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    Munda Airfield (Munda Point Airfield) New Georgia | Western Prov Solomons

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June 1943
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August 14, 1943
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September 1943
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Dennis Letourneau 1999Click For Enlargement
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Justin Taylan 2003
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Justin Taylan 2006

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August 1943
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September 1943
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November 30, 1943

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Justin Taylan 2003

Location
Located at Munda Point on the southern coast of New Georgia. The high ground above the area is Kokenggololo Hill. Since 1902 the land at Munda Point was Methodist mission, planted with coconut palms.

Overlooking the airfield is Kokengola Hill (Kokenggolol).

Construction
A Japanese directive in late October 1942 called for an air base to be built at Munda Point, about 150 miles northwest of Guadalcanal. This airfield was known as "Munda Airfield" or "Munda Point Airfield".

Construction began in mid-November with a great emphasis on keeping the forward airfield secret. The majority of airfield work done before clearing the main runway and surfacing it with crushed coral. By wiring the tops of palm trees to keep them in place, allowing work to initially escape detection. Finally the trunks were cut away, and runway completed.

Despite these efforts, reports of the strip were relayed to Guadalcanal via coastwatcher Danny Kennedy and aerial reconnaissance spotted increased barge traffic and evidence of crushed coral being prepared at the strip, but the Japanese succeeded in buying enough time to complete a  single 1094 x 44 yard all weather runway for fighters operational on December 17, 1942. Once completed, a 1,500' extension for bombers was begun, and a satellite field at Vila.

Wartime History
Opened for usage on December 1, 1942. Until the American landings, it was used by the Japanese Navy and Japanese Army Air Force aircraft used the airfield as a forward operating base. As soon as it was operational, the airfield was hampered by the observation of coastwatchers in the area, including Kennedy and D.C. Horton who was observing the strip from Rendova. It was heavily bombed from the air prior to the American landing.

First to arrive at Munda Airfield was the 252nd Kokutai flying A6M Zeros advanced to Munda Airfield arriving between December 22-25. The remaining pilots were picked up by nine Zeros and four Bettys and transported back to Rabaul on December 29.

Japanese units based at Munda
252nd Kokutai (A6M Zero) December 23 - 29, 1942
No other units were permanently based there, but other JAAF and IJN units transited through Munda as a forward airfield including the 204th Kokutai, 582nd Kokutai and 11th Sentai.

Immediately targeted by American aircraft, the airfield was quickly neutralized and untenable as a forward airfield. Still the Japanese managed to use the airfield for limited flight operations (probably limited to liaison and transport) until at least March 1943. Natives loyal to the coastwatcher heard engines warming up during March 1943 and reconnaissance aircraft observed aircraft parked on the ground.

Damaged Japanese aircraft returning from combat missions in the Solomons continued to make emergency landings at Munda until it fell to the Americans, including a Ki-21 Sally that crash landed after bombing nearby American forces.

American missions against Munda
December 2, 1942 - August 1, 1943

American Occupation
Munda airfield was the objective of Central Solomons campaign. Captured by the US Army XIV Corps after 12 continuous days of fierce fighting around the airfield. The high ground around the airfield fell on August 5, 1943. Sporadic shelling continued until August 19 from nearby Mbanga Island (Baanga).

Japanese aircraft captured at Munda
By early August 1943 Munda Airfield was secured and many Japanese aircraft wrecks were captured by American forces. Several were removed for study and others were abandoned and picked over by GIs for souvenirs. Others were buried to fill bomb craters when the airfield was repaired and expanded.

American Usage
American forces immediately began repairing and expanded the airfield. On August 13, P-40s from the 44th Fighter Squadron were patrolling over Munda and ran short on fuel and were the first Allied planes to land at Munda at 9:00am to refuel and afterwards flew a fighter sweep over Kolombangara, the first American combat mission flown from Munda Airfield.

On August 14, 1944 the control tower atop Kokengola Hill (Kokenggolol) went into operation. Three American aircraft known to have landed at Munda that day included VMF-215 F4U Corsair piloted by Robert Owen,

a 44th Fighter Squadron P-40 Warhawk and J2F Duck with Brig General J. P. Mulcahy aboard as a passenger. The control tower went into operation that same day atop Kokengola Hill (Kokenggolol).

Maudie's Mansion was a large barn shaped structure that was the mess hall for the airfield, used by both US Navy and US Army personnel.

American units based at Munda
Partial list only, know of others? Email me
USN
VC-24 (SBD x 24) November 1943
VC-40 (TBF)
VF-33 (F6F)
VF-38 (F6F) September 1943
CASU 14 (Carrier Aircraft Service Unit)
VB-98 (SBD) 1944
VB-148 (PV-1) ? - April 1944
VB-140 (PV-1) Russels April 1944 - ?
VB-104 (PB4Y-1) Carney Oct/Nov 1943 - April 1944 United States
USMC
ComAir New Georgia
VMSB-236 (SBD) Henderson Nov 25, 43 - ? Green Island
VMF 124
VMF-213 (F4U)
VMF 214 (F4U) September 7, 1943 -
VMF 215 (F4U) C.O. Major Robert Owen July 1943 - ? Barakoma
VMF 221 (F4U)
MABS-1 from Ondonga May 26, 44 - May 45 to Peleliu
VMSB-142 (TBF)
VMTB-143 (TBF) Henderson Field ? - June 1944 USA
VMTB-232 (TBF) 1944
VMSB-144 (SBD) Efate October 15 - November 22, 1943 Efate
VMSB-341 (SBD) 1944
VMTB-143 (TBF) 1944
USAAF 13th AF
347th FG, 67th FS (P-39 detachment) Woodlark October 28, 1943 - January 23, 1944 Russells
4th PRG, 17th PRS (F-5s detachment) Guadalcanal March 9 - April 1, 44 Guadalcanal
5th BG, HQ (B-24) Espiritu Santo January 9 - April 7, 44 Momote
5th BG, 72nd BS (B-24) Espiritu Santo January 9 - April 15, 44 Momote
5th BG, 23rd BS (B-24) Espiritu Santo January 3 - April 16, 44 Momote
5th BG, 31st BS (B-24) Carney February 2, 1944 - ?
5th BG 394th BS (B-24 Snoopers) Carney February 24 - April 9, 1944 Carney
307th BG, HQ Carney January 28, 1944 - ?
307th BG. 370th BS (B-24) Carney Nov 43 - May 13, 44 Los Negros
307th BG, 371st BS (B-24) Carney Nov 43 - May 13, 44 Los Negros
307th BG, 372d BS (B-24) Carney Nov 43 - May 13, 44 Los Negros
307th BG, 424th BS (B-24) Carney Nov 43 - May 13, 44 Los Negros
868th BS (SB-24 Snooper) Jan 1 - March 20, 1944 Los Negros

Japanese missions against Munda
July 2, 1943 - July 4, 1943

By July 1945, the airstrip was 8,000' x 300'. the airfield was still in use, with limited accommodations for transient and emergency landings, and minor repairs. The field offered fuel and oil by truck delivery.

Today
The airfield is still in by for regional flights by Solomon Airlines.

References
13th Fighter Command in World War II page 199

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February 24, 2014

 

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