HUGHES AIRFIELD, NT
(32 MILE)
DURING WW2

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visits since 12 September 2002

 

Fighter Guide Map

Hughes Field (32 Mile) at Noonamah, in the Northern Territory was located 32 mile by road south of Darwin and 24 miles by air SE of Darwin. The site was chosen by Flight Lieutenant Yeaman and Flight Lieutenant Brogan and Colonel Sverdrup of the US Army.

Hughes Field was built by the 808th Engineer Aviation Battalion who had arrived at Melbourne aboard the U.S.S Coolidge on 2 February 1942, the first U.S. Army Engineering Unit to arrive in Australia. The 808th initially camped at Camp Darley in Melbourne.

Hughes Field was built by the 808th Engineer Aviation Battalion less Company A and HQ detachment between 10 March 1942 to 13 April 1942.

They built 5,000ft of runway that was 100 ft wide with a 25 ft right shoulder and a 50 ft left shoulder paved with 8 inches of clay bound gravel with a coat of Diesel Oil. Also built was 6,000 ft of taxiway 40 ft wide with 10 ft shoulders paved with three inches of gravel and 24 dispersals with out revetments. 

Hughes Airfield was later enlarged and improved by RAAF Mobile Works Squadron and the Allied Works Council.

Graeme Hughes contacted me on 3 January and advised that Hughes Airfield was named after W. A. Hughes, the Director of Mines in the Northern Territory before the war, who had inspected the site with US Army Colonel Sverdrup in early February 1942 and recommended its use as an airfield. I had initially thought that Hughes Field may have been named after Lt. Charles Hughes of 33rd Pursuit Squadron USAAF who was killed during the first Japanese air raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942.

Maintenance personnal from 13 Squadron RAAF arrived at Hughes Airfield from Daly Waters on 2 May 1942 and established a camp. The Squadron's Lockheed Hudsons arrived soon after and aircrew and ground crew set about clearing trees from the runway approaches.

No. 54 Operational Base Unit (54 OBU) took over administrative control of the airfield on 15 May 1942 and the airfield continued to be improved. Anti-aircraft emplacements, bomb dumps, camouflage netting and aircraft service areas were also established.

34 Squadron RAAF moved to Hughes airfield (32 Mile) from Batchelor airfield on 15 July 1942. Just over a month later, they moved to Manbulloo airfield in the Northern Territory on 27 August 1942. 

No. 1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit (1 PRU) RAAF relocated to Hughes Airfield on 19 August 1942. The Japanese bombed Hughes airfield on 23 August 1942 which resulted in the loss of a Wirraway and a Brewster Buffalo from No. 1 PRU. Some fuel and ammunition dumps were also hit. Further Japanese bombing raids on Hughes airfield occurred on 26 and 27 November 1942.

The Lockheed Hudsons of No 2 Squadron RAAF arrived at Hughes airfield on 10 April 1943 when No 13 Squadron RAAF moved to Canberra, ACT.

The Japanese carried out another bombing raid on Hughes airfield on 13 August 1943. Peter McLaren, a Fitter IIE with 2 Squadron RAAF, remembers walking towards the air raid shelter and seeing "three huge great flashes ... in front of me. Did I ever move. I beat GALE from WA to the air raid trench ... but "Stormy" GALE was not in a hurry to get in ... he did after coaxing from me."

No. 2 Squadron RAAF at Hughes airfield was re-equipped with B-25 Mitchell bombers in mid 1944 and carried out bombing raids over the Netherlands East Indies as part of 97 Wing. No. 2 Squadron RAAF was redeployed to Jacquinot Bay in March 1945.


Photo:- Matthew Coughlin

Hughes Airfield looking north

 


Photo:- Matthew Coughlin

Remains of some WWII emplacements at Hughes airfield

 


Photo:- Matthew Coughlin

Are these ammunition boxes?

 


Photo:- Matthew Coughlin

Rusting remnants at Hughes airfield

 


Photo:- Matthew Coughlin

Rusting Drums near Hughes airfield

 

JAPANESE BOMBING RAIDS ON HUGHES AIRFIELD

23 Aug 42 (12:12 pm) Hughes airfield
26 Nov 42   (03.20 a.m.) Darwin town area, Strauss airfield & Hughes airfield
27 Nov 42 (03:56 - 04:46 am) Coomalie Creek, Hughes & Strauss airfields
13 Aug 1943 Hughes Airfield

 

MILITARY AIRCRAFT CRASHES AT HUGHES AIRFIELD DURING WW2

DATE LOCATION SERVICE AIRCRAFT SERIAL NO.
30 Jun 42 near Hughes airfield USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress #41-9014
12 Jun 43 1 mile SE of the souhern end of Hughes airfield RAAF Lockheed Hudson A16-186
abt Dec 43 Hughes airfield RAAF F.VC Spitfire A58-109
abt Dec 44 Hughes airfield RAAF B-25D Mitchell A47-9
abt Dec 44 Hughes airfield RAAF B-25D Mitchell A47-2
abt May 45 Hughes airfield RAAF LF.VIII Spitfire A58-356 (JF885)
16 Feb 45 Manton Dam area, 2 miles west of Hughes airfield RAAF Vultee Vengeance A27-422

 

Full size versions of the above photos are available on
my "Australia @ War" Data DVD

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Melvin Haba for his assistance with this home page. Melvin's father was Technician 5 Grade (Corporal) Laudie R Haba of Company "B" of the 808th Engineer Aviation Battalion. Laudie Haba returned to the States in December 1944.

I'd like to thank Graeme Hughes and Matthew Coughlin for their assistance with this web page.

 

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 Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 12 September 2002

This page last updated 03 January 2011