Henderson Field (Guadalcanal)

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Henderson Field
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands
Aerial view of Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, in late August 1942.jpg
Henderson Field in late August 1942, shortly after the Allies began operations there
Map of Guadalcanal.jpg
Location of Henderson Field
Coordinates09°25′41″S 160°03′17″E / 9.42806°S 160.05472°E / -9.42806; 160.05472 (Henderson Field)Coordinates: 09°25′41″S 160°03′17″E / 9.42806°S 160.05472°E / -9.42806; 160.05472 (Henderson Field)
Site history
Built1942
Built byJapanese Empire (finished by United States)
Henderson Field is located in Solomon Islands
Henderson Field
Henderson Field
Location of Henderson Field, Solomon Islands
The airfield at Lunga Point on Guadalcanal seen under construction by the Japanese in July, 1942.

Henderson Field is a former military airfield on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands during World War II. Originally built by the Japanese Empire, the conflict over its possession was one of the great battles of the Pacific War. Today it is Honiara International Airport.

History[edit]

Japanese construction[edit]

After the occupation of the Solomon Islands in April 1942, the Japanese military planned to capture Port Moresby in New Guinea and Tulagi in the southern Solomons, extending their southern defensive perimeter and establishing bases to support possible future advances. Seizure of Nauru, Ocean Island, New Caledonia, Fiji, and Samoa would cut supply lines between Australia and the United States, reducing or eliminating Australia as a threat to Japanese positions in the South Pacific.

The airfield on Guadalcanal was first surveyed by Japanese engineers when they arrived in the area in early May, and was known as "Lunga Point", or "Runga Point" to the Japanese, and code named "RXI". The airfield would allow Japanese aircraft to patrol the southern Solomons, shipping lanes to Australia, and the eastern flank of New Guinea.

There were two major construction units involved: 1,379 men in one and 1,145 in another, originally designated to work on Midway Island once it was captured. They arrived on 6 July 1942, commencing work after 9 July. Construction was observed by Allied Coastwatchers, prompting American plans to capture Guadalcanal and use the airfield.

About the middle of July, 250 civilians of the "Hama Construction Unit" arrived under the command of Inouree Hama, who had had 50 men on Gavutu previously. Also, specialists from the 14th Encampment Corps established radio stations on Tulagi, Gavutu and at RXI. Local labor was also used.

Airfield construction went well, and on the night of 6 August 1942, just before the American landing, the construction troops were given an extra sake ration for completing the airfield ahead of schedule.

United States seizure and Battle of Guadalcanal[edit]

See: Guadalcanal Campaign and Battle for Henderson Field for more information
Henderson Field as built up by April 1943, looking southeast to northwest

On 7 August 1942, American forces of the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions landed on the islands of Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and Florida in the southern Solomon Islands with the objective of preventing their use against supply and communication routes between the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. The Allies also intended to use Guadalcanal and Tulagi to support a campaign to capture or neutralize the major Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain.

The Marines overwhelmed the outnumbered defenders and captured Tulagi and essentially unoccupied Florida, as well as the nearly completed RXI airfield on Guadalcanal. The captured airfield was named Henderson Field in honor of United States Marine Corps Major Lofton Henderson, commanding officer of VMSB-241 who was killed in the Battle of Midway while leading his squadron against the Japanese carrier forces; he was the first Marine aviator to perish during that battle.

The first aircraft to land on the field was a PBY patrol bomber on August 12. On August 20, thirty-one Marine aircraft (F4F Wildcat fighters and SBD Dauntless dive bombers) were launched by USS Long Island from south of Guadalcanal, forming the field's first permanent air contingent. Repair and improvement was done by the US Navy Seabee 6th Naval Construction Battalion.[1] Two days later, a squadron of U.S. Army P-400 Airacobra (P-39 variant) fighters arrived, and in the coming months a number of B-17s and U.S. Navy aircraft used the base.

Boeing B-17E of 11th Bomb Group, 42d Bomb Squadron (Eager Beavers) at Henderson Field in 1943

Surprised by the Allied attack, the Japanese made several attempts between August and November 1942 to retake Henderson Field. Three major land battles, seven large naval battles (five nighttime surface actions and two carrier battles), occasional heavy bombardment by naval forces including Kongo-class battleships, and continual, almost daily aerial battles culminated in the decisive Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in early November 1942, during which the last Japanese attempt to bombard Henderson Field from the sea and to land enough troops to retake it was defeated.

In December 1942, the Japanese abandoned their efforts to retake Guadalcanal, conceding the island to the Allies and evacuating their last forces under harassment by the U.S. Army's XIV Corps, by 7 February 1943.

List of Naval bombardments[edit]

Between 10 September and 23 September a large force including carriers Shōkaku, Zuikaku and 4 Kongo class battleships depart Truk to assume station in the Solomon Islands north of Guadalcanal.[2]

Between 11 October and 30 October Zuikaku, Shokaku, Hiei, Kirishima, Kongo and Haruna with their associated support forces depart Truk to assume station in the Solomon Islands. This operation would eventually lead to the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.

