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Piva Airfield
Piva, Bougainville Island
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates Latitude:
Built 1943-4
Built by Seebees
Marsden Matting over sand
In use 1944-88
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
United States Marine Corps
Royal New Zealand Air Force
Battles/wars Bougainville Campaign

Piva Airfield is a former World War II airfield on Bougainville Island in the Solomon Islands archipelago.

History[edit | edit source]

World War II[edit | edit source]

The 3rd Marine Division landed on Bougainville on 1 November 1943 at the start of the Bougainville Campaign, establishing a beachhead around Cape Torokina. Small detachments of the 25th, 53rd, 71st and 75th Naval Construction Battalions landed with the Marines and the 71st Battalion was tasked with establishing a small fighter airfield that would become Torokina Airfield.[1]

On 26 November 1943 the 36th Naval Construction Battalion arrived on Bouganville and on 29 November they started work on a 8,000 feet (2,400 m) by 30 feet (9.1 m) bomber strip.[2] The first plane landed on the bomber strip on 19 December and it was put into operation on 30 December, after several weeks of operation it was extended by an additional 2,000 feet (610 m). The 71st Battalion built three taxiways with 35 hardstands, a shop area, seven nose hangars, three prefabricated steel huts, and 26 frame buildings. Aviation camps consisted of a 5,000-man camp for Marine Air Group 24. The 77th Battalion arrived on Bougainville on 10 December 1943 and began constructing a fighter airfield parallel to the bomber field. The airfield was completed on 3 January and the first plane landed on 9 January. Several weeks later, the 77th Battalion was instructed to extend the strip by 2,000 feet (610 m). Both airfields were connected by taxiways and shared fuel tank farms and other facilities. The construction of the airfields frequently took place under Japanese harassing fire as the US forces never sought to occupy the entire island.[3]

The bomber airfield became known as Piva 1, Piva North Airfield, Piva Uncle Airfield or Piva Bomber Strip while the fighter airfield became known as Piva 2, Piva South Airfield, Piva Yoke Airfield or Piva Fighter Strip.

SBDs of VC-40 sortie from Piva Uncle Airfield for a strike on Rabaul, 6 April 1944

F4Us of VF-17 at Piva, February 1944

US Navy units based at Piva included:

USMC units based at Piva included:

RAAF units based at Piva included:

RAAF Boomerang with RNZAF Corsairs at Piva in January 1945

RNZAF units based at Piva included:

On 30 January 1944 an F4U of VF-17 collided with an FG1 of VMF-211 over Piva Bomber Strip, both planes were destroyed and both pilots killed.[8]

On 8 March 1944 Japanese artillery opened up on Piva Airfield and destroyed one B-24 Liberator and three fighters and damaged nineteen other aircraft.

By early 1945 base roll-up and salvage operations had commenced and were completed by the end of June 1945.[9]

Postwar[edit | edit source]

The bomber airfield remains usable, while the fighter airfield is completely overgrown with vegetation.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Building the Navy's Bases in World War II History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineer Corps 1940-1946. US Government Printing Office. 1947. p. 268. 
  2. Bases, p.270
  3. Bases, p.272
  4. Ross, John (1955). Royal New Zealand Air Force. Historical Publications Branch. p. 273. ISBN 0898391873. 
  5. Ross, p.273
  6. Ross, p.272
  7. Ross, p.314
  8. "ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 77779". Aviation Safety Network. http://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=77779. Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  9. Bases, p.274

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