In response to air attacks on northern Australia, airfields were quickly built to launch aircraft tasked with intercepting Japanese air raids and bombing enemy targets to the north. Tindal Airfield was one of these airfields. Constructed in April 1942 by the American 43rd Engineer Regiment, it was originally called Carson’s Field after the Carson property. The US servicemen nicknamed it ‘Kit’ Carson, after the American frontiersman. However, by the time the airfield was operational, war in the Pacific had changed. The Japanese were driven back towards their homeland and consequently aircraft were never deployed from Carson’s Field.
After the Second World War, the airfield was renamed Tindal after Wing Commander Archie Tindal, as a permanent reminder of his heroic actions during the initial air raid by the Japanese on Darwin on 19 February 1942. During the attack, Tindal manned a Lewis machine gun and opened fire on the Japanese Zeroes. He continued the one-sided struggle for some time before finally being shot by a strafing fighter. His grave is located in the Adelaide River War Cemetery, and he is remembered as the first Air Force casualty on mainland Australia.
The MacDonald Airfield was originally known as Barkholder Field (sometimes referred to as Burkeholder). It was renamed after Wing Commander JRG McDonald who was the commander of 13th Squadron RAAF. He died when the plane he was piloting crashed into the sea at Laha in December 1941.
The airfield was built by Company "A" and HQ Detachment of the 808th Engineer Aviation Battalion from 11 May to 16 July 1942. The runway was 6000ft long and 100ft wide with 50ft shoulders and paved with four inches of gravel. B-25 Mitchell bombers from 18 Squadron (NEI) RAAF flew over 60 sorties from the airfield until April 1943.
Fenton airfield was named after Dr Clyde ‘Doc‘ Fenton, the Territory’s first Flying Doctor. Throughout the Second World War, the Airfield’s code name was ‘DOCTOR’. Three American bombing squadrons (319th, 528th and 530th) operated B24 Liberators from Fenton Airfield between1942 and 1943. The main targets were Balikpapan, Timor, Celebes and the Moluccas.
Dr Fenton founded an aerial ambulance and rescue service in 1934, which later became the Northern Territory Aerial Medical Service. A medical doctor and a self-taught pilot, he was loved and admired by Territorians for his heroic rescue efforts and was awarded an OBE in 1940. From 1942 to 1945 he served in the RAAF as a Flight Instructor and Commanding Officer of the No.6 Communications Unit.