Lat 6° 16' 60S Long 150° 19' 52E Gasmata Airfield is located at Gasmata on the southern coast of New Britain . Borders Thilenius Harbor (Gasmata Harbor) to the northwest. The Japanese referred to this location as Surmi, Surumi or Tsurumi. Also spelled "Gasmatta". Today located in West New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Prewar, a single grass surfaced runway was built at this location by an Australian civilian contractor to for the nearby copra plantation.
During the night of February 8-9, 1942 Gasmata Airfield was occupied by the Japanese Navy No. 2 Maizuru Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF). Afterwards, the runway was expanded for use as a forward operating base for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN).
On February 11, 1942 four A5M4 Claude fighters from Chitose Kokutai (soon afterwards renamed the 4th Kokutai) arrived as the first Japanese fighters to operate from Gasmata Airfield. That same day, the four Claudes intercepted the first Allied air raid against this area when three Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Hudsons attacking ships in Thilenius Harbor and shot down Hudson A16-126 and Hudson A16-91.
The Japanese never permenantly stationed aircraft at Gasmata
on any permanent basis. During 1942, fighters based here for short periods. Japanese fighters and bombers landed at this location when short on fuel or to make force landings when returning from missions.
Japanese units operating from Gasmata
Chitose Kokutai / 4th Kokutai (4 x A5M4) February 11, 1942
253 Kokutai (A6M Zero) February 1943
Mihoro Kokutai (G3M2)
Kanoya Kokutai (G3M2)
Tainan Kokutai (A6M2)
76th Dokuritsu Chutai (Ki-46)
Allied missions against Gasmata Airfield
February 11, 1942 - February
Allied aircraft bombed Gasmata Airifeld during 1942 until early 1944.
During March 1943, Gasmata Airfield was as a staging base to support "Operation 81" that resulted in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. During Operation I-Go on April 14, 1943 two G4M1 Bettys one from the 705 Kokutai and the other from the 751 Kokutai force landed at this location.
From May 1943 onward, Gasmata was subjected to heavy bombing and not used thereafter for by the Japanese for flight operations. Instead, the Japanese built Hoskins Airfield on north coast of New Britain as an alternative airfield. During the middle of 1943, Gasmata Airfield was abandoned by the Japanese.
As of October 23, 1943 the single runway was 3,200'
with taxiways to the
defended by light anti-aircraft
guns. Two nearby jetties serviced the strip from the north
and west sides of the peninsula. On January 13, 1944 photograph intelligence showed nine light anti-aircraft guns in Ring Ring village to the northeast and 50 fighter dispersal revetments.
On March 17, 1944 PT-143 entered Thilenius Harbor and tied up to the jetty at Gasmata Airfield and members of the crew went ashore and found the area abandoned by the Japanese. By March 28, 1944 Australian Army patrols reached Gasmata Airfield and found the area abandoned. In the middle of April 1944 a U. S. patrols reached Gasmata Airfield and removed mines from the runway.
Japanese aircraft wreckage captured at Gasmata
List of Japanese aircraft captured at Gasmata.
Afterwards, the Allies never repaired the runway and it was disused.
Brian Bennett adds:
"I first saw the aircraft at Gasmata in the middle of 1972. There were more bits of wreckage around the place in
those days. I recall that there were besides the main and
near complete wreck of the G3M the partial wreckage of two
others. The wreckage of 5 Zero's not including the example
that was cut up and removed to Port Moresby and later restored
by the RAAF and now in AWM. The wreckage of a bombed out
G4M1 Betty in a large bomb hole further west along the strip.
tried very hard back in the late 70's and again in the 80's to get
something done about saving the Ki-46 and the G3M but to no avail."
Douglas Hubbard, Jr. adds:
“I personally acquired title to [Zero 5784 and Val 3105] from
the PNG government in the middle of 1973. It was
formally deeded to the Australian people as a gesture of goodwill and appreciation
for the assistance provided in recovery of the D3A2
Val 3105 I recommended that the Zero be donated to the AWM, and was instructed
to effect the transfer, which I did via the senior RAAF officer at Murray Barracks. He
elected not to take the Zero out at the time when shipped the Val, preferring
he said, Their air frame fitters disassembled the plane and flew it out of Gasmata
via RAAF Caribou."
John Douglas adds:
"I visited in 1992, I did talk to the local people, who said
that some wrecks were dragged in from the outer areas to make a sort
of display, a few vehicles
as well. Gasmata is an abandoned logged over area with a few rural
roads that go nowhere. Several stories of good plane wrecks
in the waters around the area as well. Lovely diving and fishing too."
Still in use today as "Gasmata Airport" or "Gasmata Island Airport". Airport code: IATA: GMI. Serviced by secondary airlines, charter and missionary aircraft.
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
April 15, 2019