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    Taroa Airfield Maloelap Atoll Marshall Islands
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IJN October 1943

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7th AF c1944

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41st BG c1944

Location
Lat 8° 42' 28 N Long 171° 14' 23" E  Taroa Airfield is located on Taroa Island in the eastern corner of Maloelap Atoll. Pronounced "Tar-a-wa", not to be confused with Tarawa (Betio). The runway spaned the length of the island.

Construction
During December 1939, a battalion of Japanese prisoners were drafted for the construction of Taroa Airfield. The island was developed into a military airfield contrary to the rules of the League of Nations mandate for the Japanese administration of the Marshall Islands. Two runways were built spanning 4800' and 4100'. Also, two hangars and a service apron were constructed.

Wartime History
During the war, Taroa Airfield based a number of fighter and bomber units, including Zeros, Lillys and Bettys. During February 1942, A5M4 Cluades were based at Taroa Airfield.

Japanese units based at Taroa
1st Kokutai (G3M2 Nell) March 1942
252 Kokutai (A6M Zero) March 1943 - February 1944
755 Kokutai (G3M2 Nell, G4M Betty)

Radar Installations
There were two radar sets (range 50 miles) installed on the island, providing the air wing approximately 10 minutes warning before incoming aircraft arrived.

American missions against Taroa
January 23, 1944 - May 18, 1944

American Bombardment
At the beginning of the US bombing a third runway had been begun. By end of 1943 there was a total of 380 buildings on Taroa (with >= 490,000 square feet floor space), 80 of which had a floor space greater than 50 feet square. It had several power stations, a command center, an air operations center, fuel farms (35,000 gals.), a pier for larger ships, several ammunition bunkers, a large barracks area, and an extensive workshop area.

The garrison had an extensive road network serviced by over 70 vehicles. Between Feb. 1942 - Aug. 1945, US aircraft dropped 3,543 tons of bombs and US ships fired 453 tons of shells at Taroa. While the first attacks were carrier-based and irregular, daily attacks were started after Majuro and Kwajalein had fallen to the US forces.

At the same time, all supply lines to Taroa were cut off, and the Japanese garrison was left to starve. Of the originally 3097 strong Japanese garrison (1772 Navy, 368 Army, 957 civilians) only 1041 (34%) survived. Several Marshallese were also killed. The survivor rate for Maloelap is the worst of all bases in the Marshalls. Death occurred from air raids, diseases, accidents, and suicides, but mainly from starvation. The Japanese evacuated on February 5, 1944.

Today
The former airfield is largely overgrown with scrub and low but very dense bush. The runway is still in use today. Known as Maloelap Airport. The single runway is 3,500' (1,067m) surfaced with turf. Airport code MAV. FAA airport location identifier 3N1. An island style lunch will be provided at the school house between noon and 1pm for airport passengers.

A6M3 Model 22 Zero Manufacture Number 3621 Tail Y2-128
Salvaged by Steve Atkin 1978 shipped to Saipan later to Japan

A6M2 Model 21 Zero Tail S-152
Tail salvaged by John Sterling during 1991, sold to Vintage Aircraft Ltd

A6M3 Model 32 Zero 3318 Tail S-112/Y2-128
Salvaged by John Sterling during 1991, currently under restoration

A6M3 Model 32 Zero Manufacture Number 3148
Salvaged by John Sterling during 1991

A6M3 Model 32 Zero Manufacture Number 3685 Tail Y2-176
Salvaged by John Sterling during 1991, later sold to Imperial War Museum

A6M2 Model 22 Zero Manufacture Number 31574
Salvaged by John Sterling, used in restoration of A6M3 3318

A6M Zero
Recovered from the island

References
AirNav.com - Maloelap Airport

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Last Updated
January 9, 2018

 

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July 1, 1943

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