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Invasion of Lae-Salamaua
Part of the Pacific Theater of World War II
Yorktown TBD Huon Gulf March 1942.jpg
TBD Devastator aircraft from USS Yorktown prepare to attack Japanese shipping in the Huon Gulf on 10 March 1942. Below the aircraft two Japanese ships are making smoke in an attempt to conceal themselves from the impending air attack.
Date 8 March – 13 March 1942
Location Salamaua-Lae area, Morobe Province, Territory of New Guinea
Result Japanese forces successfully occupy the area
 United States
Japan Empire of Japan
Frank Jack Fletcher Shigeyoshi Inoue
Casualties and losses
1 aircraft destroyed 3 transport ships sunk,
1 light cruiser,
2 destroyers,
1 minelayer,
1 seaplane tender,
1 transport damaged,
130 killed[1]

The Invasion of Lae-Salamaua, called Operation SR by the Japanese, was an operation by Imperial Japanese forces to occupy the Salamaua-Lae area in the Territory of New Guinea 8 March – 13 March 1942 during the Pacific campaign of World War II. The Japanese invaded and occupied the location in order to construct an airfield and establish a base to cover and support the advance of Japanese forces into the eastern New Guinea and Coral Sea areas. The small Australian garrison in the area withdrew as the Japanese landed and did not contest the invasion.

In response to the Japanese landings, a United States Navy aircraft carrier task force including the carriers Yorktown and Lexington struck the invading Japanese naval forces with carrier aircraft on 10 March. Supporting the carrier aircraft were eight B-17 bombers from the 19th Bombardment Group at Townsville and eight Royal Australian Air Force Hudson bombers from Port Moresby. The raid sank three transports and damaged several other ships.

In spite of the damage sustained by the air raid, Japanese forces successfully occupied Lae and Salamaua and began the construction of a base and airfield. Air units based at the airfield later supported an air superiority campaign against Allied forces at Port Moresby. In July 1942 after the Japanese abandoned plans to invade Port Moresby from the sea, the base at Lae-Salamaua supported the ultimately unsuccessful Japanese land offensive towards Port Moresby along the Kokoda Track.


Salamaua-Lae Raid

At 0749 on the morning of 10 March 1942, the US Navy aircraft carriers of Task Force 17, USS Lexington launched aircraft from the Gulf of Papua followed by USS Yorktown at 0800. The planes from both aircraft carriers were required to fly 201 km (120 mi) over the Owen Stanley Range. This provided security for the task force's aircraft carriers and ensured surprise against the Japanese.

SBD Dauntless dive bombers of Lexington's Scouting Squadron (VS) 2 commenced dive-bombing Japanese ships at Lae at 0922, Lexington's Torpedo Squadron (VT) 2 and Bombing Squadron (VB) 2 attacked shipping at Salamaua at 0938 and Fighter Squadron (VF) 2 strafed Lae and Salamaua. Yorktown's Bombing Squadron (VB) 5 and Torpedo Squadron (VT) 5 attacked Japanese ships in the Salamaua area at 0950, while Scouting Squadron (VS) 5 attacked auxiliary ships along the shore at Lae and of Fighter Squadron (VF) 42 strafed Salamaua.

The transports Kongō Maru, Tenyō Maru, and Yokohama Maru were sunk, the light cruiser Yubari, the destroyers Asanagi and Yūnagi, the minelayer Tsugaru, the seaplane tender Kiyokawa Maru, the auxillery minesweeper Tama Maru No.2 and the transport Kokai Maru were damaged. On 13 March, the Tama Maru No.2 sinks as the result of the damage inflicted by carrier based planes.

During the raid a SB3-2 of Scouting Squadron (VS) 2 was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire. the remaining 103 of the 104 launched returned by 1200 to the carriers. The raid caused the delay of several operations and caused the Japanese to be wary of the American carrier force.




  1. ^ Lundstrom, p. 131. The transports sunk included Kongō Maru, Tenyō Maru, and Yokohama Maru. Damaged were the cruiser Yubari, destroyers Asanagi and Yūnagi, minelayer Tsugaru, seaplane tender Kiyokawa Maru, and transport Kokai Maru.


  • Brown, David (1990). Warship Losses of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-914-X.  
  • Cressman, Robert (2000 (4th printing)). That Gallant Ship U.S.S. Yorktown (CV-5). Missoula, Montana, U.S.A.: Pictorial Histories Publishing Company. ISBN 0-933126-57-3.  
  • Lundstrom, John B. (2005 (New edition)). The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Annapolis, Maryland, U.S.A.: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 159114471X.  
  • Willmott, H. P. (1983). The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Pacific Strategies February to June 1942. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-535-3.  
  • Willmott, H. P. (2002). The War with Japan: The Period of Balance, May 1942 – October 1943. Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources Inc.. ISBN 0-8420-5032-9.  



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