What we have done here is focused the wrecks in catagories of depth. That way you can focus on
the wrecks you will be diving. So what you can do is check out the wrecks you will be potentially diving by depth, then you can work out where they live by clicking on the maps below. They will enlarge when clicked.
Uman Island Anchorage
Deep anchorage - this is where all
deeper wrecks live!
Map of Truk "Chuuk" Lagoon.
70 - 60m Wrecks
Engine: reciprocating thriple expansion steam engine, single screw
Speed: 10 knots
Gross Tonnage: 2427 tons
DEPTH OF SHIP
Superstructure: 55 m
Deck: 62 m.
Bottom: 70 m.
This wreck is one of the least dived wrecks in the Lagoon. Extremely hard to find and the least explored. But with the aid of our hand held GPS/Chart plotter sounder we found it!!
The viz on this dive is some of the best I have seen in Truk. Way out east of the Lagoon currents rip through these narrow passes.
On descent the wreck was quite flat, main superstructure has collapsed completely. Really nice stern gun. We swam towards the bow swimming into Hold 2. Below I have pictured what I found. There was an interesting object lying on the floor. Heaps of Prop blades and other general maintenance cargo, tyres, tracks etc.
Then swam into hold 1 where there was again lots of tyres, gen cargo. Then into the port bulkhead. THere was a bath and porcelain baby bath. It interests me that in these fighting ships these sights are common - the baby baths! I wouldnt have thought that there were much woman let alone babies on board.
Tonnage: 3824 gross
Length: 105 m
Breadth: 15 m
Draught: 7 m
Engine: reciprocating (oil)
Speed: knots; 10 knots
Builder: Mitsubishi Dockyard & engineering
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 43 m.
Deck: 50 m.
The Nagano was one of the first deeper dives that I did during my first visit to Truk in 06. I was completely blown away.! The engine room was one of the first places I went into. Now there were no scuff marks anywhere to be seen. Also there were long rusticles dangling from the walkway railings. Now if you touch those things they explode into a rust snow storm. Totally untouched! Love it. One of the best parts of this ship apart from the engineroom is hold 2. There is a prestine flatbed truk sitting on the port side of the ship. All the glass is still intact.
Its a great wreck and worthy of many many dives. I cant wait to get back there. We had more time in the superstructure and had a great time having a dig. LOADS of porcelain amongst the rubble and again its amazing how the Japanese were sobre during any of the fighting. There were, like I mean, millions of bottles of saki on these ships.
Yeah this wreck is one of Truks best.One of the ways that the locals locate the wreck is to get to the general area of the wreck and smell for oil! Yes SMELL for oil. I thought BOLLOCKS!! But sure enough when we got close we could smell the beautiful stench of oil. Man it really is pungant. The first time we dived this in 2006 it took us 2 hours to find it. Dragging the anchor we eventually hooked onto it. That day was one of the calmest days I have seen there. Man did the smell of that oil sit deep in your nasal cavities. Love it!!!
Tonnage: 5446 gross
Length: 121 m
Breadth: 16 m
Draught: 8.8 m
Engine: reciprocating Triple expansion Steam Engine
Speed: knots; 10 knots
Builder: Asano Sanbashi Co
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 47 m.
Deck: 54 m.
Sitting bolt upright the Reiyo is a real nice dive. Most of the wood on the decks has been burnt away and there are large air intake funnels round the engineroom skylights, all of which are open.
Some really nice gauges in the engineroom. Not much in the holds that I saw.
Tonnage: 4217 gross
Length: 108 m
Breadth: 15 m
Draught: 7 m
Engine: reciprocating with LP turbines, Single screw
Speed: knots; 13 knots
Builder: Uraga Dock Co
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 39 m.
Deck: 51 m.
Another one of the lesser dived wrecks in the deeper waters. Again, sitting bolt upright passenger/cargo ship. Large intake tubes by the engineroom again. Not much in holds 1,2 and 3.
Awesome bridge, which all the walls have collapsed and all that is left is the telegraphs, helm and compas standing there for all to see! But all in all the superstructure is still largely intact
Main funnel has collapsed. A few sharks around the place.
60 - 50m Wrecks
San Francisco Maru
Length: 150 m.
