Located near Rorona (Rarona) roughly 30 miles northwest of Port Moresby. Prewar, Rorona Plantation was a coconut palm plantation harvesting copra. Also known as "30 Mile Drome".
On May 4, 1942, U. S. Army 43rd Engineering Regiment, Company E begin construction of an airfield at this location, then called Rorona (or Rarona) as a "secret airfield. Originally, the single runway was to be surfaced with marston matting (PSP), but the matting bound for this location was instead retained for use in Port Moresby. Without matting, this airstrip was not capable of handling heavy bombers. The completed runway was ready for landings during early June 1942.
World War II Pacific Theatre History
One of the first landings was a damaged P-39 Airacobra piloted by Paul G. Brown on May 17, 1942. Later, this Airacobra was repaired and flew back to base. This airfield was used as a crash strip and based
fighters for short periods during late 1942 into early 1943. Afterwards, the airfield was used solely as a crash strip.
On November 15, 1942 officially named "Rogers Drome", in honor of A-24 Dive Bomber
41-15797 pilot Major Floyd "Buck" W. Rogers (C. O. of 3rd Bombardment Group, 8th BS Bombardment Squadron) who was KIA piloting A-24
American units based at 30 Mile Drome (Rogers, Rorona)
49th FG, 7th FS (P-40) September 1942 - March 6, 1943 Dobodura
35th FG, 40th FS (P-39, P-400) ? - 1943
35th FG, 41st FS (P-39, P-400) ? - 1943
Gurden Barnett, 38th BG recalls:
"We would go through 100 gallons of gasoline a week burning it off
to keep the mosquitoes away. We did not have our their planes
there, and then went to 17-Mile after
about a month there."
Herb Rosen, 41st
were told not to cut down or damage the palms near our strip, because the palm plantation that owned them would change the
U. S. Government $50 for each tree damage or ruined. We wondered
what about those hit by Jap bombs... I guess the government was
stuck paying for those! This
is a true account. After the war, the plantation's London Insurance
company paid for the ones damaged by the Japanese bombings.
After the war, the coconut plantation at Rorona was resumed and expanded and owned by Sir Rupert Clarke and spanned to the Galley Reach area. This plantation was the largest estate in New Guinea at the time. The wartime airfield was used into the late 1960s by Air Niugini and other air operators. Used until at least 1971. Airport Code: RNA.
Albert H. Cross adds:
"In 1957 I worked for an oil exploration
company at Kaufana, on the other side of the Aroa River from
Rogers. We used Rogers continuously in 1957 and 1958. It
was also being used before we arrived and, as far as I recall it
is still being used. It was certainly in operation in 1960
when I was again working in the area. In
1957/8 there was a P-38 Lightning wreck at one end of the strip
and the wreck
of a B-25 Mitchell, with the name "Butch" on
the nose, lying alongside the road at the other end of the
strip. Just the fuselage section. Yes, there was a large
plantation at the side of Rogers airstrip. It was not used
in the 1950's as there were very few tops on any of the palms
and certainly no nuts on any of them. I believe they would
have been used by the locals for various things."
Ray Fairfield adds:
"I did land at Rogers on July 30, 1966, but it was only to drop a px & head back to Moresby. Did you ever hear the burning DC3 story? I'm pretty sure that was at Rogers, I think in late 50's. It would have been an MAL plane at that time. Anyway, they took off from Moresby with a load of cargo for Goroka, including hospital supplies. On the climb-out the plane filled with smoke, so they descended rapidly and planted it on the ground. the crew got out the cockpit windows & watched it burn to the ground. Seems packing of ether etc. left something to be desired."
recalls from the 1970's
"At Rogers, there were P-39 fuselages, one P-47D
and a B-25. Maybe these are long gone now by those scrap-metal
Disused as an airfield since the early 1970s, it is today overgrown with kunai grass. A scrap metal
drive occurred in the late 1990's, and the two remaining P-39 fuselages at the airfield were removed to Port Moresby.
Justin Taylan visited in 2004:
area where the airfield was built is overgrown with kunai,
it is hard to distinguish the area of the runway, aside from
two post-war poles used for wind socks. There is no trace
of the coconut plantation mentioned near the strip, according
to locals, the palms were were cut down sometime in the early
instead. Aside from some earthworks - trenches, L shaped shelters
and the wreckage of the B-25 and P-47 engine, there was
B-25D "Butch" 41-30163
Piloted by Cather, force landed August 26, 1943 center section only, the rest
has been scrapped
P-38G Lightning 42-12857
Piloted by Wilson, force landed April 12, 1943 scrapped or otherwise missing
P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22501
and small pieces only remain, remainder scrapped
P-39 Airacobra Serial
P-39 Airacobra Serial
P-400 Airacobra BW-117 Nose 43
Pilot Gignac force landed July 11, 1942 wreckage remained into 1970s, likely scrapped
P-400 Airacobra Nose 54
Pilot Kirtland MIA July 11, 1942
Shreveport Louisiana Times,
November 28, 1942 states:
"New Guinea Field Named for
Grant County Hero: Announcement of the establishment
of the 'Buck' Rogers airfield was on November 15, just two months
after Mrs. Rogers received official notice that her husband was
'missing in action.'"
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
January 18, 2019