2° 0N Long 129° 3' 0E Island to the north of Halmahera. Wartime spelling "Moratai".
Occupied by the Japanese.
The island was assaulted by the US Army 31st Infantry Division
on September 15, 1944, meeting only light opposition. General MacArthur and Rear Admiral Barbey landed on the day of the invasion to make an inspection. At the time, the island
had only five hundred Japanese defenders. Nearby Halmahera,
which was heavily fortified was bypassed. The landing at Morotai
was the final amphibious invasion in Dutch New Guinea before the liberation
of the Philippines.
The formal surrender
of all Japanese in the eastern half of the Netherlands East Indies occurred on September
9, 1945. 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 US Army for fighter aircraft, disused today
Pitu Airfield (Pitoe, Morotai, Moratai)
Built by Americans as a bomber airfield
After the war, the island was one of the
largest 5th Air Force boneyard
in the Pacific. A smelting
operation was established, and USAAF planes from all over
were flown here to be scrapped. Despite scrapping the
island was crammed full of aircraft and vehicles until 1988
was cleared in a final scrap drive. The scrap was taken 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."
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
October 25, 2012