Width: 20.20 m
Depth: 12.40 m
Draught: 8.84 m
Engine: 2 X Mitsubishi - B&W Diesel
Horsepower: 15,833 hp
Speed: 20.90 knots maximum;17.00 knots service
Launching: 25 April 1940
Service: 31 August 1941
Gross Tonnage: 10,437 tons
DEPTH OF SHIP
Superstructure: 40 m
Deck: 49 m.
Bottom: 64 m.
This wreck was really interesting. Visability is normally really good as it is one of the deeper wrecks on the lagoon. Max depth of 64m to the sand and up to 38m to the top of the mangled superstructure.
Because this is such a massive ship, you can penetrate quite a few areas within the superstructure and in the holds. But it is discouraged mainly because this ship was blown in two by the sheer force of 1000lb bombs and you can easily see how brittle things are. Personally I did not penetrate into the engine room but people within our group did. Reports was it was extremely difficult and dangerous. Seeing that the enterance is within the mangled debris of the blasted area.
Mostly the boat is moored onto the main superstructure and you swim aft towards the stern. There is a large gun on the stern which is great for taking pictures of. Penetration in the superstructure can be entered from the port bulkhead just forward of hold 4. Props can be seen easily but this is on the sand at 63m.
San Francisco Maru
Tonnage: 5.864 gross
Length: 117.34 m
Engine: 1 x reciprocal steam, coal
Horsepower: 3,946 hp
Speed: knots; 14.27
Launching: 01 March 1919
Builder: Kawasaki Dockyard
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 45 m.
Deck: 50 m.
They dont call this the million dollar wreck for nothing. Nothing short of one of the most impressive sights around. When you drop down a narrow virtical opening and all you see to the left and right of you is mines! There are bombs everywhere you look.And the impressive looking ones - the arial ones with the massive veins. Piles of detonators on the deck. You name it. Vehicles, bowsers tanks on deck, impressive bow gun.
Coming back to the wreck was a great feeling. Spending more time on the main structure of the ship. The viz was great as usual on this wreck.
This dive is another one of those MUST do dives. It is deep but worth every minute of deco! This is the biggest advantage of diving on breathers. we did 50 minutes on the bottom and had a little over 2 hours runtime! As you can see the ship is broken in two. I spent all my dive on the stern section of the ship.
The wreck is broken in two main parts. As you can see in the diagram below the Stern section is bolt upright and the bow section is turned turtle. Both parts are very interesting. The ship was blown in half by a torpedo dropped by a plane while trying to leave the lagoon.
The bow section is really intersting, Access to the quarters shows large amounts of human remains. Very humbling.
Out of all the wrecks I have dived in Truk this wreck was the first wreck that I really noticed how large it was. Mainly because it was 150m long tanker it took a while to swim from one end to the next. It was really well preserved, not much growth on the wreck. Ship is listing quite heavily to port.
The bridge area is open and the telegraphs have fallen over. They are still attached to the deck. Inside the superstructure there are wide open spaces.
Up by the bow section is an awesome telegraph which is right in the bowspit. All skylights are closed but access into the engineroom is easy through one of the collapsed air intakes.
Didnt get too much time with this wreck. Went into the Engineroom first and it was really mangled. Really badly damaged. Boilers were blown to bits and really tight to get into.
Bridge is open and the helm is exposed at round 36m.
50 - 40m Wrecks
Tonnage: 1999 gross
Length: 86 m
Breadth: 12 m
Draught: 6 m
Engine: virtical triple expansion steam engine single screw
Speed: knots; 10 knots
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 39 m.
Deck: 45 m.
Stern section is an interesting dive. the stern sits hard up against a white sand slope of Fanamu Island. it was first thought that the captain tried to run the ship aground but with the stern pointing directly towards the island there might be another explaination. The contrast of the ship and sandy bottom is great photographically.
Stern gun. In Dan Baileys book it shows two pictures of the gun taken at differnent times. the 1998 image showed all this green algae. Well that algae plant weed thingie seems to have gone off the gun. But is still quite evident on the wreck massing most of the midship deck.
