in Townsville and translated from the Japanese Kana code. As the aircraft appeared to be heading in the direction of the Australian mainland, a plot was made which showed that if indeed heading for Townsville it would arrive around 0020. Between 0030 and 0054, two P40 Kittyhawks from No.35 squadron were scrambled; however, no interception was made and they returned to base.
Due to unusual atmospheric conditions No.104 R.A.A.F Radar Station gave an hour and fifty minutes warning, with a yellow warning issued at 0033. At 0127, an aircraft was reported to be high overhead but the red warning was not issued until 0203, when it was claimed that there was more than one enemy approaching from the NE. It is most likely that this aircraft was Japanese, undertaking reconnaissance similar to the previous nights attack and then heading out to sea and re-positioning for the main bombing run.
Two P39 Airacobras from the US Eighth Fighter Group had been sent up at 0156 to intercept the aggressor at an estimated height of 15,000 ft. Another allied aircraft, possibly a P40 was ordered to intercept at 0216 making a total of three allied planes airborne. Searchlights at Rowes Bay picked up the flying boat at 10,000 ft at 0220. “X” Battery at Jimmy’s Lookout then opened fire with 32 rounds, many shells appearing to burst very close to the fuselage. “Y” Battery at Mt St John then opened fire with 20 rounds. It was the opinion of the observer that the plane would probably have been damaged when a salvo from “X” burst directly beneath the nose.
The Japanese aircraft then followed along the Many Peaks Range and dropped its bomb load at the western end. Only seven craters were found with the eighth bomb retained possibly due to the release mechanism seizing. A splash was heard by an observer in the sea near Mt. Marlow, the summit of Many Peaks Range. It is likely that this eighth bomb failed to explode and was never recovered. An Army survey team assessed the total damage for this raid to be splintered trees and one dead rock wallaby.
When the bombs were dropping on the mainland at 0225, A/A fire opened up on three aircraft at 27,000 feet over Magnetic Island. These were not enemy aircraft but the three Allied planes still searching the area where the flying boat had been 10 minutes previously. A quarter of an hour elapsed before the next report. At 0248 a light was observed in the sky in the direction of the flying boat’s retreat. It was claimed to be changing colour. At 0322 the Directional Finding station at Garbutt received a tracing of the aircraft which appeared to have come down at sea. It is not known if the A/A fire actually damage the aircraft, causing a fire aboard and forcing it to make a sea landing to douse the flames?
Surviving Japanese intelligence reports reveal that the Captain in charge was Kiyoshi Mizukura, who had also flown on Townsville’s first air raid. Mizukura recorded that they “bombed the aerodrome for three minutes from 0215 and been caught in searchlights and anti-aircraft fire". No damage to their aircraft was mentioned in Mizukura’s log book and the aircraft returned to Rabaul.
In 2010, several shallow craters can be viewed at the end of Many Peaks Range across the salt flats of the Town Common National Park.
North Queensland Register, “When the Japs raided North Queensland", 8 December 1945.
Townsville Defence Scheme 1942; Vic series MP1587/1, item 218P.
Piper, Robert, Townsville Under Attack, Unpublished, 1987.
Piper, Robert, The Hidden Chapters: Untold stories of Australians at war in the Pacific, Pagemasters, Carlton, 1995.
Townsville Air Raids 1942; AWM series 60, item 9/468/42.
16 Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery (16 Hvy AA Bty) [Whole diary - 12 items] (Mar 1942 - Nov 1944); AWM series 52, item 4/16/20.
Nos 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 104, 105, 109, 131, 132, 134, 135, 136, 138 Radar Station (June 1942 - September 1945); AWM series 64, item 9/5.
Imperial Japanese Navy Combat Evaluation Sheets for 25 July, 27/28 July, 28 July, 28/29 July, 30/31 July 1942.
Francillion, Rene J, Japanese Aircraft Of The Pacific War (2nd ed.), Putnam & Company, London, 1979.