Finschhafen is a town 80 kilometers east of Lae on the Huon Peninsula in Morobe Province of Papua New Guinea. The town is commonly misspelt as Finschafen or Finschaven. During World War II, the town was also referred to as Fitch Haven in the logs of some U.S. Navy men.[1]

Map of Finschhafen by Otto Finsch
Map of Finschhafen by Otto Finsch
Finschhafen is located in Papua New Guinea
Location within Papua New Guinea
Coordinates: 6°36′S 147°51′E / 6.600°S 147.850°E
CountryPapua New Guinea
ProvinceMorobe Province
Time zoneUTC+10 (AEST)


The area was charted by the British navigator Captain John Moresby in 1873–74.[2]

Moru in Finschhafen 1884-1885
Moru in Finschhafen 1884-1885. Sketch by Otto Finsch

Finschhafen was surveyed in 1884 by the German scientist and explorer Otto Finsch who gave his name to the town.[2] A town was built in 1885 as part of the colony of German New Guinea and was named after the discoverer (-hafen = -harbor). In 1886, Johann Flierl and two other Lutheran missionaries settled in the area, creating a Mission station at Simbang. A malaria epidemic in 1891 caused the town to be abandoned by the German plantation owners and government officials. It was resettled afterward and was claimed by the Germans in 1894.[2] It was finally abandoned in 1901.

Finschhafen was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army on 10 March 1942 during World War II. Australian forces recaptured the town during the Huon Peninsula campaign on 2 October 1943.

On 2 February 2012, the passenger boat MV Rabaul Queen, which had 350 or more passengers on board, sank nine miles away from the town, killing six people, injuring seven, and leaving at least 100 but possibly over 300 missing.[3][4][5]

See also


  1. ^ Ensign N. T. Shows, Jr. "World War II Journal of Ensign N. T. Shows, Jr". Magnolia Manor Genealogy. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Finschhafen". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  3. ^ Updated at 10:23 pm on 5 February 2012 (5 February 2012). "Radio New Zealand : News : World : Official death toll in PNG ferry sinking climbs to 6". Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  4. ^ Vancouver Sun 3 February 2012 (3 February 2012). "100 feared dead as storm swamps ferry". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  5. ^ Updated at 1:45 pm on 11 February 2012 (11 February 2012). "Radio New Zealand : News : World : 300 now feared dead in PNG ferry sinking". Retrieved 25 April 2012.

External links

Battle of Finschhafen

The Battle of Finschhafen was part of the Huon Peninsula campaign during World War II and was fought between Australian and Japanese forces. The fighting took place between 22 September and 24 October 1943 following the landing at Scarlet Beach, which was followed by a two-pronged advance on Finschhafen as the Australian 20th Infantry Brigade advanced on the town from the north, while the 22nd Infantry Battalion drove from the south, having advanced from the landing beaches east of Lae. After the capture of Finschhafen, the Japanese forces in the area withdrew towards Sattelberg where they sought to hold the Australians before launching a counteroffensive, which subsequently threatened the landing beach. This attack was repelled by American and Australian forces, with heavy casualties being inflicted on the Japanese. In the aftermath, the Australians went on the offensive, capturing Sattelberg, and then advancing towards the Wareo plateau.

Battle of Sattelberg

The Battle of Sattelberg took place between 17 and 25 November 1943, during the Huon Peninsula campaign of the Second World War. Involving forces from Australia, the United States and Japan, the fighting centred on the Sattelberg mission station which was situated atop a hill about 900 metres (3,000 ft) above sea level, approximately 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) inland from Finschhafen, New Guinea. Following the Australian landing at Scarlet Beach, a large force of Japanese had retreated inland towards Sattelberg. Holding the high ground, the Japanese subsequently threatened the Australian lines of communication as they proceeded to advance south towards Finschhafen, and in order to neutralise this threat, the Australian 26th Brigade was tasked with capturing the mission. Over the course of 10 days they advanced west from Jivevaneng up the southern approaches to the mission, reducing the Japanese position with armour, artillery and air support, before the Japanese finally abandoned Sattelberg and withdrew north to Wareo, having suffered heavy casualties and running low on supplies.