One of the crane trucks sitting in hold 1 now. There used to be crane tucks sitting on deck but now they are all on the bottom. Just shows you that these wrecks are continually falling apart. Artillery shells in hold 1
Crates of beer bottles in hold 2 and skip coming out of a doorway in the main superstructure. This is a very colourful wreck with loads of growth
Tonnage: 7,112 ts gross
Length: 137.25 m
Breadth: 17.75 m
Draught: 9.57 m
Engine: 2 x Diesel, North British Diesel Company,Glasgrow. 8-cylinder, 4 stroke, 26.5" diameter,
Horsepower: 3550 hp
Speed: 12.6 knots;
Launching: 28 Novenber 1921
Builder: Wm. Denny & Bros., Dumbarton, Scotland
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 24 m.
This was a really special dive for me. It carries some real historic significance for Kiwis ( well I am Zimbabwean but been living in NZ for 16 years now so my wife ensists that I am a Kiwi!!!) Formally known as the HAURAKI this ship was seconded by the Japanese and used as a transporter during the war. CHanging its name from the Hauraki to the Hoki Maru.
There are some real interesting cargo in the holds. Tractors, cars, diggers, etc etc.
Tonnage: 3,763 ts,gross
Length: 107.30 m
Breadth: 15.24 m
Depth: 8.38 m
Draught: 7.23 m
Engine: 1 x Turbine, coal
Horsepower: 3,600 hp maximum
Speed: 16.34 knots
Launching: 16 September 1936
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 24 m.
Bottom: 42 m.
Another classic wreck - I am sure you are beginning to see a trend here. ALL the wrecks are amazing!!!
Anyway the Nippo is no different. Slightly deeper with the decks at about 28m. The first thing that hits you is the tank on the port side of the ship forward of the superstructure to the left of hold 2.
Engineroom is again great fun. We enter from the port side at deck level. Into the superstructure, then first right into the engineroom. Then down into the bowls. Watch out though you can kick up the silt really easily and make taking pictures harder. Its quite tight in there. Heaps of stores, vice, oil cans, tools, etc not to mention the gauges. You can actually exit out of the torpedo hole on the port side of the ship if you swim down and aft.
Howitzer guns in hold 4. Great stuff. So much to see on this dive.
Tonnage: 3829 gross
Length: 107.34 m
Engine: steam turbines single screw, coal
Horsepower: 333 hp
Speed: knots; 13
Builder: Kawasaki Dockyard
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 21 m.
Deck: 36 m.
Lying on her port side in about 46m of water at the deepest part of the ship. There are planes in the forward hold # 2 - Actually Tabby aircraft but they are hard to recognise now. Well lets put it this way, i took lots of pictures of it and I am still wondering what the hell it was!!!
Plenty of truks now standing almost virtically upright as the ship is on its side and they were in the hold. Again not in such good condition. Plenty of plane engines too. Aircraft barrels more bombs and other unrecognisable aircraft parts in hold #1.
As per usual the wheel house is great with colourful telegraphs and steering colums. Engineroom was really narrow and dirty but you can really easily see the pistons of the steam engines. I would have loved to see them in action!
40 - 20m Wrecks
Rio De Janeiro Maru
(No schematic on file for the wreck)
Tonnage: 4862 gross
Length: 117 m
Breadth: 15 m
Draught: 10 m
Engine: Diesel engines, single screw
Horsepower: 642 hp
Speed: 15 knots;
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 19 m.
Bottom: 40 m.
The Kensho is well known for its awesome engineroom it really is impressive. Not a massive engine but really nice to see and take pictures of. The black and white picture I took on the left was a 2 second exposure.
Telegraph still in the wheelhouse in around 20m, as with a lot of wrecks!!
Length: 107 m
Breadth: 15 m
Draught: 10 m
Engine: 2 Direct reciprocating geared steam engines
Horsepower: 333 hp
Speed: 12 knots;
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 30 m.
Bottom: 36 m.
No picks at this stage - sorry
I havent dived this wreck but seems to be blown apart with the bow section still intact. I will have more info later on in the year.
Tonnage: 8614 gross
Length: 137.25 m
Breadth: 17.75 m
Draught: 9.57 m
Engine: 2 x Diesel, single screw
Horsepower: 2187 hp
Speed: 16 knots;
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 13 m.
