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    Aslito Field (Isley Field, Francisco C. Ada, Saipan Airport) Saipan | CNMI USA
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June 1944

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Bruce Petty 1995

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Peter Ording 1999
Location
Lat 15° 7' 8N Long 145° 43' 46E  Aslito Field is located at an elevation of 215' above sea level near Aslito (As Lito) inland from the southern coast of Saipan Island in the Southern Islands Municipality of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in the United States of America (USA). Also known as Aslito Airfield, Isley Field, Isley Airfield. Still in use today as known as Saipan Airport. Also known as Saipan International Airport and Francisco C. Ada Airport.

Construction
Prewar, the area was a sugarcane plantation. In 1933, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) built a landing filed at this location with two runways in an "L" orientation. During 1937, upgraded for use as a military airfield named Aslito Field for the Chamoru name for the area Aslito (As Lito).

Wartime History
During the Pacific War, Aslito Field was an important airfield. In the middle of 1944, two Kokutai (Air Group) of Zeros were based at Aslito Field that participated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea (Great Marianas Turkey Shoot). Used by the Japanese until the middle of June 1944.

Japanese units based at Aslito
261 Kokutai (A6M5) June 1944
265 Kokutai (A6M5) June 1944

During the night June 16-17, 1944 the U. S. Army, 27th Infantry Division captured Aslito Field. During the battle, a A6M Zero from Guam Island landed at Aslito Airfield, the pilot was unaware it had been captured. As it landed, the Zero was fired upon and crashed at the end of the runway. The pilot survived and the Zero was captured.

Captured Japanese Aircraft
At Aslito Field, several A6M5 Model 52 Zeros were captured largely intact including: A6M5 Zero 1303 Tail 61-121, A6M5 Zero 4340 Tail 61-???, A6M5 Zero 5357 Tail 61-120 and A6M5 Zero 5350.

Naming Honors
After the American liberation renamed "Isley Field'" after a U. S. Navy (USN) pilot killed while bombing this location. Also known as Isley Field No. 1 after the construction of Isley Field No. 2 further to the west. By September 7, 1944 the ground echelon of the 498th Bombardment Group arrived and flew their first combat mission on October 28, 1944.

Isley Field No 1
As of December 1944, the single runway measured 8,500' x 200' with extensive taxiways and revetments located to the north and south of the runway. The control tower was code named 'Blue Grass'.

Isley Field No 2
As of December 1944, a second runway measuring 7,300' x 200' was under construction with extensive taxiways and revetments to the north and south of the runway. The control tower was code named 'Gardenia'.

American units based at Isley Field
498th BG HQ from USA September 6, 1944
498th BG 873d BS (B-29) from USA Sept 7, 1944
498th BG, 874th BS (B-29) from USA Sept 7, 1944
498th BG, 875th BS (B-29) from USA Sept 7, 1944
497th BG, 869th BS, 870th and 871st BS (B-29) from USA Sept 17, 1944
497th BG, 870th BS (B-29) from USA Sept 17, 1944
497th BG, 871st BS (B-29) from USA Sept 17, 1944
499th BG HQ from USA September 18, 1944
499th BG, 877th BS (B-29) September 22, 1944
499th BG, 878th BS (B-29) September 22, 1944
499th BG, 879th BS (B-29) September 22, 1944
500th BG HQ from USA September 18, 1944
500th BG, 881st BS (B-29) September 19, 1944
500th BG, 882d BS (B-29) September 19, 1944
500th BG, 883d BS (B-29) September 19, 1944

Between September 1944 until February 1945, Japanese aircraft from Pagan and Iwo Jima conducted air raids against Isley Field. Altogether about 80 Japanese aircraft attacked and nearly 40 were shot down. As a result, 11 B-29s were destroyed and 43 damaged on the ground.

Japanese missions against Isley Field
November 2, 1944–December 25, 1944

Postwar
Remained in use as the primary airfield serving Saipan and reverted to the name Aslito Field.

Today
Still in use today as Francisco C. Ada Airport. Also known as Saipan Airport or Saipan International Airport and is the main port of entry for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The single runway is oriented 25/07 measures 8,700' x 200' surfaced with asphalt with an elevation of 215'. Airport Codes: ICAO: PGSN and IATA: SPN.

References
Commonwealth Ports Authority - Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport

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Last Updated
August 31, 2020

 

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