Despite little recognition during World War II, the sacrifice and death of Private John Adams was commemorated on the 75th anniversary of the Port Hedland bombings last week.
Believed to be the only man born, raised and enlisted in the army in WA to be killed by enemy action in the State during World War II, Private Adams was only 19 during the first of three Japanese attacks on Port Hedland.
Known to most in his 29th Garrison Battalion as Jack, life at Operational Base Unit No.23 — now Port Hedland International Airport — was relatively peaceful.
He was stationed in Hedland mostly to assist in providing defence and support, but the subdued environment was torn apart just after sunrise on July 30, 1942.
He was woken by the sound of exploding bombs. The war had come to Hedland.
Sharing a tent with two others, Ptes Dick Brampton and Paddy Gear, the trio flung themselves to the floor.
Their tent was one of the last in line in the back row, but not far enough out of reach of the shrapnel.
A 60kg daisy cutter bomb landed about 10m from Pte Adams’ tent, sending up a mountain of red dirt and hot metal, including a lethal piece of shrapnel to tear through the men’s tent.
Pte Adams was hit in the head by the shrapnel, killing him instantly.
In the diary of Captain Raymond Arthur Clarke, commanding officer of the 29th Garrison Battalion, little mention was made of the death, citing a “military funeral” was held that afternoon.
Sadly, as many stories go, it wasn’t until the following Wednesday that Pte Adams’ family was notified about his death after his name was leaked throughout the media.
Today, Pte Adams rests in peace at the Geraldton Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery and a plaque commemorating his strength, courage and sacrifice, stands at the Port Hedland International Airport.
More than 50 people attended the ceremony including consul general of Japan and Perth Tatsuo Hirayama, who said he was honoured to be invited to pay his respects to Pte Adams.
“I think it is very good to remember what happened,” he said. “Japan and Port Hedland have a long history, which dates back more than a century ... since then, those in 1942 were the most tragic and we will never forget the immeasurable suffering we impacted on Port Hedland and other parts of Australia.”
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