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Del Monte Airfield was located in a meadow on the Del Monte Corporation plantation near Del Monte in Bukidnon Province in central Mindanao in the Philippines. Also known as "Del Monte Field". Conceived as a secret American airfield, that would allow bombers and fighters to operated outside the range of enemy aircraft and would also be able to evacuate southward to Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia.
On November 9, 1941 the US Army began construction in a meadow owned by the Del Monte Pineapple Corporation. Three runways were built at Del Monte, plus additional auxiliary airfields at Malaybalay Airfield (Maramag), Dalirig Airfield and Valencia Airfield.
Although sparse in equipment and facilities based the 19th Bombardment Group and 7th Bombardment Group as they evacuated Clark Field, and later as a staging point for their evacuation to Batchelor Field near Darwin.
On December 18, 1941 a Japanese reconnaissance plane located this airfield. Realizing Del Monte Airfield had been located, the rest of the day was spent camouflaging aircraft with palm fronds.
On December 19, 1941 at 4:00pm Japanese aircraft attacked, including A6M2 Zeros that strafed claiming two B-17s and three B-18s destroyed. At the airfield was six B-17 Flying Fortress bombers and four B-18 Bolo bombers that had just arrived from Clark Field. Destroyed on the ground was B-17D 40-3093, Tash's bomber, which was already disabled previously. That evening from 10:00pm until December 20, 1942 at 1:00am, the remaining B-17s departed for Darwin, evacuating the last remaining bombers and personnel.
On December 20, 1942 Del Monte Airfield was bombed by fifty-four Japanese bombers.
Evacuations of MacArthur, Quezon and Senior Staff
Although the B-17s had withdrawn from Del Monte Airfield, it was used as a staging base for bombing missions and evacuations of personnel and senior staff. After U. S. President F. D. Roosevelt ordered General MacArthur, his family and senior staff evacuated by PT Boats from Corregidor to Mindanao.
On March 16, 1942 three B-17s from Australia flew to Del Monte: B-17E 41-2408, B-17E 41-2429 and B-17E 41-2447. A fourth B-17E 41-2434 was unable to start its engines and did not participate. General MacArthur, his family and senior staff were flown from Del Monte Airfield to Batchelor Field near Darwin in Australia.
On March 23, 1942 Philippines President Manuel L. Quezon, his family and senior staff arrived at Del Monte to await evacuation by B-17s. While waiting, Quezon stayed at nipa house near the airfield. On March 26, 1942 three B-17s from Australia flew to Del Monte to evacuate Philippines President Manuel L. Quezon and his family plus his aide General Valdes, Vice-President Osmena, Dr. Trepp and other personnel and departed by 1:20pm.
Royce Mission #1: April 12, 1942
Royce Mission #2: April 13, 1942 (Morning)
Royce Mission #3: April 13, 1942 (Afternoon)
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