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43rd BG January 5, 1943
5th AF c1943
5th AF c1943
8th PRS May 1943
September 11, 1943
345th BG Oct 12, 1943
RNZAF August 1945
Justin Taylan 2000
Justin Taylan 2006
Lat 152° 8' Long 4° 19' Vunakanau Airfield was located at Vunakanau on the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain. Approximately ten miles to the northeast is Rabaul. Known as "Vunakanau Drome". Known to the Japanese as "Rabaul West", "West Airfield, "Rabaul Upper Airfield" or "Rabaul No. 2". Today located in East New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
Built prewar by the Australian administration as a single unpaved runway with a single building.
World War II Pacific Theatre History
Australian units based at Vunakanau
On January 20, 1942 eight Wirraways attempted to intercept over a hundred Japanese aircraft attacking Rabaul. The defending Wirraways were shot down, damaged or abandoned afterwards. Before the base fell to the Japanese, the CO, Squadron Leader J. M. Lerew sent the message "Nos Morituri Te Salutamus" (Latin: "We who are about to die salute you") to RAAF Headquarters at Melbourne.
On January 22, 1942 last 24 Squadron Hudson loaded with wounded took off from Vunakanau bound for Port Moresby. Afterwards, Vunakanau Airfield was abandoned with several damaged Wirraway abandoned.
Japanese missions against Vunakanau Airfield
During 1942-1943, Vunakanau Airfield was expanded and improvied by the Japanese. As of November 10, 1943 Vunakanau Airfield had two parallel runways 5,100' in length with taxiways and revetments on both sides, including 64 bomber and 81 fighter revetments. Allied intelligence noted defenses including 15 heavy anti-aircraft guns, 14 medium anti-aircraft guns and 12 light machine guns plus three searchlight batteries.
Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) units based at Vunakanau
Allied missions against Vunakanau Airfield
During 1942 until the end of the war, Allied aircraft attacked Vunakanau Airfield bombing raids and low level attacks. On February 14, 1944 the remaining flyable aircraft were evacuated to Truk. Anti-aircraft defenses remained active until the end of the Pacific War.
A6M? Zero Tail Number 322
May 24, 1943
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