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    Stirling Airfield (Coronus Strip) Western Prov Solomons
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November 28, 1943
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November 28, 1943
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January 1944
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January 25, 1944

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May 26, 1944
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1944

Location
Lat 7°24′58″S Long 155°33′55″E  Located on Stirling Island. The end of the runway terminates at the end of the island, with a 70' cliff at the far side. Some wartime references spell this location as "Sterling".

Construction
After the Allied landing on Stirling, it was evident that Stirling was perfect for an airfield because the island was naturally flat, coral surfaced, fresh water and good landing beaches nearby. A reconnaissance crew from the 87th Naval Construction Battalion "Seabees" arrived on Stirling on November 1, 1943 to survey the area, and four days later submitted a favorable report about the area. Based on this report, construction of a bomber strip "W", originally planned for Bougainville was initiated here.

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'.

Wartime History
On December 17, 1943, only 19 days into the construction of the airfield, two aircraft landed on the partially built runway B-25 "Fickle Finger" and F4U Corsair 1777 (flipped upside down).

Japanese Missions Against Stirling
January 11-13, 1944

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
USN, 87th Construction Battalion "Seabees" November 1, 1943 - September 5-25, 1944
11th Aerodrome Squadron, CASU 8, ACORN 12
"A" Battery 198th Coastal Artillery (90mm AA Guns)
347th FG 339th FS (P-38) Jan 15 - Aug 15, 1944 Sansapor
347th FG HQ (P-38) Jan 15 - Aug 15, 1944 Sansapor
42nd BG HQ (B-25) Banika June 17 - Aug 1, 1944 Hollandia
42nd BG, 106th RS, 100 BS (B-25) January 25 - August 6, 1944 Hollandia
42nd BS 75th BS (B-25) Banika Jan 20 - Aug 27, 1944 Hollandia
42nd BG 69th BS (B-25) Banika Feb 19 - ?
42nd BG 390th BS (B-25) Banika March 8 - August 23, 1944 Hollandia
Special Task Air Group 1 STAG-1 (TDR) Banika September 27 - October 1944 Nissan (Green)
VBM-413 (PBJ) middle 1944 Nissan
VMD-254 (B-24) take off for Feb 4, 1944 single mission to Truk

Veteran Joe Deceuster, VBM-413 recalls:
"The natives from other islands believed that Stirling was like a table top placed on a single pedestal, and if it became unbalanced, it would tip, spilling everything into the sea. They would come and trade with us but they would be gone before nightfall."

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
Pilot X crashed January 7, 1944

Postwar
On January 24, 1949 an AGRS search team aboard LST 711 arrived at Blanche Harbor commanded by Lt. Col Bryan and SFC Botham and Pfc Vance and Pfc Sninsky landed on Mono Island, then searched Stirling Island and Stirling Airfield unsuccessfully for B-25D 41-30566 that went MIA on January 14, 1944. During their visit, they noted: "we found that the roads were well overgrown with virus, etc. The natives stated that no one had lived on Stirling except the Air Force personnel... We went directly to the airfield which was in excellent condition considering the long inactivity and made a thorough search of the airfield and surroundings but to no avail. The guides then took us to a junkyard were there was four American planes."

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.

Today
Stirling Airfield, also known as "Mono Island Airport" was serviced by Solomon Airlines flights from Honiara Airport (Henderson Field). Airport code IATA: MNY.

Chris Cowx reports:
"I did not take any pictures of the airfield at Mono in 2000 when I visited. There was not much to see. It was simply an overgrown strip of crushed coral. I landed at Mono and was there for about twenty minutes at most. I got off of the plane and was immediately surrounded by a huge crowd of local people. The pilot talked to a few people and then I was given a lift to the Shortland Islands which are about 20 miles away across open water."

Gareth Coleman adds:
"Unfortunately [the wrecks] were stolen from the locals. There is a huge mistrust of white people in Mono, Stirling and Shortands now as most of the aircraft are gone."

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.

References
The Earthmovers pages 61-80
MACR 1668 - "Summary of pertinent Facts on case 7-1180" includes January 1949 visit notes

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Last Updated
January 9, 2018

 

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