Operation Hailstone

An empty oil drum and remains of shoes on the Shinkoku Maru
An empty oil drum and remains of shoes on the Shinkoku Maru

Chuuk Lagoon is a group of more than 120 islands in Micronesia in the Pacific. Although Chuuk was populated by the natives of Kosrae and Pohnpei around 2000 years ago it didn’t gain much notice until early in World War II when the Japanese used it as there main base in the South Pacific. Due to the heavy man made and natural fortifications, Chuuk was known as “The Gibraltar of the Pacific” and considered the most formidable of all Japanese strongholds. With such an amass of battleships, aircraft carriers, gun ships, tug boats, tankers, cargo ships, submarines and minesweepers Chuuk was the perfect choice for US Navy to mount an attack to deal as much damage as the Japanese made on Pearl Harbour - so called Operation Hailstone. On February 17th 1944 the Americans made their move but using a combination of airstrikes, surface ship actions and submarine attacks to take down the Japanese stronghold in complete surprise. The base of the attack was in the air force with bomb droppings and torpedoes. In total over 260 Japanese aircraft were destroyed along with over 50 ships including submarines, tankers, destroyers and cargo ships within just three days.  (Source: Perthscuba.com)

Today Chuuk Lagoon is a divers heaven - if you are interested in wreck diving. Heike and I had been in Chuuk as Advanced Open Water Divers six years ago and this year, after two more years of training and five more certification levels we came back to see the wrecks again. I let the photos speak for themselves. 

It's easy in Chuuk to look at the sites just as wrecks, as areas of unseen richness in artefacts, to focus on your (technical diving), the photography and to marvel at gauges and displays underwater that seem to carry you in a steampunk underwater movie. Have a drink at the bar and watch the sunset. It is important I think to remember that this is a battlefield and that people died in the ships, the planes and on the islands. Once or twice you remember during the dive when you are making your way to narrow and twisted corridors that you actually entered through a torpedo hole and you can only imagine what hell on earth this battlefield must have been 75 years ago.