Obama visits the other Pearl Harbor
November 17th, 2011
08:02 AM ET

Obama visits the other Pearl Harbor

When President Obama touched down in Darwin, Australia, he wasn’t just the first American president to ever set foot on that country’sNorthern Territory; he was also the first one to personally pay his respects to the sailors who lost their lives aboard the USS Peary.  World War II buffs and military historians know well the legend of the American destroyer, which sank under attack decades before this president was even born.

The ship with about 150 crew was anchored off Darwin Harbor on the morning of February 19,1942 when it came under attack without warning.  Nearly 200 Japanese bombers—launched from carriers that attacked Pearl Harbor just two months before- were on a mission to strike the city.  The Peary, which was refueling at the time, was a sitting duck.  

It took a while for her to set sail and mount a defense, with evasive maneuvers, and anti-aircraft guns firing.  But it was too late.  The Peary was hit in succession with five bombs, engulfing the destroyer in flames and black smoke. 

Nevertheless, the brave crew kept firing even while the ship was sinking.  According to the US Destroyer History Foundation: “the last unknown gunner was firing even while the water rose… still at the gun controls- loading, aiming and firing, unaided-when The Peary went down stern first.”  According to official documents, that was 1300 hours- 1pm local time—3 hours after the initial attack.

89 sailors died that day, in what was known as the greatest loss of life suffered by the US Navy in Australian waters.  57 survived.

Today, President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julian Gillard walked side-by-side down a sloping lawn toward Darwin Harbor, stopping near a 4-inch gun that was salvaged from the destroyer.  They pinned personal messages to two wreaths nearby, listen to a lone survivor play Taps, and then greeted-and in one case comforted- some surviving family members.

The gun points offshore, towards the vast sea, and the final resting place of the USS Peary.

Topics: Australia • President Obama • Travel
Building military ties with Australia
President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard with Australian and U.S. troops at a military base in Darwin, Australia Thursday.
November 17th, 2011
05:51 AM ET

Building military ties with Australia

Darwin, Australia (CNN)–President Obama, accompanied by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, spoke to troops at a military base in Darwin, Australia on Thursday. The President announced earlier this week an enhanced military partnership with close ally Australia. The United States will deploy up to 250 Marines to Australia next year, steadily increasing that number to 2500 in the coming years.

"[O]ur alliance is rooted in the bonds between our people, and the democratic values that we share and our commitment to stand with each other through thick and through thin, no matter what," the president told the crowd of 2000 on the remote base in northern Australia.

"This region has some of the busiest sea lanes in the world, which are critical to all our economies. And in times of crisis - from the Bali bombings to East Timor to relief after a tsunami - Darwin has been a hub, moving out aid, caring for victims, making sure that we do right by the people of this region. And that's what we're going to keep doing, together," said Mr. Obama.

The president heads to Bali, Indonesia, to meet with Asian world leaders in a region which has become a priority for the United States as it seeks to improve trade and create jobs at home, as well as strengthening alliances to serve as a counter balance to an increasing Chinese influence in the region.

Topics: Australia • China • President Obama
November 17th, 2011
04:06 AM ET

Is it any coincidence that the address of the White House is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the numbers of the license plates on the presidential limousines add up to 1600? Here the armored Chevrolet Suburban has the license plate 800 002. Do the math. 800 times 002 equals 1600. Coincidence? I think not!

Topics: Australia • President Obama • The Visuals