The South Pacific is littered with relics leftover from World War II. Military tunnels snake beneath tiny towns. Planes and equipment lie sunken beneath the water, cloaked in coral. Dense tangles of jungle hold more forgotten wartime treasures, like this abandoned airfield.
Originally built by the Australian army as a small landing strip, Talasea was occupied by both the Japanese and Americans during the second World War, changing hands between them. Too small to accommodate fighter planes, the airfield was used as an emergency landing strip in the later part of the war.
In early September 1944, the landing strip saw its final pieces of action. On September 3, 1944, an American B-25H bomber took off from Stirling Island with the objective of locating and destroying any remaining Japanese ships of the South Coast of New Britain. While the mission was a success, the B-25H aircraft incurred engine trouble, and rather than risk the flight back to its base, the captain made the decision to make an emergency landing at Talasea.
In a similar mission less than a week later, a Lockheed Ventura was dispatched to bomb a Japanese-occupied airstrip near Rabaul. The Lockheed’s mission was successful, but one engine failed on the return journey. As the crew knew the plane wouldn’t make it all the way back to base, they too made the decision to land at Talasea.
Shortly after the war ended, the airstrip at Talasea was abandoned. Palm oil plantations sprung up around Talasea in the 1960s, and nature gradually encroached around the planes. Today, the airstrip is virtually unrecognizable from its former runway glory.
The land still holds tidbits of its wartime past, however, as both the B-25 bomber and Lockheed remain in their final resting places. While exploring on foot, make your way through the overgrown bush, and you’ll reach the B-25H bomber, resting on its undercarriage atop a bed of lush greenery.
Fewer than 40 yards to the west lies the Lockheed Ventura. With the Allied star still barely visible on its side, you can still walk inside the plant-filled undercarriage and imagine the tight spaces where the pilots and crew would have sat.