Lat 5 26' S Long 154 43' E. Located south of Bonis on the northern tip of Bougainville, south of Buka Passage. Prewar, this location was the Bonis Plantation, managed by Alf Long.
Construction was begun during early July 1943. The single runway running roughly east to west was constructed with oil treated crushed coral with clearings at both ends of the runway. A revetment area was built on the southern end of the airfield.
By October 22, 1943 the runway was 3,300' x 200 with clearings totaling 8,500' x 430'. Observed were 27 fighters revetments and dispersal bays for 7 fighters. During October, roughly 30 buildings were built around the airfield and supply areas dispersed in the jungle approximately 1 mile southeast of the strip.
World War II Pacific Theatre History
Used as a auxiliary strip for Buka Airfield, with shared anti-aircraft defenses.
November 1, 1943 - January 4, 1944
Tom Blackburn in VF-17
The Jolly Rogers recalls:
"Buka and Bonis remained serious threats to the Torokina beachhead throughout
early November 1943. Although the Japanese did not regularly base airplanes at
either field, they meticulously patched runway damage after each bombing raid,
and maintained heavy anti-aircraft defenses around both runways. The danger lay
in the readiness of the runways, through which they could stage raids against
the beachhead, and damaged aircraft had a safe haven 165 miles south of Rabaul."
During 1944 onwards, Bonis Airfield was unservicable for landings and cutoff from resupply, Japanese forces at Bonis planted gardens on former airfield for subsistence. Occupied by the Japanese for the duration of the war.
On September 15, 1945 during surrender negotiators, Bonis Airfield was inspected by the Australian Army, 2 Corps to ascertain the suitability for use, but the runway was found to be overgrown and unsuitable for Allied use but was used as an assembly area for Japanese Prisoners Of War (POW).
Disused since the war as a airfield. Postwar, replanted with coconut palms. Likely during the replanting, aircraft wreckage was collected into piles.
In the mid-1970's the
airfield had wreckage of some aircraft and a Japanese Navy aerial
torpedo in dispersal area. Today there is little trace of the airfield, except
from the air.
Charles Darby visited in the early 1970s:
"Regarding Bonis, all the wreckage had been gathered together and piled into a small heap on what the plantation manager told me was the old airstrip site. I found serial numbers on the F6F Hellcat 66021 and SBD-5 Dauntless 3594? parts but not on the TBF or F4U parts, and never knew exactly where the parts had been collected from. The parts really were shredded, either by impact or having been cut up for scrap, and in most cases were identifiable only by part numbers. Also in the junk pile were two A6M Zero legs, a Ki61 engine mount, and the back half of a Jap aerial torpedo, and the whole lot was guarded by a triple Type 96 25mm anti-aircraft gun."
McDade surveyed from the air in December 1999:
"The photos were taken from a Huey helicopter. I daunt remember from what
height. It was probably between 1,000 and 5,000'. We were low because I asked
to take photos of it and it was a short time until we landed at Buka.
Indeed this bombed airfield was not far at all from the Buka Passage. The distance
from the passage was not large, probably under 5 kilometers. There appeared to
be two separate strips. I definitely remember it being on the NE side of the
mainland. We were flying from Loloho to Buka.
Justin Taylan visited in September 2003:
"Little trace of any wartime wrecks here, or other history. I was
not able to find anyone to walk the old airfield area, nor did anyone seem to
know about it."
25mm Anti-Aircraft Gun Type 96 (double mount)
Emplaced southeast of the airfield, barrels missing
SBD-5 Dauntless 3594?
Wreckage noted in early 1970s
F6F Hellcat 66021
Pilot Keener MIA November 1, 1943
Wreckage only, observed by Darby in 1970s
Wreckage only, observed by Darby in 1970s
ATIS Intelligence Summary - October 1-27, 1943
Thanks to Charles Darby,
Richard Dunn and Ian Smith for additional information
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
September 24, 2018