Bottom: 31 m.
The Kiyosumi is well known for its Lantern locker. What a vision it is!! These lanterns are about a foot long so they are quite large. The access into the locker room is quite a tight one. Situated in the starboard entry of the forecastle section of the ship. Down a narrow passagway, and up into the room!!
This is what you will see, the entire shelf
also the ship is home to some amazing aquatic life. While I was scanning over the top of the shallow hull, I came across some amazing file fish! also amazing soft corals. Below is a macro image of a soft coral. Look at all that detail!!!
One of the many ocean liners in the lagoon. Its really different from any of the other ocean liners I have dived in the past in the sense that it was kitted out for war so none of this fancy stuff!! I have dived this ship about 6 times now and love every minute ofit. Massive props, large stern gun. Really shallow and you can spend a month on this wreck alone. I did a lot of penetrating the superstructure this trip. Apart from spending about 50 minutes in the engineroom which was sheer bliss! There are so many levels to these places. Managed to get right into the superstructure to get into the galley, stores and bathrooms, toilets etc. The thing that really made me realise yet again was the evidence of the sheer heat coming through these ships when they get hit by all these bombs!
Check out the porthole I found in one of the forward sections of the superstructure. Now that 2inch thick glass was folded over as if it was thin melted plastic. Impressive! The ship is really sharp with growth making everything so sharp. You wont need exposure protection as the water is 30 degrees but you will need abrasion protection!!!
Length: 155.44 m (510 ft.)
Width: 20.11 m (66 ft.)
Depth: 12.49 m (41 ft.)
Draught: 9.14 m (30 ft.)
Engine: 2 x B & W Diesel
Horsepower: 13,404 hp
Speed: 18.38 knots maximum,15 knots service
Launching: 16 April 1930
Service: 24 November 1930
Builder: Osaka Iron Works
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 14 m.
Bottom: 32 m.
The Heian is another awesome dive. Being an ocean liner she is huge! Also really shallow. We did a 2.5 hour dive on this ship on more than one occasion. It has so much to offer. Torpedoes in the forward holds, sub periscopes along the promenade deck, porcelain galore, fantastic engine room.
Lying on her port side her props are really photogenic. Viz isnt that great all the time on this ship but great penetration opportunities.
You can still easily read the ships name on the hull.
One of the most picturesque wrecks in the Lagoon. The aquatic life is astounding (although some may see all this life getting in the way of a good wreck!!!!) The soft corals are amazing. Also the Shinkoku being a tanker doesnt have a lot of holds. Just in the aft section is a long corridor where there are lots of interesting artifacts. Operating table, bones, and other objects.
I have dedicated an entire page to the plants of the shinkoko!!!! So if you want a break from all these wrecks just click here
People don't give Truk the credit for its aquatic life. Everyone bangs on about Palau etc but truk has, with out a shadow of a doubt some of the best aquatic life on the planet!
Ship is lying on its port side. in 34m of water. Viz is normally pretty average. The main thing about the Yamagiri was carrying 16" shells for battleships like theYamashiro or Nagato .
The engineroom is probably the most photographed in the lagoon with the remains of a human skull embedded into the engine casing. One thing to always remember when diving these wrecks are that ALL of them are war graves with countless thousands perishing during Operation Hailstone. So even though its pretty "cool" to see reminents of human remains, the utmost respect should be adopted at all times.
Length: 132.60 m
Width: 17.83 m
Depth: 10.00 m
Engine: 1 xMitsubishi-Sulzer Diesel
Speed: 16knots Max.,
Launching: 15April 1938
Builder: Mitsubishi Heavy Industry
DEPTH OF SHIP
top of ship: 9 m.
Bottom: 34 m.
This is probably the most dived wreck in the Lagoon - and with good cause too!! All our group had at last three dives on this wreck. It just kept on producing the goods.
The engine room is breathtaking. You can spend hours in this place. Really clean (ish!!) inside but the silt settles really quickly. Not only is the wreck amazing to penetrate but also when you come out there are schooling jacks, baraccuda, millions of baitfish, sharks you name it!!
A truly wonderful dive.
