While many residents had already been evacuated, Broome was still a busy transport hub in early 1942. Both the airfield and Roebuck Bay were transit and refuelling points for aircraft and the Catalina and Dornier flying boats transporting evacuees from Java, and in the last two weeks of February 1942 it is estimated that over 1,000 evacuees passed through the town before continuing their journey southwards. In addition, RAAF and American troops were transited through the airfield, with a small RAAF base there.
In the morning of 3 March 1942, ten Japanese fighter planes were spotted overhead, and in a short attack the airfield and the flying boats moored in Roebuck Bay were bombed and strafed. There were as many as 100 fatalities during the raid, most of whom were Dutch evacuees, including women and children. An American Liberator bomber, carrying mostly injured military personnel was also shot down shortly after take-off with the loss of all but one person on board.
A plaque on Carnarvon Street in Broome commemorates the events of 3 March 1942, and the Broome Historical Society Museum at Town Beach has dedicated part of its exhibition space to the attack. The wreckage of the flying boats still lie in Roebuck Bay and are exposed on certain low tides of 1.3m or lower. These wrecks may be viewed by walking out from Town Beach. The ABC have a podcast guide to the wrecks, which is available here and a heritage trail guide which is available here. In 2012, the Netherlands Embassy in Canberra published a booklet commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Broome strafing, and a copy is available here.
At Cable Beach, the Beaufighter Memorial commemorates RAAF Flight Sergeants Ronald Smith and Ronald Kerrigan, whose aircraft crashed into the sea shortly after take-off in September 1944. Tidal movements hindered efforts to locate the wreckage and the bodies of the airmen, and it wasn't until 2012 that a local historian and helicopter pilot found the wreckage site. This memorial was unveiled in 2014.