Bombings

You might not believe this but during World War II even our region was targeted by the enemy.

Mossman gained its own place in history on 31 July, 1942 when eight bombs were dropped from a Japanese long-range flying boat, around 13km north of the town.

One landed the near the home of the Zullo family, with shrapnel piercing the corrugated walls of the house and slicing through the scalp of two-year-old Carmel (Mele) as she lay in her cot.

The incident was formally documented in a report which stated that five or six enemy aircraft had been sighted over Mossman on 31 July and noted that “a bomb was dropped one mile north of the post office at Miallo”.

One chap at the time recalled how, upon hearing the aircraft noise, his father had rushed outside in his pyjamas, rifle in hand. “I yelled for dad to ‘shoot him down’.”

“As the plane flew on, I could hear a rack-racking noise then I saw a black bomb drop down from out of the plane’s belly. We heard other booming noises but could not see anything so Dad pulled on his Voluntary Defence Corps uniform over his pyjamas and went off to investigate.”

A nurse at the Mossman Hospital recalled she was on duty when they heard a plane overhead and went to look outside.

“It looked like a big black hawk circling the mill and right around the town area. It flew so low that in the bright moonlight we could see the pilot’s helmet.

“Then about 5am the superintendent of the Mossman Ambulance walked in wearing his tin helmet and covered in mud and said: We have our first air raid victim. Little Mele Zullo was taken straight to theatre to be treated for head wounds.”

The bombing was even reported in The Bangkok Times and the whole incident gathered more credibility when the logbook of Japanese pilot Sub Lieutenant Kiyoshi Mizukura confirmed the bombing.

The logbook states that the crew saw light and, assuming it was Cairns, dropped eight bombs at 3.30am on what they thought was the aerodrome.

A replica bomb and plaque was unveiled by Carmel Emmi (nee Zullo) at the spot on 31 July 1992 to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing.

Carmel was the only civilian casualty inflicted by the enemy on Australia's east coast during World War II.

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Last updated: 23 April 2020