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    Wakde Airfield Sarmi Regency | Papua Province Indonesia
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5th AF February 28, 1943

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5th AF March 31, 1944

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5th AF April 28, 1944

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U.S. Army May 15, 1944

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USAAF June 7, 1944

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5th AF c1944
Wakde Airfield is located on Wakde Island, off the northern coast of New Guinea. To the southwest is the smaller Insoemanai Island (Insoemar, Nsoemanai). Also referred to as Toem Drome for nearby Toem (Tum) on the on the north coast of New Guinea. Prewar and during World War II, located in Dutch New Guinea (DNG) in the Netherlands East Indies (NEI). Today located in Sarmi Regency of Papua Province in Indonesia.

Built by the Japanese for use by the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF). This airfield was first noted by Americans in February 1943 and by June, a single coral surfaced 5,400' x 390' runway, with dispersal areas off the northern side, and barracks area on the south side was visible. By September, the Japanese had expanded the base further with a radio station and quarters for 1,000 personnel.

Wartime History
Used by the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) medium and light bombers as a forward airfield.

Japanese units based at Wakde
61st Sentai (Ki-49) November 1943
101st Sentai (Ki-21 Air Transport Unit) November 1943
1st Air Route Department
20th Airfield Battalion
6th Navigational Aid Unit
6th Mobile Air Repair Squadron
60th Sentai (Ki-21) January 1944
45th Sentai (Ki-45) Babo February 1944
208th Sentai (Ki-48) Wewak then returned to Wewak

Between early April 1944 until the U.S. landing, attacked by American bombers and fighters.

American and Japanese missions against Wakde
April 7 - June 8, 1944

On May 15, 1944 during "Operation Straight Line" the US Army 41st Infantry Division, 163rd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) with the 3rd Engineer Special Brigade, 593d Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment (EBSR) landed on the island. After two days of bitter fighting and moping up, the US Army prevailed at the cost of 40 KIA and 107 WIA. Nearly the entire Japanese force died in the battle: 759 KIA and only 4 POWs were taken alive.

On May 18, 1944 Wakde was declared secured and construction work began to repair the airfield. Repaired, the airfield was put into use by 5th Air Force fighters and bombers as a forward operating base. Departing from Wakde, the first American reconnaissance mission where flown over Mindanao after the U.S. withdrawal in early 1942. Wakde Airfield was known to the U.S. Army Post Office 719 (APO 719).

American units based at Wakde
HQ 348th FG, 341st FS, 342nd FS (P-47) Saidor May 22, 1944 - ?
71st TRG, 17th TRS (B-25) Finschafen May 25, 1944 - July 1944 Biak
348th FG, 340th FS (P-47) Saidor May 26 - Aug 24, 1944 Noemfoor
348th FG, 341th FS (P-47) Saidor  May 26 - Aug 24, 1944 Noemfoor
421st NFS , 5th Fighter Command (P-38, P-70, P-61) Nadzab May 28, 1944 - Sept 21, 1944
5th BG HQ (B-24) Momote August 17 - Sept 22, 1944 Noemfoor
5th BG, 72nd BS (B-24) Momote August 19, 1944 - ? Noemfoor
5th BG, 394th BS (B-24) Momote August 25, 1944 - ?
403d TCG, 64th TCS (C-47) Biak Oct 2, 1944 - Oct 29, 1944 Biak
403d TCG, 13th TCS (C-47) Los Negros Oct 4, - Oct 19, 1944 Biak
403d TCG, 63th TCS (C-47) Biak Oct 4, 1944 - Oct 29, 1944 Biak
13th Bomber Command HQ Los Negros Sept 3 - Oct 17, 1944 Morotai
307th BG, 424th BS (B-24) Los Negros Aug 22 - Nov 10, 1944 Morotai
307th BG, 371st BS (B-24) Los Negros Aug 22 - Nov 10, 1944 Morotai
307th BG, 372st BS (B-24) Los Negros Aug 22 - Nov 10, 1944 Morotai
307th BG, 370th BS (B-24) Los Negros Aug 22, 1944 - Nov 15, 1944 Morotai
307th BG HQ (B-24) Los Negros Aug 24 - October 18, 1944 Morotai
1094th Signal Company Aitape May 24 - November 1, 1944 Leyte
303rd Airdrome Squadron Tami May 8 - November 5, 1944 Leyte

Japanese air raids against Wakde
During early June 1944, Japanese bombers attacked Wakde on many occasions.

Japanese missions against Wakde
June 1-10, 1944

On June 6, 1944 during the early morning hours, two G4M Bettys from the 732 Kokutai led by Ens. Isao Sunayama bombed Wakde Airfield with each bomber targeting parked aircraft on each side of the runway. Releasing their bombs in a string over the parked aircraft, the Japanese fliers estimated they had destroyed dozens of American planes. Later reconnaissance photographs seemed to show 76 aircraft burned or damaged along the runway.

In fact, the bombs dropped by these two Betty bombers resulted in the destruction of six aircraft and damaged eighty others. Destroyed were B-24J "Turtle Money" 42-109968, P-38J 43-28839, P-38J 43-28486, P-38J 43-28838, P-47D Thunderbolt, L-4B Cub. Also damaged or lost were PB4Y-1 "Baby Shirley" 32150 from VPB-115, PB4Y-1 32177 from VPB-115,  PB4Y-1 32255 from VPB-115, PB4Y-1 38789 from VPB-104 and PB4Y-1 32275 from VPB-104.

Disused as an airfield since the Pacific War.

Japanese operations at Wakde Airfield on Wakde Island (2005) by Richard Dunn
Thanks to Eugene Salternik, Richard Dunn and Bob Livingstone for additional information

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Last Updated
April 7, 2020


Map 1943

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