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13th AF c1943
13th AF August 9, 1943
13th AF October 11, 1943
13th AF November 1943
13th AF Nov 18, 1943
AWM Sept 10, 1945
Kahili Airfield was located near Kahili (Kihili) on southern Bougainville. To the southwest is Lamuai, Jakohina Mission (Buin Mission), Kagua and Kangua Hill (Mount Buin). To the northeast is the Moliko River (Muliko River), Moisuru and the Moisuru Bay. Further to the east is Pupukuna Point, Tonolei Harbor and East Point. Offshore to the southeast are Erventa Island, Popatala Island and Alasina Island.
During the Pacific War part of the Territory of New Guinea in the North Solomons. Postwar between 1975–2002 located in Buin Rural LLG in Bougainville Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG). On June 25, 2002 became part of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB).
During the Pacific War, the Japanese referred to this airfield as "Buin Airfield" code named "RXP". The Allies referred to this airfield as "Kahili Airfield" or "Kahilli Airfield" for the nearby village of the same name. Pronounced "Key-lee" by local people. Postwar, Kara Airfield (Toripoil) remained in use as an airport and became known as "Buin Airport".
During the middle of 1942, this area was occupied by the Japanese. In late August 1942, they began construction of a single 4,700' x 300' runway surfaced with crushed coral and tar. A large rectangular area was located at the southern end of the runway with taxiways off the inland northwest side of the runway and the southeast side inland from the coast.
Used by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) as a forward airfield for fighters and bombers. During the Solomon Islands campaign, this airfield became the primary airfield supporting fighter operations over the southern Solomons then the defense of Bougainville.
On April 6, 1943 during Operation I-Go Allied intelligence observed 114 aircraft at Kahili, when there had only been 40 observed previously. On May 13, 1943 there were 98 fighters and 32 bombers observed. On October 1, 1943 Allied reconnaissance spotted 27 Zero fighters at the airfield, including 7 Val dive bombers.
Japanese units based at Kahili (Buin)
Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) 11th Air Fleet
201 Kōkūtai (201 Air Group) (A6M Zero)
204 Kōkūtai (204 Air Group) (A6M Zeros detachment)
582 Kōkūtai (582 Air Group) (D3A Val, A6M Zero) late January 1943 disbanded August 1943
Hiyō (A6M2 Zero detachment) until December 15, 1942
Ryuhō (A6M2 Zero detachment) July-August 1943
American missions against Kahili (Buin)
October 18, 1942–September 27, 1944
Targeted by Allied bombers and fighters starting in early February 1943 with attacks heightening in September to October 1943 to neutralize the airfield before the U.S. landing at Torokina. Allied missions against Kahili continued until late September 1944. By late 1943, the runway was unservicable. Bypassed, the Japanese garrison began farming to sustain themselves and continued to defend the area until the official surrender of Japan in September 1945.
On September 9, 1945 Australian Army, 2 Corps led by Major E. C. Taylor "Buin Liaison Group" landed at Kahili (Buin) to meet with Japanese representatives to arrange the surrender of the Japanese forces in the area. On September 10, 1945 "storpedoes" filled with supplies were dropped onto the runway at Kahili Airfield by a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Beaufort.
During the middle of September 1945, the Australian Army arrived and supervised the Japanese Prisoners Of War (POWs) working to cleanup the area and wartime materials. Bombs and munitions were collected into a large pile at the southern end of the runway near the shore and later were loaded onto barges and dumped into the sea. At least two tanks were surrendered intact: Type 95 Ha Go Light Tank (No. 1) and Type 95 Ha Go Light Tank (No. 2). On September 28, 1945 both were rigged with explosives by the Australian Army when detonated their turrets were blown off and the interiors demolished.
After the war, Kahili Airfield was never repaired or used as a runway. During late 1945, the Australian Army demobilized the area and disabled the anti-aircraft guns that survived the war by removing their breeches or disabling the gun barrels with explosive charges. Other captured material including
Until the late 1960s, many intact aircraft remained in the airfield area until they were salvaged. Today, there is no trace of the former runway visible from the air or satellite imagery.
A memorial to Australian and Japanese servicemen is located on the overgrown runway.
G4M1 Model 11 Betty Manufacture Number 4698
Abandoned Kahili Airfield
Japanese aircraft removed from Kahili Airfield (Buin)
List of aircraft removed from Kahili Airfield (Buin)
A6M2 Model 21 Zero Manufacture Number 5451 Tail W1-150
Recovered in 1969, several owners and used in restorations
A6M3 Model 22 Zero Manufacture Number 3618 Tail -133
Abandoned at Kahili, salvaged in 1969, AWM sold to Fantasy of Flight
A6M3 Model 32 Zero Manufacture Number 3274 Tail 115?
Abandoned at Kahili, remained in situ until the 1970s fuselage with manufacture number stencil
Osamu Tagaya adds:
"The Japanese sources during the war, when they spoke of 'Buin', they were referring to what the Allies called 'Kahili'. The Japanese report that their 'Buin' was next to a river and the end of the runway faced out to sea. Both Japanese and Allied sources indicate that there was only this one airstrip until Toripoil (Allied Kara, postwar Buin) was built later."
AWM "Account by Lin Leow" describing Prisoner Of War (POW) tortured near Kahili in March 1943
AWM F07334 "Movement of Japanese to Fauro Island" Kahili wreckage September 1945
The Siege of Rabaul (1996) by Henry Sakaida page 89 (footnote 1, Buin Airfield/Kahili)
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