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    Buka Airfield Bougainville Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)

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USN April 2, 1942

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13th AF Dec 15, 1942

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13th AF Nov 4, 1943

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13th AF c1944

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13th AF Nov 11, 1944

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Stephen Turner 1985

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Justin Taylan 2003

Location
Lat 5° 25' 20S Long 154° 40' 22E  Located near Buka Town and Chinatown on the southern end of Buka Island. To the south is Buka Passage.

Construction
A single runway roughly 700 x 60 meters was built prior to the war by Australians running roughly north-east to south-west.  Also, an emergency runway 500 x 60 meters off the end of the runway, forming an 'L' shape.

World War II Pacific Theatre History
Prior to the war, Australian troops built gun pits around the strip in December 1941.  On January 2, 1942 with the Japanese approaching, they prepared the aerodrome for demolition, blowing holes in the runway, and logs and pipes to prevent aircraft from landing. The following day, orders came to prepare the field for fleeing aircraft from Rabaul to land. On January 3, 1942 a RAAF Wirraway piloted by Flight-Lieutenant Brookes arrived, inspected the airstrip and suggested some improvements then departed.

During the middle of March 1942 occupied by the Japanese. On July 26, 1942, a Japanese Navy special detachment was sent to inspect Buka Airfield, but considered it unacceptable as a prospect for a speedily constructed major airfield.

None the less, by December 1942 the strip was further improved by the Japanese with bitumen surfacing, an electrical power plant, underground fuel tanks, and new pillboxes and trenches. From December onwards many hulks were at the strip. Coastwatchers reported nighttime patrol flights during full moon. Also, scouting by a Betty bomber flying down each coast of Bougainville and returning by afternoon as part of regular reconnaissance.

On May 13, 1943 Allied reconnaissance observed 36 fighters and 6 bombers at the airstrip. On October 1, 1943 Allied reconnaissance observed 35 aircraft at Buka, including 19 dive bombers.

On October 22, 1943 the runway was recorded at 4,200' x 420', with extensive revetment areas to the north and south of the runway, defended by anti-aircraft guns.

Japanese units based at Buka
751st Kokutai (G4M) mid 1943 HQ at Vunakanau
705th Kokutai (G4M) late Feb - early March 43 HQ Vunakanau
702nd Kokutai (G4M) Sept 1942 to Ballale and Vunakanau

Japanese and American missions against Buka Airfield
January 3, 1942 - June 15, 1944

Tom Blackburn in VF-17 The Jolly Rogers recalls:
"Buka and Bonis remained serious threats to the Torokina beachhead throughout early November 1943. Although the Japanese did not regularly bas airplanes at either field, they meticulously patched runway damage after each bombing raid, and maintained heavy anti-aircraft defenses around both runways. The danger lay in the readiness of the runways, through which they could stage raids against the beachhead, and damaged aircraft had a safe haven 165 miles south of Rabaul."

Post War
Robert Curtis adds:
"I was district agricultural officer in Bougainville 1957 to 1962,  stationed at Kubu above Buka Airstrip. Many aircraft were recovered in and around Buka Airstrip and melted down for scrap metal in a portable crucible during 1958-59."

Today
Still in use today as "Buka Airport". Used for limited flights by Air Niugini and secondary airlines. The runway measures 1,562m x 30m with an orientation of 04/22 at an elevation of 8'. Airport codes; ICAO: AYBK and IATA: BUA.

During the 1990's "Bougainville Crisis" Buka Airfield was the only airport in Bougainville Province that remained open.

Josh McDade adds in 1999:
"Locals tell us that supposedly two aircraft were dug up at some time parallel from the northern sides of the runway. Couldn't get more information on when or where the aircraft are now. There are definitely large excavated old craters within a hundred meters of the runway."

Justin Taylan visited in September 2003:
"I had a few hours before my flight, and walked around the airfield area. On the south side of the runway, across from the small terminal, there was a propeller and some wreckage displayed at a house. On the northern side of the strip, I searched for the Betty wreck, but believe it was scrapped or otherwise removed. All that I could find were some small pieces of Japanese aircraft wreckage, and an empty gun pit, made of empty fuel drums."

Type 96 25mm anti-aircraft gun twin mount
Displayed at the front entrance to Buka Airport

References
Japanese army operations in the South Pacific area: New Britain and Papua campaigns, 1942–43 page 125.
NAC - Buka Airport

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Last Updated
March 31, 2017

 

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October 22, 1943

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