Battle of Sio

The Battle of Sio, fought between December 1943 and March 1944, was the break-out and pursuit phase of General Douglas MacArthur's Huon Peninsula campaign, part of the New Guinea campaign of World War II.

After the defeat of the Japanese in the Battle of Sattelberg, Australian Army forces broke through the Japanese positions around Finschhafen. Constant pressure from US Navy PT boats, Australian land forces and Allied aircraft brought the Japanese logistical system to the brink of collapse, resulting in disease, malnutrition, and privation for the Japanese soldiers. Meanwhile, the Allied supply system grappled with the problems of terrain and climate, particularly inclement weather and rough monsoonal seas that hampered and occasionally prevented delivery of supplies by sea.

Australian and Papuan troops advanced along the coast of the Huon Peninsula, using infantry, tanks, and air strikes against the Japanese positions, which were generally sited at creek crossings in the jungle. The advancing infantry kept strictly within range of the supporting artillery, which was liberally employed in the early stages of the operation. Using tactics that exploited the firepower of Australian artillery and armour, the Australian and Papuan troops inflicted heavy and disproportionate casualties on the Japanese as they advanced, ultimately linking up with the American forces at Saidor. Hundreds of Japanese soldiers were killed; thousands more died from disease, malnutrition, exhaustion and suicide. The Allies failed to seize the opportunity to completely destroy the Japanese forces.

During the advance, Australian troops captured Japanese cryptographic materials. This had an important effect on the subsequent course of the war against Japan in the South West Pacific, as it permitted codebreakers in Australia and the United States to read Japanese Army messages on a much greater scale than previously.

Battle of Wareo

The Battle of Wareo (27 November – 8 December 1943) was fought by Australian and Japanese forces in New Guinea during the Huon Peninsula campaign of World War II in the later part of 1943. Coming after the capture of Sattelberg by the Allies, the battle took place amidst the Australian advance north towards Sio. The Australians committed elements from four infantry brigades from the Australian 9th Division with supporting elements including artillery, engineers and tank support, while the Japanese force consisted primarily of two depleted infantry regiments from the 20th Division, with limited artillery support.

The Australian advance in this region developed into three drives. In the west, forces advanced north from Sattelberg following its capture, while in the east, an advance was made from North Hill on the coast, north of Scarlet Beach, where the Australians had landed earlier in the campaign. A smaller drive was made in the centre from Nongora, which lay in between the two, although this was limited and subsequently linked up with the coastal drive. Although possessing significant forces, the Australian advance proved slow. Heavy rain and harsh terrain slowed the Australian resupply efforts and reduced the mobility of their manoeuvre elements. Disease and fatigue also heavily depleted their infantry, with more casualties being suffered from illnesses than combat.

The Japanese units in the area also defended strongly, but they too were short on supplies and in the end they were forced to withdraw further north. Wareo subsequently fell to the Allies on 8 December, who then established a line east from Wareo to Gusika on the coast. From there they carried out further advances north later in the month and into early January 1944.

Christian Keyser

Christian Gottlob Keyser (also spelled Keysser, Kaiser) was a Lutheran missionary of the Neuendettelsau Mission Society. He served for almost 22 years at the Neuendettelsau Mission Station in the Finschhafen District of New Guinea, which had been founded in 1892 by Johann Flierl. He controversially proposed the evangelization of tribes, rather than individuals, the concept known as Volkskirche (Congregation Church). An avid linguist, he compiled one of the first dictionaries of a Guinean dialects: Dictionary of the Kâte Language, a Papuan community (Wörterbuch der Kâte-Sprache; Eine Papuagemeinde). He also maintained a regular correspondence with the German Geographical Society in Berlin, reporting on his naturalist findings in New Guinea. He published his memoirs (1929), as well as over 300 essays and pamphlets and ten books. An intrepid explorer, he ascended the Saruwaged Range massif in 1913.

Finschhafen Airport

Finschhafen Airport is a general aviation airport in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. (IATA: FIN, ICAO: AYFI). It is located on the south-east tip of Huon Peninsula at Finschafen. A half mile inland, parallel to Schneider Harbor, with Dregerhaffen to the south-east. It has no scheduled commercial airline service.

