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Royal New Zealand Air Force

rnzaf units on bougainville

rnzaf units on bougainville

The redeployment of the RNZAF in the South-West Pacific Area in the latter part of 1944 resulted, temporarily, in a reduction of its page 273 operational strength on Bougainville. In June there had been one bomber-reconnaissance, one TBF, and three fighter squadrons there. By the beginning of November the number was reduced to two fighter squadrons. Later in the month, when No. 23 went to Los Negros, only No. 15 was left. No. 15 remained the only RNZAF operational unit on the island until the middle of December, when it was relieved by No. 24. A few days later No. 21 also camp up from the rear area.

The year ended with two New Zealand fighter squadrons on Bougainville. Ground units comprised the headquarters organisation of the New Zealand Air Task Force; the Field Headquarters at Piva; No. 2 Servicing Unit, which had been there since the beginning of the year; No. 31 Servicing Unit, which had recently arrived from New Zealand to replace No. 4; a Field Maintenance Unit; and a flight of No. 2 (Islands) Works Squadron. All operations were carried out from the Piva airstrip, the original fighter strip at Torokina having been relegated since October to the status of an emergency landing ground.

New Zealand bomber-reconnaissance squadrons were based at Bougainville until the middle of October 1944. No. 9 Squadron was there from May until August, when it was relieved by No. 3. Both squadrons were employed on daily weather flights and shipping counts over Rabaul, on survivor patrols, and on occasional bombing raids over the area. They were also used in numerous sweeps over New Ireland, where they combined bombing and strafing attacks with thorough reconnaissance of the island, bringing back reports of targets which warranted full-scale strikes. Flying over Bougainville itself, the aircraft generally carried a native to spot targets, and then the same crew led a striking force there the next day.

Fighter operations did not change greatly from July to December 1944. A succession of squadrons carried out bombing strikes and sweeps over the Bougainvil—Rabau area, and also took their part in the air defence of the Allied positions at Empress Augusta Bay.