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    Gusap Airfield Morobe Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)

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6MGB c1944

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David Paulley 1982

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Phil Bradley 1997

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Patricia Gaffney 1998

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John Douglas 1998

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John Douglas 2001

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Justin Taylan 2006

Location
Lat 5° 58' 60S Long 146° 4' 60E  Located at Gusap in the Ramu Valley at the base of the Finisterre Range. Also known as "Gusap Field" or "Gusap Airdrome".

Construction
Built by US Army engineers including the 871st airborne engineer battalion, the base was built around eight grass runways, with 180 revetments in the complex. Known to the US Army as APO 713 unit 1 (bombers) and unit 2 (fighters).

World War II Pacific Theatre History
Used by American fighters, light bombers and liaison aircraft as a forward airfield during late 1943 until the middle of 1944.

On November 11, 1943 the Australian Army, 6 Machine Gun Battalion (6MGB) was sent Gusap Airfield to protect the area from any ground attack. They were armed with .303 Vickers Machine Guns and Bren Guns. On their initial landing in the C-47s they were nervous as they had been told the airstrip was only suitable for fighter planes. From day one they were bombed and strafed. They nicknamed one Japanese pilot "The Milkman" because he was the bane of their existence there as be bombed them the same  time each morning. It was reported that he was later shot down near Shaggy Ridge. The 6MGB were camped about two miles from the aerodrome. They completed numerous patrols in the nearby Finisterre Ranges to establish the presence of any Japanese. The battalion remained at Gusap until until February 25, 1944.

During 1944-1945, Gusap Airfield was used by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

American units based at Gusap
49th FG, 8th FS (P-47) from Tsili-Tsili October 29 - May 3, 1944 to Hollandia
49th FG, 7th FS (P-40) Dobodura November 16 - April 27, 1944 to Finschafen
49th FG, 9th FS (P-47) Dobodura December 16 - May 16, 1944 to Hollandia
49th FG, HQ from Dobodura November 20 - April 19, 1944 to Finschafen
35th FG, 41st FS (P-47) from Nadzab January 31 - June 9, 1944 to Nadzab
312th BG, 387th BS (A-20) Port Moresby December 25, 43 - June 10, 1944 to Hollandia
312th BG, 386th BS (A-20) Port Moresby December 25, 43 - June 12, 1944 to Hollandia
312th BG, HQ from USA January 1, 1944
312th BG, 388th BS (A-20) Port Moresby January 3 - June 10, 1944 to Hollandia
312th BG, 389th BS (P-40, A-20) Port Moresby January 6, 1944
71st TRG, 110th TRS (P-39) Port Moresby February 7 - May 25, 1944 Tadji
71st TRG, 25th LS (L-5, A Flight) February 11, 1944 - ?
35th FG, 39th FS (P-47) Nadzab January 27 - June 9, 1944 Nadzab
35th FG, HQ from Nadzab February 7 - July 22, 1944 to Owi
35th FG, 40th FS (P-47) Nadzab February 1944 - June 1944 Nadzab
71st TRG, 25th TRS (L-5) det February 16, 1944 - ?
85th FW HQ from USA Feb 25 - July 24, 1944 to Hollandia
310th BW HQ activated Feb 1 - May 1, 1944 to Hollandia
5th FC, 460th FS ? - July 23, 1944 to Nadzab

Japanese missions against Gusap
November 10, 1943 - January 15, 1944

 

Gusap #1 Runway (Gusap No. 1, Strip 1)
Located to the southeast of the complex, running roughly NW to SE

Gusap #2 (Fighter Strip #2, Gusap No. 2, Strip 2)
Located to the east side of the complex, parallel to #4, running roughly north to south.

Gusap #3 (Gusap No. 3, Strip 3)
Located to the east side of the complex, connected to #2 running roughly NW to SE.

Gusap #4 (Transport Strip #4, Gusap No. 4, Strip 4)
Located to the east of the complex, parallel to #2 strip, running roughly north to south

Gusap #5 (Gusap No. 5, Strip 5)
Located in the center of the complex, running roughly NW-SE. Still in use today by light aircraft.

Gusap #6 (Gusap No. 6, Strip 6)
Located south of #5, running roughly NE to SW

Gusap #7 (Gusap No. 7, Strip 7)
Located at the far west of the complex, running roughly E to W

Gusap #8 (Gusap No. 8, Strip 8)
Located to the SE of #5, running roughly NE to SW

Walter Seale of the 871st Airborne Engineer Battalion recalls:
"We were on the ground the day before the 503rd [Parachute Infantry Regiment PIR] jumped [at Nadzab on September 5, 1943]. We watched them come down. I remember that the 312th Bomb Group with A-20's operated out of Gusap. Allot of cripples landed at Tsilli-Tsilli and later Gusap. They were wither low on fuel or shot-up and couldn't be sure of getting home safely."

Shoot down of a Japanese fighter 41st FS veteran James Hillburn recalls:
"I was an armor, hanging and fusing bombs and putting in 50 cal ammo. About mid afternoon a Zero [actually a Ki-61 Tony] approached field at pattern altitude and slow speed. There was no alert sounded. He was down wind, made a left turn and lined up on strip before an alarm was sounded.  We had a P-47 up with a new engine getting solo time on it. This pilot was in the right place to get on his tail. One short burst and then the Jap tried to leave but it was too late. I am sure that he was lost and wanting down. There is no other reason he would have been alone and coming in so low and slow. It was a sad event that did not have to happen."

Phantom fly-by 41st FS veteran James Hillburn recalls:
"I was in a little field hospital which was located in a beautiful coconut palm grove. We believed it was property of Palmolive Peat Co. The palm grove was somewhat higher ground and made visibility good. Anyway I was in the chow line for breakfast when 5 fighter planes [Ki-61 Tonys] came over heading for the airfield. They were not Zeros as they did not have radial engines. As they flew by people in the chow line wondered what they were. At that moment tracers filled the air around the airfield. The 5 planes went right on through it. AA guns were all around the field and as I remember each battery had 4 x 50s' on a platform that turned 360 deg. How they all missed is a miracle. I do not know if and damage was done but the 41st received none."

Postwar
Disused as an airfield postwar. Postwar, the salvage rights for the area were assigned to Arthur Scott who scrapped most of the wreckage left at the airfield.

Today
Gusap No. 5 (Strip 5) remains in use today for light aircraft. The Gusap area is used as a cattle ranch. Most of the aircraft revetments remain and are clearly visible from the air. Although heavily scrapped, many concrete slabs that were the foundation for buildings remain and other debris from the war.

War Memorial
In 2010, a war monument was built near Gusap for ANZAC Day remembrances. Australian, American and Papuan forces are remembered. Thanks to Greg Kirkpatrick for information.

Celtrac Bulldozers
Eleven US Army bulldozers all lined up along the old airstrip. They were brought in by gliders to build the airfield.

Allison Engines
Mike Collins September 199 notes: "We found 4 Allison or Merlin engines. They are some miles apart ."

Marston Matting
Mike Collins September 1999: "There was plenty there as my father was in the area in the 1950's, however it is all gone now . All that is remaining is the clips that held them together , plenty of these.

References
Engineers in Theater Operations [Pacific] "Advance Area Airdromes 31 January 1944", Map No. 24 - 6,000' x 100' compacted, gravel & clay, usable earth strip
Gusap 2001 Retrospective by John Douglas
Thanks to John Douglas and John Campbell for additional information

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

 

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