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    Finschafen Airfield (Dreger Field) Morobe Province Papua New Guinea

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5th AF c1943

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5th AF April 1, 1944

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5th AF c1944

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David Paulley 1982

Location
Lat 6° 37' 18S Long 147° 51' 15E  Finschafen Airfield is located near Finschafen on the southeastern tip of Huon Peninsula, roughly a half mile inland, parallel to Schneider Harbor, with Dregerhaffen to the southeast.

Construction
Built by the U. S. Army 808th Aviation Engineer Battalion with labor from the 870th Engineer Battalion (Negro). The runway 6,000' x 100' (other sources state 6,000' x 150' as of 31 January 1944) coral and steel matting single runway running NNW to SSE. The tower was code named 'Harvest'. In mid-November, U. S. Navy (USN) Seabees preformed rough grading on the northern end of the strip, and crushed coral for the entire area.

On January 5, 1944 the 808th departed, and the Seabees 60th Battalion completed the airfield, building fighter and medium bomber hardstands, mostly located to the north, with more to the east and a few on the southern side of the runway. Other improvements included a 4 x 2,000' barrel aviation fuel storage with piping and pumping units. US Seabees 47th and 78th Battalions also assisted with construction.

Taz adds:
"Dad's CB unit cleared a nearby mountain and starting building the airfield. Japanese aircraft from Rabaul would come and bomb it. The CBs kept rebuilding in an attempt to stay ahead of the bombing. Eventually, they pressed all the men into service to finish the field."

World War II Pacific Theatre History
Used as an important airfield for American fighters, medium bombers and transport aircraft. During late 1943-1945, many aircraft shipped from the United States were assembled at Finschafen and then flown to other airfields for operations. Designated by the U. S. Army as APO 322 Unit 1 (Finschafen).

American units based at Finschafen
348 FG, 340 FS (P-47) Port Moresby Dec 13, 43 - March 13, 44 Saidor
348th FG (HQ) Port Moresby December 16, 43 - March 29, 44 to Saidor
348th FG 342 FS (P-47) Port Moresby Dec 17, 1943 - Mar 27, 44 Saidor
348th FG 341 FS (P-47) Port Moresby Dec 17, 1943 - Mar 27, 44 Saidor
8th FG, 36th FS (P-47) Nadzab Jan 9, 1944 - March 28, 1944 to Nadzab
6th PRG, 26th PRS (F-5) Dobodura February 19, 1944 - ?
8th FG, 35th FS (P-40) Port Moresby December 25, 1943 - February 19, 1944 to
8th FG HQ Port Moresby December 23, 1943 - February 20, 1944 to Cape Gloucester
380th BW 418 NFS (P-61) Dobodura March 28 - May 12, 1944 Hollandia
71st TRG, 17th TRS (B-25, L-5) Dobodura March 1 - July 29 44 to Biak
71st TRG, 82nd TRS (P-39 det) Dobodura Dec 1, 43 - April 19, 44 Saidor
49th FG HQ Gusap April 19 - May 17, 1944 to Hollandia
317th TCG HQ Port Moresby April 19 - June 22, 1944 to Hollandia
317th TCG, 39th TCS (C-47) Port Moresby April 23 - July 1, 44 Hollandia
49th FG, 7th FS (P-40) Gusap April 27 - May 3, 1944 Hollandia
86th FW HQ from USA May 1 - August 4, 1944 Toem (Middleburg)
375th TCG, 22nd TCS Garbutt Aug 29, 1944 - Aug 1, 1945 Nielson
2nd Combat Cargo Group, 8th Combat Cargo Sqn (C-46) ? - Jan 1, 45 Biak
27th Air Depot Group

Postwar
At the war's end, millions of dollars of equipment both new and used was bulldozed into a huge holes in the area and abandoned. Aircraft were smelted after the war for great profit, largely by Ted Foad. There are rumors and facts about caches of buried equipment in the area.

Today
Over the decades a number of aircraft or partial wrecks have been salvaged from this location, either abandoned at the airfield or partially /  or completely buried. 

In 1974, Charles Darby and Monty Armstrong recovered several P-40 wrecks including P-40N "The Saint" 42-105526, P-40N 42-104959 and P-40N 42-105513.

Next, in 1997, another P-40N "The Carolina Belle" 42-104947 was recovered by Robert Jarrett / Classic Jets Museum in 1997.

During 1999-2002, "75 Squadron" recovered three P-47D Thunderbolts: P-47D 42-75284, P-47D 42-22521, P-47D 42-8074 were reportedly recovered from this location and exported to Australia, and later to the United States to Westpac Restorations.

Still in use today as "Finschafen Airport". Airport code: IATA: FIN.

Aircraft recovered from Finschafen

P-40N "The Saint" Serial Number 42-105526
Fuselage recovered by Charles Darby and Monty Armstrong in 1974

P-40N Warhawk Serial Number 42-104959
Wings and cockpit section recovered by Charles Darby and Monty Armstrong in 1974

P-40N Warhawk Serial Number 42-105513
Recovered in 1987(?) to Australia

P-40N "The Carolina Belle" 42-104947
Cockpit section recovered by Robert Jarrett / Classic Jets Museum in 1997

P-38F Lightning 42-12652 Nose 33 (White 33)
Written off 1944, recovered by '75 Squadron' in 1999 to Australia / USA

P-40 Warhawk Serial Number ?
Pilot O'Neil excavated from a pit by '75 Squadron' in 2001 to Australia

P-47D Thunderbolt 42-75284
Written off, excavated from a pit by '75 Squadron' in 2002 to Australia / USA

P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22521
Written off, excavated from a pit by '75 Squadron' in 2002 to Australia / USA

P-47D Thunderbolt 42-8074
Written off, excavated from a pit by '75 Squadron' in 2002 to Australia / USA

References
Engineers in Theater Operations [Pacific] "Advance Area Airdromes 31 January 1944", Map No. 24
AWM "Development of Finschafen as a base" F07478 cine footage of Finschafen c1944

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017

 

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