HISTORY OF TRUK
I really want to thank Dan Bailey for kindly giving me permission to reproduce exerts from his book. Dans book WWII Wrecks of Truk Lagoon is undoubtedly the most comprehensive reference book i have ever read on a diving destination. Anyone thinking of going to Truk would be mad not to have this valuable text with them. It references all wrecks in the lagoon with pinpoint accuracy. Amazing schematics to assist you on the dive and detailed explanations of the sites. You will be surprised at what a difference a little research makes to your trip and enjoyment of the wrecks. You can purchase his book directly off Dans site. Just click on any of the links above or click on the book
I also really want to thank Mike Gerken for using some of his footage. I reccommend Mike's DVD on Truk. Mike was a skipper of the Odyssey Liveaboard for many years. Mikes DVD has more archive footage than I have ever seen on Truk. Its a great way to learn about the history of Truk.
Mike also has great video footage of 17 wrecks so you can enjoy them for years after you have long since come back from Truk. Just go to www.evolutionunderwater.com or just click on the link icon to get your DVD from Mike. its only $30 bucks! Well worth the investment.
During the years following World War I when Japan was awarded a mandate over the islands of Micronesia, these islands were primarily looked upon as colonial territories that were ripe for exploitation and economic opportunity. The 1930s were marked by a hardening of Japanese nationalism and growing hostility towards Anglo-Saxon nations, primarily the United States. These islands were then recognized as a vital strategic area and plans were developed for their rapid militarization in the event of an impending war with the United States. Truk's status as a lesser settlement would change when naval planners began to look at the lagoon's strategic potential. Truk provided a huge lagoon that could serve as a natural harbor and several groups of high volcanic islands that could be effectively fortified. Entrances into the lagoon could be sealed off by placement of mines and the islands themselves could provide protective cover for the anchorages. With the development of flying boats and seaplane fighters, Truk's naval value was further enhanced because of the shallow water wind-protected areas surrounding the islands that provided ideal take-off/landing and anchorages for seaplanes. In addition, islands within the atoll could be cleared and leveled for airfields to accommodate land-based aircraft.
When attempts at extending the naval arms limitation system amongst leading naval powers broke down in the mid 1930s, the world's great powers were free to develop whatever naval strength they felt necessary to maintain their security. The elimination of the naval limitations system hurdle was the signal for the start of an unprecedented ship building program that would clear the way for Japan's development as a great maritime power. Japan's pledges to not fortify the islands of Micronesia were set aside and thus began the transformation of the islands for military purposes. Truk was changed into a forward area naval base that would become the most important naval base outside the Empire when it was chosen as the headquarters for the Japanese Combined Fleet. This fleet organization acted as the Japanese Navy's first line of defense or offense. Truk was to become the key staging point for sea and air operations between the Empire and its forward areas. Almost all major naval operations, including the attack against Pearl Harbour, were coordinated through Truk.
As a staging point and home to the Combined Fleet, a huge armada of ships was constantly scattered about the anchorages with more coming and going. Included were the super battleships Yamato and Musashi, lesser battleships, aircraft carriers, heavy and light cruisers, destroyers, patrol boats, picket boats, and fleet auxiliaries. Hundreds of land-based and floatplane aircraft could be found at any one time either stationed or in transit at the airfields and seaplane bases.
The two-pronged advance by the Allies on the Japanese home islands, one through the South western Pacific and the other through the Central Pacific, progressed to the point that Truk was a major roadblock. With Truk being located southwest of the Marshalls, east of Palau, and north of the Solomons- New Guinea area, it was obvious that if the naval base remained intact, the Combined Fleet could disrupt the Allied advances towards the Empire using its powerful warships, massive numbers of aircraft, and its re-supply capabilities to reach territories coming under attack. A photographic over flight over Truk by two Marine PB4Y Liberators on February 4, 1944, was a definite sign that the Combined Fleet was vulnerable and most of the major fleet units were moved out. Photos taken during the overflight showed large numbers of Japanese shipping within the lagoon. Because of its disposition, Truk appeared largely invulnerable to bombardment by surface ships. It appeared that only carrier-based air power could deal Truk a knockout blow. Up to this point, Truk had a mysterious reputation because little was known of it and there was a tendency by the Allies to overemphasize its strength.