Date Bombardment Forces Result
23 August destroyer Kagero [3]
24/25 August destroyers Kagero, Mutsuki, Kawakaze, Yayoi, Isokaze [4]
6 September destroyers Shikinami, Yūdachi, Ariake, Uranami intended to intercept convoy, bombard the airfield instead [5]
8 September light cruiser Sendai, 8 destroyers bombardment of nearby Tulagi[6]
12 September light cruiser Sendai, destroyers Fubuki, Shikinami, Suzukaze supports land forces in the Battle of Edson's Ridge[7]
13 September destroyers Kagero, Uranami, Murakumo, Yūdachi, Ushio, Umikaze, Shirayuki, Kawakaze, Fubuki, Suzukaze, Sazanami supports land forces in the Battle of Edson's ridge [8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]
11/12 October heavy cruisers Furutaka, Kinugasa, Aoba out of Shortlands Force is intercepted resulting in the Battle of Cape Esperance
13/14 October battleships Kongo, Haruna detached from Kondo's Advance Force out of Truk 918 14-inch shells fired on the airfield[16]
14/15 October heavy cruisers Kinugasa, Chokai out of the Shortlands 752 8-inch shells fired on the airfield[17]
15/16 October heavy cruisers Maya, Myoko from Kondo's Advance Force 912 8-inch shells fired at the airfield[18]
25 October light cruiser Yura, destroyers Akizuki, Murasame, Harusame, Yūdachi out of the Shortlands Yura sunk by airstrikes on approach. mission canceled[19]
12/13 November battleships Hiei, Kirishima Force is intercepted resulting in the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal
13/14 November heavy cruisers Maya, Suzuya 989 8-inch shells fired on the airfield[20]
14/15 November battleship Kirishima, heavy cruisers Takao, Atago Force is intercepted resulting in the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal

Operations after the Battle of Guadalcanal[edit]

In 1944, specially-fitted Liberator PB4Y-1 bombers operated from Henderson Field to carry out reconnaissance on Eniwetok and other Japanese-held islands.[21] Royal New Zealand Air Force squadrons were using the air base during October and November 1944 for patrols and searches.[22] The RNZAF provided No 52 Radar Unit in March 1943 with GCI radar, which (unlike the SCR 270 radar) could provide altitudes of approaching enemy planes.[23]

Postwar use[edit]

Henderson Field was abandoned after the war. The field was modernized and reopened in 1969 as Honiara International Airport, the main airport for the Solomon Islands. In the late 1970s the runway was expanded and lengthened.

United States military use[edit]

United States Navy[edit]

United States Marine Corps[edit]

United States Army Air Forces[edit]

  • 44th FS
  • 38th BG, 70th BS (B-26) Fiji January – Feb 4, 1943 Fiji
  • 42nd BG, 69th BS (B-26, B-25) New Hebrides January – Oct 43 PDG
  • 42nd BG, 75th BS (B-25) ? – Oct 21, 1943 Renard
  • 38th BG, 70th BS (B-25) Fiji ? – Oct 22, 43 Russells
  • 347th FG, 67th FS (P-39) New Caledonia Aug 22, 42 – June 43
  • 42nd BG, 390th BS (B-25) Fiji May 11 – Oct 22, 1943 Renard

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ US Navy 6th Naval Construction Battalion
  2. ^ "Imperial Battleships". Archived from the original on 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  3. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  4. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2021-11-26. Retrieved 2022-01-24.
  5. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  6. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  7. ^ "Imperial Cruisers". Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  8. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2016-04-04. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  9. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  10. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  11. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  12. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  13. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  14. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2019-11-27. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  15. ^ "Long Lancers". Archived from the original on 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  16. ^ "Imperial Battleships". Archived from the original on 2011-03-05. Retrieved 2022-01-24.
  17. ^ "Imperial Cruisers". Archived from the original on 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2022-01-24.
  18. ^ "Imperial Cruisers". Archived from the original on 2021-11-04. Retrieved 2022-01-24.
  19. ^ "Imperial Cruisers". Archived from the original on 2022-05-06. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  20. ^ "Imperial Cruisers". Archived from the original on 2021-11-04. Retrieved 2022-01-24.
  21. ^ Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II: New Guinea and the Marianas, 1953 August P. Loring & W. Sidney Felton, p.164
  22. ^ Ross, Squadron Leader J. M. S. "OPERATIONS BY NO. 1 (BR) SQUADRON, OCTOBER 1943 – FEBRUARY 1944 | NZETC". Nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. Archived from the original on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
  23. ^ Ross, Squadron Leader J. M. S. "Radar units in the Pacific". Nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. Archived from the original on 2017-08-04. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  24. ^ Melson 1996, p. 10.

References[edit]

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

Bibliography