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USAAF February 28, 1943
5th AF March 31, 1944
U. S. Army May 15, 1944
13th AF c1944
Lat 1° 55' 60S Long 139° 1' 0E Wakde Island is located off the north coast of Western New Guinea roughly 225 miles east of Biak Island. Offshore is Insoemanai Island (Insoemar). Prewar and during World War II, located in Dutch New Guinea (DNG) in the Netherlands East Indies (NEI). Today located in Sarmi Regency of Papua Province in Indonesia.
During April 1942, occupied by the Japanese during their occupation of Dutch New Guinea. Developed into an airfield by the Japanese, construction activity was first noted by American reconnaissance aircraft during February 1943 and by June a single coral surfaced runway 5,400' x 390' was constructed. By September, the Japanese had expanded the base further with a radio station and quarters for 1,000 personnel.
By 1944, the Japanese force consisted of 763 defenders had constructed 100 pillboxes and bunkers and used 12 caves defending their positions with armaments from aircraft including 20mm cannons and machine guns. Two Type 95 Ha Go Light tanks from the Japanese Army 36th Division's tank unit were deployed to Wakde.
To neutralize the airfield, American aircraft attacked between early April 1944 until the landing in the middle of May.
American missions against Wakde
April 7, 1944–July 10, 1944
On May 15, 1944 after an unopposed landing at Arara, U. S. Navy (USN) Task Force 77 (TF-77) commanded by RAdm William M. Fechteler, "Operation Straight Line" landed on Wakde Island. The landing force included the US Army 41st Infantry Division, 163rd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) with the 3rd Engineer Special Brigade, 593rd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment (593rd EBSR). After two days of bitter fighting and moping up, the island was declared secured by May 18, 1944. The battle resulted in 40 KIA and 107 WIA Americans. Nearly the entire Japanese force died including 759 KIA. Four Japanese POWs were captured.
By May 31, 1944, two battalions of the 163rd were pulled off Wakde and rushed to Biak, where the other elements of the 41st Division landed four days earlier.
During early June, a small number of Japanese bombers attacked Wakde Airfield. During the night of June 6, 1944 two G4M1 Bettys led by Ens. Isao Sunayama from the 732 Kokutai managed to destroy six parked aircraft and damaged 80 in one of their most successful air raids at this stage of the Pacific War.
Japanese missions against Wakde
June 1-10, 1944
On September 1, 1944, the US Army 33rd Infantry Division, 123rd Regimental Combat Team RCT relieved the 41st Division and defended Wakde Island and the Toem-Sarmi sector until January 26, 1945.
During November 2005, several Japanese researchers, along with Indonesian security apparatus and local people, have found thousands of skeletons of Japanese soldiers inside a cave on Wakde Island. Along with the skeletons, the researchers discovered weapons, military helmets, manual telescopes and other equipment. [Japan Today | Japan Times ]
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