The 2019 finding of USS Peary’s Propellers
Wed 20 Jul, 11:00 am - 1:30 pm
The 2019 finding of USS Peary‘s propellers and rewriting the story of the destroyer’s fighting finish in Darwin Harbour on 19 Feb 1942
The recent discovery in Darwin Harbour of the propellers of the fighting destroyer USS Peary has rewritten the story of the biggest air raid on Australian soil, the attack of the Japanese Navy on 19 February 1942.
Located around two kilometres from the wreck site of the rest of the ship, and complete with their drive shafts, the propellers lie in a debris field which may yet reveal other items from the destroyer. That the warship’s stern should have been forcefully separated when she was subject to a ferocious divebombing means the story of how the vessel sank needs reanalysing.
The Peary was one of the largest warships in Darwin on 19 February 1942. She was anchored a little under a mile from the main wharves, in the middle of the harbour, not far from the hospital ship Manunda and the coastal steamer Zealandia. The other warships present were the RAN sloops Swan and Warrego, and the corvettes Deloraine and Katoomba; the latter in the Australian Navy’s floating dock. Altogether, there were 57 vessels in the harbour that morning. All of the warships except Peary survived – a puzzle for which there have been a number of incomplete or unsatisfactory explanations. The discovery of the propellers, and Dr Lewis’s analysis for the NT Heritage department finally fits the puzzle together. Together with an explanation of the raid by 188 Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft from four carriers, this presentation will intrigue naval and maritime personnel as well as those seeking further answers to Australia’s evolving history of World War II.
Presenter: Dr Tom Lewis OAM RAN (Rtd)
Tom Lewis has combined three interesting career paths to make him one of Australia’s foremost military historians. He has integrated a 20-year RAN track, primarily as an intelligence analyst, with high school teaching, and work as an historian. His 30-year writing career followed time as a journalist, with his first publication Wrecks in Darwin Waters, which was followed by an analysis in Darwin’s Submarine of the first successful submarine RAN action of WWII, resulting in the sinking of the I-124, which still lies outside Darwin today with her 80-man ship’s company. Zero Hour in Broome analysed the second biggest air raid on Australia, and The Submarine Six presented biographies of the six who had RAN submarines named after them; while Lethality in Combat, his most controversial work, analysed the realities of battlefield combat.
Carrier Attack, an extensive technical analysis of the first Darwin raid, revealed many unknown aspects of that assault, and Teddy Sheean VC chronicled not only the fight of this naval hero but the fight to get him the Victoria Cross he deserved. Tom’s most recent publications are The Empire Strikes South, an accounting of all Japanese air raids made in Northern Australia, showing the attacks were far more widespread than first thought, and Atomic Salvation: how the atomic bombs saved the lives of 30 million. His Order of Australia medal was presented for services to naval history.
Details: Time: 11:00am Wednesday 20th. July 2022 (Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney Time)
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