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    Tadji Airfield (Aitape, Korako) West Sepik Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)

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3rd BG Feb 13, 1944

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8th PRS April 30, 1944

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375th TCG May 4, 1944

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RAAF circa Jan. 1945

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Mines April 7, 1973

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Justin Taylan 2003

Location
Lat 3° 11' 23S Long 142° 25' 47E  Tadji Airfield is located at Tadji, to the east of Aitape in a sago swamp area. To the northeast are Korako and Lemieng villages and due north on the coast was Pro Mission. Immediately to the west is the Waitanan Creek. Also known as "Tadji Drome". This airfield was also sometimes referred to as "Aitape" or "Korako" for the nearby town and village of the same names.

Construction
During early 1943, the Japanese Army built two parallel runways surfaced with crushed coral using native labor from inland villages including Dreikikir. Nearest to the coastline was a fighter strip. Further inland to the south they built a bomber strip. Tadji Airfield was constructed primarily to serve as satellite field, staging and dispersal areas for Japanese aircraft from Hollandia and Wewak area airfields.

World War II Pacific Theatre History
During 1943 until early 1944, used by Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) fighter and bomber aircraft.

Japanese units based at Tadji
248th Sentai (Ki-43) Wewak February 15 - April 1944

During August 17, 1943 until April 21, 1944 attacked from the air by Allied fighters and bombers and neutralized as part of the campaign against Wewak in preparation for the American landings at Hollandia and Aitape on April 22, 1944.

American missions against Tadji
August 17, 1943 - April 21, 1944

On April 22, 1944 in conjunction with the American landing at Hollandia, there was a diversionary landing Tadji to secure the operation's flank. After the liberation of Tadji Airfield, Australian Army engineers from the 5th RAAF Mobile Works Squadron commenced immediate repairs to the north runway (fighter strip). Two days later on April 24, 1944 this runway was operational and several P-40 Kittyhawks from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) 76 Squadron began using the airfield for patrols over the Hollandia area.

Keith W. Bryant, VX 85794 AIF 7th Mechanical Equipment Co. A.I.F:
"At Aitape, and I graded roads and the Tadji Airfield whilst there. I was also on the beach pulling LCT's into the sand so that they could be unloaded. Afterwards, we had to drag them in as the Tide came higher, and of course let them out again as the tide receded, I became friendly with some of the native boys in the crews there also."

U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) units based at Tadji
433d TCG, 65th TCS (C-47 det) Nadzab May 3, - June 1944
433d TCG, 66th TCS (C-47 det) Nadzab May 12, - June 1944
433d TCG, 68th TCS (C-47 det) Nadzab May 12 - June 4, 1944 Nadzab
71st TRG, 110th TRS (P-40, P-39) Gusap May 25 - Sept 11, 1944 Biak
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) units based at Tadji
78 Squadron (P-40) Cape Gloucester April 25, 1944 - ?
100 Squadron (Beaufort) 1945
12 RSU 1944 - 1945
5th Mobile Works Squadron

The airfield was used by American and Australian aircraft. The northern runway was used as a crash strip, and the southern used as the main runway. RAAF No 12 RSU was based in the center of the airfield, between the two runways to salvage and repair crashed aircraft.

As American units moved onwards, several squadrons of RAAF Beauforts remained at Tadji, using the base to stage bombing missions against Japanese positions in the Wewak area until the end of the war. The last bombing mission of the war in New Guinea was flown by Beauforts of the RAAF No 100 Squadron in early September 1945, an hour before the announcement of the Japanese official surrender.

Aircraft abandoned at Tadji
List of Allied aircraft abandoned and salvaged from Tadji Airfield

Postwar
Many aircraft remained there until the early 1970's when a six-week recovery operation funded by American David Tallichet / Yesterday's Air Force (MARC), and salvaged by Charles Darby and Monty Armstrong. This salvage recovered the best aircraft, including six P-40's, frames of Anson, Beauforts, and Tiger Moth UV-Q.

Today
Still in use today as Tadji Airport. Airport code: IATA: ATP. The runway is still surfaced with U. S. Army marston matting (Pearced Steel Planking, PSP), one of only two airfields in Papua New Guinea still surfaced with marston matting.

The northern runway (crash strip) is overgrown since the war, but taxiways and the runway are still clearly visible. Reportedly, a few Japanese wrecks that remain in the vicinity, but have not been photographed.

References
The Journal of Pacific History "A Bomb Or A Bullet Or The Bloody Flux?: Population Change in the Aitape Inland Papua New Guinea, 1941-1945" by Bryant Allen February 1983 Vol. 18, No. 4 (October 1983) pages 218-235
"The Japanese were building an airstrip there [Tadji Airfield] and appear to have employed mainly people from inland villages nearest to Tadji. Inland people from around Dreikikir worked mostly on coastal airstrips east of Tadji. I When dysentery appeared among those workers the Japanese ordered them home, so it is probable that when a more severe form appeared at Tajdi, workers were also ordered to disperse and in doing so carried the disease directly into their home villages from where it spread east and west along the ranges."
248th Hiko Sentai, page 3 by Richard Dunn
PNG Attitude "The story how Aitape War Museum lost aircraft worth millions" by Rob Parer June 24, 2016
Thanks to Charles Darby, Monty Armstrong and Neville Mines for additional information

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Last Updated
July 12, 2017

 

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