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    Vila Airfield Western Province Solomon Islands

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USN c1943

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December 6, 1943

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D Letourneau 1999

Location
Vila Airifled is located at Vila on the southeastern portion of Kolombangara Island. To the east is Disappointment Cove. To the south is Vila Point.

Prewar
The Vila area was part of Vila Plantation and Stanmore Plantation owned by Lever Brothers. Both plantations were planted with coconut palms and harvesting copra.

Construction
During the middle of December 1942, the Japanese Navy began construction of Vila Airfield after completing Munda Airfield. The soil proved to be unsuitable for operations, and the airfield was only used as a secondary satellite airfield.

Wartime History
Vila Airfield was used as an advanced airfield by the Japanese Navy.

During early July 1943, B5N Kates staged through Vila Airfield on a mission against Guadalcanal.

On August 13, 1943 Type 97 Kate carrier attack planes arrived from Kahili then took off on a torpedo mission against Guadalcanal that resulted in the sinking of the AP John Penn.

Vila Airfield was disused as of September 1943 when the Japanese withdrew from the area and were evacuated in early October 1943 from Kolombangara.

atest use I can confirm is 13 Aug 43 when Type 97 carrier attack planes staged into Vila from Kahili and then torpedoed AP John Penn in vicinity of Guadalcanal. Operation SE in early October involved the evacuation of Kolombangara so certainly no use after September 43.

Allied missions against Vila
January 28, 1943 - October 2, 1943

During 1943, this airfield was neutralized by Allied aerial attacks, and bombardment from ships for several months prior to the American landings on nearby Arundel Island and New Georgia.

On September 25, 1943 elements of the 27th Infantry landed on Kolombangara and established perimeter defense around Vila Airfield.

During late 1943, the Japanese aircraft abandoned at the airfield were surveyed by U.S. Army Technical Air Intelligence Unit (TAIU) by inspector W. W. Spinney. Surveyed was one G4M1 Betty, one D3A2 Val plus seven Zero fighters. The survey noted the aircraft manufacture numbers only.

On October 11, 1943 they were relieved by the 1st Battalion, Fiji Infantry. During January 1944, the U. S. Army dispatched a team of six soldiers with 16 Solomon Islanders to build a farm for fresh vegetables on the former runway.

William Sabel, 350th Engineer Service Regiment recalls:
"I accepted the challenge and with 5 enlisted men whom had previous agricultural experience and a landing craft borrowed from the navy, we set out for Kolombangara Island 5 miles away, in January 1944. The British furnished 16 male natives to help on the farm. Through the Red Cross, a variety of seeds were obtained from Australia and New Zealand including watermelon, muskmelon, okra, tomatoes, lettuce, beets, radishes and a bushel of field corn that made good roasting ears when mature."

G4M1 Model 11 Betty Manufacture Number 2721
Abandoned at the airfield

D3A2 Model 22 Val Manufacture Number 3066
Built December 6, 1942

A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 5359
Abandoned at the airfield.

A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 5452
Abandoned at the airfield.

A6M3 Model 32 Zero Manufacture Number 3021
Abandoned at the airfield.

A6M3 Model 32 Zero Manufacture Number 3271
Abandoned at the airfield.

A6M3 Model 32 Zero Manufacture Number 3291
Abandoned at the airfield.

A6M3 Model 22 Zero Manufacture Number 3478
Abandoned at the airfield. Possibly T2-1163.

A6M3 Model 22 Zero Manufacture Number 3793
Abandoned at the airfield. Possibly T2-1163 surveyed by TAIU as "Zero Mark 2'.

Today
Today the airfield still serves as a runway for a logging company based at Vila. The runway composition of crushed and compacted coral is still evident even today, but overgrown with grass. Plane wreckage still lie in the undergrowth along the runway, as are Japanese anti-aircraft guns.

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

 

Map
Map
May 10, 1943

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