by Jack McKillop
New Guinea (5°S, 141°E) is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 303,470-square-miles (786,000-square-kilometers). Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies east of the Malay Archipelago and north of Australia.
A central east-west mountain range dominates the geography of New Guinea, over 1,000-miles (1,600-kilometers) in total length. The western half of the island contains the highest mountains in Oceania, rising up to 16,024-feet (4,884-meters) high, and ensuring a steady supply of rain from the equatorial atmosphere. The tree line is around 13,100-feet (4,000-meters) elevation and the tallest peaks contain permanent equatorial glaciers. Various other smaller mountain ranges occur both north and west of the central ranges. Except in high elevations, most areas possess a warm humid climate throughout the year, with some seasonal variation associated with the northeast monsoon season. Another major habitat feature is the vast southern and northern lowlands. Stretching for hundreds of miles (kilometers), these include lowland rainforests, extensive wetlands, savanna grasslands, and some of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in the world.
The first European to visit the island was a Portuguese explorer who saw the western tip of New Guinea and named it Ilhas dos Papuas (Island of the Fuzzy Hair). In 1545 a Spanish explorer sailed along the north coast of New Guinea as far as the Mamberamo River in what is now Indonesia. He landed on an island and named it Nueva Guinea. The first map showing the whole island (as an island) was published in 1600 and shows it as Nova Guinea. In 1606 a Spanish navigator explored the southern coast. His expedition reached the western part of the island in present-day Indonesia, and he claimed the territory for the King of Spain.
The first European settlement, Fort Coronation, was founded by the British in 1793 on Doreri Bay (now Manokwari, Indonesia). On 24 August 1828, the Dutch formally claimed the western half of the island as Netherlands New Guinea, part of the Netherlands East Indies. In 1883, following a short-lived French annexation of New Ireland Island in the Bismarck Archipelago, the British colony of Queensland (Australia) annexed southeastern New Guinea. However, the Queensland government's superiors in the United Kingdom revoked the claim, and (formally) assumed direct responsibility in 1884, when the partition of New Guinea was agreed to by Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. along the 141st meridian. On 3 November 1884, Germany proclaimed a protectorate over northeastern New Guinea and this was administered by the German New Guinea Company between 17 May 1885 and 1899. In 1886, the British colony of New Guinea was established.
The first Dutch government posts were established in 1898 and 1902. The British, Dutch and Germans tried to suppress warfare and headhunting, which was once common between the villages of the populace.
In 1905 the British government renamed their territory in the southeastern part of the island as the Territory of Papua, and on 1 September 1906 transferred total responsibility for it to Australia. On 11 November 1914, during World War I, Australian forces seized German New Guinea, which in 1920 became the Territory of New Guinea, a League of Nations mandated territory of Australia. The Australian territories became collectively known as The Territories of Papua and New Guinea (until February 1942). Thus, on 7 December 1941, the island of New Guinea was split between:
The Australians evacuated Lae in North East New Guinea on 24 January 1942 and the first Japanese landings on the island occurred on 7 March 1942 at Lae (6°43' 25"S, 146°59' 27"E) and Salamaua (7°03' 23"S, 147°02' 53"E). This was followed with landings in Dutch New Guinea at Fakfak (2°55' 33"S, 132°17' 43"E) on 1 April 1942.
After World War II, the Dutch attempted to resume control over the western half of the island however, two days after the surrender of Japan in August 1945, independence from the Netherlands was declared resulting in an armed and diplomatic struggle which ended in December 1949, when in the face of international pressure, the Dutch formally recognized Indonesian independence of most lands in the Netherlands East Indies. One exception was Dutch New Guinea which the Dutch retained. Indonesia attempted to invade the region on 18 December 1961. Following some skirmishes between Dutch and Indonesian forces, an agreement was reached and the territory was placed under United Nations administration in October 1962 and New Guinea was transferred to Indonesia in May 1963
The two eastern territories under Australian control, the Territory of New Guinea and the Territory of Papua, were combined into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, which later was simply referred to as "Papua New Guinea." The administration of Papua became open to United Nations oversight and a peaceful independence from Australia occurred on 16 September 1975 and Papua New Guinea was admitted to membership in the United Nations on 10 October 1975.
The U.S. Navy built 14 naval advance bases on New Guinea and surrounding islands during World War II, five in Dutch New Guinea and nine in North East New Guinea and Papua.
Aitape, Naval Advance Base
Aitape, North East New Guinea (3°9' 14"S, 142°21' 50"E) is about 93-miles (150-kilometers) west of Wewak, North East New Guinea (3°34' 47"S, 143°38' 51"E) and about 122-miles (196-kilometers) east-southeast of Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea (now Jayapura, Indonesia) (q.v.). The area was seized by the Japanese in December 1942 and the Japanese Army built Tadji Airfield (3°11'S, 142°25'E) located about 4-miles (6.4-kilometers) southeast of Aitape in early 1943. The airfield consisted of two parallel runways surfaced with crushed coral. The nearest runway to the coastline was a fighter strip, and further inland a bomber airstrip. The field was built primarily to serve as a satellite field, staging and dispersal areas for Hollandia and Wewak Airfields. A third airfield to the west of the bomber airstrip was abandoned owing tp drainage problems.
With the landings at Hollandia, American and Australian forces landed in the Aitape area on 22 April 1944. The objective of this operation was to secure and hold Tadji Airfield, hold the flank and prevent the Japanese from Wewak from attacking toward Hollandia. Within two days of the landings, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) engineers had the fighter strip operational but because of drainage problems, the bomber strip was not made operational by U.S. Army engineers until 27 May. RAAF bombers and fighters operated from this base until the end of the war.
A base for motor torpedo (PT) boats was also built and the first PT squadron arrived on 26 April. During May and June, the Japanese at Wewak moved westward and launched a powerful drive towards Aitape. The major means of transporting supplies by the Japanese were barges and luggers and the PT boats were tasked with intercepting and destroying these vessels. By September, barge traffic was greatly reduced and the PT boats moved to Biak (q.v.).
In addition to operations by the PT boats, Aitape also served as an amphibious supply and assembly point. In August 1944, an amphibious training center was established to prepare Army troops for amphibious landings. The naval base was disestablished on 30 March 1945.
Biak, Naval Advance Base
Biak Island, Dutch New Guinea, (0°54' 36"S, 135°54' 31"E) is a 950-square-mile (2,460-square-kilometer) island located in Cenderawasih Bay off the northern coast. Biak Island, part of the Schouten Islands group, is the largest island in its small archipelago and has many atolls, reefs, and corals. This 45-mile long, 20-wide island is part of the Biak Islands which consists of two islands, Biak and Soepion Island, which are separated by a narrow river. The island is located about 266-miles (428-kilometers) east of Sansapor (q.v.) and 226-miles (364-kilometers) west-northwest of Wakde Island (q.v.).
