How close did the Japanese get?
WHILE everyone in Queensland thought an invasion was coming, the Japanese Government never formally adopted a plan to invade Australia during World War II.
There are, however, many stories of Japanese forces making landings in Australia after 1941. To date only one such landing can be substantiated.
Unconfirmed stories of Japanese landings in Queensland include Cape Hillsborough, Curtis Island, Great Keppel Island, Marble Island, Marion Creek, Raspberry Creek, Rosewood Island, The Templeton Island Group and Townshend Island.
Japanese submarines attacked several Australian cities with deck cannons, two of the most notable being Sydney and Newcastle, but with little damage or loss of life.
There was also the famous incident when HMAS Kuttabul was sunk in Sydney Harbour on May 30, 1942.
There is no doubt the Japanese would have invaded Australia except for the battles on the Kokoda Track and at Milne Bay, where their troops were soundly beaten by Australian units and were forced to retreat.
Even then, probes on to the Australian mainland were widely accepted as having taken place, but still only one can be substantiated.
Japanese Naval Intelligence confirms a reconnaissance landing at a sparsely populated area near the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
The landing occurred from January 17-20, 1944, and was a small force led by the Japanese Army’s Lieutenant Susuhiko Mizuno.
The force which landed included three other Japanese Army personnel, six naval personnel and 15 West Timorese sailors.
The unit operated out of Koepang, West Timor, using a 25-ton civilian vessel called Hiyoshi Maru, posing as a fishing crew.
Their orders were to verify reports the US Navy was building a base near the area, and to collect information which might assist guerrilla attacks against the Australian mainland.
The Japanese ship entered the Ashmore Reef area on January 17, 1944, and the crew landed on the tiny uninhabited Browse Island the following day.
Two days later, Hiyoshi Maru entered York Sound on the mainland and the crew lowered anchor and covered the ship with tree branches to avoid detection.
Landing parties went ashore near the Roe and Moran rivers, explored the area for about two hours, returning to spend the night on board their ship.
The small force again went ashore the following day for more exploration and then immediately returned to Koepang,
The Japanese found no signs of any human presence or activity, and very little of any military significance was learned from their mission.
Luckily for them, the Japanese party was not sighted by Australian armed forces.
Later it was revealed a small party of RAAF personnel working 25km away on the planned Truscott airfield had reported hearing marine engines.
No action was taken to check those reports.