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    Bulldog Airfield Gulf Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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Irving September 4, 1943

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Jack Taft 1984
Location
Lat 7°  48' S Long 146° 26' E  Bulldog Airfield is located to the north of Bulldog (Bulldog Base) next to the Lakekamu River and Tauri River in a flat area. Today located in Gulf Province in Papua New Guinea. Known to the Japanese as "Burudokku".

Construction
Bulldog Airfield was built prewar as a small civilian airfield with a single grass surfaced runway. In late 1942 or early 1943, Bulldog Airfield was expanded and upgraded for limited use by military aircraft. By early 1943 Bulldog Airfield had two runways oriented east to west surfaced with grass. The first runway had a length of 1,800' . The second runway had a length of 3,000'. Take offs and landings were towards the junction of the two rivers (Lakekamu River and Tauri River). Bulldog was designated for emergency landings only.

World War II Pacific Theatre History
During January 1943 to September 1943 Bulldog Airfield was used by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to support Bulldog (Bulldog Base) and the expansion of the Bulldog Track (Bulldog Road). Once upgraded, the airfield could accommodate light aircraft plus larger aircraft including the C-47 Dakota.

Starting in the middle of March 1943, light aircraft De Havilland Tiger Moths and DH-84 Dragons from RAAF No. 33 Squadron based at Berry Airfield (12 Mile Drome (Berry) near Port Moresby began making flights to Bulldog Airfield transporting cargo. Aircraft generally landed and returned the same day. No aircraft were based at this location.

During the middle of 1943, Bulldog Airfield was used as an emergency strip for U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) fighter aircraft on at least two occasions. On August 3, 1943 P-400 Airacobra AP335 force landed at the airfield returning from missions. On August 15, 1943 P-400 Airacobra AP347 force landed returning from a mission.

On June 2, 1943 sixteen Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) Type 99 Light Bomber / Ki-48 Lily from the 208th Sentai escorted by Type 1 fighter / Ki-43 Oscars from the 24th Sentai attacked Bulldog Airfield and Bulldog. One of the attackers, Ki-48 Lily piloted by Lt. Ezaki failed to return, unknown if due to weather or damage sustained over the target. On the ground, the Australians observed sixteen unidentified Japanese planes attacking with three of fifteen bombs hit the runway and strafing severely damaged a parked C-47 Dakota (damage and identity unconfirmed: RAAF or USAAF). On the ground five were wounded including two Europeans and three natives. Due to the air raid, 500-700 natives in the area fled in fright, disrupting construction and labor.

On September 4, 1943 a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) de Havilland Dragon was parked at the airfield. At least two DH.84 Dragons suffered accidents at Bulldog Airfield. On December 14, 1943 DH.84 Dragon A34-90 was damaged while landing then ground looped but was repaired. On January 17, 1944 de Havilland DH.84 Dragon A34-32 swung off the runway due to a landing gear collapse and was severely damaged and converted to components at the airfield.

P-400 Airacobra Serial Number AP335
Force landed during August 3, 1943 recovered by Taft during 1984 exported to the United States

P-400 Airacobra Serial Number AP347
Force landed during August 15 or 20, 1943 recovered by Taft during 1984 displayed AeroClub today NMAG

By late August 1943 after the Bulldog Road opened for vehicle traffic and the Japanese threat passed to this region, no further developments were made.

Today
After the Pacific War, Bulldog Airfield was disused as a landing ground. In the late 1960s marked as "Disused 130" on aviation maps.

Ray Fairfield over flew the area in 1968:
"I remember the strip as just north of the village of Bulldog. I never did get there on the ground. I located it from the air with some old map, and did some very low passes. It was never usable in my time, 1963 to 1972. No photos, only thing to see was trees. I was told about some intact airplanes at Bulldog that survey crew had visited, and taken a few parts off. These planes had reportedly crashed before the strip was built. When I over flew the area in 1968 or 1969 I could not see anything. Finally, after carefully looking I could just make out the former runway - if the jungle was 80' tall, the trees on the former runway were about 40', they grew that fast. I could not see any wrecks. Later, Jack Taft went in there by boat and walked to the Airacobras. He later told me a story about when he walked there, the locals told him to stop. He wondered why, and they said he was at the aircraft. It was so overgrown, he had not seen it."

Richard Leahy adds:
"There are two [postwar] airstrips in the area, Tekadu and Kakoro. About five NM NW of Kakoro is a strip on the WAC marked “unused”. This would have been the wartime strip of Bulldog. There were two Airacobras in this area (5 NM NW of Kakoro). I flew over both in a chopper, was set down close to both. The kunai grass / pit pit was so tall that I was only able to locate one aircraft. This I photographed. The second one I was unable to locate even though I probably walked only three or four meters from it. Both were subsequently flown out under an RAAF chopper. One [P-400 Airacobra AP347] went to the Aero Club in Moresby, the other [P-400 Airacobra AP335] was taken to the States by an American who planned to restore it to flying condition. I got to know him quite well although his name sadly escapes me now. Both Airframes were is very good shape. No fires and no corrosion and very little structural damage."

References
ADF Serials - DH.84 Dragon
NAA "RAAF Unit History Sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Number 33 Squadron Mar 42 - Feb 46 (NAA: A9186) pages 851, 852, 853
The Sydney Morning Herald "Building The Bulldog Road An Australian Engineering Triumph" May 20, 1944
"Once when the Japanese bombed Bulldog 500 natives deserted in a body. Early in August 400 others were withdrawn for work in an operational area. A plan to bring by air 1,000 more natives from a mountain tribe living far in the interior was frustrated by inability to obtain fighter cover for the transport planes."
Allied Air Transport Operations South West Pacific Area in WWII - Volume One (2000) pages 19 (Bulldog Airfield 7°  48' S, 146° 26' E adjoins Lakekamu River), 29 (June 2, 1943 air raid), 413 (Bulldog Track), 428 (RAAF Air Transport Service, No. 33 Squadron... From January to September 1943, No. 33 Squadron remained at Berry Airfield (12 Mile), Port Moresby, equipped with the De Havilland DH-84 Dragon, Avro Anson and Tiger Moth light transport aircraft, hauling freight and passengers mostly to the smaller aerodromes in Papua. The main effort were the runs to... Bulldog), 547 (index Bulldog Airstrip)
To Salamaua (2010) by Phil Bradley page 100
"Acting on this intelligence, there was a Japanese air raid on Bulldog Camp on 2 June [1943] and, although damaged was minimal, the effect on the native labourers was catastropic, with nearly 700 deserting, many of them taking their tools with them. Other equipment was pilfered by the local Kukuku tribes, one party later seen proudly wearing live deators as ornaments through their noses. (footnote 57), 329 (footnote 57)"
Thanks to Ray Fairfield, Richard Leahy and Richard Dunn for additional information.

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019

 

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