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    Bonis Airfield Bougainville Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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December 15, 1942

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13th AF c1944

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AWM Sept 15, 1945

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Josh McDade 1999
Location
Lat 5 26' S Long 154 43' E  Bonis Airfield was located south of Bonis on the northern tip of Bougainville. Beyond to the north is Buka Passage and Buka Island. Between 1884–1914 the northern portion was Deutsch Neu Guinea (German New Guinea) until September 1914. Prewar and during the Pacific War part of the North Solomons (Northern Solomons) in the Territory of New Guinea. Today located in Buka Rural LLG in Northern Bougainville District in Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB) in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Prewar
At this location, Bonis Plantation was established and planted with rows of coconut palms harvesting copra. Bonis Plantation was managed by Alf Long and was in operation until the start of the Pacific War.

Construction
During early July 1943, the Japanese began construction of a single runway at this location. Most of the runway and airfield was built on Bonis Plantation by cutting down the palm trees. The northeast end of the runway was built in a forested area. The single runway was surfaced with crushed coral mixed with oil oriented roughly northeast to southwest. Each end of the runway had a turnaround area and beyond cleared flyway areas. On the southeast side of the runway was a taxiway with fighter ravetements and dispersal bays. At the northeast end was the road connecting to Bonis at the northern tip of Bougainville.

By October 22, 1943 the single runway measured 3,300' x 200' with clearings totaling 8,500' x 430'. On the ground were observed 27 fighters revetments and dispersal bays for 7 fighters. By late October 1943, approximately 30 buildings were built around the airfield and supply areas dispersed in the jungle approximately 1 mile southeast of the runway.

Wartime History
Starting in late July 1943 used by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as an auxiliary airfield to disperse aircraft for Buka Airfield. The Bonis Airfield area was defended by anti-aircraft guns. Starting in late 1943, attacked by American aircraft until June 1944 when deemed neutralized.

Allied missions against Bonis
October 29, 1943–June 14, 1944

Tom Blackburn in VF-17 The Jolly Rogers recalls:
"Buka and Bonis remained serious threats to the Torokina beachhead throughout early November 1943. Although the Japanese did not regularly base airplanes at either field, they meticulously patched runway damage after each bombing raid, and maintained heavy anti-aircraft defenses around both runways. The danger lay in the readiness of the runways, through which they could stage raids against the beachhead, and damaged aircraft had a safe haven 165 miles south of Rabaul."

By June 1944, Bonis Airfield was rendered unservicable for aircraft and was cut off from resupply. Afterwards, Japanese forces in the Bonis area planted gardens in the airfield area to grow food for subsistence farming. By early September 1945, Bonis Airfield was overgrown and unsuitable for use as a landing ground and remained occupied by Japanese forces until the middle of September 1945.

On September 15, 1945 during surrender negotiators, Bonis Airfield was inspected by the Australian Army, 2 Corps headquarters personnel to ascertain the suitability for use, but the runway was overgrown and unsuitable for use as a landing ground but was selected as an assembly area for Japanese Prisoners Of War (POW) surrendering in northern Bougainville.

Postwar
Disused as an airfield since the Pacific War. Postwar, replanted with coconut palms. Likely during the replanting, aircraft wreckage was collected into piles.

Today
In the middle of the 1970's the airfield had wreckage of some aircraft and a Japanese Navy aerial torpedo in dispersal area. Today there is little trace of the airfield, except from the air.

Charles Darby visited in the early 1970s:
"Regarding Bonis, all the wreckage had been gathered together and piled into a small heap on what the plantation manager told me was the old airstrip site. I found serial numbers on the F6F Hellcat 66021 and SBD-5 Dauntless 3594? parts but not on the TBF or F4U parts, and never knew exactly where the parts had been collected from. The parts really were shredded, either by impact or having been cut up for scrap, and in most cases were identifiable only by part numbers. Also in the junk pile were two A6M Zero legs, a Ki61 engine mount, and the back half of a Jap aerial torpedo, and the whole lot was guarded by a triple Type 96 25mm anti-aircraft gun."

Josh McDade surveyed from the air in December 1999:
"The photos were taken from a Huey helicopter. I daunt remember from what height. It was probably between 1,000 and 5,000'. We were low because I asked to take photos of it and it was a short time until we landed at Buka. Indeed this bombed airfield was not far at all from the Buka Passage. The distance from the passage was not large, probably under 5 kilometers. There appeared to be two separate strips. I definitely remember it being on the NE side of the mainland. We were flying from Loloho to Buka.

Justin Taylan visited in September 2003:
"Little trace of any wartime wrecks here, or other history.  I was not able to find anyone to walk the old airfield area, nor did anyone seem to know about it."

25mm Anti-Aircraft Gun Type 96 (double mount)
Emplaced southeast of the airfield, barrels missing

SBD-5 Dauntless 3594?
Wreckage noted in early 1970s

F6F Hellcat 66021
Pilot Keener MIA November 1, 1943

F4U-1 Corsair
Wreckage only, observed by Darby in 1970s

TBF Avenger
Wreckage only, observed by Darby in 1970s

References
ATIS Intelligence Summary - October 1-27, 1943
Thanks to Charles Darby, Richard Dunn and Ian Smith for additional information

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Last Updated
September 14, 2020

 

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Map 1943

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October 22, 1943

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