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    Tadji Airfield (Aitape, Korako) West Sepik Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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3rd BG Feb 13, 1944

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USAAF April 22, 1944

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8th PRS April 30, 1944

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375th TCG May 4, 1944

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RAAF circa Jan. 1945

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Mines April 7, 1973

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Justin Taylan 2003
Location
Lat 3° 11' 23S Long 142° 25' 47E  Tadji Airfield is located at an elevation of 26' / 8m above sea level near Tadji in a sago swamp area inland from the north coast of New Guinea. To the west is Aitape. To the northeast is Korako village and Lemieng village and due north on the coast is Pro Mission and Pro village and Pro Mission. Immediately to the west is the Waitanan Creek. Also known as Tadji Drome or Tadji Dromes (plural) when there were two parallel runways. Sometimes referred to as Aitape or Korako for the nearby town and village of the same names.

Between 1884 until September 1914 part of Deutsch Neu Guinea (German New Guinea). Prewar and during the Pacific War located in the Territory of New Guinea. Still in use today as Tadji Airport located in the Aitape-Lumi District of West Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Construction
Prior to development, this area was flat covered with kunai grass. During early 1943 occupied by the Japanese Army and two parallel runways surfaced with crushed coral were built at this location. Labor from nearby villages was used in the construction. A smaller fighter strip was built nearer to the coast and a larger bomber strip with dispersal areas further inland.

World War II Pacific Theatre History
The Japanese called this location Aitape Airfield for nearby Aitape. When detected, the Allies known as Tadji Airfield for nearby. Tadji. Also known as Tadji Dromes (plural) for the two runways. Briefly, the fighter strip further to the north was sometimes referred to as Korako Airfield for nearby Korako.

During 1943 until early 1944, used by Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) fighter and bomber aircraft. This airfield was primarily a satellite field and staging area to dispersal Japanese aircraft from surrounding airfields at Hollandia to the west and Wewak area to the east.

Japanese units based at Tadji
248th Hiko Sentai (Ki-43-II) Wewak arrives February 15, 1944–April 1944 disbands

By late 1943, the airfield was detected by the Allies and targeted. Starting on August 17, 1943 targeted by Allied bombers and later fighters that neutralized the airfield as part of the campaign against Wewak in preparation for the American landings at Hollandia and Aitape on April 22, 1944.

American missions against Tadji
August 17, 1943–April 21, 1944

On April 22, 1944 the U.S. Army 32nd Infantry Division (32nd ID), 163rd Infantry Regiment (163rd IR) landed on the north coast and advanced eastward and westward along the beach then inland to occupy Tadji Airfield. Afterwards, it was repaired and expanded for Allied by both American and Australian aircraft.

After the liberation of Tadji Airfield, Australian Army engineers from the 5th RAAF Mobile Works Squadron began immediate repairs to the north runway (fighter strip). Two days later on April 24, 1944 this runway was operational and several P-40 Kittyhawks from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) 76 Squadron began using the airfield for patrols over the Hollandia area.

Keith W. Bryant, VX 85794 AIF 7th Mechanical Equipment Co. A.I.F:
"At Aitape, and I graded roads and the Tadji Airfield whilst there. I was also on the beach pulling LCT's into the sand so that they could be unloaded. Afterwards, we had to drag them in as the Tide came higher, and of course let them out again as the tide receded, I became friendly with some of the native boys in the crews there also."

Allied units based at Tadji Airfield
U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF)
433rd TCG, 65th TCS (C-47 det) Nadzab arrives May 3, 1944–June 1944
433rd TCG, 66th TCS (C-47 det) Nadzab arrives May 12, 1944–June 1944
433rd TCG, 68th TCS (C-47 det) Nadzab arrives May 12, 1944–June 4, 1944 departs Nadzab
71st TRG, 110th TRS (P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacobra) Gusap arrives May 25, 1944–Sept 11, 1944 departs Biak
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
No. 78 Squadron (P-40N Kittyhawk) Cape Gloucester arrives April 25, 1944–May 1944 Hollandia
No. 100 Squadron (Beaufort) Nadzab departs July 1944–March 1946 departs Finschafen
12 RSU 1944-1945
5th Mobile Works Squadron

The airfield was used by American and Australian aircraft. The northern runway was used as a crash strip, and the southern used as the main runway. RAAF No 12 RSU was based in the center of the airfield, between the two runways to salvage and repair crashed aircraft.

As American units moved onwards, several squadrons of RAAF Beauforts remained at Tadji, using the base to stage bombing missions against Japanese positions in the Wewak area until the end of the war. On August 15, 1945 from Tadji Airfield, RAAF Beauforts from No 100 Squadron flew the last bombing mission of the Pacific War in New Guinea only an hour before the announcement of the official surrender of Japan that ended hostilities.

Aircraft wreckage abandoned at Tadji Airfield
List of Allied aircraft abandoned and salvaged from Tadji Airfield

Postwar
In the early 1970's a six-week recovery operation by Charles Darby and Monty Armstrong funded by American David Tallichet / Yesterday's Air Force (YAF) removed a dozen of the most complete aircraft, including six P-40's, frames of Anson, Beauforts, and Tiger Moth UV-Q.

Today
Still in use today as Tadji Airport. Airport code: IATA: ATP. The runway is still surfaced with U.S. Army Marston Mat / Pierced Steel Planking (PSP) one of only two airfields in Papua New Guinea still surfaced with marston matting.

The northern runway (crash strip) is overgrown since the war, but taxiways and the runway are still clearly visible. Reportedly, a few Japanese wrecks that remain in the vicinity, but have not been photographed.

References
The Journal of Pacific History "A Bomb Or A Bullet Or The Bloody Flux?: Population Change in the Aitape Inland Papua New Guinea, 1941-1945" by Bryant Allen February 1983 Vol. 18, No. 4 (October 1983) pages 218-235
"The Japanese were building an airstrip there [Tadji Airfield] and appear to have employed mainly people from inland villages nearest to Tadji. When dysentery appeared among those workers the Japanese ordered them home, so it is probable that when a more severe form appeared at Tadji, workers were also ordered to disperse and in doing so carried the disease directly into their home villages from where it spread east and west along the ranges."
248th Hiko Sentai, page 3 by Richard Dunn
"After this raid [February 15, 1944] the Japanese fighter units withdrew all their flyable aircraft to rear bases to carry out maintenance and recover their operational strength. 248th [Hiko Sentai] went to Aitape (called Tadji by the Allies)"
PNG Attitude "The story how Aitape War Museum lost aircraft worth millions" by Rob Parer June 24, 2016
South Pacific Air War (2024) page 487
Thanks to Charles Darby, Monty Armstrong and Neville Mines for additional information

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Last Updated
April 16, 2024

 

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