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38th BG c1942-1943
USAAF June 1943
USN August 14, 1943
USN September 1943
Wartime, date unknown
Wartime, date unknown
Dennis Letourneau 1999
Justin Taylan 2003
Justin Taylan 2006
USN August 1943
USN September 1943
USN November 30, 1943
Justin Taylan Sept 2003
Munda Airfield is located at Munda (Munda Point) on the southern coast of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. Overlooking the area is Kokenggololo Hill. Also known as "Munda Field" or "Munda Point Airfield". By air, Munda Airfield is roughly 150 miles from Guadalcanal to the southeast. Prewar and during the Pacific War part of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP). Still in use today as Munda Airport in Western Province in the Solomon Islands.
In 1902, the Methodist church established a mission at Munda Point and developed the area into a coconut plantation harvesting copra.
During late 1942, the Japanese planned to build an airfield at Munda Point. By the middle of November 1942 the Japanese began construction of a single runway at this location with a emphasis on keeping the construction hidden. To avoid detection from the air, the Japanese wired the tops of the coconut palm trees to keep them in place, allowing work to initially escape. Finally, the coconut palm tree trunks were cut down and the runway surfaced with crushed coral.
Despite their hide the construction efforts, reports of the airfield constructed were relayed by coastwatcher Donald Kennedy to the Americans on Guadalcanal. Afterwards, aerial reconnaissance spotted increased barge traffic and evidence of crushed coral being prepared, but the Japanese succeeded in buying enough time to complete a runway long enough for fighters by December 1, 1942.
By December 17, 1942 the single runway was completed and measured 3,282' x 132' (1094 yards x 44 yards) suitable for all weather use. Afterwards, a 1,500' runway extension to allow bombers to land was added and construction began of a satellite airfield at Vila Airfield on Kolombangara Island.
During December 1942 until the middle of 1943, used by both the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and later by the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) as a forward operating base for fighters and bombers.
Once operational, the airfield was hampered by observation by two coastwatchers and their Solomon Scouts operating in the area: Donald Kennedy near Segi and D.C. Horton on Rendova Island. Immediately, heavy U.S. bombing and strafing missions commenced to quickly neutralize the airfield.
Allied missions against Munda Airfield
December 2, 1942–August 1, 1943
Between December 22-25, 1942 the first fighters to arrive at Munda Airfield were A6M Zeros from the 252 Kokutai. Immediately, they were attacked by American aircraft and neutralized. On December 29, 1942, the surviving Zero pilots were evacuated aboard four G4M1 Bettys escorted by nine Zeros back to Rabaul.
Afterwards, Munda Airfield, continued to be used as a forward airfield for planes to refuel and rearm but no units were permanently based at this location. Afterwards, used by A6M Zeros from the 204 Kokutai and 582 Kokutai. Also, Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) Ki-48 Lilys from the 45th Sentai and Ki-43 Oscars from the 11th Sentai.
Japanese units based at Munda
252 Kokutai (A6M Zero detachment) Rabaul December 23-29, 1942 Rabaul
204 Kokutai (A6M Zero detachment)
582 Kokutai (A6M Zero detachment)
45th Sentai (Ki-48 Lily)
11th Sentai (Ki-43-I Oscar)
Despite the bombing raids, the Japanese managed to maintain the airfield for limited flight operations, likely limited to liaison and transport flights. Until at least March 1943 when natives loyal to the coastwatcher heard engines warming up and reconnaissance aircraft observed aircraft parked on the ground.
Damaged Japanese aircraft returning from combat missions in the Solomons continued to make emergency landings at Munda until it fell to the Americans, including a Ki-21 Sally that crash landed after bombing nearby American forces.
Munda Airfield Battlefield
Munda Airfield was the Allied objective of the New Georgia campaign. Between late July 1943 until early August 1943, U.S. Army XIV Corps advanced from the west towards Munda Airfield against strong Japanese resistance. On August 1, 1943 the first soldiers from the U.S. Army 43rd Infantry Division, 169th Infantry Regiment reach the outer taxiways. On August 5, 1943 the high ground, Kokenggololo Hill was captured. Sporadic Japanese shelling from Mbanga Island (Baanga) continued targeted the airfield area until August 19, 1943.
Japanese aircraft captured at Munda
By early August 1943 Munda Airfield was secured and many Japanese aircraft wrecks were captured by American forces. Several were removed for study and others were abandoned and picked over by American personnel for souvenirs. Others were buried to fill bomb craters when the airfield was repaired and expanded.
American forces immediately began repairing and expanded the airfield. On August 13, 1943 P-40 Warhawks from the 44th Fighter Squadron (44th FS) patrolling over the Munda area ran short on fuel and became the first Allied planes to land at Munda Airfield at 9:00am to refuel and afterwards flew a fighter sweep over Kolombangara, the first American combat mission flown from Munda Airfield.
On August 14, 1943 the control tower atop Kokengola Hill (Kokenggolol) went into operation. Three American aircraft known to have landed at Munda that day included VMF-215 F4U Corsair piloted by Robert Owen, a P-40 Warhawk from the 44th Fighter Squadron and J2F Duck with Brig General J. P. Mulcahy aboard as a passenger. The control tower went into operation that same day atop Kokengola Hill (Kokenggolol).
