5th AF June 17, 1944
Owi Airfield spans nearly the entire length of Owi Island. Also known as Owi Drome, Owi Aerodrome or Owi Strip. Today, located in Biak Numfor Regency of Papua Province in Indonesia.
On June 2, 1944 the U. S. Army 41st Infantry Division, 163rd Infantry Regiment, Company A secured Owi. On June 3, 1944 U. S. Army engineers and supporting units landed on Owi to begin construction of Owi Airfield.
On June 8, 1944 the U. S. Army 864th Engineer Aviation Battalion, B Company began construction with the rest of the battalion arriving three days later. The engineers worked to build a single runway with a parallel taxiway and revetments surfaced with crushed coral.
By June 17, 1944 enough of the runway was completed that some P-38 Lightning from the 8th Fighter Group, 36th Fighter Squadron from Wakde Airfield that was returning from a strike against Sorong and due to bad weather was the first aircraft to land on the partially completed runway.
Owi Airfield was constructed in three weeks when the first two squadrons of P-38s from the 8th Fighter Group arrived. The airfield was improved until the end of the Pacific War.
By the middle of June, 1944 two squadrons of P-38 Lightnings from the 8th Fighter Group arrived. Between June 1944 until late November 1944, Owi Airfield was an important base for fighters and bombers. At the end of the Pacific War in September 1945 abandoned by the Americans.
American units based
8th FG, 36th FS (P-38) Nadzab June 17 - September 19,
8th FG, 80th FS (P-38) Nadzab June 18 - September 20, 1944 Morotai
71st TRG, 82, TRS (P-39) Saidor June 20 - July 16, 1944 Borokoe
8th FG, 35th FS (P-38s) Nadzab July
1 - Oct 4, 1944 Morotai
5th FC, 418th NFS (P-61s) ? - October 5, 1944 Morotai
547th NFS (P-38s & P-61s) Oro Bay October 6, 1944 - ?
35th FG, 41st FS (P-47s) Kornasoren Sept
17 - Oct 17, 1944 to Wama
35th FG, 39th FS (P-47s) September 12 - Oct 24, 1944
35th FG HQ from Gusap July 22 - Sept 27, 1944 to Morotai
5th FC, 421st NFS (P-38 & P-61) Nadzab June 28 - Oct
26, 1944 Leyte
5th FC & 5th BC July 2 - November 1, 1944
308th BW from July 2, 1944 - August 10, 1944 Hollandia
309th BW from Nov 9, 1944 - Feb 9, 1945 to San Marcelino
310th BW, 418th NFS (P-61s) Hollandia Sept 16, 1944 - Jan
6, 1945 San Jose
22nd BG, 408th BS (B-24s) from Nadzab July 26, - Nov 9, 1944 Leyte
22nd BG, 19th & 33rd BS (B-24s) Nadzab July 22 - Nov 10, 1944 Leyte
22nd BG HQ & 43rd BG HQ Nadzab August 17 - Nov 15, 1944 Leyte
22nd BG 2nd BS (B-24s) from Nadzab August 11 - Nov 19, 1944 Leyte
43rd BG 403rd BS (B-24) ? - November 19, 1944 to Leyte
5th AF HQ from Nadzab August 10 - November 20, 1944 to Leyte
43rd BG, 63rd BS (B-24s) Nadzab July 10 - Nov 23,
43rd BG, 64th BS (B-24s) Nadzab July 10 - Nov 23,
43rd BG, 65th BS (B-24s) ? - Nov 25, 1944 Tacloban
Japanese missions against Owi
July 8, 1944 a single Japanese aircraft attacked Owi.
James Hilburn of the 41st
"Who can remember how long it took ack-ack shrapnel to
fall to the ground after a night raid on Owi Island? The falling
fragments of exploded shells would develop an aerodynamic spinning and could
be heard very clearly as a buzzing. On hitting the ground, they sounded like
west Texas hail stones!"
Irv Fenton recalls:
"I spent six months on Owi. It was used as an emergency strip maintained by a black outfit. There were about ten of us maintaining communications to the main island of Biak. A member of the maintenance group had three stills going, and delivered alcohol in five gallon cans on a DWUK to Biak, and the DWUK delivered cans of fruit to make more. The MP's were searching for stills on Biak, and of course never found them. Alcohol went for $28 a fifth at that time. We on Owi got it free for keeping our mouth shut. A piper cub delivered our mail from Biak. There were no natives on the island at all. We ate in the black soldiers mess, and the food was pretty bad I was there in 45 with no camera. I got there right after the last bombing. I was amazed to find out how much action there was on OWI. I replaced some men in the Signal Corps that were shell shocked. Nothing was going on when I was there. When I got to Biak on the way to the Philippines, (I was in the air on the way to Leyte when they dropped the first atomic bomb) the 5th air force had already left, when a shipment for Passover came for them from Australia. The few guys that were there got drunk on wine and fresh eggs with matzos for days."
At the end of the Pacific War, disused as an airfield and abandoned.
John Voss visited in 1992
"Lots of junk laying including a old truck. Jungle
growth has taken over the island but was still really neat
exploring the area especially with all of the cockatoos flying around
and shrieking throughout the forest. I took a fairly good picture
of Owi from the air when my DC-9 to Jayapura flew
along side the island. One of the natives on Owi told me that up until the previous
year there were two airplanes on
the island and someone hauled them away. I asked him if he
knew what kind of airplanes they were and he said "Oh, yes I
do know!! One plane was of the 'small type' and the
other plane was one of the 'large type' ".
A visitor added in 2005:
"The villagers showed me the metal box they found with a soldiers belongings inside bullets, chewing gum, shaving cream and dog tags. I promised the villagers I would try to find more information about this man. His name is Mr Wasyl Lukaszon or Lukaszow. His number 13175046 T43-440. He was from 230R Berkley Clifton Heights, PA. His mothers name is Irene."
Reportedly abandoned on Iwo island.
U. S. Army in World War II The Approach to the Philippines Chapter XIV Frustration at Mokmer Drome page 341
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November 18, 2018
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