The Japanese occupied Biak on 25 December 1943 and began building three airfields on the southern coast where most of the population lived. The three airfields were:
U.S. Army troops invaded Biak on 27 May 1944 and organized resistance ended on 25 July. Biak was developed to provide a naval operating and repair base for seaplanes and motor torpedo (PT) boats; repair facilities for landing craft, from landing ship, tanks (LSTs) to the smallest types; and hospitalization for patients evacuated from advance areas. It gave the Allies a base only 900-miles (1,448-kilometers) from Davao, Mindanao Island, Philippine Islands, and control of northwestern Dutch New Guinea. However, Japanese resistance on Biak was unexpectedly heavy and slowed the time schedule and as a result, most of the facilities originally scheduled for Biak were eventually installed on Owi and Mios Woendi in the Padaido Islands.
The Padaido Islands, which were close to Biak at the entrance to Geelvink Bay, consist of many wooded islands which cover an area 35-by-21.5-miles (50-by-35-kilometers),. Padaido Lagoon, at Mios Woendi Island (1°15' 12"S, 136°22' 29"E), provided an anchorage area of 5-square-miles (13-square-kilometers), with 2,100-feet (640-meters) of navigable beach front. Owi Island (1°14' 38"S, 136°12' 33"E), the nearest, is less than 5-miles (8-kilometers) south of Biak. The climate is tropical, with an annual rainfall reaching 100-inches (2.5-meters).
On 6 June 1944, PT Advance Base 2 arrived on Mios Woendi Island, accompanied by a detachment of Seabees, to set up operating and living facilities for two PT squadrons. Patrols began two days later, on the arrival of PT Base 21 on 26 June, and construction was begun on an operational repair base. Housing, messing, and collateral facilities were provided for 2,000 enlisted personnel and 250 officers. Twelve finger piers were installed to accommodate as many as 50 PT boats, together with a torpedo-change pier, small-boat landing, and a large pontoon pier with crane facilities for changing engines. Five pontoon drydocks were placed in operation for repair work, and two prefabricated warehouses were set up. On 25 June, the base was renamed Camp Taylor. On 7 August, the base, which was the largest PT boat base in New Guinea, was usable.
The mission of the PT boats was to attack Japanese barges that were transporting supplies and troops between points on the coast. By September 1944, barge traffic dwindled into insignifcance and combat patrols from Mios Woendi ended in November and the boats then moved to Leyte Island in the Philippine Islands.
On 18 June, Seabees arrived with a 100-bed mobile dispensary and immediately started preparation of a camp site and hospital facilities, both of which were more or less temporary. On 12 July, materials and equipment for a 200-bed dispensary arrived. The smaller, 100-bed mobile dispensary was absorbed into the larger unit, and became Naval Base Hospital 16, thus providing accommodations for 300 patients.
Seabees erected 32 Quonset huts for use as wards, offices, laboratory, diet kitchen, galley, laundry, and storerooms, as well as 56 tents for living quarters, with the hospital, which was completed on 16 August.
Mobile Amphibious Repair Base 2, a functional component designed to provide repairs necessary to support the operation of 18 LSTs, 18 landing craft, infantry (LCIs), 36 landing craft, tank (LCTs), 60 landing craft, mechanized (LCMs), and 240 landing craft, vehicle, personnel (LCVPs), arrived at Mios Woendi between 4 and 25 July. For this base, construction performed by the Seabees, with additional labor from the repair-base personnel, consisted of a camp of 150 tents, shop facilities of seven Quonset huts, and five small miscellaneous wooden structures, completed by 15 September.
A Navy seaplane base was built on Mios Woendi beginning on 16 July. Facilities installed included messing and housing for 850 officers and men, a well-water system of 15,000-U.S. gallon (12,490 Imperial gallon or 56,781 liter) capacity, a seaplane ramp and parking area, a nose hangar, an operations tower with three Quonset huts for combat operations structures, a radio station, and shops for various maintenance work, together with roadways and walkways. Use of local materials were, as in all construction in the area, confined to sand and shells for roads and concrete and a few logs for foundations and heavy supports.
Naval Air Facility Biak, located on Mios Woendi, was established on 20 July 1944 and Consolidated PBY Catalinas operated from this base until May 1945.
Construction on Mios Woendi included eight Quonset huts for offices and administration, 136 tents and 18 Quonset huts for quarters and messing, 18 Quonset huts for storehouses, a 400-by-40-foot (122-by-12-meter) wharf, a vehicle repair shop, and various recreational facilities. Work was completed by 31 August.
Other work performed by the Seabees consisted of a tank farm of twenty 1,000-barrel (42,000 US gallon, 34,972 Imperial gallon or 158,987 liter) tanks on nearby Noesi island, the port director's office on Biak, and a mine warfare facilities project and ammunition storage unit on Oeriv Island, southeast of Mios Woendi. Existing facilities on Mios Woendi were also developed and enlarged to accommodate the increase of shipping handled by the base.
Night air attacks and numerous alerts during the early days, heavy rains, and lack of proper aggregate for concrete were difficulties met and overcome without halting operations.
On Owi Island, Seabees arrived on 8 July. The Army was already in the process of building two airstrips there and Army and Navy plans called for the Navy to assist in the construction. At the time the Seabees arrived, one airstrip was completed to 5,000-feet (1,524-meters), with about 30 hardstands and had become operational on 21 June when a squadron of Lockheed P-38 Lightnings arrived. Plans called for two airstrips, each 7,000-by-150-feet (2,134-by-46-meters), parallel taxiways, and 219 heavy bomber hardstands.
All airstrip construction was in coral, and easily performed as the site was level and covered only with scrub growth. Many of the dispersal areas and hardstands, however, were in hard, rough coral and heavy timber, which necessitated much drilling, blasting, and rooting. The construction of all airstrip facilities on Owi was completed on 25 September.
Other construction completed by the Seabees on Owi included camps for Advanced Base Unit, two bomber squadrons, and two air-supply units, the 17th Army Station Hospital, roads, bomb and gasoline storage areas, an aviation-gasoline tank farm, landing facilities for four LSTs, and a small-boat pier.
On 10 August 1944, headquarters of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ Fifth Air Force arrived on Owi Island from Nadzab, Northeast New Guinea. After the invasion of the Philippine Islands, this headquarters transferred to the Philippines and the Seabees dismantled and shiped their buildings and equipment to Leyte Island.
Naval Advance Base Biak was commissioned on 11 June 1944. As stated, the naval facility on Owi was rolled up by late 1944 but the installaions on Mios Woendi continued their function until NAF Biak was disestablished on 16 January 1946 and the advance base was disestablished three days later.
Buna, Naval Advance Base
Buna, Papua New Guinea (08°40' 21"S, 148°24'43"E), was the site of the pre-war Buna Government Station consisting of a variety of native huts and a handful of houses with an airdrome south of the village. The airdrome, built prewar as an emergency field, was in a neglected condition as of 1942. Buna was a trailhead to Kokoda (08°52' 48"S, 147°44' 13"E) on the Kokoda Track. On 22 July 1942, the Japanese Sasebo Naval Landing Force of 1,800 troops came ashore at Basabua about 8.5-miles (14-kilometers) northwest of Buna, and then moved southeast to Buna. The landing, without air cover, was a complete surprise to the Allies. The Japanese plan was to attack Port Moresby on the southern coast of Papua New Guinea by an overland advance from Buna. This plan required crossing the forbidding Owen Stanley Mountains that form the spine of the Papua peninsula, a saw-toothed jungle range reaching a height of 13,000-feet (3,962-meters). Hot and humid near the coasts, with torrential rains, the mountain weather can be biting cold above 5,000-feet (1,524-meters). At the height of their campaign, the Japanese had 16,000 troops in this region alone and Buna became part of a concentrated 12-mile (20-kilometer) of defensive positions at Buna, Sanananda and Gona defended by 9,000 troops.
