Kahili Airfield was located near Kahili (Kihili) on southern Bougainville. To the southwest is Lamuai, Jajohina Mission (Buin Mission), Kagua and Kangua Hill (Mount Buin). To the northeast is the Moliko River (Muliko River), Moisuru village and the Moisuru Bay. Further to the east is Pupukuna Point, Tonolei Harbor and East Point. Offshore to the southeast are Erventa Island, Popatala Island and Alasina Island.
During the Pacific War, the Japanese referred to this airfield as "Buin Airfield" code named "RXP". The Allies referred to this airfield as "Kahili Airfield" or "Kahilli Airfield" for the nearby village of the same name. Pronounced "Key-lee" by local people. Postwar, Kara Airfield (Toripoil) remained in use and was known as "Buin Airport".
To the southwest was Jajohina Mission established by Catholic Marist Brothers.
During the middle of 1942, this area was occupied by the Japanese. In late August 1942, they began construction of a single 4,700' x 300' runway surfaced with crushed coral and tar. A large rectangular area was located at the southern e d of the runway with taxiways off the inland northwest side of the runway and the southeast side inland from the coast.
World War II Pacific Theatre History
Used by the Imperial Japanese Navy as a forward airfield for fighters and bombers. During the Solomon Islands campaign, this airfield became the primary airfield supporting fighter operations over the southern Solomons then the defense of Bougainville.
On April 6, 1943 during "Operation I-Go" Allied
intelligence observed 114 aircraft at Kahili, when there
had only been 40 observed previously. On May 13, 1943 there
were 98 fighters and 32 bombers observed. On October 1, 1943 Allied reconnaissance spotted 27 Zero fighters at the airfield, including 7 Val dive bombers.
Japanese units based at Kahili (Buin)
Navy 11th Air Fleet
201 Kokutai (A6M Zero)
204 Kokutai (A6M Zeros detachment)
582 Kokutai (D3A Val, A6M Zero) late January 1943 disbanded August 1943
Hiyo (A6M2 Zero detachment) until December 15, 1942
Ryuhō (A6M2 Zero detachment) July-August 1943
American missions against Kahili (Buin)
February 4, 1943 - September 27, 1944
Targeted by American bombers and fighters starting in early February 1943 with attacks heightening in September to October 1943 to neutralize the airfield before the U. S. landing at Torokina. Allied missions against Kahili continued until late September 1944. By late 1943, the runway was unservicable. Bypassed, the Japanese garrison began farming to sustain themselves and continued to defend the area until the official surrender of Japan in September 1945.
On September 9, 1945 Australian Army, 2 Corps led by Major E. C. Taylor "Buin Liaison Group" landed at Kahili to meet with Japanese representatives to arrange the surrender of the Japanese forces in the area. On September 10, 1945 "storpedoes" filled with supplies were dropped onto the runway at Kahili Airfield by a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Beaufort.
During the middle of September, the Australians supervised cleanup and dumping of war materials. Bombs and munitions were collected into a pile and dumped at sea. Two Type 95 Ha Go tanks captured at the airfield were demolished with explosives later by the Australian Army.
Kahili Airfield is disused since the war and overgrown. Several aircraft wrecks remained at this location until the late 1960s and early 1970s when they were salvaged.
A memorial to Australian and Japanese servicemen is located
on the overgrown runway.
G4M1 Model 11 Betty Manufacture
Abandoned Kahili Airfield
Japanese aircraft removed from Kahili Airfield (Buin)
List of aircraft removed from Kahili Airfield (Buin)
A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 5451 Tail W1-150
in 1969, several owners and used
A6M3 Model 22 Zero Manufacture Number 3618 Tail -133
Abandoned at Kahili, salvaged in 1969, AWM sold to Fantasy of Flight
A6M3 Model 32 Zero Manufacture
Number 3274 Tail 115?
Abandoned at Kahili, remained in situ until the 1970s fuselage with manufacture number stencil
Osamu Tagaya adds:
"The Japanese sources during the war, when they spoke of 'Buin', they were referring to what the Allies called 'Kahili'. The Japanese report that their 'Buin' was next to a river and the end of the runway faced out to sea. Both Japanese and Allied sources indicate that there was only this one airstrip until Toripoil (Allied Kara, postwar Buin) was built later."
AWM "Account by Lin Leow" describing Prisoner Of War (POW) tortured near Kahili in March 1943
AWM F07334 "Movement of Japanese to Fauro Island" Kahili wreckage September 1945
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 89 (footnote 1, Buin Airfield/Kahili)
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January 9, 2019