An MV-22 Osprey lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America during Talisman Sabre drills in the Coral Sea, Monday, July 31, 2023.

An MV-22 Osprey lands aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America during Talisman Sabre drills in the Coral Sea, Monday, July 31, 2023. (Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

ABOARD USS AMERICA IN THE CORAL SEA — U.S. Marines and sailors, Japanese soldiers and German troops gathered Monday around a large map on the amphibious assault ship USS America as they plotted a raid of Australia’s eastern coast.

Wielding a mop handle as a pointer, Maj. Zachary Fox, assistant operations officer for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, pointed out landing zones, command posts held by enemy role players, radar sites, high ground and swamps.

The amphibious landing exercise is scheduled for Wednesday at Stanage Bay in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, about 600 miles north of Brisbane.

The beach landings are the grand finale of Talisman Sabre, 14 days of exercises involving 30,000 troops, mostly from the U.S. and Australia, with smaller contingents from Europe and the Pacific. The exercise kicked off July 21 and concludes Friday.

The amphibious operation will involve troops assaulting from U.S. and Japanese helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and raiding beaches on hovercraft.

It’s slated to launch five days after an Australian army helicopter, an MRH-90 Taipan, ditched off Queensland’s coast with four crew members aboard.

The crash response is now a recovery operation, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles told reporters Monday at a press briefing in Canberra.

Wreckage recovered so far indicates a catastrophic incident, “and with every passing hour, it is now clear that any hope of finding [the crew] alive has been lost,” he said.

The incident remains on U.S. troops’ minds, Rear Adm. Chris Stone, commander of Task Force 76/3, told reporters aboard the America. The task force includes 14 warships, including the America, and 11,000 sailors and Marines.

“We are a family and when there is a tragedy for a member of our family, we all feel that,” he said.

The troops involved in the raid at Stanage Bay include 300 U.S. Marines, about 100 members of Japan’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade — a unit modeled on the Marine Corps — and 20 Germans. The raid is part of a larger operation that will involve Australian and South Korean forces attacking a different part of the coast.

U.S. and Japanese troops are already ashore preparing to coordinate indirect fire and collecting intelligence on enemy positions, Col. Matthew Danner, commander of the 31st MEU told reporters onboard the America on Monday.

Danner said amphibious forces are most vulnerable when they are landing.

“Ship-to-shore movement is the hardest part of it,” he said of the operation.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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