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    Morotai (Moratai) Irian Jaya Indonesia

Click For EnlargementSeptember 15, 1944

Location
Lat 2° 0N Long 129° 3' 0E Island to the north of Halmahera. Wartime spelling "Moratai".

Wartime History
Occupied by the Japanese. In September 1944, a garrison of only five hundred Japanese defended Morotai.

On September 15, 1944 the U. S. Army 31st Infantry Division made an amphibous landing on Morotai meeting only light opposition. General MacArthur and Rear Admiral Barbey landed on the day of the invasion to make an inspection. Nearby Halmahera, which was heavily fortified was bypassed. The landing at Morotai was the final American amphibious landing in Dutch New Guinea prior to the liberation of the Philippines.

Afterwards, two parallel airfields were built on the southern coast of the island for American fighter and bomber aircraft: Wama Airfield (Guama) and Pitu Airfield (Pitoe). Both airfields were also known as Morotai or Morotai Airfield. Both were developed into major American bases in support of the liberation of the Philippines.

On September 9, 1945 the formal surrender of all Japanese in the eastern half of the Netherlands East Indies happened on Morotai. More than 10,000 Australian and Allied troops gathered as Commander-in-Chief of the Australian  Military Forces, General Blamey accepted Japanese Second Army Commander, General Lt. General Teshima surrender of approximately 126,000.

Wama Airfield (Guama, Morotai, Moratai)
Built by the Americans primarily for fighter aircraft, disused today

Pitu Airfield (Pitoe, Morotai, Moratai)
Built by Americans primarily for bombers, still in use today

Today
After the war, Morotai was one of the largest 5th Air Force boneyards in the Pacific. A smelting operation was established, and aircraft from all over the region were flown here to be scrapped. Despite the scrapping, aircraft and vehicles until 1988 when it was cleared in a final scrap drive that went to Krakatau Steel Mill in Java.

Robert Dunn adds:
"We hired two locals push bikes to ride to Wama and Pitue strip just out of town. on the way there we got followed by a motor bike, turned out to be local police and they showed us a hidden caved in cave were the WWII aircrews got there water, concrete pump stand and water stream still running. Everything has been cleaned up. It looks like everything has been buried as next to pitue strip the ground has sunk in places and we found some piles of Australian beer bottles with 1943/44 dates on them. we rode our bikes down pitue strip and were confronted with 2 armed military personnel. There is a small terminal there maybe used once a week by a light aircraft, ie mail run. The locals next day took us to where the americans dumped all their rubbish water cans etc and showed us a amphibious tank in amongst the bush. down town ( village ) there was a couple of propellers next to the beach ( propellers are hollow and made of light tin ) never seen anything like it before. Walking around town we found a radial engine cowl on a vacant lot and a wing gun in front of a school as there display. the reason we came to Morotai was to inspect the aircraft wreckage dump that i had a photo of for years but we missed out as it was smelted in 1988. I was looking for a P-40, as many australian fighters were converted to components from wama strip landings and i suspected there to be many airframe sections at the dump."

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Last Updated
July 26, 2015

 

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