Port Moresby was a large Allied base in WW2 with several aerodromes, supply dumps, hospitals, and administrative installations, run by the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU) under Major General Basil Morris. It became the target of constant Japanese air attacks during the Battle of Port Moresby. Fierce aerial battles were fought in the skies of the former Australian mandated territory, with the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) and US Army Airforce (USAAF) on one side, and the air forces of the Imperial Japanese army and navy on the other.
Port Moresby experienced its first Japanese air attack in February 1942. In the first couple of months, it was defended only by a handful of Australian anti-aircraft batteries and machine guns. In March, its defence was boosted with the arrival of the RAAF No.75 squadron with their P-40 Kittyhawk fighters. They found themselves on their first combat sortie within a couple of hours of their arrival. By 30th March, No. 75 squadron had lost 11 aircrafts but was able to maintain 10 serviceable machines from replacement parts. In the same month, they were joined by the US 8th Bombardment Squadron with A-24 bombers, and followed a short time later by P-39 Airocobras from the 36th US Pursuit squadron. The US 35th and the full 36th Pursuit squadrons relieved the Australian squadron, who by then had lost 21 aircrafts and 12 pilots.
Today, Port Moresby has grown to be the biggest and fastest developing city in the South Pacific. It has a sprawling neigbourhood wedged between dry rolling grassy hills, and the tranquil deep blue waters of the Coral Sea. It’s splashed about with high rise sporting, office, and shopping complexes, mainly around the downtown (city centre) and Waigani areas, populated by the rich, and expatriates on a descent income. Its fringes are interspersed with suburbs of mainly its less affluent citizens, including shanty squatter dwellings where you find those who are on a mere income or are unemployed. It has a large international airport, Jackson’s airport which was the famous 7-mile drome in WW2, an established seaport serving most shipping routes, shopping centre’s with a great array of groceries, bottle shops that sell local and international beers, wines and spirits, a fantastic marina and yacht club, four to five star hotels with an international touch, great restaurants (usually within the hotels) that serve delicious gourmet and buffets dishes, major airlines that fly to most domestic and international destinations, hire car facilities, and banks and currency exchange that handle most currencies (there’s one that’s open on week days at the international airport).
Its major hotels include Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn, Airways Hotel, Gateway Hotel, Ela Beach Hotel, Crown Plaza, Grand Papua Hotel, and Laguna Hotel. Its two major airlines are PNG Air, and Air Niugini which has direct flights between Port Moresby and Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong, Narita, Nadi, and Bali. Other airlines that fly to PNG are Qantas, Virgin, Philippines Airline, and Solomon Airlines. Port Moresby is the main international transit point for all our long haul Kokoda treks and short non-trekking tours. When you transit, you’ll be accommodated at the 4-star Holiday Inn Express or Holiday Inn.
Port Moresby is not a sought-after destination for some travelers due to an image problem brought about by mainly opportunistic violence from “raskol” gangs (crime gangs). It can be intimidating and worrisome at first, just thinking about it if you’re a first time traveler, but nothing should stop you from visiting. If you intend to go out in public to explore some of Port Moresby’s charms like the Parliament House (a replica of the Sepik “haus tambaran” or spirit house), National Museum, Port Moresby Nature Park, Adventure Park, Bomana War Cemetery, McDonald’s Corner, Owers’ Corner, PNG Arts, and Boroko craft market, always use a knowledgeable guide and exercise a lot of commonsense. Our guided tours are always in the company of expert local tour guides, who know the place like the back of their hand so there’s nothing you should be too worried about.
If you have any questions regarding Port Moresby, please contact us.