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    Henderson Field (Lunga Point, Honiara Airport) Guadalcanal Solomons

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August 7, 1942
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August 12, 1942
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October 14, 1942
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April 11, 1943
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October 1942








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Location
Located near the north coast of Guadalcanal, between the Lunga River to the west and Ilu River to the east. Located to the east of Honiara. Overlooking the airfield to the south is Mount Austen.

Construction
Known as 'Lunga Point', or 'Runga Point' to the Japanese, and code named RXI. Surveyed by the Japanese when they arrived in the area in early May, after the capture of Tulagi. The strip would allow Japanese aircraft to patrol the southern Solomons, shipping lanes to Australia, and the eastern flank of New Guinea.

There were two major construction units involved: 1,379 men and 1,145 in another, arriving on July 6, 1942. This team was originally scheduled to work on Midway once it was in captured. Work commenced after July 9th. Construction was observed and reported by coastwatcher and this airfield's presence spawned American plans to capture Guadalcanal.

About the middle of July, 250 additional civilians of the 'Hama Construction Unit' arrived known as the under the command of Inouree Hama, who had had 50 men on Gavutu previously. Also specialists from the 14th Encampment Corps that established the radio stations on Tulagi, Gavutu and at RXI plus the C. O. installing a radar set. Local labor was also used in the construction.

Airfield construction proceeded rapidly, ahead of schedule. On the night of August 6, 1942 just prior to the American landing, the construction troops were given an extra sakai ration for completing construction ahead of schedule.

American Occupation & Henderson Field
The airfield was the target of the US Marine landing on August 7, 1942 at nearby Red Beach. The Marines seized the strip before it became operational, and before the Japanese could demolish their radio station, food stocks and construction equipment. All would be used by the Americans later. The strip was named in honor of Major Lofton Henderson MIA / KIA during the Battle of Midway.

The Japanese objective of the Guadalcanal campaign was to recapture the airfield, an objective they failed to complete during the six-month campaign. During the campaign, they bombed the airfield from the air and shelled it from ships in Iron Bottom Sound.

Japanese Missions Against Henderson Field
(Air Raids, Bombardments: Partial List)

American Expansion
Expanded and completed by US Navy Sea Bee's 6th Naval Construction Battalion, the first aircraft, a PBY Catalina landed on the airfield on August 20, to evacuate two wounded soldiers. On August 22, after the Battle of the Tenaru, figher aircraft operating from the new airfield strafed surviving Japanese on the east bank of the river.

Stocks of aviation fuel began arriving at Henderson Field by the middle of October 1942 by ship and aircraft. Later, a second strip, Fighter 2 (Kukum Field) was built to the west. Later, other strips including a crash strip and Fighter 1 (Lunga Field) and Fighter 3 were built in the area.