On 16 November 1942, U.S. Army troops attacked the Japanese at Buna but the attack immediately bogged down because of numerous factors. After fresh reinforcements and additional equipment was inserted, the Army troops eventually occupy Buna on 2 January 1943.
After its capture, Buna becomes a troop staging supply point supporting invasions further west in New Guinea and later, an amphibious center. Between August and November 1943, a temporary motor torpedo (PT) boat support base was established supported by a motor torpedo boat tender in the harbor. In July 1944, the facility was disestablished.
Finschhafen, Naval Advance Base
Finchhafen, North East New Guinea (6°35' 55"S, 147°51' 12"E) is at the tip of Huon Peninsula about 81-miles (130-kilometers) east of Lae. The town had been founded in 1885 by the German New Guinea Company and was the first unsuccessful attempt to begin the colonization of New Guinea. Prewar, there were about 80 Lutheran missionaries at Finchhafen running several missions, schools, a port and a large radio station in the town.
The Japanese occupied the area on 10 March 1942 and occupied the Lutheran Mission buildings as their headquarters. The Allies thought the area was lightly defended, but the fresh Japanese 20th Division (less 78th Regiment) and a Special Naval Landing Force and Naval Base Unit occupied the area.
On 22 September 1943, the U.S. Navy landed Australian troops about 6-miles (9.7-kilometers) north of Finchhafen and they occupied the town on 2 October. The Naval Advance Base Finchhafen was established to provide supporting facilities for the accommodation of light naval vessels, such as motor torpedo (PT) boats and amphibious craft, to maintain a staging area for naval units participating in further forward movements, and to serve as a staging and supply point for the Seventh Fleet.
The base was constructed on a narrow coastal plain backed by mountains. The major part of the area was jungle, with a top soil of deep black mud, underlain by poor-quality coral. Finchhafen Harbor afforded excellent shelter for moderate-size vessels and anchorages ranging from 30-to-270-feet (9.1-82-meters). The climate is sub-tropical, with heavy rainfall.
The first Seabees landed from landing ships, tank (LSTs) on 5 November 1943. The beach was a morass as a result of heavy rains the previous night and trucks and other rolling stock were unable to move more than 100-feet (30-meters) from the ships. The LSTs were unloaded, however, and the next morning the work of clearing the beach began. A temporary dump and the camp site selected were about 300-yards (274-metes) from the beach, but in spite of every effort by the Seabees and a company of Army engineers, the road to this site was impassable for four weeks.
As a result, the Seabees could not render any help to the Army aviation engineers on the airstrip until 16 November. The Seabees were assigned the job of rough-grading and mat-laying on the northern half of the field and of producing coral for fine-grading the entire area. In spite of the lack of equipment for road building, this strip was operating by the 5 December deadline.
Finchhafen Airdrome (Dreger Field, 6°37' 20"S, 147°51' 15"E) was a 6,000-by-100-foot (1,828-by-30-meter) coral and steel matting single runway running north-northwest to south-southeast. On 5 January the Army engineers departed, and the Seabees completed the airfield, building fighter and medium bomber hardstands, mostly located to the north, with more to the east and a few on the southern side of the runway. Many aircraft shipped from the United States were assembled at Finchhafen and then flown to other airfields for operations. Additional construction consisted of an aircraft repair area adjacent to the airstrip, four 2,000-barrel (84,000-U.S.-gallon, 69,945-Imperial-gallon or 317,975-liter) aviation-gasoline tanks, complete with piping and pumping units, and a 200-foot (61-meter) pile-and-timber jetty.
The first Republic P-47 Thunderbolt squadron arrived on 13 December 1943.
In the early months of 1944, an operating base for the support of two PT-boat squadrons was built in Dreger Harbor south of Finchhafen Drome, the facilities including a 30-by-60-foot (9.1-by-18-meter) pier, a torpedo pier, one finger pier, two unloading piers, and 84-foot (26-meter) repair pier, a complete camp, warehouses, torpedo shop, and other work shops. During the late summer of 1944, the Seabees improved these facilities with frame buildings and Quonset huts for ships, warehouses, quarters, and recreation buildings. Waterfront facilities were developed early in 1944. The Seabees built four timber piers, each 330-feet (101-by 9.1-meter) long and 30-feet (9.1-meter) wide, with necessary approaches for Liberty ships and unloading capacity rose to 1,200-tons (1,089-metric-tonnes) per day. Progress was slow, because it was impossible to obtain suitable piping, and the material into which the piles were driven was soft and considerable penetration was needed to attain the required bearing. Two pontoon wharves, with bridge approaches, were erected, and covered storage in prefabricated buildings was provided at the cargo ship piers.
Base facilities were constructed and included a 500-man camp of framed and screened tents, Quonset huts for administration use, and a 300-bed hospital. Base Hospital 14 consisted of ten 20-by-48-foot (6.1-by-15-meter) Quonset huts for dental, surgery, storage, and ward facilities, with nine framed tents for additional wards.
Installations at the supply depot included four 6,000-cubic-foot (170-cubic-meter) refrigerators, 20 prefabricated warehouses, a 40-by-80-foot (12-by-24-meter) timber-and-coral-fill wharf, and ten 20-by-50-foot (7.6-by-15-meter) standard prefabricated steel magazines. A fuel-oil tank farm of five 10,000-barrel (420,000-U.S.-gallon, 349,723-Imperial-gallon or 158,987-liter) tanks, with all necessary piping was also built.
Staging areas were established at Finchhafen for both Army and Navy personnel. The Seabees built an Army staging area for 17,000 men, with camp and storage facilities, 14 LST loading ramps and 15-miles (24-kilometers) of two-lane roads with several timber bridges. During the summer of 1944, construction of the naval staging area for 2,500 men, with necessary camp and storage installations and roads was begun. This project was about 75-percent complete on 1 November 1944, when orders were received to curtail further work at the base.
By January 1945, roll-up of the Navy base was well under way. The base was disestablished 1 April 1945, and all facilities were turned over to the Army.
Little of prewar Finchhafen, remains except for one old Lutheran Church building, used by missionaries to this day. After World War II the town was moved from its original site.
Hollandia, Naval Advance Base
Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea (now Jayapura, Indonesia, 2°32' 32"S, 140°42' 19"E) was a regional trade center and seaport on Humboldt Bay (now Yos Sudarso Bay) on the north coast of Dutch New Guinea. This area has a tropical climate, with heavy rainfall. Generally throughout the Hollandia region the terrain is rocky, erosion having caused a jumble of hills and bluffs, some of which exceed 1,000-feet (305-meters) in height. Fresh water is extremely scarce except in the Hollandia valley. A reef, composed of soft coral and silt, lies close along the shore. Humboldt Bay (02°32' 30"S, 140°43' 49"E), adequate and well protected, provides the only extensive anchorage between Wewak, about 200-miles (322-kilometers) to the east, and Geelvink Bay, some 350-miles (563-kilometers) to the west.
