|Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides Islands|
United States Navy|
Royal New Zealand Air Force
Palikulo Bay Airfield or Bomber Field #1 is a former World War II airfield on the island of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides Islands.
World War II
The 7th Naval Construction Battalion arrived on Santo on 11 August 1942 and began construction of more extensive air facilities to support the Guadalcanal Campaign. After completing a second fighter airfield at Turtle Bay they began constructing a bomber field at Palikulo Bay. The runway was 5,000 feet (1,500 m) by 150 feet (46 m) built of PSP over a coral base. The 15th Naval Construction Battalion arrived on Santo on 13 October 1942 and added taxiways, revetments, and a 1,000 feet (300 m) extension to the runway for air transport operation.
Units of the 5th Bombardment Group based at Palikulo included the 23d Bombardment Squadron operating B-17Es and later B-24s from 1 December 1942 until 3 January 1944, and the 72d Bombardment Squadron and 394th Bombardment Squadron both operating B-17s. On 13 August B-17E #41-2463 of the 394th Bombardment Squadron piloted by Gene Roddenberry crashed on takeoff due to mechanical failure.
Navy and USMC units based at Palikulo included:
On the nights of 15 and 23 October 1942 Palikulo was shelled by a Japanese submarine however no serious damage resulted.
Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) units based at Palikulo included:
- No. 1 (Islands) Group Headquarters from 1 March 1943-January 1944
- No. 3 Squadron operating Lockheed Hudsons from 9 October-6 December 1942 and later operating Lockheed Venturas in July 1944
- No. 9 Squadron operating Lockheed Hudsons from March 1943
- No. 14 Squadron operating P-40s from April–June 1943
- No.25 Squadron operating SBDs from 30 January to 22 March 1944
The RNZAF operated a base depot at Palikulo that assembled aircraft that arrived aboard US ships and were then assigned to RNZAF Squadrons.
NOB Espiritu Santo disestablished on 12 June 1946. Part of the airfield forms part of the main road along Palikulo Bay, while the remainder together with all taxiways and base facilities is largely overgrown with vegetation.
- 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. 228.
- Stone, Peter (1997). The Lady and the President: The life and loss of the S.S. President Coolidge. Oceans Enterprises. p. 67. ISBN 9780958665728.
- Ross, John (1955). Royal New Zealand Air Force. Historical Publications Branch. p. 160. ISBN 0898391873.
- Ross, p.138
- Ross, p.277
- Ross, p.163
- Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons - Volume 2. Naval Historical Center. p. 757.
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