Finschhafen District

Finschhafen is a district on the north-east coast of the Morobe province of Papua New Guinea. It is named after the port town of the same name, Finschhafen.

The port was discovered (for Europeans) in 1884 by the German researcher Otto Finsch. In 1885 the German colony of German New Guinea created a town on the site and named it after the discoverer (-hafen = -harbor). Evangelical Lutheran missionaries, organized by Johann Flierl, settled near the town, establishing a Mission station at Simbang, and later at Sattelberg, approximately 5 kilometres (3 mi) away. Malaria was the bane of the town from the start. An epidemic in 1891 caused the colonists to briefly leave and only to return and then leave again ten years later in 1901. Other New Guinea towns were favoured instead, especially Rabaul.

During the Second World War Finschhafen was fought over by Japan and Australia, along with the United States. The Japanese first occupied the town on 10 March 1942. Australian forces, as part of US Rear Admiral Daniel E. Barbey's task force, landed nearby and seized the town in October 1943. (See New Guinea campaigns.)

Many of the original houses were destroyed during the war, and the city was re-developed somewhat further away, in the proximity of the military airport built by the Japanese. The airport was established as an important base for the US Army. Today this airport is used for civilian use (designation FIN).

The district is commonly spelled "Finschaffen" in PNG media. The US World War II base is usually written as "Finschafen" and occasionally "Finschaven" is also used.

Huon Peninsula

Huon Peninsula is a large rugged peninsula on the island of New Guinea in Morobe Province, eastern Papua New Guinea. It is named after French explorer Jean-Michel Huon de Kermadec. The peninsula is dominated by the steep Saruwaged and Finisterre and Cromwell Mountains. The nearest large town is the Morobe provincial capital Lae to the south, while settlements on the north coast include the former German town of Finschhafen, the district capital of Wasu, Malalamai and Saidor with its World War II era Saidor Airport.

The area was the site of the Huon Peninsula campaign of World War II, in 1943-44 as Japanese troops retreating from Lae fought their way over the Finisterre Mountains to Madang on the north coast.

Huon Peninsula campaign

The Huon Peninsula campaign was a series of battles fought in north-eastern Papua New Guinea in 1943–1944 during the Second World War. The campaign formed the initial part of an offensive that the Allies launched in the Pacific in late 1943 and resulted in the Japanese being pushed north from Lae to Sio on the northern coast of New Guinea over the course of a four-month period. For the Australians, a significant advantage was gained through the technological edge that Allied industry had achieved over the Japanese by this phase of the war, while the Japanese were hampered by a lack of supplies and reinforcements due to Allied interdiction efforts at sea and in the air.

The campaign was preceded by an amphibious landing by troops from the Australian 9th Division east of Lae on 4 September 1943. This was followed by an advance west along the coast towards the town where they were to link up with 7th Division advancing from Nadzab. Meanwhile, Australian and US forces mounted diversionary attacks around Salamaua. Heavy rain and flooding slowed the 9th Division's advance, which had to cross several rivers along the way. The Japanese rear guard also put up a stiff defence and, as a result, Lae did not fall until 16 September, when troops from the 7th Division entered it ahead of the 9th, and the main body of the Japanese force escaped north. Less than a week later, the Huon Peninsula campaign was opened as the Australians undertook another amphibious landing further east, aimed at capturing Finschhafen.

Following the landing at Scarlet Beach, the Allies set about moving south to secure Finschhafen, which saw fighting around Jivevaneng also. In mid-October, the Japanese launched a counterattack against the Australian beachhead around Scarlet Beach, which lasted for about a week and resulted in a small contraction of the Australian lines and a splitting of their force before it was defeated. After this, the Australians regained the initiative and began to pursue the Japanese who withdrew inland towards the high ground around Sattelberg. Amidst heavy fighting and a second failed Japanese counterattack, Sattelberg was secured in late November and the Australians began an area advance to the north to secure a line between Wareo and Gusika. This was completed by early December, and was followed by an advance by Australian forces along the coast through Lakona to Fortification Point, overcoming strong Japanese forces fighting delaying actions.

