|Search||Chronology||Locations||Aircraft||Vessels||Missing In Action (MIA)|
By wiring the tops of palm trees to keep them in place, allowing work to initially escape detection. Finally the trunks were cut away, and runway completed.
The majority of the airfield construction was completed before removing the coconut palms from the runway area. To hide their efforts, the Japanese wired the tops of palm trees together to keep them in place while working underneath to avoid aerial observation. Finally, the coconut palm tree trunks were cut down and the runway surfaced with crushed coral.
Despite these efforts, reports of the airfield constructed were relayed by coastwatcher Donald Kennedy to the Americans on Guadalcanal. Afterwards, aerial reconnaissance spotted increased barge traffic and evidence of crushed coral being prepared, but the Japanese succeeded in buying enough time to complete the runway for use by fighters by December 1, 1942.
By December 17, 1942 they had completed a single runway that spanned 1,094 yards by 44 yards suitable for all weather use by fighters. Once completed, a 1,500' runway extension to allow bombers to land was begun with a a satellite field constructed at Vila Airfield on Kolombangara Island.
Once operational, the airfield was hampered by observation by two coastwatchers and their Solomon Scouts operating in the area: Donald Kennedy near Segi and D.C. Horton on Rendova Island. Immediately, heavy U. S. bombing and strafing missions commenced to quickly neutralize the airfield.
Allied missions against Munda Airfield
Between December 22-25, 1942 the first fighters to arrive at Munda Airfield were A6M Zeros from the 252 Kokutai. Immediately, they were attacked by American aircraft and neutralized. On December 29, 1942, the surviving pilots were evacuated by four G4M1 Bettys and flown back to Rabaul, escorted by nine Zeros.
No other units were permanently based there, but other JAAF and IJN units transited via Munda Airfield to refuel and rearm as a forward operating airfield. Units that operated at Munda included A6M Zeros from the 204 Kokutai and 582 Kokutai. Also, Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) Ki-48 Lily light bombers from the 45th Sentai and Ki-43 Oscars from the 11th Sentai.
Japanese units based at Munda
Despite the bombing raids, the Japanese managed to maintain the airfield for limited flight operations, likely limited to liaison and transport flights. Until at least March 1943 when natives loyal to the coastwatcher heard engines warming up and reconnaissance aircraft observed aircraft parked on the ground.
Damaged Japanese aircraft returning from combat missions in the Solomons continued to make emergency landings at Munda until it fell to the Americans, including a Ki-21 Sally that crash landed after bombing nearby American forces.
Munda Airfield Battlefield
Japanese aircraft captured at Munda
American forces immediately began repairing and expanded the airfield. On August 13, P-40s from the 44th Fighter Squadron were patrolling over Munda and ran short on fuel and were the first Allied planes to land at Munda at 9:00am to refuel and afterwards flew a fighter sweep over Kolombangara, the first American combat mission flown from Munda Airfield.
On August 14, 1943 the control tower atop Kokengola Hill (Kokenggolol) went into operation. Three American aircraft known to have landed at Munda that day included VMF-215 F4U Corsair piloted by Robert Owen, a P-40 Warhawk from the 44th Fighter Squadron and J2F Duck with Brig General J. P. Mulcahy aboard as a passenger. The control tower went into operation that same day atop Kokengola Hill (Kokenggolol).
On August 15, 1943 Commander Air (COMAIR), New Georgia command post begins operating from Munda Point under the command of by Major General Francis P. Mulcahy, USMC and conducts its first full day of operations.
After the Allied landing, Japanese aircraft attempted to bomb the Munda area but failed to inflict major damage or stop Munda Airfield from being repaired.
Japanese missions against Munda Airfield
Afterwards, Munda Airfield became an important based for American aircraft from the U. S. Navy (USN), U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) and U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) 13th Air Force attacking targets in the Northern Solomons and beyond for the remainder of the Solomon Islands campaign.
American units based at Munda
By July 1945, the airstrip was 8,000' x 300'. the airfield was still in use, with limited accommodations for transient and emergency landings plus minor repair facilities. Munda Airfield maintained fuel and oil by truck delivery.
|Forum||Updates||People||Museums||Reviews||Submit Info||How You Can Help|