In describing this naval base, the word "impregnable" was often used while others compared it to Pearl Harbor or called it "Japan's mid-Pacific Gibraltar." Operation Hailstone was one of the most aggressive actions taken by U.S. forces against the strongest of Japan's Pacific outposts. A huge striking force, Task Force 50, was formed which included three groups of Task Force 58 aircraft carriers. Admiral Raymond Spruance, with his flag in battleship New Jersey, was in command of the operation. For two days, February 17 and 18, 1944, coordinated fighter sweeps followed by regularly scheduled strikes from the carrier groups were flown against Truk. The pre-dawn fighter sweeps were flown to destroy all Japanese air opposition and the following strikes by waves of torpedo and dive-bombers with fighter cover were to target installations and shipping. Major Japanese fleet units had managed to escape prior to the attacks eliminating the possibility of a hoped-for confrontation with the battleships and carriers, but the American planes found over 60 vessels still within the lagoon. Although many prime shipping targets managed to escape during the two days of attacks, the U.S. planes managed to sink over 45 ships including
two light cruisers
five special auxiliary vessels
five minor combatant vessels
motor torpedo boat, and
totaling over 220,000 tons. Many other vessels were damaged. Truk's airfields had held some 365 planes, including transient aircraft bound for Rabaul and the Solomons. About 270 of these were destroyed in the air and on the ground, leaving only a handful still operational. More raids against Truk would come in the following months including Army Air Force (AAF) B-24 and B-29 bombing attacks that would wrack further havoc amongst installations, airfields, and shipping. The result of the bombing campaign was the destruction of Truk's air strength and naval facilities that effectively eliminated its offensive capabilities and rendered it useless to Japan. American naval planners made the decision to forego the follow-up attacks by amphibious landing forces and bypass the neutralized islands while continuing the advance to the west and north towards the Japanese homeland. With its supply lines effectively cut off, Truk became isolated and no longer a threat Its defenders were faced with increasingly wretched existence while they sat out the remainder of the war.
Truk's World War II legacy was to become a major influence on the islands in modern days. The collection of shipwrecks and aircraft lying on the seabed of the shallow lagoon and the islands honeycombed with caves, concrete bunkers, and rusted anti- aircraft and coastal defense guns would come to the world's attention in 1970, one year after the Cousteau Expedition visited the lagoon, conducted a rather thorough survey of the wrecks, and produced a film that publicized same. The total numbers and diversity of the wrecks bring over 6,000 divers per year to these islands. Truk is a World War II enthusiast's dream. None of the wrecks are alike; each has its own particular lure for the diver.
Some of the sunken vessels, serving as artificial reefs, are known for their incredibly prolific coral encrustation. These shallower wrecks are directly in the path of warm coral-larvae-bearing and plankton-rich currents and have their masts, derricks, funnels, railings, and deck guns, in particular, adorned with soft and hard corals, sponges, gorgonians, and fluted oysters. They have become a haven of life on an otherwise barren seabed. Swarms of small reef fishes and sometimes pelagic species live in and around the wrecks. Deeper wrecks, little influenced by sunlight, have much less marine growth and the majority is in better structural shape after more than a half-century of resting on the seabed than the shallower wrecks.
"Though much has been accomplished, further developmental progress in other
areas is needed to allow the people to be able to provide for themselves and
their future generations on a self-sufficient basis."
Progress Towards Independence....
Once designated as a district under the League of Nations Trust Territory established in 1947 under the administration of the United States, Truk was one of four new states formed with the implementation of a Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in 1979. Truk, now known as Chuuk State, Pohnpei (ex-"Ponape"), Yap, and Kosrae (ex-"Kusaie") are the newly formed federations under the constitution of the FSM. Following the convening of the new congress, elections, and the enactment of laws for these new nations, the United States established a transitional period (1979-1986) whereby the transfer of governmental functions to the FSM government was facilitated.
