Japan’s Truk Lagoon is home to an extraordinary number of war wrecks, still visible today
Truk Lagoon is littered with ghosts of wartime planes and ships, many of which remain on its sandy bottom today.
Chuuk Lagoon (formerly known as Truk Atoll or Truk Lagoon) is one of the greatest diving havens for war wreck diving enthusiasts. Chuuk is part of the Federated States of Micronesia and during World War II it was the main naval base of the Empire of Japan in the South Pacific.
He was devastated by a massive US operation that sent masses of Japanese military equipment deep into where it is today. Another hotspot in the Pacific for WWII dive wrecks is the Solomon Islands which was home to the protracted and destructive Guadacanal campaign that drained the Japanese Navy.
The Battle of Truk
As the Japanese sailed from defeat to defeat as American industrial might marched, war gradually opened against the Japanese. And in 1944, the powerful Japanese base at Chuuk came into the American crosshairs. In February 1944, during Operation Hailstone, America devastated Japanese forces in a major attack. Later there was the much smaller British attack on the island in Operation Inmate in June 1945.
- Population of Chuuk: Around 36,000 people
Of all the Japanese strongholds in the Pacific, Truk Lagoon was the most formidable. Considered the Pearl Harbor or Gibraltar of Japan, it had a garrison of around 28,000 men. Japanese battleships stationed (including the Yamato – the largest battleship ever built), aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers and many other ships here.
The American fleet was formidable, consisting of 5 aircraft carriers, 4 light aircraft carriers and 7 battleships. One of the aircraft carriers in the fleet was the USS Intrepid, which can be visited today at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.
- Raid on Pearl Harbor: 2,355 killed
- Truck Raid: More than 4,500 killed
Informed of the imminent American attack, the Japanese withdrew their largest warships. But the three days of bombardment destroyed Truk’s ability as a naval base. The Americans have sunk:
- Two light cruisers
- Four destroyers
- Three auxiliary cruisers
- Six auxiliary vessels
- 32 merchant ships
- More than 250 planes destroyed
After this attack (even though they had withdrawn their larger ships), “Truk Lagoon was the largest ship cemetery in the world. “Truk was largely neutralized as a threat and bypassed as the Allied Island hoped on its way to Japan.
The lagoon today
Today, the lagoon attracts wreck diving enthusiasts from all over the world. The bottom of the lagoon is littered with virtually intact sunken ships and numerous planes – which has earned it the title of “Truk Lagoon Ghost Fleet“.
The waters around Chuuk Lagoon are crystal clear, and most of the wrecks can be found within 15 meters (or 49 feet) below the waves. What makes it even more special, the lagoon is devoid of ocean currents and therefore many objects can be found on decks and under decks. Divers can see human remains, bombs, gas masks, depth charges, motorcycles, fighter jets and more.
The wrecks are now covered in coral, creating an environment that attracts marine life like sharks, turtles, fish and manta rays.
- Oil spill: From an ecological point of view, the ships at that time ran out of fuel, so relatively little oil spilled into the lagoon.
- Classified: Like a Japanese war grave
While the main attraction may be wreck diving, Turk Lagoon is surrounded by a coral reef where one can see corals of all shapes and colors.
- Micronesia Visa Policy: US citizens without a visa 365 days, citizens of the Schengen zone 90 days, all others without a visa 30 days
Driving the Chuuk lagoon
The lagoon offers sites suitable for all levels of divers. You can dive in a shallower wreck or explore deep wrecks that require special equipment. Most wrecks are suitable for open water divers (others exceed recreational diving limits requiring technical diving certifications).
- Diving season: All year
To note: The rainy season from April to December and the dry season from December to April
Some of the most popular wrecks are:
- The San Francisco Maru: The most famous of the wreck. It has 3 tanks with cannons on the bridge – However, it is 170 feet or 52 meters deep
- Betty Bombardier: Shallow and easy for all divers. He would light up when he fired his weapons, which earned him the name of “flying cigar”
- The Fujikawa Maru: Filled with fish and coral, easy access to cabins and baths
- I-169 “Shinohara”: The submarine that sank after an accidental flood. You can’t go in there but it’s great to swim. He participated in the raid on Pearl Harbor
- Prohibited: This is a war grave, so taking relics is strictly prohibited by law
- The water temperature: 27 ° C – 30 ° C, Combination 3mm or Rachie
If one is interested in diving at Chuuk Lagoon, two of the dive companies to contact are Blue Water Travel and Dive Adventures.
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