The final stage of the campaign saw the Japanese resistance finally break. A swift advance by the Australians along the northern coast of the peninsula followed and in January 1944 they captured Sio. At the same time, the Americans landed at Saidor. After this, mopping up operations were undertaken by Allied forces around Sio until March and Madang was captured in April. A lull period then followed in northern New Guinea until July when US forces clashed with the Japanese around the Driniumor River. This was followed by further fighting in November 1944 when the Australians opened a fresh campaign in Aitape–Wewak.

Johann Flierl

Johann Flierl (16 April 1858 – 30 September 1947) was a pioneer Lutheran missionary in New Guinea. He established mission schools and organised the construction of roads and communication between otherwise remote interior locations. Under his leadership, Lutheran evangelicalism flourished in New Guinea. He founded the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in the Sattelberg, and a string of filial stations on the northeastern coast of New Guinea including the Malahang Mission Station.

Kâte language

Kâte is a Papuan language spoken by about 6,000 people in the Finschhafen District of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. It is part of the Finisterre–Huon branch of the Trans–New Guinea language family (McElhanon 1975, Ross 2005). It was adopted for teaching and mission work among speakers of Papuan languages by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea in the early 1900s and at one time had as many as 80,000 second-language speakers.

Landing at Saidor

The Landing at Saidor (Operation Michaelmas) was an Allied amphibious landing at Saidor, Papua New Guinea on 2 January 1944 as part of Operation Dexterity during World War II. In Allied hands, Saidor was a stepping stone towards Madang, the ultimate objective of General Douglas MacArthur's Huon Peninsula campaign. The capture of the airstrip at Saidor also allowed construction of an airbase to assist Allied air forces to conduct operations against Japanese bases at Wewak and Hollandia. But MacArthur's immediate objective was to cut off the 6,000 Imperial Japanese troops retreating from Sio in the face of the Australian advance from Finschhafen.

Following the landing at Saidor, the Japanese elected to retreat rather than fight, and withdrew over the foothills of the rugged Finisterre Range. For the Japanese soldiers involved, the march was a nightmare, as they struggled through the jungles, across the swollen rivers, and over cliffs and mountains. Men succumbed to fatigue, disease, starvation, drowning, and even exposure, the nights in the Finisterres being bitterly cold. Hampered by the rugged terrain, inclement weather, signal failures, misunderstandings, over-caution, and above all the resolute and resourceful Japanese, US troops were unable to prevent large numbers of the retreating Japanese from slipping past them.

After considerable construction effort in the face of wet weather, the airbase was completed and proved useful. Whereas the base at Nadzab was surrounded by mountains and was therefore unsuited for missions that had to take off after dark, there was no such problem at Saidor. During March 1944, B-24 Liberator bombers staged through Saidor for night attacks on Hollandia.

Landing at Scarlet Beach

The Landing at Scarlet Beach (Operation Diminish) (22 September 1943) took place in New Guinea during the Huon Peninsula campaign of the Second World War, involving forces from Australia, the United States and Japan. Allied forces landed at Scarlet Beach, north of Siki Cove and south of the Song River, to the east of Katika and about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) north of Finschhafen. The capture of Finschhafen allowed the construction of air base and naval facilities to assist Allied air and naval forces to conduct operations against Japanese bases in New Guinea and New Britain.

After Lae had fallen sooner than the Allies had anticipated, they exploited the advantage. As a result of faulty intelligence, which underestimated the size of the Japanese force in the area, the assault force chosen consisted of only Brigadier Victor Windeyer's 20th Infantry Brigade. The landing at Scarlet Beach that took place on 22 September 1943 was the first opposed amphibious landing that Australian forces had made since the Landing at Anzac Cove in the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915. Navigational errors resulted in the troops being landed on the wrong beach, with some of them coming ashore at Siki Cove and taking heavy fire from the strong Japanese defences in pillboxes. After re-organising, the Australians pushed inland. The Japanese put up stiff resistance on the high ground at Katika, but were forced back. By the end of the day, the Australians had secured their objectives. The Japanese launched a retaliatory air raid on the ships of the VII Amphibious Force, but US fighter aircraft defended the convoy and no ships were hit. Continued Japanese air attacks on the beachhead inflicted numerous casualties over the course of the battle.

