The Northern Territory Government recognized and honored today the historic involvement and sacrifices of 16 Filipino Merchant Mariners from the American transport ships SS Florence D and SS Don Isidro during the bombing of Darwin of 19 February 2014.
According to Major Paul Rosenzweig (retired), SS Don Isidro was first attacked by Japanese aircraft on 18 February, the day before the raids on Darwin, but suffered no damage. On the morning of the 19th, it was north of Bathurst Island when it was strafed by Japanese fighter planes returning from the strike on Darwin. Meanwhile, SS Florence D, which was responding to the SOS call of Don Isidro, was also attacked and immediately sank. Fourteen Filipino merchant mariners lost their lives, and two others subsequently died from their wounds. They were all civilians serving under Articles of Agreement with the Master but were in fact on secret mission to support allied forces in the Philippines, crewing blockade-runners engaged by the American military.
Mr. Januario Rivas, Philippine Consul General to Darwin, a.h., worked closely with the NT Government, especially the office of the Hon. Peter Styles MLA, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Dr. Tom Lewis OAM, Director of the Darwin Military Museum and the Department of the Chief Minister, to commemorate this historic event that proves the long and steadfast friendship between the Philippines and Australia, and its two peoples.
The commemoration, which was hosted at the Darwin Military Museum, included remarks from H.E. Ambassador Belen F. Anota, Philippine Ambassador to Australia, and Minister Styles. They also unveiled the commemorative plaque bearing the names of the Filipino mariners and laid wreaths in honor of all Filipinos who lost their lives during the bombing of Darwin in 1942, both on land and on sea. There were also five Filipinos who lost their lives while working on the Darwin Wharf during the bombing of Darwin. Filipino priest, Fr. Felimon Libot CMF, then offered a prayer for the repose of those who died.
The event was also attended by the Hon. Sally Thomas AC, Administrator of the Northern Territory, the Right Worshipful Katrina Fong Lim, Lord Mayor of Darwin, Mrs. Natasha Griggs, Federal Member for Solomon, Mr. Ian Abbot, Worship Mayor of Palmerston, representatives from the Tiwi Land Council, members of the Consular Corps, descendants of Juan Roque Cubillo and Catalino Spain who died during the Darwin bombing, and members of the Filipino community.
The solemn and meaningful commemoration truly served as a testament to the significant contribution of the Filipino community to the military history of Australia.