Munda Airfield is located at Munda Point on the southern coast of New Georgia Island in Western Province in the Solomon Islands. Overlooking the area is Kokenggololo Hill. By air, Munda Airfield is roughly 150 miles from Guadalcanal to the southeast. During the Pacific War, also known as "Munda Field" or "Munda Point Airfield". Today known as "Munda Airport".
In 1902, the Methodist
church established a mission at Munda Point and developed the area into a coconut plantation harvesting copra.
During late 1942, the Japanese planned to build an airfield at Munda Point. In the middle of November 1942 the Japanese began construction of a single runway at this location with
a emphasis on keeping the constrution hidden. To avoid detection from the air, the Japanese wired the tops of the coconut palm trees to keep them in
place, allowing work to initially escape. Finally, the coconut palm tree trunks were cut down and the runway surfaced with crushed coral.
Despite their hide the construction 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 3,282' x 132' (1094 yards x 44 yards) suitable for all weather use. Once completed,
a 1,500' runway extension to allow bombers to land was begun with a a satellite airfield nearby at Vila Airfield on Kolombangara Island.
During December 1942 until the middle of 1943, used by both the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and later by the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) as a forward operating base for fighters and bombers.
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
December 2, 1942 - August 1, 1943
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
252 Kokutai (A6M Zero) Rabaul December 23 - 29, 1942 Rabaul
204 Kokutai (A6M Zero detachment)
582 Kokutai (A6M Zero detachment)
45th Sentai (Ki-48 Lily)
11th Sentai (Ki-43-I Oscar)
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
Munda Airfield was the American objective
of Central Solomons campaign. During late July until early August 1943, the airfield area was a battlefield between the defending Japanese against U. S. Army XIV Corps. After twelve days of continuous and fierce fighting in the vicinity, the airfield was captured. On August 5, 1943 Kokenggololo Hill the high ground overlooking the airfield was captured. Until August 19, 1943 Sporadic Japanese artillery fire from nearby Mbanga Island (Baanga) shelled the Americans.
Japanese aircraft captured at Munda
By early August 1943 Munda Airfield was secured and many Japanese aircraft wrecks were captured by American forces. Several were removed for study and others were abandoned and picked over by American personnel for souvenirs. Others were buried to fill bomb craters when the airfield was repaired and expanded.
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
July 2, 1943 - July 4, 1943
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. Munda Airfield was designated U. S. Army APO 717.
American units based at Munda
Partial list only, know of others? Email me
VC-24 (SBD x 24) November 1943
VF-38 (F6F) September 1943
CASU-14 (Carrier Aircraft Service Unit 14)
VB-98 (SBD) 1944
VB-148 (PV-1) ? - April 1944
VB-140 (PV-1) Russells April 1944 - ?
VB-104 (PB4Y-1) Carney Oct/Nov 1943 - April 1944 USA
VB-148 (PV-1) Renard April 3, 1944–May 21, 1944 Emirau
ComAir New Georgia
VMSB-236 (SBD) Henderson Nov 25, 1943 - ? Green Island
VMF-212 (F4U) Espiritu Santo August 1943 - October 20, 1943 Barakoma
VMF-214 (F4U) September 7, 1943 -
VMF-215 (F4U) C.O. Major Robert Owen July 1943 - ? Barakoma
MABS-1 from Ondonga May 26, 1944 - May 1945 to Peleliu
VMTB-143 (TBF) Henderson Field ? - June 1944 USA
VMTB-232 (TBF) 1944
VMSB-144 (SBD) Efate October 15 - November 22, 1943 Efate
VMSB-341 (SBD) 1944
VMTB-143 (TBF) 1944
USAAF 13th AF
4th PRG, 17th PRS (F-5 detachment) Fighter 2 October 13, 1943 - January 31, 1944 Fighter 2
347th FG, 67th FS (P-39 detachment) Woodlark October 28, 1943 - January 23, 1944 Russells
4th PRG, 17th PRS (F-5s detachment) Fighter 2 March 9 - April 1, 1944
5th BG, HQ (B-24) Guadalcanal February 4, 1944 - April 7, 1944 Momote
5th BG, 72nd BS (B-24) Espiritu Santo January 9 - April 15, 44 Momote
5th BG, 23rd BS (B-24) Espiritu Santo January 3 - April 16, 44 Momote
5th BG, 31st BS (B-24) Carney February 2, 1944 - ?
5th BG 394th BS (B-24 Snoopers) Carney February 24 - April 9, 1944 Carney
7th BG, 31st BS (B-24)
? - March 13, 1944 Carney
307th BG, HQ Carney January 28, 1944 - ?
BG. 370th BS (B-24) Carney Nov 1943 - May 13, 1944 Los
BG, 371st BS (B-24) Carney Nov 1943 - May 13, 1944 Los
BG, 372d BS (B-24) Carney Nov 1943 - May 13, 1944 Los
BG, 424th BS (B-24) Carney Nov 1943 - Feb 15, 1944 Carney
868th BS (SB-24 Snooper) Jan 1 - March 20, 1944
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.
A large barn shaped structure that was the mess hall for Munda Airfield, used by both U. S. Navy and U. S. Army personnel.
Munda Airfield is still in use today. Serviced by Solomon Airlines with daily domestic flights from Honiara Airport (Henderson Field). During the 2000s, the runway was upgraded and expanded to accommodate larger aircraft including a USD 9.6 million grant from the New Zealand government as part of US$35 million development fund for tourism and fishing in the Western Province.
On March 26, 2019 the first Solomon Airlines Airbus A320 landed at Munda Airport to prepare for the inauguration of international service with weekly flights from Brisbane Airport to Munda Airport.
13th Fighter Command in World War II page 199
Radio New Zealand "International flights are go for Solomons' Munda airport" March 26, 2019
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June 28, 2019