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    Tsili Tsili Airfield (Tsile-Tsile, Fabua) Morobe Province Papua New Guinea

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5th AF c1943

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5th AF August 1943

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Salternik May 12, 1944

Location
Located at Tsili Tsili (pronounced Silly-Silly) roughly forty miles from Lae near Marilinan (Maralinan). Sometimes spelled Tsile-Tsile it was actually 5th Air Force General Kenney who wished that the field be renamed, as he thought the name demeaning, and of propaganda value if captured by the Japanese. Japanese called the area "Fabua".

Construction
The area was occupied in the middle of June 1943, as a forward airfield for operations against Lae. The field was hastily constructed by the 871st Airborne Engineers. All supplies, food, fuel and equipment had to be flown into the base via C-47's from Port Moresby.

Another runway, Marilinan Airfield was constructed to the south-east as an emergency strip and to confuse any Japanese aerial opposition.

World War II Pacific Theatre History
On July 26, 1943 the first fighters were based at Tsili-Tsili Airfield. A Japanese reconnaissance aircraft discovered the airfield on August 11, 1943.

Allied units based at Tsili Tsili
USAAF
2nd Air Task Force (formed at Tsili Tsili for Lae operations) August 5, 1943
54th TCW, 65th TCS (C-47s) Port Moresby Sept 18 -  Oct 31, 1943 Nadzab
35th FG HQ Port Moresby August 15, 1943 - ?
35th FG 40th FS (P-39) 12 Mile Aug 14, 1943 - Oct 1943 Nadzab
35th FG, 41st FS (P-39) 7-Mile Aug 14, 1943 - Oct 22, 1943 Nadzab
49th FG, 8th FS (P-40) Dobodura August 30 -  Oct 29 1943 Gusap
433rd TCG (C-47s) ? - June 2, 1944 Nadzab
RAAF
24 Squadron (Vengeance) Nov 43 - ?
4 Squadron (Boomerang) September 1943 - January 1944 Gusap

Walter Seale from the 871st Airborne Engineer Battalion adds:
"A lot of cripples landed at Tsilli-Tsilli, and later Gusap. They were either low on fuel or shot-up and couldn't be sure of getting home safely. We also mowed a fake runway nearby to confuse the Japanese to make them think the base was bigger than it actually was."

Japanese missions against Tsili Tsili
August 15 - September 13, 1943

Today
The airfield has been abandoned since the war. Until the early 1970s there were several wrecks at the strip, four P-39s and a P-40 abandoned there.  Three aircraft were recovered by Monty Armstrong and Charles Darby in 1973 for Yesterday's Air Force.

Richard Leahy adds:
"Tsili Tsili strip is still there although probably in need of mowing. I have carried out a lot of work to and from Tsili Tsili over the last forty years."

P-40N Warhawk Serial Number 42-104961
Recovered in September 1973, exported to USA

P-39N Airacobra 42-18408
Recovered in September 1973, exported to USA at Chino, CA in 1988.

P-39Q Airacobra Serial Number 42-18403
Recovered in September 1973, exported to USA

P-39N Airacobra Serial Number 42-18811
Recovered in September 1973, exported to USA

P-39K Airacobra Serial Number 42-4351
Abandoned off the eastern end of runway, parts recovered September 1973

P-39 Airacobra
Serial number unknown, recovered September 1973 to USA

References
4 Kokugun Takes Charge by Richard Dunn, page 10
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

 

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