Pai Bridge

The Pai River bridge is often cited as the most visible evidence of the presence of Japan's Army in Northern Thailand during WWII.
But the bridge was actually built after the war. This website attempts to correct that misconception and others about the period.


Japan in Northwest Thailand during World War II

Lampang Airfield Group (Th: ลำปาง _____ / Jp: ランパーン _____ )
Page 1 of 1
Routes 0001
& 0011[2]


Text Notes


Lampang Airfield Group

The Lampang Airfield Group might today be termed the Northern Thai Air Defense Command with Lampang as its center. At the time, it was apparently developed to support the plans of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) to defend Burma, then to invade India, and finally to defend Thailand itself. The development included, first, improvements in the existing airfields at Lampang and Ko Kha, and later, the establishment of two new airstrips at Mae Mo and Hang Chat. While the Allied interpretation of the group did not include the more distant airfields in northwest Thailand of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phrae, Nan, and Kengtung, they were nonetheless subordinate to Lampang.[2a]

While IJA ground forces made the improvements dictated by higher command in anticipation of the arrival of new aircraft, Japan's industry, under onslaught from Allied air attacks, was unable to provide such aircraft. In fact, no aircraft would ever be sighted at Ko Kha, Mae Mo, or Hang Chat air facilities during Allied overflights.

NW Thailand airfiield locatns

Lampang was an important transport hub in northwest Thailand at the beginning of the war; facilities there included:

• An airstrip (though without scheduled connections listed)
• A rail connection to Bangkok and its Khlong Toei harbor
   facilities, 600+ rail-km south,[3a] with express passenger service
   scheduled twice a week[3b]
• The main north-south road (Phahonyothin Road, now Route 1),
   providing connections:

*  To the north, the border towns of Thailand's Mae Sai
    and Burma's Tachilek, 282 road-km distant, with access
    north to Kengtung in Burma.
*  To the immediate south, Ko Kha with Thailand's first
    sugar refinery, about 15 road-km distant. Ko Kha also
    had an airstrip, for reasons as yet unclear. The next
    major town to the south with an airstrip was Phitsanulok.

In 1944, two more airstrips were added to the Lampang Airfield Group, at:

• Hang Chat: about 17 road-km to the northwest
• Mae Mo: about 31 road-km to the northeast

In larger scale:

Lampang Airport Group

Each air facility is discussed in more detail under these headings:


Hang Chat
Ko Kha
Mae Mo



Revision List
2013 Nov 16
First published on Internet
2014 Jan 06
Explanatory text plus larger map added




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Revision list. See bottom of Text column on this page.

Bibliography supports notes.

1.^ Coordinates per Google Earth for current location of Lampang airport.

2.^ Lampang is located at the junction of major Thai Highways 1 and 11.

2a.^ There were, in addition, inactive airfields in northwest Thailand at Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Khun Yuam, Mae Sariang, Uttaradit.

3.^ "Terrain" map from  Nations Online Project: Searchable Map and Satellite View of Thailand using Google Earth Data. Annotations by author using Microsoft Publisher.




















3a.^ Whyte, BR, The Railway Atlas of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia (Bangkok: White Lotus, 2010), p 28.

3b.^ 2bangkok forum thread:
Train schedule Dec 1941






4.^ "Terrain" map, ibid.