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    Gurney Airfield (No. 1 Strip, Fall River) Milne Bay Province Papua New Guinea
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RAAF August 27, 1942

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5th AF March 7, 1943

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Stan Cannon 1943

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Roderick Eime Dec 2014

Lat 10° 18' 41S Long 150° 20' 2E  Gurney Airfield is located two miles inland from Milne Bay on the Lever Brothers coconut plantation near Ladava. Also known as "Gurney Field".

On June 28, 1942 the U. S. Army 46th Engineering Regiment began construction of a single runway at this location. The Americans had limited heavy construction equipment, limited to two graders, several dump trucks, a power shovel and some bulldozers. This runway became the first airfield built in the Milne Bay area.

On August 7, 1942 B-26 "Martin's Miscarriage" 40-1411 piloted by Capitan Winfred O. Craft landed on the runway to test it for medium bomber operations.

Later, the airfield was expanded to two parallel runways running roughly east to west. The first runway was 6,000' x 150' surfaced with sealed bitumen. The second runway was 5,340' x 100' surfaced with marston matting / PSP. Taxiways and revetments extended off both sides of the runways.

World War II Pacific Theatre History
Code named "Fall River", to confuse the Japanese about its location Defended by 40mm Bofors and .50 caliber gun emplacements manned by Australian A-Troop of 2/3rd Australian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (LAA) and American 104th Coastal Artillery Battalion. It was the primary airfeild used during the Battle of Milne Bay. Afterwards, the airfield and facilities were further developed.

Bob Crawford (75 Squadron, page 98):
"It was called Fall River in those days.  The strip was gouged out of a coconut plantation. It was very wide bordered by trees and ran roughly east to west into the bay.  It was dirt and metal matting - a good strip but treacherous in wet weather."

Naming Honor
On September 14, 1942, the strip was re-named Gurney, to honor RAAF Squadron Leader C.R. Gurney, a pilot and former Qantas pilot who was killed in the crash of B-26 40-1426.

RAAF units based at Gurney Field (No. 1 Strip)
75 Squadron (P-40) 7 Mile Drome July 1942 - Sept 1943 Goodenough
76 Squadron (P-40)
32 Squadron (Hudson) August 5, 1942
100 Squadron (Beaufort) November 5, 1943 Vivigani
10 RSU
USAAF units based at Gurney Field (No. 1 Strip)
8th FG, 35th FS (P-40)
8th FG, 80th FS (P-38, P-39) 12 Mile Nov 8, 42 - Feb 23, 43 Mareeba

Japanese missions against Gurney (No. 1 Strip) & Milne Bay
August 4, 1942 - April 14, 1943

Allied aircraft destroyed on the ground at No. 1 Strip (Gurney)
During 1942-1943, several aircraft were destroyed on the ground at Gurney Field.

LB-30 Liberator AL515
Pilot Eaton force landed August 20, 1942 destroyed August 24, 1942 during air raid

P-39D Airacobra Serial Number 41-38499
Destroyed January 17, 1943 during Japanese air raid

P-39D Airacobra Serial Number ?
Destroyed January 17, 1943 during Japanese air raid

NAA "RAAF Aerodrome, Jackson, New Guinea 7/1/617 PART 1", p 23
"First Australian Army dated 28th April 1945 - It is desired to point out that should serious damage occur this Headquarters has no constructional facilities available to repair the runway etc. and similarly at Milne Bay, if the 869th U.S. Eng. Batt. withdraw, this Headquarters has neither plant nor personnel to maintain Gurney aerodrome."

Still in use today as Gurney Airport. Also known as "Milne Bay Airport" or "Gili Gili Airport". The runway measures 1,690m x 30m at an elevation of 67'. Airport codes: ICAO: AYGN and IATA: GUR.

NAC - Gurney Airport (Alotau)
Air Niugini Magazine "Number One Strip Milne Bay" by Robert Piper

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Last Updated
October 23, 2019


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