Published May 04, 2015
Most of the black Engineer Aviation Battalion units formed during World War II served in the Pacific Theater or the China-Burma-India Theater. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Most of the black EAB units formed during World War II served in the Pacific Theater of Operations or the China-Burma-India Theater of Operation. The first two black aviation engineer units shipped out of the United States were the 810th EAB and the 811th EAB. Listening to rumors that they would be shipped to a cold climate, the troops of the 810th embarked for overseas duty in winter uniforms. For the next five weeks, these men sweltered as their transport made its way to Noumea, the port of New Caledonia. During the next three weeks, until their equipment arrived, they unloaded cargo ships, often under Japanese bombing attacks. When their machinery arrived, these engineers had to move 100 miles over mountainous terrain to Plaines des Galacs on the northern end of the island. If they had not learned how to operate this equipment during their six months at MacDill Field, they certainly learned on the job as they cleared trees, reinforced bridges and forded streams. They had the runway at Plaines Des Galacs in a suitable condition for fighters to use in time for the Battle of the Coral Sea. Through hard work, improvisation and common sense, the men of the 810th turned the Plaines Des Galacs into a major airfield, and they finished the war in New Caledonia working on various construction jobs.
Also sent to New Caledonia, the 811th performed most of the improvements on Tontouta, the most important air base on the island, and they used their heavy equipment to transport crated airplanes 35 miles from the harbor to an assembly point. A friendly rivalry developed when this unit began working with a white Seabee engineer unit on various projects. The 811th set the island record for B-24 hangar construction. Later, the unit commander told his men they could have a day off for every day under the existing Seabee record for constructing a radio range, and despite heavy rains, the unit beat the Seabees' time by 13 days. The 811th finished their Pacific tour at Iwo Jima.
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The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is located at:
1100 Spaatz Street
Wright-Patterson AFB OH 45433
(near Dayton, Ohio)