BROOME, Western Australia (NNS) -- In a ceremony held in the Shire of Broome, Western Australia, June 14, Cmdr. Octavio E. Manduley, USS Sides' (FFG 14) commanding officer, presented a wreath at a memorial to commemorate the World War II Japanese attack on Broome, March 3, 1942. The Broome attack left more than 100 allied men, women and children dead, including up to 32 U.S. Army Air Corps American servicemen.
In 1942, the small coastal Australian town of Broome served as an airport for allied forces evacuating refugees out of the then Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). During a two-week period between February and March 1942, more than 8,000 refugees were evacuated from the Dutch East Indies and found safe passage through Broome. The small coastal town known for it's famous pearls played an instrumental part in helping allied aircraft evacuate refugees across the 1,000-kilometer Timor Sea to safety.
On Monday, March 2, 1942, a large Japanese flying boat was seen circling Broome in the early morning hours and was followed by a second aircraft later in the day. These reconnaissance flights revealed large numbers of U.S. and Dutch military aircraft on the ground and resulted in Cmdr. Takeo Shibata, the Japanese area commander in Timor, launching a force consisting of nine Japanese Zero's and one reconnaissance aircraft in an attack against the facilities at Broome.
On the morning of March 3, 1942, Japanese aircraft commenced their attack on the allied aircraft stationed at the Broome Aerodrome, as well as U.S. Navy and Dutch flying boats at anchor in Roebuck Bay. All of the flying boats at anchor were filled with Dutch women and children who had just been evacuated from the former Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). All of the aircraft at anchor and at the aerodrome were destroyed. One American, B-24 Liberator, managed to take off from the airfield during the attack but was shot down by a Zero fighter as it crossed the harbor.
"It has been through tragic events such as this, and the solidarity of our two great peoples throughout, that the close relationship which exists between Australia and the United States has been forged," Manduley said during his remarks at the commemoration ceremony. "No other story better exemplifies this bond and mutual commitment we share than does the tragedy that occurred here in Broome on March 3, 1942."
The ceremony was conducted jointly with the local chapter of the Australian Returned Servicemen's League, which funded and maintains the memorial to allied servicemen killed in the Broome attack. Following the wreath laying, a prayer to the fallen was read by Electronics Warfare Technician 2nd Class (SW) Matthew Cox U.S. and Australian flags were exchanged by the ship and the former Australian servicemen during the ceremony as tokens of friendship.
According to Cox, this ceremony provided an opportunity for Sailors today to honor the service members who gave their lives during the conflict.
"This was a fine way to remember and appreciate the efforts and sacrifices made by the courageous men and women who served together as allies during World War II," he said.
For more information on USS Sides, go to www.surfpac.navy.mil/shipsnav/Sides/sidehome.htm. For more 7th Fleet news, go to www.news.navy.mil/local/c7f/.