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    Wewak Airfield (Wirui, Wewak Central) ESP PNG

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Catholic Church c1937

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90th BG c1943

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5th AF Sept 9, 1943

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5th AF Nov 18, 1943

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AWM Aug 13, 1945

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Justin Taylan 2000

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Justin Taylan 2003

Location
Wewak Airfield is located at Wirui to the southeast of Wewak Town (Wewak Point), parallel to Wirui Beach. To the east are Mission Point and northeast is Wewak Harbor. Also known as"Wirui Drome", "Wewak Drome" or "Wewak Central".

Construction
During 1937, a small airfield was built at this location by the Australian administration and Catholic church, to provide air service for the Wewak area. By early 1942, the airfield was described as a single runway was 1400 x 100 x 10 yards with prevailing winds NW-SE and good approaches. European houses, food and water were available. W. O. Jones was based at the airfield.

World War II Pacific Theatre History
On December 18, 1942 four Japanese ships landed unopposed between 8pm and 2am and unloaded about 2,000 Japanese Army troops and supplies onto Wirui beach and occupied Wewak and Wewak Airfield. Immediately, the Japanese 117th Airfield Survey and Construction Battalion began upgrading the airfield for use by military aircraft.

On January 17, 1943 the first Japanese aircraft to arrive at the airfield was a detachment of A6M2 Zeros from the Junyō, commanded by Lt Cdr Takashi Hashiguch.   They used the strip while it was still in its civilian configuration. While based in Wewak for convoy protection. They left on January 25, 1943. And another Zero detachment from the Zuiho arrived in February 1943, then departed for Rabaul.

Meanwhile, the 117th Airfield Construction Battalion worked on expanding and improving the airfield to become 4,000' long (as of October 19, 1943). Over a hundred revetments were built, fifteen for bombers to the NW towards the Wewak peninsula and 88 revetments to the SE for fighters (as of October 19, 1943)

American missions against Wewak (Town & Airfield)
December 30, 1942 - September 8, 1944

Japanese Navy units based at Wewak
117th Airfield Survey and Construction Battalion Dec 18, 1942 - ?
Junyō detachment (25 x A6M2, 7 x B5N2 ) January 17 - February 28, 1943 Kavieng
Zuihō detachment (20 x A6M2) January 19 - 26, 1943 Rabaul
Japanese Army units based at Wewak
45th Sentai (Ki-48)
14th Sentai (Ki-21)

Tachi-6 Radar
Two 50Kw radar sets, range 200km located at Wewak, in the Wirui vicinity. Under the control of the Japanese Army 4th Air Intel Unit. Operational orders of 248th Sentai showed they scrambled based on radar intelligence. Reference: Japanese Mono. #127 via Richard Dunn.

Tetsuo Watanabe Naval Land Unit, page 56:
"May 4, 1944 The Wewak Airfield was a frightful spectacle. It was totally destroyed by bombardment. Similarly countless remains of out ships were lying in the harbor."

During May 1945, the Australian Army occupied the Wewak area. This airfield was repaired and used by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) until the end of the war.

On September 13, 1945 Japanese Army Lt General Hatazo Adachi, commander of the 18th Army with Captain Iwama, civilian interpreter and three officers were flown aboard C-47 Dakota from 36 Squadron from Hayfield Airfield to Wewak Airfield. Next, the Japanese were transported by jeep to Cape Wom for the official surrender ceremony at 10am at Cape Wom Airfield. Adachi signed the instrument of surrender and handed over his sword in the presence of 3,000 troops drawn from various units of the Australian Army 6th Division. Afterwards, he attended meetings with Australian Army staff to discuss arrangements related to the surrender.

Today
Wewak Airfield was abandoned since the war as an airfield. Since this airfield is located nearest to Wewak town, it has been heavily picked over in the decades and the few traces of the war remain. A road runs atop the former runway. Bomb craters are still visible in the area and a few bits of aircraft wreckage remain in the area, that have not been scrapped in the decades since the war.

References
The Catholic publication "A Brief History of Wewak" describes the construction of the airfield
Notes about New Guinea airfields, recorded circa May - July, 1942 by Oliver C. Doan via Jean Doan research Edward Rogers
Thank to Richard Dunn for additional information.

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Last Updated
October 8, 2013

 

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