Del Monte Airfield was located in a meadow on the Del Monte Corporation plantation near Del Monte in central Mindanao. Also known as "Del Monte Field". Conceived as a secret American airfield, that would allow bombers and fighters to operated outside the range of enemy aircraft and able to reach Darwin if evacuation was necessary.
On November 9, 1941 the US Army began construction in a meadow owned by the Del Monte Pineapple Corporation.
Three runways were built at Del Monte, plus additional auxiliary airfields at Malaybalay Airfield (Maramag), Dalirig Airfield and Valencia Airfield.
Although sparse in equipment and facilities based the 19th Bombardment Group and 7th Bombardment Group as they evacuated Clark Field, and later as a staging point for their evacuation to Batchelor Field near Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia.
On December 18, 1941 a Japanese
reconnaissance plane located this airfield. Realizing Del Monte Airfield had been located, the rest of the day was spent camouflaging aircraft with palm fronds.
On December 19, 1941 at 4:00pm Japanese aircraft attacked, including A6M2 Zeros that strafed claiming two B-17s and three B-18s destroyed. At the airfield was six B-17 Flying Fortress bombers and four B-18 Bolo bombers that had just arrived from Clark Field. Destroyed on the ground was B-17D 40-3093, Tash's bomber, which was already disabled previously. That evening from 10:00pm until December 20, 1942 at 1:00am, the remaining B-17s departed for Darwin, evacuating the last remaining bombers and personnel.
On December 20, 1942 Del Monte Airfield was bombed by fifty-four Japanese bombers.
Although the B-17s had withdrawn from Del Monte Airfield, it was used as a staging base for bombing missions and evacuations until the middle of April 1942.
Evacuation of General MacArthur
U. S. President F. D. Roosevelt ordered General MacArthur, his family and senior staff evacuated by from Corregidor aboard PT Boats to Mindanao. On March 16, 1942 three B-17s from Australia flew to Del Monte: B-17E 41-2408, B-17E 41-2429 and B-17E 41-2447. A fourth B-17E 41-2434 was unable to start its engines and did not participate. MacArthur, his family and staff were flown from Del Monte Airfield to Batchelor Field near Darwin, Australia and successfully evacuated from the Philippines.
During April 12-13, 1942 a group of seven B-25s and three B-17s from Australia were flown to Del Monte to participate in the Royce Mission, to attack Japanese forces in the Philippines. The bombers flew the sorties without loss and before departing evacuated key military and diplomatic personnel that managed to reach Del Monte in hopes of evacuation.
Royce Mission #1: April 12, 1942
B-2s hit the harbor and shipping at Cebu, while B-17's carry out single-bomber strikes against Cebu Harbor and Nichols Field.
Royce Mission #2: April 13, 1942 (Morning)
During the night of April 12-13, B-25s take off just after midnight on a mission to bomb shipping off Cebu and installations at Davao.
Royce Mission #3: April 13, 1942 (Afternoon)
In the afternoon, B-25s again bomb Davao, targeting the dock area.
Doomed From The Start by William Bartsch
Fortress Against The Sun page 79-80
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February 4, 2018