Japanese troops occupied the town on 19 April 1942 but its development of facilities had been delayed and construction of three airfields were not built until April to November 1943. In January 1944, the Japanese had emphasized the region’s growing importance by the warning that “Hollandia is the final base and last strategic point of this Army’s New Guinea operations.” Orders were issued to develop the area into a base and airfield complex consisting of three airfields, Hollandia Airdrome, Sentani Drome and Cyclops Drome (03°34'"S, 140°31' E).
Hollandia Drome (about 2°33' 37"S, 140°28' 44"E) was a large Japanese airfield complex, with two runways, a western runway of 4,500-feet (1,372-meters) and a 6,200-by-340-feet (1,890-by-104-meters) southern runway. There were larger bomber revetments to the west of the strip, with 24 revetments and an additional 27 to the east of the field, connected by taxiways to the two runways They were protected by a total of 51 anti-aircraft defenses including four light guns, later upgraded. A barracks area was located to the north of the airstrip, and s road connected the strip to Hollandia town. The two other airdromes were Sentani Drome (02°34' 37"S, 140°30' 59"E) and Cyclops Drome (about 02°34' 21"S, 140°31' 15"E). After the war, Hollandia and Cyclops Dromes were abandoned and Sentani Drome, now Sentani Airport, serves as the airport for Jayapura.
The U.S. Army landed in the Hollandia area on 22 April 1944 and captured the three airdromes and the surrounding area on 26 April. The establishment of American forces at Hollandia had cut off more than 50,000 Japanese troops to the eastward, and the command of the sea approaches foreclosed their support or reinforcement.
On 9 May a Seabees battalion arrived at Hollandia and set to work constructing naval-base facilities on Humboldt Bay to support the Seventh Fleet in its future operations, Fleet headquarters facilities were also built in an upland area about 25-miles (40-kilometers) inland. The naval base was established to provide logistic support to services afloat and later to become a supply base for the invasion of the Philippines and included a base for convoy escorts, a supply depot, a repair base for destroyers and lighter craft, and an ammunition depot. In addition, it served as the advance headquarters of the Seventh Fleet.
Naval facilities at Hollandia were extensive, including a staging area, fleet post office, Seventh Fleet advance headquarters, and a fueling depot. All facilities were located near Humboldt Bay, with the exception of advance headquarters, which was about 12-miles (19-kilometers) west of the bay, and the fueling depot on Tanahmerah Bay (2°26'S, 140°21'E), about 31-miles (50-kilometers) northwest of Hollandia.
Preliminary surveys were made by the Seabees on D-Day. The Seabees were immediately assigned the construction of all base roads, docking facilities, and utility systems, as well as heavy grading and drainage work for dump areas. Road construction to provide access to the scattered sites of the various base facilities, as usual, took first priority. Accordingly, men and equipment were landed at three different points in order that construction could be pushed. The first day, 4,000-feet (1,219-meters) were rough graded; within two weeks the roads were open for traffic. In all, 6-miles (9.7-kilometers) of road were laid down through particularly difficult country.
The construction of a pier for Liberty ships carried the next highest priority. A temporary camp, to ready and assemble construction material, was immediately set up. Work started on 25 May, and 82-feet (25-meters) of the pier was available for use by 9 June. From that time until its completion on 3 July, the pier was constantly in use.
At the same time, a water-supply system was under construction. Treated water from small nearby springs, supplementing that truck-hauled from distant streams, was used to supply the camp pending the arrival of pipe. A temporary system to service small landing craft was constructed in four and a half days, and was put into service on 27 May. A supply of 6-inch (15-centimeter) pipe was received on 2 June, and within 24 hours, 960-feet (293-meters) of it had been installed; by 8 June, the system had been extended to supply Liberty ships. The permanent system consisted of 58,400-feet (18-kilometers) of 4-inch (10-centimeter), 6-inch (15-centimeter), and 8-inch (20-centimeter) pipe, one 10,000-barrel (420,000-U.S.-gallon or 349,723-Imperial-gallon or 1.589-megaliter) and twenty 5,000-U.S.-gallon (4,163-Imperial-gallon or 18,927-liter) storage tanks, with a chlorination system that provided 2.5 million-U.S.-gallons (2.1 million-Imperial-gallons or 9.46-megaliters) of treated water a day to vessels and to all activities of the base.
Construction of another pier began on 13 September, but lack of materials delayed completion until 23 November, although 130-feet (40-meters) were ready 22 October, and ships were tied up continually from that time on.
Land for sorting and storage areas was obtained by filling and surfacing with concrete a shallow cove between the first pier and the landing ship, tank (LST) watering point, the edge of the fill being further developed as a landing-craft watering and loading point. Similar areas were built at both docking areas, as well as adjacent to the fleet post office and harbor administration area.
In addition, the Seabees worked on numerous other projects, large and small, among them the 40-by-494-foot (12-by-151-meter) pier for the destroyer repair base; work there was started on 31 July. The pier was completed within a month, during which time a fleet post office and harbor administration facilities were also constructed. The communications department of the Seabees installed a complete telephone system for the base, including ten switchboards, 203-miles (327-kilometers) of telephone line, 76,000-feet (23,165-meters) of submarine cable, and 351 stations and trunk lines.
The Seabees also constructed a supply depot, a destroyer repair shop, and a degaussing range, as well as housing facilities at several locations. The supply-depot warehouses included 16 Quonset huts, 40-by-300-feet (12-by-91-meter), with concrete floors. Ten banks of refrigerators, with a capacity totaling 136,000-cubic-feet (3,851-cubic-meters), were built, as well as a complete camp accommodating 200 men. For the destroyer repair shop, approximately 150,000-cubic-yards (114,683-cubic-meters) of shoreline was filled in.
In addition, the Seabees built housing facilities for the various activities of the base, including housing and messing facilities for 100 men at the staging area. Other camp areas included housing for 500 men at base headquarters, and housing and messing for the Seabees.
In June, the Seabees began three major projects: a tank farm at Tanahmerah Bay, advance naval headquarters at Lake Sentani Lake Sentani (02°36' 28"S, 140°33' 21"E), and pontoon assembly at Humboldt Bay. Although working conditions at Tanahmerah Bay were ideal as far as rain was concerned, the boggy condition of the terrain slowed road construction. Initial plans called for a total of one barrel diesel oil and twenty, later reduced to eleven, barrel fuel oil tanks. The original date of completion was set for 15 September 1944, but owing to a shortage of materials and the boggy ground, only the diesel-oil tank and seven fuel-oil tanks were ready by that date. By 7 October, three additional fuel-oil tanks were in operation. This construction included all necessary piping, manifolds, and pump installations as well as a 12-inch welded fuel line on the Army-built pipeline pier.
Advance naval headquarters at Lake Sentani included Quonset huts for administration and for housing and messing for 800 men. Completion date was set for 15 August, but 34 Quonset huts were usable by 23 July, and shortly thereafter the Seventh Fleet personnel began moving in.
