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    But Airfield (But West) East Sepik Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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5th AF c1943

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38th BG c1943

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38th BG Aug 21, 1943

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8th PRS Aug 30, 1943

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5th AF Sept 8, 1943

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38th BG Sept 27, 1943

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5th AF Oct 22, 1943

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Justin Taylan, 2004

Location
But Airfield is located at But along the north coast of New Guinea. Located to the east is Dagua Airfield (But East) and Wewak. The Japanese referred to this airfield as 'But West'. Allied referred to this airfield as "But Drome".

Construction
Built by the Japanese Army, construction began on February 6, 1943, and by the end of the month a single runway of hard earth and sand was built parallel to the coast, 1,200 x 80 meters, without any additional facilities.

As of October 19, 1945 the runway was expanded to 5,200' with 29 revetments and the northern bomber dispersal area had 17 revetments for bombers, bordering the coast. southern bomber dispersal area had 12 revetments. The area was defended by 8 heavy and 8 light anti-aircraft guns and two searchlight batteries.

World War II Pacific Theatre History
Used by the Japanese primarily as a base for medium and light bombers. Targeted by Allied bombers and fighters for more than a year, the runway was neutralized and many aircraft wrecked nearby.

Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) units based at But
23rd Sentai (Ki-43, C.O. Lt. Col Yokoyama)
26th Sentai (Ki-51) November 1943 - January 27, 1944
74th Air Company

Allied missions against But
May 9, 1943 - August 25, 1944

During April 1945, Australian Army troops captured But Airfield and many wrecked aircraft. The Australians noted the following wrecks at the airfield: 8 Dinah, 1 Helen, 21 Lily, 3 Sally and 10 Sonia. US Army Air Technical Intelligence Unit (ATIU) visited But and observed slightly different numbers: 6 Dinah, 1 Helen, 22 Lily, 3 Sally and 10 Sonia.

The runway was repaired by the Australians to accommodate light aircraft. During May to July 1945 during the fighting around Maprik, Taylorcraft Auster aircraft flew casualties from Hayfield Airfield to But Airfield where they were transported by ambulance to an aid station nearby for treatment.

Postwar
After the war, But Airfield was abandoned. Remains of trucks, motorcycles, airfield gear and other relics littered the area. During the 1950s, Emil Glaus, a Swiss expatriate living in Wewak who ran a coastal shipping company bought the government license for wartime scrap around Wewak and worked the area exhaustively, methodically melting down most war wreckage. When he died in in 1960's Glaus was only starting to scrap wreckage at But. His loyal workers sank his pontoon work barges as a memorial to him in the vicinity of But.

Today
A pile of scrap collected by Emil Klaus is located at the eastern edge of the strip, consisting of engines, aircraft bits and landing gear and the remains of several motorcycles.

During the 1970s, according to Charles Darby a cache of experimental 40mm caseless ammunition was discovered.

In the late 1980 - early 1990's Australian expatriate, Tim Mathews recovered several Japanese aircraft radial engine to Australia, with the hopes of reselling them. They are in storage in Australia, and unsold.

Today, the runway is still clearly visible parallel to the road form Wewak to Aitape.  Several square "U" shaped revetments are visible on the south side of the strip and bomb craters in the area. 

Phil Bradley adds:
"But has mostly bits and pieces of aircraft only. When I was there we nearly got hacked to bits and pieces by locals who thought we were trespassing and came at us with bush knives. Luckily my colleague (Jimmy Yapi, a local) knows everybody in PNG and it turned out one of his 'sisters bilong mi' had married a local guy so everyone became 'nambawan friends.' "

Ki-51 Sonia
Partially scrapped, center section only, possibly Ki-51 946?

Ki-51 Sonia
Partially scrapped, center section only, possibly Ki-51 946?

References
Australian Army photograph (AWM 090412) taken April 2, 1945 shows a Sonia with manufacture number 946? visible on the left spat.
Thanks to Charles Darby and Richard Dunn for additional information

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Last Updated
February 4, 2018

 

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