The Hon. Greg Hunt MP

Minister for the Environment

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP

Minister for the Environment

WWII Darwin Bombing Shipwreck Protected

Media release
19 February 2014

On the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Darwin, the Government has declared the World War Two United States Army Transport (USAT) vessel Don Isidro, as a protected historic shipwreck.

The Don Isidro shipwreck is an important reminder of the sacrifices made by Australia's allies protecting Australia and the broader defence effort in the Pacific during World War Two.

The USAT Don Isidro was attacked by Japanese forces off the Northern Territory coast on 19 February 1942 - the same day Darwin was attacked for the first time by Japanese forces. The Don Isidro was badly damaged and the ship's captain and crew were forced to abandon the burning vessel.

In the days after the attack, the Don Isidro drifted until the ship beached in shallow waters off the shores of Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory.

Originally built as a luxury passenger vessel, the Don Isidro was commissioned as a transport ship by the United States Government. It was intended to be used to break the Japanese blockade to deliver much-needed rations and ammunition to Allied troops in the Philippines.

On 19 February 1942, the Don Isidro was off the northern coast of Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory - heading towards Darwin - when it was attacked by Japanese fighter planes and bombers.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt acknowledged the Don Isidro as a symbol of the wartime heritage Australia shares with the United States and the Philippines.

"In making this declaration on the anniversary of the bombing of Darwin, the Government recognises and acknowledges the service and sacrifice of those onboard the Don Isidro.

"The Don Isidro's crew of 16 American soldiers and 68 Filipino merchant seamen bravely fought off the first wave of attacks from Japanese fighter planes before the vessel was damaged by a second wave of attack from a group of Japanese dive bombers.

"These attacks resulted in the loss of the Don Isidro and 11 of its Filipino merchant seamen.

"This declaration conveys the gratitude and condolences of all Australians to Don Isidro veterans and their families both in the Philippines and the United States," said Mr Hunt. 19 February 2014

United Stated Ambassador to Australia, John Berry, thanked the Australian Government for its efforts to declare the Don Isidro as an historic shipwreck, and acknowledged the continued and close alliance between the United States, Australia and the Philippines.

"Over the past 70 years, the bonds of firm and true friendship have grown between our nations and our peoples - friendships which continue to flourish to this day," Ambassador Berry said.

"The government and the people of the United States thank the Australian Government for its efforts to list the USAT Don Isidro as a protected shipwreck.

"We owe the freedoms we enjoy today to the sacrifices of the young men and women who served in the Second World War - such as those who fought onboard the Don Isidro. We shall continue to honour and remember them," said Ambassador Berry.

The Philippine Ambassador to Australia, Belen F. Anota, expressed the gratitude of the Philippine Government and the Filipino people for the heritage listing of the Don Isidro. Ms Anota paid tribute the courage of the Filipinos and Americans who fought on the Don Isidro.

"The Philippines deeply appreciates all efforts by the Heritage Minister, Hon Greg Hunt MP, and by the Northern Territory Government to have the USAT Don Isidro to be declared a historic shipwreck," said Ambassador Anota.

"This Declaration is concrete proof of the long historic ties between the Philippines and Australia and a testament to the true and steadfast friendship between our two peoples.

"I am proud to note that USAT Don Isidro was built in 1939 for the De la Rama Steamship Company in Iloilo, Philippines with a crew of 68 Filipinos.

"We salute and honour the brave men of USAT Don Isidro especially those who were wounded, were missing and those who perished when the ship was strafed by Japanese bombers on 19 February 1942," said Ambassador Anota.

This declaration will ensure the legacy and associated relics of the USAT Don Isidro are protected.

For more information on the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 and images of the USAT Don Isidro go to www.environment.gov.au/heritage/shipwrecks/index.html

Greg Hunt

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