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Human face of war
Huon Peninsula campaigns
Lae fell to Australian forces in September 1943. Japanese forces retreated from Lae over the Saruwaged Range, during which many men died.

The immediate object of Australian operations on the Huon Peninsula was Finschhafen, which Japanese forces had used as a staging and supply base for forward areas. The base was defended by approximately 1,000 Japanese naval landing, infantry and artillery troops.

Part of the Australian formation proceeded along the coast to the north towards Finschhafen after Lae had fallen. The main offensive, however, began with the Allied landing operation at Scarlet Beach (eight kilometres north of Finschhafen) on 22 September. The Japanese units defending the area, after providing stubborn resistance to the offensive, before withdrawing towards Sattelberg. Meanwhile, 12,000 reinforcements from the 20th Division, led by Lieutenant General KATAGIRI, were also heading towards Sattelberg.

The Australian coastal units, in a parallel to the attack on Sattelberg, advanced on Finschhafen, finally capturing the town on the 11th day of the offensive. The Japanese 20th Division at Sattelberg began their counter-offensive on 16 October, but were plagued by a shortage of supplies. Meanwhile, not only had the Australians been strengthened with tanks and artillery, they maintained their dominance through the use of jeeps to provide supplies.

The Japanese troops provided stiff resistance, but Sattelberg was finally captured on 27 November. The Australians pursued the retreating Japanese overland to the north towards Lakona and Sio. During the retreat, many injured and sick Japanese soldiers were left to delay the Australians, or were killed by their comrades.

The Australian advance pressed on, with Sio being captured on 15 January 1944.

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Huon Peninsula campaigns
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Huon Peninsula

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