More than 20 children were among at least 80 people killed when Japanese forces attacked Broome in 1942. Now the search is on for the wrecks of the flying boats where they died.

In terms of lives lost, the Japanese air raid on Broome is second only to the bombing of Darwin, though many Australians are unaware of the tragedy.

What’s left of a Dutch Dornier flying boat 75 years after it was destroyed by a Japanese air raid on Broome. (Stephen Van Der Mark)

It was a terrible stroke of luck that nine Japanese Zero fighter planes, fitted with long-range fuel tanks, found 16 flying boats anchored on Broome’s Roebuck Bay.

“The Zeros came in from Indonesia, and unfortunately the Japanese caught them sitting on the water like sitting ducks,” said Jeremey Green, the head of the Department of Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australian Museum.

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