Small arms fire and mortar fire is spewing out from pill boxes on the beach coming our way. Yes! The Jap is here this time. The Devil's Own's [2/13th Battalion's] first encounter with the Japanese and hope to do as good a job as we did in the desert of Africa.
- Corporal Jack Craig, who landed with the 2/13th at Siki Cove, south of the intended landing place. Read more about his experience.
Scarlet Beach is almost 10 kms north of Finschhafen in the Huon Peninsula. It was the site of the first opposed amphibious landing of Australian troops since Gallipoli in 1915.
The landing at Scarlet Beach played a major part in the Huon Peninsula campaign.
When Lae fell sooner than expected, the Allies looked to advance to Sattelberg and Finschhafen. This would secure the Peninsula.
The plan was to land on the beach and advance to Finschhafen, which the Japanese had occupied since 10 March 1942.
Capturing Finschhafen meant the Allies could build an airbase and naval facilities to support operations against the Japanese.
The landing at Scarlet Beach
In the evening of 21 September 1943, Allied forces, including the Australian Army's 20th Brigade, launched an amphibious landing at Scarlet Beach.
In the very early hours of September 22, they arrived just off the coast at Scarlet Beach. As they headed toward the shore in the dark, some of the barges incorrectly veered to the left and landed to the south at Siki Cove.
Both Scarlet Beach and Siki Cove were covered by bunker-type pillboxes made of logs, spaced about 50 m apart. They were connected by shallow trenches. They held about 300 Japanese defenders.
The landing parties at both Scarlet Beach and Siki Cove came under heavy attack.
Unlike earlier campaigns, the Japanese withdrew rather than fight to the death. They wanted to keep men for future battles.
The Capture of Finschhafen
The following day, September 23, some troops from the 20th Brigade advanced from Scarlet Beach to Finschhafen, while others secured the beachheads.
During the advance, the Australians faced supply difficulties. The dense jungle, rugged features and water crossings meant limited vehicle access. Soldiers were forced to carry their own supplies as local Papuan carriers were unavailable.
There were many Japanese in the area. The Australians faced strong resistance around the Bumi River area.
As the 20th moved inland from Scarlet Beach, the 22nd Infantry Battalion advanced on land from Lae with minimal opposition.
On October 1, the 22nd Infantry crossed the Mape River near Langemak Bay. Troops from the 20th Brigade defeated a Japanese force around Kakakog.
The Japanese began withdrawing from Finschhafen. On October 2, the 20th Infantry Brigade entered Finschhafen with limited resistance. The following day, the 22nd joined them. Finschhafen fell to the Allies.
The capture of Finschaffen resulted in 73 Australians killed and a further 285 injured. Illness led to 391 cases, which needed to be evacuated from the area.
A Japanese counterattack began on October 16, however, the Allies held the Japanese back.
They developed Finschhafen into a large Allied military base with several airfields. It also became a logistics hub. It supplied the American advance through the Philippines from 1944 to 1945.