A radio transmitter was built at Hollandia and a radio receiving station at Leimok Hill (02°34' 60"S, 140°40' 60"E). Work was started on the transmitter on 10 July and was completed in 35 days; work at the receiving station required and additional five days. These projects included all buildings for both administration and personnel, and all other equipment necessary for operation of the stations.
A 500-bed hospital, consisting of 78 structures, was begun 8 August and completed 30 September. Before this hospital, located in the upper end of Hollandia valley, was begun 85,000-cubic-yards (64,987-cubic-meters) were filled and to divert a stream which meandered through the site. A 5-foot (8-meter) dam across the stream and wood storage tanks provided a gravity-flow water system.
Numerous other projects were completed including housing facilities for 350 men at the destroyer repair base and naval base facilities for 1,000 men. A naval base water-supply system, consisting of 3,500-feet (1,067-meters) of 8-inch (20-centimeter) water line, was installed in 18 days.
By 2 September 1945 (V-J Day), only a small part of the base had been rolled up. Hollandia was strategically important as a base for strikes against the Japanese and was a major factor in the invasion of the Philippines, furnishing a large portion of the supplies.
The naval base at Hollandia was disestablished in December 1945 and all installations were sold to the Netherlands East Indies Government.
Madang-Alexishafen, Naval Advance Base
Madang and Alexishafen, North East New Guinea are located on the northeast coast about 55-miles (89-kilometers) northwest of Saidor (q.v.) and 270-miles (435-kilometers) east-southeast of Aitape (q.v.). Madang (05°14' 01"S, 145°47' 20"E) is a seaport on Astrolabe Bay, an arm of the Bismarck Sea while Alexishafen (05°05' 34"S, 145°48' 13"E), 8-miles (13-kilometers) north of Madang, is located on Bostrem Bay, which provides an ideal anchorage for large ships. The channels at Alexishafen are clear, with a depth of 30-fathoms (180-feet or 55-meters), and the area is protected by Sek Island and a reef. Only a 20-foot (6.1-meter) tide exists, with a weak current. Rainfall is excessively heavy.
The Japanese Army landed at unoccupied Madang on 1 January 1943 and captured the pre-World War II Madang Airport (05°12'32"S, 145°47'16"E) as a forward operating airfield for aircraft based at Wewak, Dutch New Guinea (03°35'01"S, 143°40'07"E) located 184-miles (296-kilometers) to the northwest. The Japanese expanded the runway to 3,250-by-240-feet (991-by-73-meters) with a single taxiway and 31 revetments. Bombed by the allies during late 1943 and early 1944 the airfield became unserviceable by 4 January 1944. After its capture, the airfield was repaired and used by the Royal Australian Air Force until the end of the war.
The Japanese also built two airdromes west of Alexishafen which became operational in May and August 1943. When operational, the Madang Airdrome was little used. By 29 February 1944, bombing by the U.S. Army Air Forces’ Fifth Air Force had placed both of these airdromes out of commission.
Madang also briefly served as headquarters of a Japanese Army while two infantry divisions were stationed here. Australian troops captured the deserted town on 24 April 1944 and then continued northward to occupy Alexishafen two days later and the area was developed into a minor Allied base area.
The primary purpose of Naval Advance Base Madang-Alexishafen was to provide logistic support, through boat pool and repair facilities, for small craft in the area. The section base constructed at Alexishafen included a section base, boat pool, ship and boat repair facilities, and a fresh-water system. (NOTE: A "Naval Section Base" is a shore base under the overall command of a Naval District Commandant, as distinguished from a "Naval Base" or "Naval Operating Base" under the command of a Fleet Commander.
Establishment of this base was requested by the Seventh Amphibious Force in May 1944, and on 13 June 1944, a detachment of 200 Seabees arrived. Materials were to be provided by moving part of the facilities from Finchhafen and the remainder from the advance base construction depot at Milne Bay. A camp with all necessary facilities was set up for the 400 men assigned to the base, together with a water supply system that would provide 500,000-U.S.-gallons (416,337 Imperial-gallons or 1.9 megaliters) per day of untreated water to ships at the watering point. The ship and boat repair facilities were floating units, augmented by two pontoon drydocks. The section base, operated by Commander Service Force, Seventh Fleet, was commissioned on 17 August 1944.
Plans for the discontinuance of this base were begun early in November 1944, as the location was then too far behind the area of operations to serve a useful purpose. On 30 November, final roll-up was ordered, and a detachment of Seabees was sent to Alexishafen on 25 December for this purpose. The water-supply system was transferred to the Royal Australian Navy when the base was evacuated by the U.S. Navy and decommissioned on 28 January 1945.
Merauke, Naval Advance Base
Merauke, Dutch New Guinea (08°29'49"S, 140°23'36"E) is located on the south coast of the island about 40-miles (64-kilometers) west of the border of Dutch New Guinea and Papua New Guinea. The town was established in February 1902 as a military post by the Dutch to prevent raids by headhunters into neighboring British New Guinea and the northwest Torres Strait Islands. The town sits on the Merauke River and the area around Merauke consists largely of lowland, covered with mangrove swamps interspersed with ridges of more stable sandy clay. The climate is tropical, with an average annual rainfall is more than 100-inches (2.54-meters). Before World War II, a single dirt runway had been built about 2-miles (3.2-kilometers) southeast of town.
Before the war, the population was evacuated and the Japanese never occupied Merauke but the Japanese Air Force bombed the port area 19 times by the end of March 1943. On 9 September 1943 Merauke received its 22nd aerial attack by 16 bombers and 12 fighters.
On 22 June 1942, the Allies authorized the building of a small airfield at Merauke to protect Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (q.v.) from the west. Between December 1942 and February 1943, a battalion of the Australian Army was deployed to Merauke forming the remote western flank of the Allied forces in Dutch New Guinea.
During 1943, the Allies became concerned over Japanese advances in southwestern New Guinea and feared that they would force a crossing of the Torres Strait, the body of water between the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, Australia and New Guinea. The U.S. Navy was ordered to base motor torpedo (PT) boats on the Merauke River and a detachment of Seabees arrived at Merauke on 8 May 1943 to construct the PT-boat base. As the town jetty had been destroyed by Japanese bombs, material and equipment had to be beached by unloading into leaky scows, which were towed to a makeshift wharf.
Trouble was encountered in selecting a camp site in the swampy terrain. Drinking water was obtained from seepage wells, and then purified. Timber for the construction of a 300-foot (91-meter) pier and a smaller one for PT boats did not arrive until 15 July; work was then started immediately, and both were completed by 3 September.
Construction of a 150-by-6,000 feet (46-by-1,829-meters) runway by the Seabees commenced on 28 June 1943; eight days later, the first aircraft landed and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) began using it as a forward base with a runway surfaced with Marston matting and defended by the an anti-aircraft searchlight battery. This airstrip was able to handle one squadron of fighter planes and several medium bombers. Twenty-miles (32-kilometers) of roads connected the strip with the town and with gasoline and fuel dumps. Facilities of this base, both harbor and airfield, were used extensively, daily reconnaissance missions and bombing flights being flown from the airdrome.
