Not a bad record Lae and Finschafen [sic] in four weeks. What would happen if they fed the lad well on fruit, beer etc.

Private Arthur Armstrong of the 2/13th Battalion, writing in his diary. Read more of his experience.


Finschhafen is a coastal town on the Huon Peninsula, east of Lae.

Strategic situation

The Imperial Japanese Army occupied Finschhafen on 10 March 1942 as part of a strategic move to protect their main base at Lae.

The Allies planned to capture Finschhafen to establish a major air and naval base to support other operations.

Allied forces advanced to Finschhafen on land from Lae, and by sea via Scarlet Beach and Siki cove.

They had received reports that suggested only 350 Japanese were defending the area, which proved to be incorrect.

The campaign

The advance on Finschhafen was part of the Huon Peninsula campaign.

On 22 September 1943, the landing of the 20th Brigade, 9th Australian Division, faced stiff Japanese opposition. The 9th Division had been lauded as the 'Rats of Tobruk' for their work in the Middle East earlier in the war.

Around the same time, a large Japanese air raid also attacked the Allied fleet offshore. US fighters defeated them.

On land, the 22nd Infantry Battalion pursued the Japanese, who were withdrawing from Lae, to the east, towards Finschhafen.

On 23 September, 20th Brigade started advancing on Finschhafen. Some battalions stayed behind to secure the beachhead.

Australian forces recaptured the town on 2 October 1943.

Japanese counterattack

After the capture of Finschhafen, some of the 20th Infantry Brigade returned to Scarlet Beach while others stayed to secure Finschhafen.

Both the Japanese and Allied forces were reinforced with fresh troops.

The Allies believed that the Japanese were preparing for an assault. The main Japanese counterattack began on 16 October. Despite some miscommunications, including at the very top of the armed forces, the Allies fought off the attack.

The Japanese called off the counterattack on 24 October.

Supply issues and battle terrain

The Australians had supply difficulties during the advance. They had to travel overland through dense jungle, with several water crossings and rugged features.

Each infantry battalion only had four jeeps with trailers for resupply. The engineers and artillery had several trucks and tractors.

The outcome

Finschhafen became "one of the largest bases in the Southwest Pacific area", according to historian Garth Pratton.

The base played an important role in the US advance through the Philippines during 1944 and 1945.

Papua New Guinea
22 September to 8 December 1943
Image caption
One of the many battle signs in the Finschhafen. It records the 22nd Infantry Battalion's push from Lae to Finschhafen.
Image attribution
Australian War Memorial. AWM 071404. Photographer unknown.

Related Trails

The Huon Peninsula Remembrance Trail

22 Steps