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Hansa Bay Japanese Army Air Force Activity
by Richard L. Dunn © 2005

Airfield Construction
In early March 1943 the operations section of the Japanese 18th Army in New Guinea reported Hansa Bay was a potential anchorage and could accommodate ten ships. The ground nearby was determined to be suitable for airfield development. [1] Plans were soon made to develop three airfields as advanced landing grounds. [2] These were originally designated east, west and north airfields and were to be completed, respectively, by the end of June, August and October 1943. One was to be an enlargement of an existing airfield and two were new construction. Ultimately only two airfields were developed and designated, respectively, Hansa north (Allied Awar) and south (Allied Nubia) airfields. Hansa south was a fighter strip and the northern airfield was to accommodate light bombers as well as fighters. It was never extended to its planned length of 1.500 meters. Neither was planned to accommodate heavy bombers.

Airfield construction was undertaken by the 6th Airfield Construction Battalion supplemented by about 1,000 ground troops from units in the Hansa Bay area. In May 1943 18th Army units at Hansa Bay included two regiments of the 2nd Shipping Group, two anti-aircraft battalions, a battery of field artillery, and a searchlight unit. [3] One of the units that was sent to Hansa to make the airfields operational was the 24th Airfield Company (Ac). This unit was newly formed in Manchuria in May 1943. The unit left Fusan, Korea in June 1943 and after a ten day lay over in Palau arrived at Hansa in a small convoy in mid-July. [4]

In addition to the 24th other air support units at Hansa by July 1943 were 23rd Ac, part of the 21st Airfield Battalion (Ab), and the 2nd Mobile Air Repair Section (Fis). [5] The line up at the Hansa north and south airfields changed from time to time and in November 1943 the air support units there and their personnel strengths were 81st Independent Flying Squadron (Fc) with 22 men, 23rd Ac (177), 24th Ac (204), 209th Ab (38), and part of the 6th Air Intelligence Unit (86). [6] The 209th was a light bomber support unit. Presumably it was located at Hansa north where the 23rd Ac was also located.

As late as March 1944 there were still two airfield companies at Hansa (the 209th Ab detachment departed in December 1943). The 24th commanded by Capt. Shigeru Iio counted 178 personnel of whom 44 were non-effectives. The 23rd under 1/Lt. Matsutaro Yamaguchi numbered 159 with 78 non-effective. [7] During March the primary work of the two units was runway repair. Despite several Allied attacks and heavy rains they managed to restore the runways to their original dimensions of 50x1000 meters and even managed to expand the width by the end of the month.

Japanese Army Aircraft Activity
It is not clear when the first Japanese aircraft landed at Hansa. It may have been the Type 99 light bomber of the 208th Flying Regiment (FR) that landed there on June 20th after a raid in the Salamaua area during which it was slightly damaged. [8] The crew apparently determined that the aircraft was capable of flying safely to their base at But and continued their journey.

None of the fighter units of the 4th Air Army was ever permanently based at the Hansa airfields. [9] The strips were probably used by many of them. In July 1943 Hansa was designated as an operating base for the Type 3 fighters of the 68th and 78th Flying Regiments (FR). It is unclear how much use they made of the airfield but the Type 3 fighters operating from Wewak had several combats over Madang and Bena Bena east of Hansa during July and it seems likely that damaged aircraft or those short on fuel landed there. There is evidence other units prepared to operate from Hansa. On July 12th personnel and material of the 24th FR were transported to Hansa and Madang in three Type 99 light bombers of the 45th FR. Two days later a single aircraft “transported Hansa Airfield personnel...” [10] On July 30th three bombers of the 45th transported personnel of the 59th FR to Hansa. Both the 24th and 59th were fighter units equipped with the Type 1 model II fighter.

During August the Hansa airfields were designated as operating bases for the Type 99 light bombers of the 45th and 208th FRs. [11] That month Army reconnaissance planes (Type 99, Ki 51) transported staff officers to Hansa on the 20th and 22nd. [12] Also during August the 13th FR, a Type 2 two-seat fighter unit, partially re-equipped with Type 1 model I fighters. This was an interim measure necessary because the unit had lost almost all of its twin-engine fighters. Type 1 Model II fighters were not immediately available whereas the 1st FR transferred back to Japan leaving its Model I Hayabusas in New Guinea. [13] Later Hansa south was designated an operating base for the 13th.

