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    Canton Airfield (Kanton)  Kiribati

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1944
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1990

Location
Located on Canton Island in the Phoenix Island Group. The airstrip was located at the north-eastern corner of the island. Also known as "Kanton Airfield".

Construction
During 1938 and 1939 Pan American Airways laid out and developed the airport, deepened and cleared the lagoon, and initiated flights to New Zealand using Canton as one of the ports of call.

Wartime History
Canton Airfield was an important refueling stop for aircraft being ferried from Hawaii to Canton then onward to Palmyra, Fiji and Nouméa to Australia. The island was known for having only one palm tree and one runway.

Canton was used for some combat missions and photographic reconnaissance flights. On January 17, 1942 B-17's of Task Group 8.9 arrive from Palmyra. During the month, B-17's conduct antisubmarine search from Canton, departing on January 21 and 25 for Nandi then returns to Canton then depart on January 29. On July 23, 1942 three B-17s fly via Canton to fly a photo reconnaissance of Makin.

On February 20, 1943 three 307th Bomb Group B-24s photograph Makin and attack shipping off Tarawa. On May 26 and May 28, 1943 three B-24 fly photo reconnaissance missions over Apamama dropping bombs. On June 22, 1943 three B-24's from Canton fly photo reconnaissance over the Gilbert Islands including Beru, Nukunau, Tabiteuea, Onotoa, Tarawa, and Arorae.

On July 28, 1943 Japanese bombers attempt to bomb Canton are forced to jettison their bombs at sea because of intense anti-aircraft and fighter defense. During September 1-14, 1943 B-24s conduct daily sea-search patrols from Canton. On September 19, B-24s from Canton bomb Tarawa. Also during September, US Navy patrol bombers from Canton cover the occupation of Baker Island. During November-December, B-24s from Canton hit targets including Jaluit, Mille and Makin and Maloelap.

During January 1944, B-24s staging from Canton to Baker hit Mille Atoll.

American units based at Canton
USN, Patrol Squadron 23 (PBY) mid January 1942 -
15th FG, 46th FS (P-39) Hilo March 27, 1943 - December 18, 1943 Makin
318th FG, 333rd FS (P-39) Hilo March 27, 1943 - April 6, 1943 Hilo
307th BG, 371st BS (B-24) Wheeler February 6-12, 1943 Wheeler
30th BG, 392nd BS (B-24) Barking Sands November 10, 1943 - January 10 , 1944 Apemama
7th AF, 58th BS (A-24) Wheeler June 18, 1943 - ?
11th BG, 26th BS (B-24) Motulalo November 12 - December 31, 1943 Motulalo

Veteran Ken Barber adds:
"I suspect that B-25 we lost December 5, 1944 is in that lagoon somewhere. As I recall he would have been headed south as I was going in the opposite direction when I saw him buzzing the strip."

Later, US Navy NATS (Naval Air Transport Service) transport aircraft flying from Honolulu Airfield (John Rodgers Airfield) flying via Palmyra to Canton as the second port of call on southbound flights.

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Last Updated
March 31, 2017

 

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