Allied Units Based at Henderson
(partial list - know other units? )
USN
VF-5 (F4F) September 1942
VC-40 (SBD, TBF)
VMSB-131 (Avenger) 1943
VF-26 (F4F) Mar 10 - April 25 & June 26 - Aug 5, 1943
VF-27 (F4F) Mar 10 - April 25 & June 26 - Aug 5, 1943
VF-28 (F4F) Mar 10 - April 25 & June 26 - Aug 5, 1943
CAG 11 (Carrier Air Group 11)
VF-11 (VB-11) 1943
VB-21(SBD) 1943
VT-11 (TBF Avenger) 1943
CASU-11 (Carrier Aircraft Service Unit) Feb 1943 - July 1944
VS-54 (SBD, OS2U) June 11, 1943 - August 3, 1944
USMC
VMTB-132 (SBD) Oct 30 - Dec 24, 1942
VMTB-233 (SBD / TBF) August 1943 - October 29, 1943
VMF-121 (F4F) October 1942
VMF-122 "Wolf Pack" (F4U) May 1943 - July 28, 1943 - 3rd tour
VMF-122 (F4U) June 1943 - July 23, 1943 - 1st MAW
VMF-124 (F4U) April 4, 1943 - ?
VMSB-132 (SBD) June 23, 1943 - Aug 2, 1943 - 3rd tour
VMSB-143 (TBF) November 12, 1942 - ? Munda
VMSB-144 (SBD-3) June 13, 1943 - June 26, 1943 then to Russells
VMSB-236 (SBD) Espiritu Santo Nov 43 - Nov 25, 1943 to Munda
MABS-1 (Marine Air Base Squad-1) Feb 1, 1943 - Nov 43 to Ondonga
USAAF
44th FS
38th BG, 70th BS (B-26) Fiji January - Feb 4, 1943 Fiji
42nd BG, 69th BS (B-26, B-25) New Hebrides January - Oct 43 PDG
42nd BG, 75th BS (B-25) ? - Oct 21, 1943 Renard
38th BG, 70th BS (B-25) Fiji ? - Oct 22, 43 Russells
347th FG, 67th FS (P-39) New Caledonia Aug 22, 42 - June 43
42nd BG, 390th BS (B-25) Fiji May 11 - Oct 22, 1943 Renard
[This group operated under MAW-1]
RNZAF
3 Squadron (6 x Hudson) from Espiritu Santo Nov 23, 1942
1 Squadron (PV-1) replaced 3 Squadron

Post War
Henderson Field was abandoned after the war, and only Kukum Airfield (Fighter 2) remained in use.

Today
The field was modernized and reopened in 1969 as the Solomon's main airport. In the late 1970's the runway was expanded and lengthened.

Today, it is used as the Solomon Island's International Airport for daily regional flights around the Solomons by Solomon Airlines, and international flights every other day.

Renaming To Honiara International Airport
In 2003, there were rumors that the name of the airport would be changed to 'Honiara International Airport', and this resulted in a petition to Keep Guadalcanal's Henderson Field Name. In 2004, there was a change in signage, but the airport is now known as 'Honiara International Airport / Henderson Field'.

75mm Type 88 Anti-Aircraft Gun Serial 1252
Displayed outside the International Terminal

Henderson Field Control Tower (1943)
This tower is not the one from the initial Guadalcanal campaign, that was made of wood and was torn down during the war. This tower was built in 1943 and made of metal beams. It is still standing to this day.

The Pagoda (Pagoda Hill)
During July 1942, this structure was built by the Japanese on a small rise to the north of the runway. Captured by USMC and
nicknamed 'The Pagoda'. The building was used as a flight operations hut. Nearby was a flagpole.  

Aubrey Buser Pagoda signals recalls 1942:
"At the time everyone, regardless of rank or rate was expected to do everything in one's power to rescue any who needed such, to drain fuel from damaged aircraft for use in flyable craft, to drag damaged equipment out of the way of aircraft seeking to land or take off from Henderson Field, to help Seabees fill in bomb or shell holes on the strip itself, to aid in replacement of mars ton matting or anything else that desperately need to be done."

In early October, its radio equipment was moved into the newly dug radio tunnel. After the Japanese bombardment on October 13-14, 1942 General Geiger concluded that the roof was reflecting the flares and it was being used as a registration point, so ordered it be bulldozed over the side of the hill. Later, this area was developed with other buildings to support the airfield.

Henderson Field Radio Tunnel
Excavated by the Americans and used as the signals and radio station for the airfield, after "The Pagoda" was demolished in middle October, 1942.

Hotel de Gink
A term applied to transient quarters used by air crews or individuals required to stay over for some reason, not permanently assigned. I think it was a generic term applicable to locations other than Guadalcanal as well. Robert Porter adds: "'Gink' is a somewhat derogatory slang term for a vagabond person so the whole thing was a humorous commentary on the very basic accommodations provided for the hapless travelers concerned. Leaky tents, muddy floors, and bad chow were the norm."

References
Thanks to John Innes, Peter Flahavin, Ewan Stevenson and Stan Jersey for additional information.

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January 23, 2012

 

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