The next day the Australians commenced their advance south towards the village of Finschhafen, about 5.6 miles (9.0 km) south of the landing beach, with the 2/15th Infantry Battalion leading the way to the Bumi River. The Japanese had established strong defences along the river's southern bank, which the Australians attempted to outflank by sending a force to the west, climbing through steep terrain. Once they had located a suitable place to cross the river, they began wading across but were fired upon by a group of Japanese naval infantry who were positioned on a high feature overlooking the river. Despite taking casualties, the Australians were able to establish themselves south of the Bumi and at that point the 2/13th Infantry Battalion began to advance on Finschhafen from the west. Meanwhile, the 2/15th attacked the left flank of the Japanese that had opposed their crossing. After advancing up the steep slope under fire, sometimes on their hands and knees, the 2/15th took the position at the point of the bayonet, killing 52 Japanese in close combat.

Australian fears of a Japanese counter-attack grew and they requested reinforcements from General Douglas MacArthur. The request was denied as his intelligence staff believed that there were only 350 Japanese in the vicinity. Actually, there were already 5,000 Japanese around Sattelberg and Finschhafen. The Australians received some reinforcements in the shape of the 2/43rd Infantry Battalion. The arrival of this unit meant that the entire 20th Infantry Brigade could concentrate on Finschhafen. The Japanese naval troops which were holding Finschhafen began to withdraw and Finschhafen fell to the Australians on 2 October. The 20th Infantry Brigade then linked up with the 22nd Infantry Battalion, a Militia infantry battalion that had cleared the coastal area in the south of the Huon Peninsula, advancing from Lae over the mountains. The Japanese withdrew into the mountains around Sattelberg.

Landing on Long Island

The Landing on Long Island in the Territory of New Guinea was part of the Huon Peninsula campaign, a series of operations that made up Operation Cartwheel, General Douglas MacArthur's campaign to encircle the major Japanese base at Rabaul. Located at the northern end of the Vitiaz Strait, Long Island was an important staging point for Japanese barges moving between Rabaul and Wewak until 26 December 1943, when a force of 220 Australian and American soldiers landed on the island. It was not occupied by the Japanese at the time, and there was no fighting. At the time, it represented the furthest Allied advance into Japanese-held territory. It was developed into a radar station.

Morobe Province

Morobe Province is a province on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. The provincial capital, and largest city, is Lae. The province covers 33,705 km², with a population of 674,810 (2011 census), and since the division of Southern Highlands Province in May 2012 it is the most populous province. It includes the Huon Peninsula, the Markham River, and delta, and coastal territories along the Huon Gulf. The province has nine administrative districts, and 101 languages are spoken, including Kâte and Yabim. English and Tok Pisin are common languages in the urban areas, and in some areas forms of Pidgin German are mixed with the native language.

Ritter Island

Ritter Island is a small crescent-shaped volcanic island 100 kilometres north-east of New Guinea, situated between Umboi Island and Sakar Island.

There are several recorded eruptions of this basaltic-andesitic stratovolcano prior to a spectacular lateral collapse which took place in 1888. Before that event, it was a circular conical island about 780 metres high. At about 5:30 am local time on 13 March 1888 a large portion of the island, containing perhaps 5 km3 of material slid into the sea during a relatively minor, possibly VEI 2, phreatic eruption. Eyewitnesses at Finschhafen, 100 km to the South, heard explosions and observed an almost imperceptible ash fall. Tsunamis 12–15 metres high were generated by the collapse and devastated nearby islands and the adjacent New Guinea coast killing around 3000 people.The collapse left a 140 metre high 1900 metre long crescent-shaped island with a steep west-facing escarpment. At least two small eruptions have occurred offshore since 1888, one in 1972 and another in 1974, which have resulted in the construction of a small submarine edifice within the collapse scar.


