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Royal New Zealand Air Force

radar units in tonga

page 228

radar units in tonga

In December 1942 an RNZAF radar party was sent to Tonga and was attached to No. 15 Fighter Squadron, which had been stationed there for some time. There were two radar stations on the island, manned by American troops. The Americans were needed at Guadalcanal and the New Zealanders took over from them. All the equipment was, of course, American, while the RNZAF men had been trained on British types. During the two or three days in which they took over the stations, they received instruction in the use of the equipment from the previous operators and were able to operate with very little difficulty.

One of the stations was in open country near the coast, and the other was located on the highest point of the island, five miles from Nukualofa. Both sites had their drawbacks—the former was too low-lying for satisfactory radar operation, and the latter was surrounded by bush—but they were the best available. Both were connected by telephone with an air-warning centre, which was also taken over by New Zealanders, near the airfield at Fuamotu. During the time the unit was on the island no enemy activity was reported, but plots were made of all friendly aircraft and shipping in the area.

Early in April 1943 another draft of American radar personnel arrived to take over the stations, and the New Zealanders stood by for orders to move to the forward area. Towards the end of the month they left Tonga on the USS President Hayes for Noumea.

They spent three weeks there in a transit camp, and then went to Guadalcanal in the first LSTs to be used in the Pacific. On arriving at Guadalcanal they were at first attached to No. 3 (BR) Squadron and took the place of the same United States Army personnel whom they had originally replaced at Tonga.