Alexishafen Airfield is located
to the west of Alexishafen, perpendicular to the North Coast Road, roughly 21km north of Madang. To the northwest is is the prewar runway Danip Airfield (Alexishafen
II, Alexishafen No. 1). This runway, built by the Japanese is listed in Allied sources by a variety of names including: Alexishafen Airfield, Alexishafen South, Alexishafen I, Alexishafen No. 2 or Alexishafen Bomber Strip.
During January 1943, the Alexishafen area was occupied by the Japanese Army without opposition. The Japanese conscripted local labor to assist with the construction of a single runway at this location for bombers, plus the expansion of the Alexishafen Airfield (Danip Airfield) to the northwest as a second runway for fighters. A dirt surfaced runway, with
a taxi and dispersal area was constructed. Trees were cleared to create a flight gap on the northeast end of the runway to the edge of Sek Harbor and southwest to to the edge of the Biges River.
World War II Pacific Theatre History
Used as an advance airfield for Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) medium bombers, light bombers, fighters and reconnaissance aircraft based at Wewak, including Ki-21 Sallys, Ki-48 Lilys and Ki-49 Helens, plus Ki-46 Dinahs and Ki-51 Sonias. Ki-43 Oscars and Ki-61 Tonys also used the strip and nearby fighter strip Alexishafen
II (Danip Airfield).
Japanese units based
at Alexishafen Airfield (Bomber Strip)
81st Dokuritsu Chutai (Ki-46)
26th Sentai (Ki-51)
On October 30, 1943 Allied reconnaissance aircraft observed the runway to be
4,800' x 395'. The airfield included eleven bomber and twenty-two fighter
revetments. The airfield
was defended by anti-aircraft batteries located near the Biges River
and nearby at Alexishafen Mission.
Allied aircraft bombed and strafed the Alexishafen Airfields extensively during early 1943 until liberated during April 1944. Coast watchers in the area reported on the activities of the base on several occasions prior to air strikes. American aerial reconnaissance deemed the runway as unserviceable as of January 12, 1944.
According to Japanese sources, Alexishafen Airfield was in use until at least January 27, 1944. Before abandoning the area, Japanese forces attempted to demolish the runway with aerial bombs and set booby traps in the area, placing explosive charges onto aerial bombs and concealing mines.
missions against Alexishafen
December 18, 1942 - April 15, 1944
On April 26, 1944 the Australian Army 30th Battalion occupied Alexishafen while advancing northward along the North Coast Road. In the area, large quantities of stores and undamaged equipment was captured.
Alexishafen was the first airfield in the
South Pacific that the Japanese attempted to demolish the runway with aerial bombs and set booby traps. Australian bomb disposal teams worked
on the airfield to clear it, but it was never used by the Allies as a landing ground or airfield.
Japanese aircraft wrecks at Alexishafen
On June 28, 1944 Alexishafen was visited by Air Technical Intelligence
Unit (ATIU), that counted thirty-six wrecks at both runways. Most were damaged by bombing and strafing. Some were photographed and their manufacture numbers noted.
Michael Freeman, ATIU recalls in Behind Enemy Lines pages
"The USAAF had peppered the
entire area. Most of the aircraft both in revetments and along the strip were
'burned out'. Many of the bombers,
Sally, Helen and Lily were completely gutted with only sections of the tails,
wings and engines still intact."
Abandoned and overgrown since World War II. Most of these relics remained intact until the late 1970's because the land was owned by the Catholic Mission,
and protected the area from scrapping or disturbance. During 1974, Charles
Darby counted forty-three Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) aircraft wrecks in the area. In recent years, most of these planes were scrapped, removed
or otherwise disappeared.
The former runway and airfield area is covered with aerial bomb
craters and aircraft wreckage and even to this day show the effects of
saturation bombing and parafrags that destroyed the base. Revetments
for anti-aircraft guns still visible along the runway, and large bomb
craters are present all over the area. There are no buildings
visible in the area, and jungle has reclaimed everything except
the rough rectangular shape of the runway. Over the years,
most of the airframes were recovered by outsiders, scrapped
or otherwise disappeared. A few wrecks remain as tourist attractions
for visitors from Madang and occasionally, a small hut might
be manned for "tours" of
the area or to see the remaining wreckage. A few huts are now
being built in the area by squatters.
Manfred Hacker recalls:
"I lived in Alexishafen for three years in the
early 1970s. One of my pleasures was to show visitors the many
aircraft wrecks in the area. Most of the planes seemed to be fairly
well untouched. Every now and then a group of Japanese tourists
would come by, and have a ceremony at the wrecks. They would burn
incense, and leave gifts."
Japanese aircraft wrecks at Alexishafen
List of Japanese aircraft formally at Alexishafen Airfield
Thanks to Charles Darby, Ray Fairfield and Richard Dunn for additional information
October 16, 1943 Mission Over Alexishafen by Richard Dunn
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
February 4, 2018