Sattelberg, also spelt Satelberg ("Saddle Mountain"), is a village on the Huon Peninsula, in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. The village is set on a peak about 900 metres (3,000 ft) above sea level, and dominates the area, with Finschhafen below. A Lutheran mission was founded by Johann Flierl in 1892, when the area was part of German New Guinea. As part of the settlement of World War I in 1919, responsibility for administering the territory was passed to Australia. In 1921, the Australian government gave permission for the German missionaries to remain, but placed the Lutheran Church of Australia in control of the mission. In the early 1930s, German influence was re-established as the Lutheran Church of Australia relinquished its control of the mission.During World War II, the Japanese occupied the surrounding area in early 1942. Following the Australian landing at Finschhafen in October 1943, the bulk of the Japanese garrison at Finschhafen retreated to Sattelberg. As part of the Australian 9th Division's advance towards Sio, they captured the mission at Sattelberg in November in what has become known as the Battle of Sattelberg.

USS Mahan (DD-364)

USS Mahan (DD-364) was the lead ship of the United States Navy's Mahan-class destroyers. The ship was named for Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, a 19th-century naval historian and strategic theorist. Her design ushered in major advances over traditional destroyers. Among them were a third set of quadruple torpedo tubes, protective gun shelters, and emergency diesel generators. Along with a steam propulsion system that was simpler and more efficient to operate.

Mahan began her service in 1936. She was first assigned to the US Atlantic Fleet and then transferred to Pearl Harbor in 1937. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Mahan was at sea with Task Force 12. The task force's mission to Midway Island was aborted to participate in the post-attack search for the enemy strike force. Unable to locate it, the task force returned to Pearl Harbor.

Early in World War II, Mahan took part in raids on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. In the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, Admirals Chester Nimitz and William Halsey commended the destroyer group (of which Mahan was a member) for a stellar effort in screening the aircraft carriers Hornet and Enterprise against heavy odds. During the New Guinea campaign to take the northeast coast from the Japanese, Mahan was engaged in the amphibious landings at Salamaua, Lae, and Finschhafen. She participated in landings at Arawe and Borgen Bay (near Cape Gloucester), New Britain, and provided support for the troop landing at Los Negros Island in the Admiralty Islands.

Late in the Pacific War, the Japanese kamikaze relentlessly plagued US Naval operations. On 7 December 1944, a group of suicide aircraft overwhelmed and disabled Mahan at Ormoc Bay, Leyte, in the Philippine Islands. On fire and exploding, the ship was abandoned, and a US destroyer sank her with torpedoes and gunfire.

Zibang Zurenuoc

Sir Zibang Zurenuoc KBE (born September 1927 at Sattleberg, Finschhafen; died 5 February 2008 in Port Moresby) was a Papua New Guinean businessman and politician.

He served as a co-operative officer in the colonial public service in New Ireland when Papua New Guinea was under Australian colonial administration. In 1958, he set up the "now famous" Finschhafen Marketing and Development Co-operative (FMDC). He was also a founding director of Mainland Holdings. He was subsequently appointed business representative to the Morobe Constituent Assembly, and served as chairman of Morobe's Constituent Assembly.In the 1977 general election, the first after the country's independence, he was elected to the National Parliament as MP for Finschhafen. He later served as Deputy Speaker and was also a government minister. He was Minister for Community and Family Services to Prime Minister Julius Chan in the early 1980s. He was "long-time general secretary" of the People's Progress Party.In 1994, Elizabeth II, Queen of Papua New Guinea, on the advice of the Papua New Guinean government, appointed him Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, "for community services".The Zurenuoc family has had a number of distinguished members. His brother Sir Zurewe Zerenuoc was the first Papua New Guinean to head the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea. His other brother, Zure Makili Zurenuoc, was "a pioneer educationist" and also served as MP for Finschhafen after him. His nephew Guao Zurenuoc was MP for Finschhafen from 2002 to 2007, and his (Zibang's) son Theo Zurenuoc had been MP for Finschhafen from 2007 to 2017.He died in Port Moresby on 5 February 2008 "after undergoing medical treatment".


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