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    Tsili Tsili Airfield (Tsile-Tsile, Fabua) Morobe Province Papua New Guinea
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5th AF August 1943

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5th AF c1943

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Salternik May 12, 1944
Location
Tsili Tsili Airfield is located at Tsili Tsili (pronounced Silly-Silly) in New Guinea. Sometimes spelled Tsile-Tsile. The Japanese referred to this area as "Fabua". Today, also known as "Gomorok". To the east is the Watut River and to the southeast is Marilinan (Maralinan). Tsili Tsili is roughly forty miles from Lae.

Prewar and during the Pacific War part of Morobe District in the Territory of New Guinea. Today located in Morobe Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Construction
The area was occupied in the middle of June 1943 and quickly developed into a forward airfield for operations against Lae by the U.S. Army AIr Force (USAAF) 871st Airborne Engineers. The airfield had two intersecting runways. The main runway was 5,000' x 125' oriented SW to NE with an extension of graded dirt. The second runwy was 4,700' x 225' oriented 14/32 northwest to southeast. Both runways were connected by taxiways and hardstands for aircraft dispersal. All supplies, food, fuel and equipment had to be flown into via C-47 Skytrains from Port Moresby. To the southeast was Marilinan Airfield used as an emergency strip and to confuse any Japanese aerial observation about the size of the base and which was the main runway.

Wartime History
On July 26, 1943 the first fighters were based at Tsili-Tsili Airfield. General George C. Kenney wanted the field renamed, as he thought Tsili Tsili was demeaning and of propaganda value if the location was captured. On August 5, 1943 the newly formed Second Air Task Force under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm A. Moore is established at Tsili Tsili Airfield.

On August 11, 1943 a Japanese reconnaissance plane discovers Tsili Tsili Airfield. On August 15, 1943 the Japanese Army Air Force conducts their first air raid with seven Ki-48 Lilys escorted by Ki-43 Oscars. Over Tsili-Tsili area, the Japanese formation is intercepted by P-39 Airacobras escorting C-47s to Tsili-Tsili and the Japanese suffer heavy losses and only manage to inflict minor damage.

Allied units based at Tsili Tsili
U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF)
2nd Air Task Force (2nd ATF) activated August 5, 1943–September 1943
54th TCW, 65th TCS (C-47s) Port Moresby arrives September 18, 1943October 31, 1943 departs Nadzab
35th FG HQ Port Moresby arrives August 15, 1943
35th FG 40th FS (P-39) 12 Mile arrives August 14, 1943–October 1943 departs Nadzab
35th FG, 41st FS (P-39) 7-Mile arrives August 14, 1943–October 22, 1943 departs Nadzab
49th FG, 8th FS (P-40) Dobodura 4 arrives August 30, 1943–October 29, 1943 departs Gusap
433rd TCG (C-47s) June 2, 1944 Nadzab
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
24 Squadron (Vengeance) November 1943–?
4 Squadron (Boomerang) September 1943–January 1944 departs Gusap

Walter Seale from the 871st Airborne Engineer Battalion adds:
"A lot of cripples landed at Tsilli-Tsilli and later Gusap. They were either low on fuel or shot-up and couldn't be sure of getting home safely. We also mowed a fake runway nearby to confuse the Japanese to make them think the base was bigger than it actually was."

Japanese missions against Tsili Tsili
August 15, 1943–September 13, 1943

Today
The airfield has been abandoned since the war. Until the early 1970s there were several wrecks at the strip, four P-39s and a P-40 abandoned there.  Three aircraft were recovered by Monty Armstrong and Charles Darby in 1973 for Yesterday's Air Force.

Richard Leahy adds:
"Tsili Tsili strip is still there although probably in need of mowing. I have carried out a lot of work to and from Tsili Tsili over the last forty years."

P-40N Warhawk Serial Number 42-104961
Recovered in September 1973, exported to USA

P-39N Airacobra Serial Number 42-18408
Recovered in September 1973, exported to USA at Chino, CA in 1988

P-39Q Airacobra Serial Number 42-18403
Recovered in September 1973, exported to USA

P-39N Airacobra Serial Number 42-18811
Recovered in September 1973, exported to USA

P-39K Airacobra Serial Number 42-4351
Abandoned off the eastern end of runway, parts recovered September 1973

P-39 Airacobra
Serial number unknown, recovered September 1973 to USA

References
4 Kokugun Takes Charge by Richard Dunn page 10
Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional information

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Last Updated
April 19, 2021

 

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