The Japanese never came into range of the Torres Strait and the PT boats were never based at Merauke because of two natural conditions. First, it would have been impossible to fire a torpedo anywhere within 15-miles (24-kilometers) of the southern coast of New Guinea because the water is so shallow that a torpedo would have buried itself in mud on it initial dive. Second, floating logs and all manner of debris sweep majestically down the Merauke River a very hazardous condition to PT boats. Naval Advance Base Merauke was disestablished in December 1943.
Today, the Merauke Airport, also known as Mopah Airport, is still in use.
Milne Bay, Naval Advance Base
Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea (10°22'S, 150°28'E) is located at the southeast tip of New Guinea about 230-miles (370-kilometers) east-southeast of Port Moresby. The bay is 15-miles (24-kilometers) wide and 30-miles (40-kilometers) long affording an extensive protected harbor. A dense, swampy, jungle plain extends inland from the narrow coral and mud beaches to the Owen Stanley Mountains. The climate is tropical, with high humidity and heavy rainfall. Population is extremely sparse.
Development of the first airdromes at Milne Bay began in July 1942. Australian infantry and U.S. aviation engineers were sent to begin clearing land for three airstrips and the base that would support them. Over the following weeks, more ships arrived, bringing more men, supplies and equipment for the development of the airfields, and by the end of August nearly 9,000 Allied personnel, mostly Australian, were based at Milne Bay. On 26 August, 800 Japanese troops of the Special Naval Landing Force and 300 labors landed on the northwest part of the bay. By this time, there were two Australian infantry brigades (six battalions) in Milne Bay and after heavy fighting, the Australians defeated the Japanese and the survivors were evacuated by ship on 5 September.
Naval Advance Base Milne Bay was developed to relieve overcrowded ports on the east coast of Australia and to provide facilities nearer the Japanese forces. The major installations consisted of a transshipment and staging area, major overhaul facilities for motor torpedo (PT) boats, and a destroyer base.
The first U.S. Naval presence in Milne Bay was in December 1942 when four PT boats and the gunboat USS Hilo (PG-58). [Hilo was redesignated Motor Torpedo Boat Tender Number Two (AGP-2) on 13 January 1943.] The first Seabees arrived in Milne Bay on 23 May 1943. Their mission was to construct PT Advance Base Six at Kana Kopa (10°28' 58"S, 150°39' 06"E), on the south side of the bay. Personnel had unloaded supplies and set up a few tents. As a result of the Allied forces moving up the coast of New Guinea, the major engine-overhaul base at Cairns, Queensland, Australia, was too far behind the lines to be practicable; accordingly, the base at Kana Kopa was enlarged.
Despite excessive tropical rains and adverse soil conditions, the Seabees had the base in operation five weeks after work was started, in time for its boats to strike the Japanese at Salamaua and Nassau Bay in North East New Guinea on 29 and 30 June respectively. In four months this small detachment also installed facilities for housing and feeding 800 men, shops and storehouses of Quonset huts, three 15,000-U.S.-gallon (12,490-Imperial-gallon or 56,781-liter) water tanks, a tank farm of four 1,000-barrel (42,000-U.S.-gallon or 34,972-Imperial-gallon or 158,987-liter) fuel tanks, a timber pile wharf, and two pontoon drydocks for PT boats.
This base was completed in the scheduled time, despite adverse weather conditions and disease. Severe rains often caused knee-deep mud, and in some places men worked waist-deep in the churned earth. An ingenious system for building Quonset huts from the top down was later devised to eliminate the construction of temporary structures for protecting the concrete. Mud sills were set, and on them, blocks were placed at intervals to support a Quonset hut, which was then erected. The concrete floors and foundations were then poured under the completed hut.
Milne Bay is in one of the most malaria-ridden areas in the world, and in spite of a rigorous preventive campaign, from 23 to 39 percent of the personnel was incapacitated from this cause alone. This, combined with tropical skin diseases also prevalent, had a pronounced and harmful effect on the speed with which the project was built.
On 8 July 1943, two companies of Seabees arrived and a temporary camp was set up on the beach, near the native village of Gamadodo (10°24'20"S, 150°22'45E). By the middle of August, a permanent camp was nearly complete and work had been started on the supply and ammunition depots, though a major portion of the heavy equipment had not yet arrived. Construction specified in the original planning was complete by the end of December. After clearing the site, 8.5 miles (14 kilometers) of roads were built, and housing and messing facilities in the staging area for 4,000 men, a dispensary and sick bay for 50 patients, a 40-by-900-foot (12-by-274-meter) wharf, 20 Quonset and frame warehouses, 54,000 cubic feet (1,529 cubic meters) of cold-storage space, and ten ammunition magazines were constructed. In these developments, more than 400,000 cubic yards (305,822 cubic meters) of sticky, water-soaked gumbo were moved. In addition, a sawmill was set up and supplied all except a small portion of the lumber used.
On 31 July 1943, a small detachment was sent to the island of Samarai (10°36' 45'S, 150°39' 49"E), southeast of Milne Bay, to construct a small seaplane base. Work was somewhat delayed because of serious material shortages and changes in original plans, but in 42 days the project was almost complete. The main features were a 50-foot (15-meter) ramp, leading to a nose hangar and a 40,000-square-foot (3,715-square-meter) parking area. Barracks, messing and galley space for 220 men and 50 officers, together with water, power, sanitary, and refrigeration facilities complemented them. Aviation-gasoline storage was provided by the erection of four 1,000-barrel (42,000-U.S.-gallon or 34,972-Imperial-gallon or 158,987-liter) steel tanks.
In addition, this same group of men was assigned the task of building a small seaplane operating base in Jenkins Bay, on the north coast of near-by Sariba Island (10°36' 31"S, 150°42'45E), consisting of a camp for 130 men, a small boat pier, communications building, offices, and general storehouses.
The Seabees also built the base headquarters at Ladava (10°19' 58"S, 150°21' 05"E), on the western end of the bay. The Seabees remained at Ladava to improve the camp and construct piers, jetties, roads, electric and communication systems, warehouses, a hospital unit, and facilities for housing 74 officers and 1,000 men.
Another Seabee detachment was detailed to construct a destroyer repair unit at Gohora Bay (10°20' 14"S, 150°20' 40"E), half a mile (805-meters) south of Ladava. This project included numerous shops and warehouses, piers, jetties, roads, and housing facilities for 30 officers and 1,000 men. The principal problem confronting this detachment was one of terrain; the site to be used was under water at high tide, necessitating a large amount of fill, which had to be hauled more than 5-miles (8-kilometers) by truck, over poor roads. When completed, this base had shops, piers and four floating dry docks capable of handling destroyer-size vessels.
Seabees also built a 500-bed hospital at Hilimoi (10°25' S, 150° 26' E), about 5-miles (8-kilometers) east of Gamadodo. This project was expanded to include a recuperation center for 3,000 men. At the same time, Seabees were sent to Swinger Bay, in the northwest corner of Milne Bay, to start an amphibious training center.
