by Jack McKillop
Naval Advance Base Kiriwina was located on Kiriwina Island (8°29'49"S, 151°04'37"E) in the Trobriand Islands. The Trobriands are a 174-square-mile (450-square-kilometer) archipelago of 22 coral atolls in the Solomon Sea off the eastern coast of New Guinea. The four major islands are Kiriwina, the largest, and Kaileuna, Vakuta and Kitava. The islands are located about 120-miles (193-kilometers) east-northeast of Cape Nelson, Papua New Guinea.
Kiriwina Island is 30-miles (48-kilometers) long and varies in width from 2-to-8-miles (3.2-to-13-kilometers) giving it a total area of 112-square-miles (291-square-kilometers). The Japanese never occupied the islands and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) established a radar station there in May 1943. The island was ideally situated to base fighters to escort bombers attacking New Britain and New Ireland Islands in the Bismarck Archipelago and the overall plan was to build two airdromes and a seaplane base. U.S. Army forces landed on 30 June 1943 its capture being simultaneous with further landings by U.S. forces on New Georgia Island in the Solomon Islands and on the New Guinea coast.
The two airdromes were known as South Drome and North Drome and both were built by Army Aviation Engineers. South Drome (8°30'21"S, 151°04'50"E) was built as a coral surfaced single runway, 6,000-by-150-feet (1,829-by-46-meters) for use by bombers and fighters. A Douglas C-47 Skytrain was the first aircraft to land on 2 August 1943.
A detachment of Seabees arrived from Woodlark Island in September 1943 to expand the airstrip to 7,000-feet (2,134-meters) and build 25 fighter handstands. A 5,300-foot (1,615-meter) taxiway and 16 bomber hardstands were also completed by 28 October and the Seabees returned to Woodlark Island. Several RAAF squadrons were based at South Drome during the war.
North Drome (8°25'46"S, 151°05'16"E) was built as a crash strip on the northern part of the island and consisted of a runway that ran roughly northwest to southeast with a taxiway and revetment areas on both sides of the strip. The seaplane landing base (8°32'49"S, 151°03'53"E) was located on the south coast of the island at Losuia, the largest town on the island. The base consisted of a seaplane landing area, anchorage and jetty.
Kiriwina is only 130-miles (209-kilometers) from Gasmata on New Britain Island. The U.S. Navy established Naval Advance Base Kiriwina as a motor torpedo (PT) boat base in the open roadstead on the north side of the island on 2 October 1943 to intercept Japanese barges operating between Rabaul and Gasmata. However, there were few barge contacts and the base was closed on 27 February 1944.
Today, the Trobriand Islands have been officially renamed the Kiriwina Islands and are part of the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea. North Drome and the seaplane base were abandoned after the war and South Drome is now an active airport named Losuia Airport.