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    Alexishafen Airfield (Alexishafen I, Alexishafen No. 2) Madang Province Papua New Guinea
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5th AF c1943

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90th BG November 30, 1943

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5th AF c1943

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5th AF January 12, 1944

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RAAF February 27, 1944

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Australian Army May 1944

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PNG Museum Dec 1962

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Ray Fairfield 1972

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Colin Jermy 1979

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Justin Taylan 1993
Location
Lat 5° 5' 0" S Long 145° 48' 0" E  Alexishafen Airfield is located to the west of Alexishafen near the north coast of New Guinea. To the east is the North Coast Road that connects south to Madang. To the northwest was Danip Airfield (Alexishafen II, Alexishafen No. 1). Prewar and during the Pacific War in the Territory of New Guinea. During World War II, Allied references call this runway Alexishafen Airfield, Alexishafen South, Alexishafen I, Alexishafen No. 2 or Alexishafen Bomber Strip. Prewar and during the Pacific War located in the Territory of New Guinea. Today located in Madang Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Construction
During January 1943, the Alexishafen area was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) without opposition. The Japanese conscripted local labor to assist with the construction of a single runway for use as a bomber strip and expanded the prewar Alexishafen Airfield (Danip Airfield) to the northwest as a second runway for use as a fighter strip. On the north side of the runway were several taxiways and revetments for parked aircraft. Trees were cleared to create a flight gap on the northeast end of the runway across the North Coast Road to the edge of Sek Harbor and on the southwest end to the Biges River.

On October 30, 1943 Allied reconnaissance aircraft observed the runway to measure 4,800' x 395' with eleven bomber and twenty-two fighter revetments. The airfield was defended by medium and light anti-aircraft guns.

Wartime History
During 1943, Alexishafen Airfield was used by the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) as a forward airfield. Used by medium bombers, light bombers, reconnaissance and fighters including Ki-49 Helens, Ki-21 Sallys, Ki-48 Lilys, Ki-46 Dinahs, Ki-51 Sonias. Fighter aircraft including Ki-43 Oscars and Ki-61 Tonys used this airfield and nearby fighter strip Alexishafen II (Danip Airfield).

Japanese bombers, reconnaissance and fighter aircraft based at Wewak used Alexishafen as a staging base for forward operations. Returning, aircraft could land to refuel or damaged aircraft force land and quickly return to their units. The area was defended by anti-aircraft guns near the Biges River and Alexishafen Mission.

Japanese units based at Alexishafen Airfield (Bomber Strip)
81st Dokuritsu Chutai (Ki-46)
26th Sentai (Ki-51)

Allied aircraft bombed and strafed the Alexishafen Airfields extensively during early 1943 until liberated during April 1944. Coast watchers in the area reported on the activities of the base on several occasions prior to air strikes. American aerial reconnaissance deemed the runway as unserviceable as of January 12, 1944.

According to Japanese sources, Alexishafen Airfield remained operational until at least January 27, 1944. Before abandoning the area, Japanese forces attempted to demolish the runway using aerial bombs and set booby traps in the area, placing explosive charges onto aerial bombs and laying mines.

Allied missions against Alexishafen
December 18, 1942–April 15, 1944

On April 26, 1944 the Australian Army 30th Battalion occupied Alexishafen while advancing northward along the North Coast Road. In the area, large quantities of stores and undamaged equipment was captured.

Alexishafen was the first airfield in the South Pacific that the Japanese attempted to demolish the runway with aerial bombs and set booby traps. Australian bomb disposal teams worked on the airfield to clear it, but it was never used by the Allies as a landing ground or airfield.

Japanese aircraft wrecks at Alexishafen
On June 28, 1944 a team from Air Technical Intelligence Unit (ATIU) visited Alexishafen Airfield and counted thirty-six wrecks at both runways. Most were damaged by bombing and strafing. Some were photographed and their manufacture numbers noted.

Michael Freeman, ATIU recalls in Behind Enemy Lines pages 232-233
"The USAAF had peppered the entire area. Most of the aircraft both in revetments and along the strip were 'burned out'.  Many of the bombers, Sally, Helen and Lily were completely gutted with only sections of the tails, wings and engines still intact."

Postwar
Abandoned and overgrown since World War II. Most of these relics remained intact until the late 1970's because the land was owned by the Catholic Mission, and protected the area from scrapping or disturbance. During 1974, Charles Darby counted forty-three Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) aircraft wrecks in the area. In recent years, most of these planes were scrapped, removed or otherwise disappeared.

Today
The former runway and airfield area is covered with aerial bomb craters and aircraft wreckage and even to this day show the effects of saturation bombing and parafrags that destroyed the base. Revetments for anti-aircraft guns still visible along the runway, and large bomb craters are present all over the area. There are no buildings visible in the area, and jungle has reclaimed everything except the rough rectangular shape of the runway. Over the years, most of the airframes were recovered by outsiders, scrapped or otherwise disappeared. A few wrecks remain as tourist attractions for visitors from Madang and occasionally, a small hut might be manned for "tours" of the area or to see the remaining wreckage. A few huts are now being built in the area by squatters.

Manfred Hacker recalls:
"I lived in Alexishafen for three years in the early 1970s. One of my pleasures was to show visitors the many aircraft wrecks in the area. Most of the planes seemed to be fairly well untouched. Every now and then a group of Japanese tourists would come by, and have a ceremony at the wrecks. They would burn incense, and leave gifts."

Japanese aircraft wreckage at Alexishafen Airfield
List of Japanese aircraft formally at Alexishafen Airfield

References
Index to Air Bases - Research Report No. 85, I.G. No 9185 - July 30, 1944 (Alexishafen I)
October 16, 1943 Mission Over Alexishafen by Richard Dunn
Behind Enemy Lines (1997) by Michael J. Freeman pages 228 (photos Madang [sic Alexishafen]), 229–231, 230 (photo Finschafen [sic Alexishafen], 232 (photo), 233 (photo), 234 (photos "Madang [sic, Alexishafen] Yields Variety of Weapons)
(Page 229) "A few weeks later [late March 1944], there was talk at ANCISPA of action taking place in New Guinea, and I was asked to go there, to 'sweep' the now abandoned Japanese airfields along with a team from the Australian Technical Air Intelligence Unit... After confirmation dispatches to RAN G-2 Section, US Navy Lieutenant John Daly would be accompanying me, and our orders to leave would be following soon."
(Page 230) "By the 28th [April 1944], we were able to move on to Nadzab with a small element of Australian infantry forces involved in a 'mopping up' operation. We followed their operation into Madang, and Alexishafen. Both of these were very productive for us and we collected major intelligence information."
(Page 231) "I gave instruction for him [USN Photographer's Mate 3rd Class, Otto Schmidt] to photograph the wrecked planes on one side of the airstrip, while I was planning to shoot the other side. There were many aircraft and we were covered up with many days of work, but I finally realized that he was only going to stay close to me and act as my assistant. After we both got used to this arrangement, we were able to get many outstanding photos."
Thanks to Charles Darby, Ray Fairfield and Richard Dunn for additional information

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Last Updated
May 1, 2021

 

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