Matthias Ullungura, Bathurst Island

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Posted on 5 May 2021
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On 19 February 1942, Japanese forces launched their first attack on Australia with two air raids on Darwin. The first raid occurred just before 10am, with bombs hitting infrastructure and parts of the town.

During the air raid, Japanese Pilot Hajime Toyoshima was shot down and his aircraft crashed on Melville Island.

Toyoshima was disarmed and captured by Tiwi man Matthias Ullungura, who was on a hunting party when he saw Hajime.

Ullungura crept up behind him and, prodding him with the back of his tomahawk, said “Stick ’em up.”

Toyoshima was taken to Bathurst Island, where he would become the first Japanese prisoner of war captured on Australian soil during the Second World War.

The Japanese pilot was later transferred to the Cowra prisoner-of-war camp and later became one of the leaders of the 1944 breakout.

The breakout is considered to be one the largest prisoner-of-war escape attempts in the Second World War. Of the 1,104 Japanese in the camp, 234 were killed and 108 wounded. Four Australians were killed in the breakout and immediate search for escapees.

In 2016, a life-sized statue of Ullungura was unveiled on Bathurst Island to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin and the role Tiwi Islanders played in the defence of Australia.

Image: Japanese Pilot Hajime Toyoshima's aircraft crashed on Melville Island, NT, February 1942