Last Zero pilot of the first Bombing of Darwin raid dies

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Kaname Harada, the last remaining fighter pilot of the 19th February 1942 raid on Darwin, has died this week aged 99 at his home in Nagano, north of Tokyo.

Harada flew a Zero fighter on the inbound mission to attack Darwin, part of the 188-strong force of aircraft which had taken off from four aircraft carriers of the imperial Japanese Navy that morning.

Harada later described seeing the USS Peary hit by bombs. The destroyer sank quickly with the loss of 88 lives.  He also saw the bombing of the merchant ship Neptuna, packed full of explosives.

"It was a dive-bomb attack from 5000m and the plume of smoke went up 200m in the air. When the smoke was gone, there was nothing left," he said.

The Territory Remembers (TTR) Military Historian, Dr Tom Lewis said TTR tells stories of the air raids and World War II in commemoration of this significant anniversary.

“In 2015 Harada was interviewed for the commemorative 75th anniversary program of the Darwin raids, The Territory Remembers, in his Nagano home, and is one of a number of WWII veterans and civilians who share their experiences of the war,” he said.

“TTR aims to preserve and share our rich military history with future generations to create an understanding of how the war shaped the Territory.”

Harada first joined the Navy in 1933, became the top student of his class. In WWII, after seeing active service in China, he was posted to the aircraft carrier Soryu. He participated in the assault on Pearl Harbor which launched Japan into the war.

On 17 October 1942 Harada was shot down over the island of Guadalcanal by a US Wildcat fighter. He survived the crash, but was wounded badly and never fought again.

Decades later, depressed about his role in the war, Harada built and operated a local kindergarten, to give something back to humanity from which he had taken lives. He travelled to the UK and the USA, on occasion meeting pilots whom he had fought against.

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