On August 15, 1943 Commander Air (COMAIR), New Georgia begins operating from Munda Point under the command of by Major General Francis P. Mulcahy, USMC.
After the Allied landing, Japanese aircraft attempted to bomb the Munda area but failed to inflict major damage or stop Munda Airfield from being repaired.
Japanese missions against Munda Airfield
July 2, 1943–July 4, 1943
On September 11, 1943 VMF-212 War Diary pages 5-6 notes the condition of Munda Airfield:
"Munda, very clearly, shows the effects of our six months pounded by bombs and shells. Only stumps or overturned roots show where many coconut trees once stood. Craters, wrecked planes and other vehicles and other debree [sic debris] of all kind cover the landscape. It is hard to see how anyone could survive such a world of destruction."
Afterwards, Munda Airfield became an important based for American aircraft from the U.S. Navy (USN), U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) 13th Air Force attacking targets in the Northern Solomons and beyond for the remainder of the Solomon Islands campaign. Munda Airfield was designated U.S. Army APO 717.
American units based at Munda
Partial list only, know of others? Email me
VC-24 (SBD x 24) November 1943
VF-38 (F6F) September 1943
CASU-14 (Carrier Aircraft Service Unit 14)
VB-98 (SBD) 1944
VB-148 (PV-1) ?–April 1944
VB-140 (PV-1) Russells arrives April 1944
VB-104 (PB4Y-1) Carney arrives Oct/Nov 1943 - April 1944 departs USA
VB-148 (PV-1) Renard arrives April 3, 1944–May 21, 1944 departs Emirau
ComAir New Georgia
VMSB-236 (SBD) Henderson arrives Nov 25, 1943–? Green Island
VMF-212 (F4U) Espiritu Santo arrives August 1943–October 20, 1943 departs Barakoma
VMF-213 (F4U) Henderson arrives August 14, 1943–November 28, 1943 departs USA
VMF-214 (F4U) arrives September 7, 1943
VMF-215 (F4U) Guadalcanal arrives September 1943–? departs Barakoma
MABS-1 from Ondonga arrives May 26, 1944 - May 1945 departs Peleliu
VMTB-143 (TBF) Henderson Field arrives ?–June 1944 departs USA
VMTB-232 (TBF) 1944
VMSB-144 (SBD) Efate arrives October 15, 1943–November 22, 1943 departs Efate
VMSB-341 (SBD) 1944
VMTB-143 (TBF) 1944
USAAF 13th AF
4th PRG, 17th PRS (F-5 detachment) Fighter 2 arrives October 13, 1943–January 31, 1944 departs Fighter 2
347th FG, 67th FS (P-39 detachment) Woodlark arrives Oct 28, 1943, 1944–Jan 23, 1944 departs Russells
4th PRG, 17th PRS (F-5s detachment) Fighter 2 arrives March 9, 1944–April 1, 1944 departs Fighter 2
5th BG, HQ (B-24) Guadalcanal arrives February 4, 1944–April 7, 1944 departs Momote
5th BG, 72nd BS (B-24) Espiritu Santo arrives January 9, 1944–April 15, 44 departs Momote
5th BG, 23rd BS (B-24) Espiritu Santo arrives January 3, 1944–April 16, 44 departs Momote
5th BG, 31st BS (B-24) Carney arrives February 2, 1944–April 1944
5th BG 394th BS (B-24 Snoopers) Carney arrives February 24, 1944–April 9, 1944 departs Carney
7th BG, 31st BS (B-24) March 13, 1944 departs Carney
307th BG, HQ Carney arrives January 28, 1944 - ?
307th BG. 370th BS (B-24) Carney arrives Nov 1943–May 13, 1944 departs Los Negros
307th BG, 371st BS (B-24) Carney arrives Nov 1943–May 13, 1944 departs Los Negros
307th BG, 372d BS (B-24) Carney arrives Nov 1943–May 13, 1944 departs Los Negros
307th BG, 424th BS (B-24) Carney arrives Nov 1943–Feb 15, 1944 departs Carney
13th AF, 868th BS (SB-24 Snooper) arrives January 1, 1944–March 20, 1944 departs Momote
By July 1945, the airstrip was 8,000' x 300'. the airfield was still in use, with limited accommodations for transient and emergency landings plus minor repair facilities. Munda Airfield maintained fuel and oil by truck delivery.
A large barn shaped structure that was the mess hall for Munda Airfield, used by both U.S. Navy and U.S. Army personnel.
Munda Airport is still in use today. Serviced by Solomon Airlines with daily domestic flights from Honiara Airport (Henderson Field). During the 2000s, the runway was upgraded and expanded to accommodate larger aircraft including a USD 9.6 million grant from the New Zealand government as part of US$35 million development fund for tourism and fishing in the Western Province.
On March 26, 2019 the first Solomon Airlines Airbus A320 landed at Munda Airport to prepare for the inauguration of international service with weekly flights from Brisbane Airport to Munda Airport.
NARA VMF-212 War Diary September 1943 pages 5-6
13th Fighter Command in World War II page 199
Radio New Zealand "International flights are go for Solomons' Munda airport" March 26, 2019
January 8, 1943
November 15, 1943
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