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November 28, 1943
November 28, 1943
January 25, 1944
May 26, 1944
At 8:00am on November 29, 1943, the first bulldozers began work and by the next day had cleared an area roughly 2,000 x 300'. Timber was hauled to a sawmill established, and the top soil removed. Naturally flat, the area required little blasting.
Initially, light discipline was enforced, but to speed construction, flood lights on skids were built so dozers could work all night, and a system of telephones to dim the lights if a Japanese air raid warning was issued. Work proceeded around the clock in three eight hour shifts, seven days a week. Vital supplies were air dropped with parachutes from C-47s.
Plans called for a 4,000' runway to be completed by the middle of January 1944, but this was achieved by round the clock work on December 24. When the strip was 5,000', bombers began operating against Rabaul and work on taxiways and hardstands continued. The next phase of construction called for a 6,000' runway by February 1, 1944. This was completed ahead of schedule on January 2. Construction was completed with the entire surface being double bladed and sprayed with salt water, working between take offs and landings.
Other facilities built included taxiways, hardstands, warm-up aprons, repair areas, 60' control tower, weather station and camp area. Afterwards, the runway was extended to 7,000 x 300'.
Japanese Missions Against Stirling
On January 25, 1944, a B-25 crashed on take off, blocking one third of the runway. While Seabees worked to clear the wreckage, a B-24 with one engine shot out crashed at the end of the runway and burst into flames and the crew were helped to safety, most thrown clear by the explosion.
On March 1, 1944 damaged B-24D "Snow Job" 42-41230 crash landed on the runway. Stirling was used a forward airfield in the campaign against Rabaul (roughly 7 hour flight for B-25s) Bougainville and New Ireland.
On May 26, 1944 Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey, CinC South Pacific landed aboard his personal PBY Catalina at Stirling and inspects the area and also Mono.
During August, 1944 (exact date unknown) USO performers arrived to entertain the troops performing during a torrential rain storm. Performers included Jack Benny, June Brunner, Martha Tilton, Carole Landis, Larry Adler. The performers have a meal with the 87th Seabees and Army units.
American Units based at Stirling
Veteran Joe Deceuster, VBM-413 recalls:
Their work completed, the 87th Construction Battalion "Seabees" were withdrawn, first echelon September 5. Second echelon departing on the 25th for D'Or on New Caledonia.
At the end of the war, the remaining aircraft were bent and bulldozed into the bush off the strip and dumped off the cliff at the far end.
P-38H Lightning Serial Number 42-66671
Since the war, most of the aircraft wreckage has been scrapped or otherwise removed. There are still a few aircraft pieces in the sea and at the base of the cliff where they were dumped.
Gareth Coleman adds:
As of roughly 2009, Solomon Airlines suspended service to the airfield, due to the fact that this route was uneconomical. But during the Christmas period, they mount ad hoc services to the Island. Boat service to the area remains.
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