photo
Australia's War 1939 - 1945
title

The commemorative plaque at Ambon War Cemetery, the final resting place of Damien Parer. He is also commemorated by a plaque on the wall of the Pentagon, Washington DC, USA.
[AWM 044672]
Patricia Cam
Damien Parer about to embark for the Middle East on the Empress of Japan. 12 January 1940.
[AWM 000401]

memorabilia
document
A ‘press pass’ issued to
Damien Parer by the
Department of Information,
28 May 1942.
[Damien Parer, SP109/16, NAA]

video
video still
Kokoda Front Line!
[AWM FO1582]



'Parer's last reel'
photo
Damien Parer’s rosary, crucifix, watch and wallet
are in the collection at the Mitchell Library.
[Displayed with the permission of the Parer family,
ML Realia 365, Mitchell Library,
State Library of New South Wales.]

The Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, has received a report of the interment of one "Parren Damien", who was killed in action 17 September, 1944, by multiple mortar fragment wounds and was buried 19 September, 1944, in Grave 78, Section 2, U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery No. 1, Peleliu Island, Palau Islands’

[IC45/88/2/1 A1066, NAA]

On 7 May 1945, General Alexander Vandergrift, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps wrote to Sir Frederic Eggleston, Minister for External Affairs in Australia. He believed that the report might refer to the Australian Paramount News photographer, Damien Parer. It did. Parer's grave and his remains were subsequently removed in 1945 to Morotai, in 1946 to Macassar and finally in 1961 to Ambon.

Damien Parer, Australia’s most famous official war photographer, had been caught in an action fought between American and Japanese troops on Peleliu in the Pelau island group in the central Pacific Ocean. Parer, who had left the Australian Department of Information in 1943 to join the American Paramount company, was filming an attack on the island by US Marines when he was killed by mortar fire.

photo
One of the last photographs taken of Australian cameraman Damien Parer in which he is introducing a couple of US Marines to the 'delights of billy tea'.
[AWM 044129]

During 1944, Peleliu was an important link in the Japanese defensive line flanking the American Central Pacific advance towards the Philippines. When the US 1st Marine Division landed on Peleliu on 15 September they suffered heavy casualties from the well-defended beachhead. Damien Parer was killed two days later.

More than a month of heavy fighting followed the US landing but Japanese resistance finally finished on 13 October. Peleliu continued to hide a number of Japanese soldiers during the next years, men who refused to believe that the war was over.

photo
Damien Parer on Bungan
Beach, NSW, c1930s.
Portrait by Max Dupain.
[nla.pic-an23221303]

Damien Parer had been brought up in a devout Catholic household and was expected to enter the priesthood. However, his plans changed after he was given a camera and instead he chose to become a photographer. He was advised to make stories ‘out of trivialities’ and so developed his own style. He worked first with the photographer Max Dupain and later in 1935 as a ‘rouseabout’ for the film director, Charles Chauvel. During an ABC interview he recorded with Chester Wilmot during the war Parer admitted that at times his hands had shaken too much to film effectively and that he shot his ‘first decent war pictures’ in Greece when he just set his camera up and filmed the ‘heartrending images’.

video
video still
'Hit and Run' from Men of Timor, a documentary Parer filmed for Army Public Relations in 1942.
[AWM FO1615]

Damien Parer joined the Department of Information Film Unit in August 1940 and was sent to the Middle East where he remained until March 1942. By the time he returned to Australia, he was well-known for his documentaries of Australians fighting in the Middle East and his films were featured on newsreels throughout Australia. In 1942 he accompanied Australian troops into the Pacific campaigns. He visited Timor in November 1942 and filmed the Australian guerrillas there and then spent most of the next ten months with Australian troops in Papua and New Guinea.

His Academy Award winning documentary – Kokoda Front Line! brought Parer further international fame but his continued dissatisfaction with the regulations imposed on him by his employers at the Department of Information led him to resign in protest. He was immediately invited to join Paramount News to film American troops in the Pacific. Less than a year later he was killed ‘in action’.

 

 

Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
The commemorative plaque at Ambon War Cemetery, the final resting place of Damien Parer. He is also commemorated by a plaque on the wall of the Pentagon, Washington DC, USA.
[AWM 044672]