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    Turnbull Field (No. 3 Strip) Milne Bay Province Papua New Guinea (PNG)
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Norbert C. Ruff
January 6, 1943

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Norbert C. Ruff
January 17, 1943

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5th AF March 7, 1943

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5th AF Association 1990

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Richard E. Smith 1943

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5th AF Association 1990
Location
Turnbull Field was located at an elevation of 100' above sea level in eastern New Guinea. To the east borders Swinger Bay (also known as Stringer Bay) inside Milne Bay. To the west is of Gili Gili. During 1942 known as "No. 3 Strip". Also known as Gil Gili Airfield for nearby Gili Gili. On September 14, 1942 renamed Turnbull Field. Also known as Turnbull Airfield. Prewar and during the Pacific War, located in the Eastern District in Territory of Papua. Today located in Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

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

Construction
This airfield was under construction during the Battle of Milne Bay. a single runway was built running roughly east to west into Milne Bay. During its early days of operation, the strip was made of 5,000' of Marston Matting / Pierced Steel Plank (PSP).

Wartime History
In the middle of 1942, No. 3 Strip was defended by the Australian Army A Coy (25th Battalion), 61st Battalion and U.S. Army 43rd Engineers. A defense in depth was created at the runway with barbed wire strung across the runway with half tracks, guns and mortars emplaced on the far side.

Starting in early August 1942, Turnbull Field was targeted by Japanese air raids by bombers and strafing fighters.

Japanese missions against No. 3 Strip (Turnbull) and Milne Bay
August 4, 1942–August 9, 1943

Battle of Milne Bay
On August 30, 1942 during the night Imperial Japanese Navy 5th Kure Special Navy Landing Force (5th Kure SNLF) advanced from the east and attack No. 3 Strip but suffer heavy losses from the strong Allied defenses. On August 31, 1942 at dawn the surviving Japanese retreat eastward.

Naming Honor
On September 14, 1942 No. 3 Strip was officially renamed Turnbull Field in honor of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Squadron Leader Peter Turnbull pilot P-40E Kittyhawk A29-92 Killed In Action (KIA) August 27, 1942 near Milne Bay.

On January 17, 1943 at 12:40pm Japanese air raid by twenty-four G4M1 Bettys escorted by 20 A6M Zeros bombed Turnbull Field dropped between 230-250 x 100 kg bombs. Destroyed on the ground are B-17F "Fire Ball Mail" 41-24551, B-17F 41-24540, B-17E 41-2639, P-39D 41-38499, P-39D 41-????, B-24D "Aincha Sorry" 41-23824 plus two C-47s. Also destroyed are six vehicles and six fuel dumps. Damaged are Hudson A16-185, Hudson A16-206 and Hudson A16-239 (destroyed three days later in another air raid). No one is killed, but eight are wounded in 49th Service Squadron.

U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) units based at Turnbull (No. 3 Strip)
8th FG, 35th FS (P-40)
8th FG, 36th FS (P-39) Garbutt Field Sept 18, 42 - Feb 22, 43 Mareeba
8th FG, 80th FS (P-39) 12 Mile arrives November 8, 1942February 23, 1943 departs Mareeba
43rd BG, 403rd BS (B-17) Iron Range arrives November 23, 1942–January 21, 1943 departs Mareeba
418th NFS (P-38, P-70) USA arrives November 2, 1943November 22, 1943 departs Dobodura
71st TRG, 82nd TRS (B-25, P-39) USA 11-6 - 11 23 43 Dobodura
421st NFS (P-70) from USA Jan 4 - Feb 1, 1944 Nadzab
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) units based at Turnbull (No. 3 Strip)
No. 6 Squadron (Hudson) Ward Drome December 14, 1942 - November 26, 1943 Vivigani

Today
Disused since the war, only the former runway area remains visible.

Japanese Mass Grave Marker
After the August 31, 1942 battle, two privates erected a simple sign on Japanese mass grave at the edge of the strip. Originally the sign read:

This marks the westernmost point of the Japanese advance
August 1942
85 Unknown Japanese Marines Lie Buried Here

The monument became a popular spot for photos to be taken. In May 1944 a permanent plaque was established.

Turnbull Field Monument
A metal plaque was placed at the airfield telling the history of Sqn Ldr Peter Turnbull, erected by donations from family and veterans, and propeller donated by the RAAF.


You are standing on the eastern side of
what was in 1942 No. 3 Airstrip later named
Turnbull Field
In Honor of Sqn Ldr Peter St George Turnbull, D. F. C.
C. O. of No 76 Squadron
Born Armidale NSW 9-2-1917
Killed in Action 27-9-1942 during a strafing
run on enemy near Sandersons Bay
To Strive - To Seek - To Find
Not To Yield
Erected by donations from family, veterans
and those who remember
Propeller donated by R.A.A.F.


References
Milne Bay 1942 (1992) includes No. 3 Strip / Turnbull Field pages 129 (map Base Area)

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Last Updated
April 19, 2021

 

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