Nanumea Airfield

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Nanumea Airfield
Seventh Air Force - Emblem (World War II).svg
Part of Seventh Air Force
Nanumea, Tuvalu
Nanumea Airfield 1943.jpg
F4F-4s of VMF-441 on alert at Nanumea 23 October 1943
Coordinates 05°41′00″S 176°07′44.4″E / 5.68333°S 176.129000°E / -5.68333; 176.129000
Type Military Airfield
Site information
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
United States Marine Corps
Condition abandoned
Site history
Built 1943
Built by Seebees
In use 1943-5
Materials Coral

Nanumea Airfield is a former World War II airfield on the island of Nanumea in the Ellice Islands (now known as Tuvalu).


World War II[edit]

Nanumea Airfield was built by United States Navy Seabees during the Pacific War as an alternative strip to Nukufetau and Funafuti airfields to allow for further dispersal of aircraft in the Ellice Islands (now Tuvalu).

On 5 September 1943 elements of the 16th Naval Construction Battalion arrived on Nanumea and on 11 September they started work on a 7,000 feet (2,100 m) by 200 feet (61 m) bomber strip. On 7 September 1943 ten Betty bombers of the 755th Kōkūtai (air group) from Tarawa Atoll, Gilbert Islands, drop 20 bombs on Nanumea. The next day Betty bombers again bombed Nanumea.

On 19 September F4F-4s of VMF-441 landed on the strip and continued to use the runway during the remainder of the construction period. The first bombers landed on 12 November. The Seabees also built the camp and operation facilities for the airfield, including an 8,000-barrel tank farm for aviation gasoline.[1][2]

United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) units based at Nanumea included:[3]

United States Marine Corps (USMC) units based at Nanumea included:

On 11 November 1943 a Japanese air raid on Nanumea resulted in the destruction of one B-24.

On 19 November 1943 B-24 No. 42~72980 of the 27th Bombardment Squadron crashed on landing.

On 27 November 1943 SBD No. 38035 of VMA-331 crashed due to undercarriage failure.

By September 1944 base roll-up and salvage operations had commenced and were completed by the end of March 1945.[1] Wreckage of the aircraft remained on the island.[7]

F4Fs of VMF-441 at Nanumea, 19 September 1943


After the Pacific War the airfield was dismantled and the land returned to its owners, however as the coral base was compacted to make the runway the land now provides poor ground for growing coconuts.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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. 236.
  2. ^ McKillop, Jack. "Ellice Islands". Funafuti, Naval Advance Base. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  3. ^ Maurer, Maxwell AFB (1983). Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  4. ^ a b Sherrod, Robert (1952). History of Marine Corps Aviation in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Combat Forces Press. OCLC 1261876.
  5. ^ Crowder, Michael J. (2000). United States Marine Corps Aviation Squadron Lineage, Insignia & History – Volume One – The Fighter Squadrons. Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company. ISBN 1-56311-926-9.
  6. ^ "Marine Corps in WWII Vol IV – Western Pacific Operations" (PDF). Marine Aviation Western Pacific. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  7. ^ Bartsch, Bill. "War Relics in Tuvalu and Kiribati" (PDF). South Pacific Bulletin (1975). Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  8. ^ Melei Telavi, Hugh Laracy (ed.) (1983). "Chapter 18 – War". Tuvalu: A History. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific and Government of Tuvalu. p. 143.

External links[edit]