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    Gurney Field (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 Field is located at 67' above sea level near Ladava at the eastern tip of New Guinea, two miles inland from Milne Bay. Prewar and during World War II located in the Territory of Papua. During World War II, known as No. 1 Strip and code named Fall River until renamed Gurney Field in the middle of September 1942. Also known as Gurney Airfield. Still in use today as Gurney Airport (Alotau) in Milne Bay Province (MBP) in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Also known as Milne Bay Airport for nearby Milne Bay or Gili Gili Airport for nearby Gili Gili.

This area was owned by Lever Brothers and planted with coconut palm trees to harvest copra.

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 including only two graders, several dump trucks, a power shovel and some bulldozers. When completed, this runway became the first airfield built in the Milne Bay area.

On August 7, 1942 a test landing was performed by B-26 "Martin's Miscarriage" 40-1411 pilot Capitan Winfred O. Craft and found the runway suitable 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.

Wartime History
No. 1 Strip was 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 airfield 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."

During 1942–1943 attacked by Japanese aircraft that destroyed several parked aircraft and damaged the airfield.

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

Naming Honor
On September 14, 1942 renamed "Gurney Field" in honor of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Squadron Leader Charles R. Gurney co-pilot B-26 Marauder 40-1426 Killed In Action (KIA) May 2, 1942.

Allied units based at Gurney Field (No. 1 Strip)
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
No. 75 Squadron (P-40E Kittyhawk) 7 Mile Drome arrives July 1942–September 1943 departs Vivigani
No. 76 Squadron (P-40E Kittyhawk)
No. 32 Squadron (Hudson) August 5, 1942
No. 100 Squadron (Beaufort) November 5, 1943 departs Vivigani
10 RSU

LB-30 "Yard Bird" Serial Number AL515
Pilot Eaton force landed August 20, 1942 and destroyed August 24, 1942 during Japanese 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.

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

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."
Air Niugini Magazine "Number One Strip Milne Bay" by Robert Piper
Milne Bay 1942 (1992) includes No. 1 Strip / Fall River / Gurney Field pages 109 (map), 128 (map Gili Gili)
NAC - Gurney Airport (Alotau)

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Last Updated
March 25, 2022


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