Another Seabee battalion, which reached Milne Bay in January 1944, was given the job of completing the amphibious training center at Swinger Bay. This project comprised housing for 1,500 men in Quonset huts, a large frame galley and mess hall, several Quonset storehouses, class rooms, and shops, and the development of about 2,000-feet (610-meters) of waterfront. In all, more than 250,000-yards (229-kilometers) of dirt were moved in grading this project. Another group of about 150 men was sent to Gamadodo to set up a sawmill, augmenting the one already in operation and to build an additional Liberty-ship pier.
Additional Seebeas arrived and took over completion of naval headquarters at Ladava as well as maintenance of naval facilities in that area. Shortly thereafter, a pontoon assembly detachment debarked at Gamadodo and commenced operations.
Naval Advance Base Milne Bay was commissioned on 1 March 1944. By the middle of 1944, most naval installations were complete. Original plans for Gamadodo were constantly expanded, and before Allied forces had advanced far enough to render this base unimportant, the following developments had been constructed and were in use: a magazine, a staging area with all facilities to care for 10,000 men, a supply depot, a pontoon assembly depot which was assembling pontoon cells as well as barges, and a large advance base construction depot which included a spare-parts warehouse, housed in what was probably the largest building in New Guinea -- 120,000-square-feet (11,148-square-meters) in area.
In June 1944, the PT facilities were closed and moved closer to the New Guinea front.
While work continued on some minor unfinished construction, dismantling was started on facilities which had fulfilled their purpose and were no longer needed by advancing forces. By July 1945, the advance base construction depot had been torn down and crated, and was waiting shipment to a forward area. By October, the hospital at Hilimoi had been readied for shipment north. At Gamadodo as soon as a building was vacated, crews went to work salvaging material which would be needed in the Philippines and Okinawa. The base was finally disestablished on 21 June 1946.
Morobe, Naval Advance Base
Morobe, North East New Guinea (7°45' 38"S, 147°34' 47"E) is located about 150-miles (241-kilometers) northwest of Tufi (q.v.) and about 85-miles (137-kilometers) northwest of Buna (q.v.). The town was established as an administrative post for the protectorate of German New Guinea and became a district headquarters when the Australians occupied North East New Guinea in 1914.
New Guinea’s terrain and lack of roads hampered the Japanese in supplying their coastal outposts in New Guinea and they had to rely on barges and luggers in this mission. The U.S. Navy countered with motor torpedo (PT) boats in destroying these barges. A PT base at been established at Tufi (q.v.) in 1942 to enable the boats to patrol as far west as the Huon Gulf and the town of Lae. However, Huon Gulf was located about 200-miles (322-kilometers) northwest of Tufi and the boats spent most of their time in getting to their stations and returning which left little time for patrolling. As a result, Naval Advance Base Morobe was established in 1943 as a PT base and placed the boats only 60-miles (97-kilometers) southeast of Huon Gulf. On 20 April 1943, three PT boats arrived and started to set up the advance base on the Morobe River which flowed into the harbor. There was deep water right up to the banks and lofty trees on either side for PTs to be moored to the riverbank and a base built under the trees would be practically invisible from the air.
In November 1943, Seabees began work on a new PT base in Dreger Harbor near Finchhafen and as a result, NAB Morobe was abandoned after 5 December 1943. Morobe had also become a staging area for the coastal area and a U.S. Army base for engineer special troops. By May 1944, all U.S. forces had abandoned the base.
Port Moresby, Naval Advance Base
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (09°28' 55"S, 147°11' 25"E) is located on the southern shore about 320-miles (615-kilometers) east-northeast of Cape York, Queensland, Australia. There was already an important trade center on the site of Port Moresby when the English Captain John Moresby of HMS Basilisk first visited it on 20 February 1873. He sailed through the Coral Sea at the eastern end of New Guinea, saw three previously unknown islands, landed there, claimed the land for Britain and named it after his father, Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby. He called the inner reach "Fairfax Harbour" and the other Port Moresby. No Europeans settled there until 1883 years when the southeastern part of New Guinea was annexed to the British Empire. British New Guinea was transferred to the newly established Commonwealth of Australia in 1906 and became known as Papua New Guinea. From then until 1941 Port Moresby grew slowly. The main growth was on the peninsula, where port facilities and other services were gradually improved. The first butcher's shop and grocery opened in 1909, electricity was introduced in 1925, and piped water supply provided in 1941.
Before World War II, Port Moresby was a small administrative center for the Australian territories of Papua and North East New Guinea. The town became a prime objective for conquest by the Imperial Japanese forces during 1942–43, as a staging point and air base to cut off Australia from North America. The Japanese developed a plan, Operation MO, to invade and occupy Port Moresby. The plan involved several major units of Japan's Combined Fleet, including two fleet and one light aircraft carriers to provide air cover for the invasion fleets. The U.S. learned of the Japanese plan through signals intelligence and sent two USN carrier task forces and a joint Australian-American cruiser force to oppose the Japanese offensive.
Beginning on 7 May 1942, the carrier forces from the two sides exchanged airstrikes over two consecutive days. The first day, the U.S. sank the Japanese light aircraft carrier HIJMS Shoho, while the Japanese sank a U.S. destroyer and heavily damaged a fleet oiler (which was later scuttled). The next day, the Japanese aircraft carrier HIJMS Shokaku was heavily damaged, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) was critically damaged (and was scuttled as a result), and the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CV-5) was damaged. With both sides having suffered heavy losses in aircraft and carriers damaged or sunk, the two fleets disengaged and retired from the battle area. Because of the loss of carrier air cover, the Port Moresby invasion fleet of 12 transport, sailed back to Rabaul, New Britain Island, Bismarck Archipelago.
The Japanese next planned to land a force at Buna on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea and then use the Kokoda Track southward to attack Port Moresby. The landings took place on 22 July 1942. The Kokoda Track is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs 60-miles (97-kilometers) through the Owen Stanley Range. Between July 1942 and January 1943, a series of battles, afterwards called the Kokoda Track Campaign, were fought between the Japanese and Australian forces on this track. The Australians were forced to withdraw until the Japanese were 32-miles (51-kilometers) from Port Moresby but they had overrun their supply lines and they were ordered on to the defensive, marking the limit of the Japanese advance southwards. Reinforcement of Allied ground forces and strong air support turned back the advance and the Japanese fell back on his main base at Buna, on the north coast.
Port Moresby became a major American and Australian staging area and airfield complex in support of the Allied push to the north of New Guinea and by 1944, eight airfields and a seaplane base had been constructed by American and Australian engineers. Naval Advance Base Port Moresby was established to provide major communication facilities and advance headquarters for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
Port Moresby has a protected waterway, 5-miles (8.0-kilometers) long by 3-miles (4.8-kilometers) wide, with a sand and clay bottom affording excellent holding ground for anchorage. Temperatures are mild, with rainfall uniform in distribution and not excessive. The first Seabees arrived at Port Moresby on 20 June 1943. A U.S. Army base for forward operations and supply was already in existence there. The Seabee construction project consisted of a radio station, to be used also as a communications center, and Port Director facilities. Constructed at the radio station were ten Quonset huts for living quarters, water supply and storage equipment, two transmitter and generator buildings, roadways, and parking areas. The station was placed in operation on 15 July 1943, and eight additional Quonset huts were erected by 12 January 1944.
