|Missing In Action (MIA)||Prisoners Of War (POW)||Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)|
|Chronology||Locations||Aircraft||Ships||Submit Info||How You Can Help||Donate|
IJN February 1942
Hajime Yoshida c1942
IJN February 8, 1943
IJN April 1943
345th BG Nov 2, 1943
3rd BG c1943
8th PRS c1943
Nippon News Jan 16, 1944
Ray Fairfield 1966
David Paulley 1982
John Douglas 1991
Justin Taylan 2000
Lakunai Airfield is located to the south of Rabaul on the Gazelle Peninsula at the northeast tip of New Britain. To the north is Sulpher Creek and beyond Rabaul. To the east is Matupi Harbor and further to the east is Tavurvur (Matupi Tavurvur). To the west is Simpson Harbor and to the south is Matupi Island. Also known as "Lakunai Airfield", "Lakunai Drome", "Lakunai Airdrome", "East Airfield", "Rabinjikku" (Rabaul Lower) or "Rabaul No. 1". Today located in East New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Built prewar by the Australian administration as a single runway 4,700' in length, surfaced with sand and volcanic ash for use by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and civilian aircraft.
On January 23, 1942 occupied by the Japanese during the invasion of Rabaul. Immediately, the 7th Construction Unit began working to expand and improve the airfield. Know by the Japanese as Rabinjikku (Rabaul lower).
By the end of January 1942 two groups of A5M4 Claude fighters arrived to provide combat air patrols. Lakunai was expanded with revetments to the north and south of the strip, and taxiways with Tetsuban (landing mat). Volcanic ash from Tavurvur often coated the area with a layer of ash. This airfield was the primary Japanese fighter airstrip at Rabaul until Rapopo Airfield and Tobera Airfield were constructed.
The base had a large compliment of anti-aircraft guns around the strip, and supported by guns emplaced around the airfield and at nearby Matupi Island to the south, and the ridge line at Sulphur Creek to the north. The aerodrome was primarily used by the Japanese Navy. During early 1943, Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) aircraft were also based at this location until August 1943 when most were transferred to Wewak.
Japanese Naval (IJN) units based at Lakunai
Chitose Kokutai / 4th Kokutai (A5M4, A6M2) January 31, 1942–February 10, 1942
2nd Kokutai (A6M3 and D3A1) delivered Yawata Maru (Unyō) August 6-22, 1942 Buna / November 1942 Lae
Tainan Kokutai (A6M2) April 1942 - November 1942 also Vunakanau
6th Kokutai (A6M2 Zero) Japan via Truk September 1942
501st Kokutai (D4Y Judy) Japan via Truk October 1943
Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) units based at Lakunai
11th Sentai (57 x Ki-43) from Burma via Truk December 18, 1943
1st Sentai (Ki-43) Truk January 9, 1943
68th Sentai (Ki-61) Truk April 1943
78th Sentai (Ki-61) Truk June 1943
81st Sentai (Ki-46 and Ki-21) 1943
Starting in early 1942, Lakunai was bombed by Allied bombers. Used by the Japanese as an airfield until the remaining aircraft were withdrawn to Truk during February 1944. Afterwards, anti-aircraft defenses remained active at Lakunai until the end of the war. By the end of the war, hundreds of bombing missions were flown against the airfield. At the end of the war, Lakunai Airfield was littered with wrecked aircraft.
American missions against Lakunai
On November 1, 1945, USMC PBJ Mitchell 35214 took off from Manus and landed at Lakunai Airfield, the first Allied aircraft to land at on the runway since the start of the Pacific War. On October 30, 1945 a RAAF Dakota landed on with a mail for Australian servicemen. Lakunai Airfield was fully returned to service by late 1945, and briefly based RAAF 8 Squadron Beauforts.
During 1945 until 1994, Lakunai Airfield was used as the main airport for Rabaul. During 1994, the volcanic eruption covered the airport and runway with ash, covering the buildings and rendering the airport unservicable. In anticipation of this, Tokua Airport (New Rabaul Airport) at Tokua was placed into service as the new airport servicing the Rabaul area.
March 18, 1943
View in Google Earth
|Discussion Forum||Daily Updates||Reviews||Museums||Interviews & Oral Histories|