On August 11th 150 personnel from the 21st Ab were transported from Hansa to Madang as part of a small convoy of two powered sail boats and four fishing boats. Hansa was subjected to heavy air attacks during the month. On the 2nd forty men were killed and 43 wounded. The heaviest attack came on the 25th when 72 military personnel and laborers were killed and 120 wounded. That attack sank or damaged small vessels and destroyed a considerable amount of ordnance, ammunition, rations and other equipment. Three days later B-25s sank additional powered sail boats and fishing vessels but personnel casualties were limited to three killed and fourteen wounded. On this occasion, however, a “great amount of airplane fuel was lost.” [14] There is no evidence that aircraft were destroyed on the ground during these attacks. This is probably attributable to an absence of any aircraft during the days attacks occurred.

Air Operations
Lacking detailed records we can only speculate as to the type of air operations conducted at the Hansa airfields. Transportation and liaison flights such as occurred in July and August probably continued as did emergency landings. Operations orders for the 248th FR for November 1943 identified Hansa as an emergency refueling base but during that month apparently only one wounded pilot of the 248th landed there. [15]

The presence of a detachment of the 81st Fc at Hansa in November 1943 suggests that the Type 100 Command reconnaissance planes of that unit utilized the airfields there.

Allied photographic coverage during late December 1943 and early January 1944 spotted eight fighters on the two strips, soon reduced to three on each airfield. Somewhat surprisingly the six fighters that remained were assessed as “probably serviceable.” [16] In 4th Air Army operations orders as late as February 1944 Hansa was assigned as an operational airfield (emergency landing site) for the fighters of the 63rd and 248th FR and the light bombers of the 34th and 208th FR [17]


  1. Report No. 61, MO Butai [18th Army] Operations Section, March 3, 1943 (Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, ATIS, translation).
  2. “History of the 8th Area Army, November 1942-August 1945,” Japanese Monograph Series (JMS) No. 44, p. 20.
  3. “Intelligence Reports, Maps, and Sketches – Operations in New Guinea, April-August 1943.” ATIS Enemy Publication No. 44.
  4. Interrogation Report No. 568 (PW 149870), ATIS Ser. No. 723.
  5. “Tobu Nyuginia homen Rikugun koku sakusen.” Boeicho Boei kenshugo Shenshishitsu, Tokyo [BKS] vol. 7, p. 296.
  6. Situation report and map, 248th Flying Regiment, November 1943. ATIS Advanced Echelon Bulletin 2048 (item 17).
  7. “Information for Wartime Monthly Report (Mar).” 5 April 1944, Training Air Sector. ATIS No. 11722.
  8. “Diary taken from PW – JA 145562, Bomura.” ATIS Current Translation No. 80, p.
  9. Hata, Izawa, and Shores. Japanese Army Air Force Fighter Unitsand Their Aces, 1931-1945. Grub Street, London, 2002, various pages. This secondary source is supported by a variety of primary sources and is cited here for convenience.
  10. “Chart of Combat Situation of Forces under Command of Training Flying Division (sic).” Dtd. 12 July-28 September 1943, ATIS No. 13111.
  11. “Documents taken from Crashed Japanese Plane at Tsili Tsili on 15 August 1943.” (ATIS document)
  12. Note 10, ibid.
  13. Hata (note 9), p. 114. “Southeast Area Air Operations Record, November 1942-April 1944.” JMS No. 32, appended sheet No. 2.
  14. Kitazono Daily Operations Orders, 1-31 August 1943. ATIS No.11906.
  15. Field Diary and Operations Orders, 248th Flying Regiment, 1-30 November 1943. ATIS No. 11531.
  16. “Intelligence Review,” 5th Air Force ADVON, 20-26 December 1943 and December 27- 2 January 1944.
  17. JMS No.32 (note 13), separate sheet no. 3.





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5th AF Recon Photo

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July 23, 1943

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July 23, 1943









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October 7, 1944

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