An amphibious landing was made at Hopi on Huon Gulf and at Buhem River, New Guinea on 3 September, 1943. Within three days 14,000 troops were landed in these areas without casualty. On 11 September Salamaua was captured. On the 16th Lae was occupied by our forces after the enemy had withdrawn. Landings were made in the Finschhafen area on the 22nd.


On 21 September the LST-204, Coast Guard manned, departed Lae, New Guinea with a combat load of 500 Australian troops of the 9th Division and their equipment. She was one of an echelon of three ships that beached at Scarlet Beach, several miles above Finschhafen at 0656 on the 22nd. Unloading of cargo and disembarking of troops began immediately under a protective air cover and was completed without incident at 0925. Five minutes later the LST began retracting from the beach but had not moved off more than 25 yards when a lone Japanese Zero fighter, sneaking in unobserved over the hills, swooped down to masthead level and dropped two small bombs, both falling wide of their mark on the beach, about 40 yards away. The LST joined formation and headed south for Buna. At 1240 six Japanese medium bombers were sighted on the horizon approaching on the port quarter at very low altitude. Two "Zeros" at high altitude were immediately engaged by our planes. All ships broke formation and began weaving at emergency speed, according to plan. The main batteries of escorting destroyers opened fire at about 5,000 yards and two bombers crashed into the sea, one exploding in mid-air. The remaining bombers broke formation but continued coming in. Two were approaching on the port quarter when the order was given to fire




and hits were scored almost immediately with the 20 mm guns. One torpedo was launched by a bomber but passed astern missing the LST by several hundred yards. The bomber was then seen to fall into the water, bounce back up again and burst into flames. About 400 yards astern and to port the other "Sally" kept coming at deck level. As she passed to starboard not more than 25 yards abeam direct hits were observed peppering her cockpit. The bomber began leaving a trail of smoke and appeared out of control. When about 100 yards off the port bow she crashed into the sea. The remaining bombers were now engaged by the P-38's and two more were seen crashing about 5,000 yards to port. One Japanese Zero was seen to plummet seaward in flames, while one P-38 was falling nearby. The pilot, however, had bailed out and was subsequently picked up by the escorts. At 1305 all clear was sounded and formation resumed with no casualties suffered by the LST-204. Other Coast Guard manned LST's participating in the Finschhafen landing were LST's Nos. 18, 67, and 168.


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