The Port Director facilities in the original plan were to consist of 17 Quonset huts for living quarters and offices, storage facilities, a water-supply system, a generator building, and roads. Work was begun 28 July 1943, and the project was ready for use within a month. As subsequent enlargement became necessary and 19 Quonset huts were added and the Port Director facilities became known as naval headquarters. During October 1944 the roll-up of this base was under way, and was completed by 1 November 1944.
Saidor, Naval Advance Base
Saidor, North East New Guinea (05°37' 39"S, 146°27' 25"E) lies about halfway between Lae and Madang (q.v.). Saidor promised an area for the development of additional forward airfields and a good harbor for small naval craft. Its occupation would speed the liquidation of Japanese forces along the coast above Finchhafen. Before World War II, the Australians had built Saidor Airdrome and the U.S. Army Air Forces wanted to develop the airfield. In the middle of 1942 the single runway was described as 2,250-by-240-by-150-feet (686-by-73-46-meters), surfaced with sod, that could be lengthened to 3,000-feet (914-meters).
A U.S. Army regiment landed at Saidor on 2 January 1944 and enlarged its perimeter against sporadic Japanese opposition by the 200 troops based there. Army aviation engineers began development of the Saidor Airdrome several days later.
The main naval activity at Saidor was a motor torpedo (PT) boat base. Boats based at Finchhafen would stop at Saidor to top off their fuel tanks before beginning missions against Japanese barges transporting supplies and troops along the coast. Naval Advance Base Saidor was established in March 1944 and until June 1944, PT boast based at Saidor made 185 patrols along the heavily defended coast. On 25 June 1944, the PT squadrons moved to Mios Woendi Island off the southeastern coast of Biak Island (q.v.).
Sansapor, Naval Advance Base
Sansapor, Dutch New Guinea (now Sausapor, Indonesia, 00°29' 59"S, 132°05' 08"E) is located on the northwestern tip of the island about 260-miles (418-kilometers) west of Biak. The mouth of the Wewe River empties into the sea near the town. U.S. Army troops landed in the Sansapor area on 30 July 1944 against negligible resistance. Army engineers built two airfields, one near the town of Mar located 9-miles (14-kilometers) northeast of Sansapor and the second field was built on Middleburg Island, 2.5-miles (4-kilometers) off the coast of Mar. The primary purpose of the landings was to establish aerial domination of the north coast of New Guinea and provide a base to cover the project invasion of Morotai Island in the East Indies.
Naval Advance Base Sansapor was built on Amsterdam Island (now Pulau Amsterdam, 00°20' 52"S, 132°10' 14"E) located 1.5-miles (2.4-kilometers) northwest of Middleburg Island and about 12-miles (19-kilometers) east-northeast of Sansapor. The Army had agreed to take a cove near Cape Sansapor for a PT base, but discovered that the cove was full of reefs which had not been apparent in aerial photographs. The Army recommended Amsterdam Island as a site for the base which was the best in the area, but it offered little protection from shifting winds and seas. During the two months the base was in operation, there was a constant struggle to keep boats and floating equipment from blowing aground on reefs. Although Amsterdam Island was favorably situated for interception of barge traffic along the coast, the boats found only a few surface targets. Combat patrols were secured at Amsterdam Island on 28 September, and in October the two PT squadrons returned to Mios Woendi Island off Biak for overhaul.
Another naval function was a Port Directors office which helped stage the landings in the Philippine Islands. The office functioned until 9 April 1945.
Tufi, Naval Advance Base
Tufi, Papua New Guinea (09°04' 51"S, 149°18' 57"E) is located about 110-miles (177-kilometers) northwest of Milne Bay (q.v.). As Allied forces advanced up the coast of New Guinea, Naval Advance Base Milne Bay became too far behind Japanese lines to be used as an operating base for motor torpedo (PT) boats. The boats needed an operating base farther up the coast closer to the Japanese bases.
On 18 December 1942, the Navy began searching the Cape Nelson area to find a more suitable base and found it the next day at Tufi, on the east side of the cape. Tufi Inlet resembled a fjord: narrow and winding, deep water, with hills rising abruptly on either side. Near the entrance was a little jetty and a small flat plot of land at the base of a steep hill, that could be used for a gasoline dump. Farther up the inlet there were places where the boats could tie up against the bank, reasonably secure from detection by Japanese planes. A little fall of pure cold water cascaded into the inlet. Tufi was the government station for that section of New Guinea, with a resident representative of the Australia-New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU), who could arrange for native labor to roll gasoline drums and do other heavy work. The boats abandoned their previous base and moved to Tufi immediately and began nightly missions to attack Japanese shipping, especially barges and lugger. On 20 April 1943, the base moved forward to Morobe (q.v.).
Wakde, Naval Advance Base
Wakde Island, Dutch New Guinea (now Pulau Masi Masi, Indonesia, 01°56'25"S, 139°00' 51"E) is located about 2-miles (3.2-kilometers) off the north coast about 125-miles (west-northwest of Hollandia (q.v.). The island, which is roughly 9,000-feet (2,743-meters) long and 3,600-feet (1,097-meters) yards wide, had been a coconut plantation before the war. The Japanese had invaded the island in April 1942 and by June 1943, had constructed a single coral surfaced 5,400-by-390-foot (1,646-by-119-meter) runway, with dispersal areas off the northern side, and barracks area on the south side was visible. The airstrip and associated installations covered almost one half of the island's surface, the remainder of which was left to neglected coconut trees. The island is generally flat, except for a knoll about 25-feet (7,6-meters) high on a small peninsula jutting out from the southeastern shore. The rest of the island is not more than 15-feet (4.6-meters) above sea level, but even this slight elevation is enough to produce several small coral caves along the eastern shore. A coral reef completely surrounds the island and of the three places at which this reef was found to be broken, there was a sheltered bay west of the small peninsula near the base of which a small jetty projected into the bay.
Wakde was needed to support the Allied invasion of Biak (q.v.) by providing an airfield for fighters and medium bombers. Army troops invaded the island on 19 May 1944;. Japanese forces on the island consisted of 763 men. At 1500 hours on 19 May, even before the island was declared secure, an Army aviation engineers had begun repairs on the western end of the Wakde Airdrome even though the airstrip was still subject to occasional Japanese fire. The work was resumed the next day and, despite one or two minor interruptions from Japanese rifle fire, the strip was operational by 1200 hours on 21 May. The first planes landed on the island that afternoon, two days ahead of schedule. Within a few more days the Wakde strip was sufficiently repaired and enlarged to furnish the needed base from which bombers could support the Biak operation on 27 May and the Central Pacific's advance to the Mariana Islands in mid-June. Wakde-based fighters were to provide close support for continuing operations on the mainland opposite that island.
Naval activity on the island consisted of construction of Port Director’s facilities and a communications center. Motor torpedo (PT) boats also operated from Wakde during June 1944 before moving on to Biak Island (q.v.). The base was disestablished on 31 March 1945.