On October 1, 1982, these states signed a Compact of Free Association with the United States as a "vehicle to secure a responsible level of assistance, financial and otherwise, that would enable the continuation of FSM's progress economically, ensure the solidification of stable democratic government and provide for the maintenance of the United States' essential security interests in the Region." In its determination to exist as a sovereign state with non-limited self-government restrictions within the international ommunity, the FSM has since attained full diplomatic relations with the US (1989) and secured membership in the United Nations in September 1991. Beginning in November 1996, the FSM entered into the final five-year term of the Compact's package of financial assistance. Funding levels under the Compact had begun in 1986 at $60 million per year and were lowered in 1991 to $51 million; they will continue at a decreased rate of $40 million annually from 1996 to 2001.
Other US federal programs and technical assistance add to the Compact totals, currently at a level of over $50 million annually. Locally generated private sector revenues in the FSM have increased substantially and have resulted in a better standard of living based on infrastructure development, services, and sales of consumer goods. This progress will not fulfill all the necessary self-sufficiency objectives as this economic activity is largely dependent upon continued outside financial assistance. Though much has been accomplished, further developmental progress in other areas is needed to allow the people to be able to provide for themselves and their future generations on a self-sufficient basis.
In addition to the change of names from "Truk" to "Chuuk State," new names have been given to Moen Island (Weno), Dublon (Tonoas), Eten (Etten) and others. The author's view on modern day name usage seems to agree with most people; when referring to the island's World War II history, its ships and aircraft wrecks, and diving in particular, the names will always be associated with "Truk" or "Truk Lagoon." Otherwise, all references to correspondence, destination travel, island descriptions, government entities, geography, and etc. should be used with the name "Chuuk State." Population totals have reached nearly 40,000 for inhabitants of islands within the lagoon; when considering the outlying atolls and islands including the Mortlocks, Halls, and Western Island groups, the total population reaches nearly 53,000. Weno now has a population of nearly 15,000.
THE RISING SUN
THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION OF TRUK
"British officials immediately realized their mistake; they had given Japan an
opening to expand into Micronesia."
Micronesia is the collective name given for various island groups in the central Pacific including the Carolines and the Marshalls. The first explorers in these islands were the Spanish, arriving centuries before anyone else. British and then German explorers also reached some of these islands in the nineteenth century. Japanese sailors would visit these islands for the first time in 1875. They named the geographical region the "South Seas" or "Nan'yo." Semi-regular visits to these islands by the Japanese Imperial Navy on training cruises began in 1884. The Germans, who had originally settled in the Marshalls, bought both
the Marianas and the Carolines from Spain in 1898. It appears the primary interest in these islands by the Germans was their advantageous locations as way stations for laying transoceanic cables to permit transmission of Morse code messages from continent to continent. German settlements usually consisted of colonial administrators, cable-company employees, and a few traders and missionaries.
Following the onset of World War I in 1914, German raiders began a campaign of sea warfare directed at British shipping including those plying East China Sea routes. Short of sea power in the area, the British requested naval assistance from the Japanese government in eliminating this threat from enemy vessels. With certain nationalistic groups within the Naval General Staff and Naval Affairs Division of the Navy Ministry along with commercial interests welcoming any chance of territorial expansion to the south, the request was recognized as a great opportunity to further Japanese influence in the South Seas. In addition, Japan could acquire advance bases with minimal military risk that might give them a vital strategic advantage in any conflict with the United States in the future. Japanese government officials informed Britain that it would go to war with Germany in order to satisfy its commitments under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and in order to preserve the security of Pacific sea routes. British officials immediately realized their mistake; they had given Japan an opening to expand into Micronesia. When the British government tried to withdraw its request for assistance, Japanese officials informed them that war preparations had already been set in motion and that reversing these efforts would bring down the Japanese Cabinet. When British officials questioned Japanese intentions, the government denied any ambitions to seize new territories. At this point, all the British could do was to try to limit the damage by trying to coax Japan into confining its military operations to the East Asia region.
Under the pretext of pursuing the German East Asiatic Naval Squadron (including battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) in the Nan'yo, Japan used its strategic opening to begin seizing German Micronesia outright. In October 1914, Japanese forces captured the Palaus, Saipan, Truk, Ponape, Kusaie, and Jaluit. Yap and Pagan would soon follow. Truk was seized on October 12th when the armored cruiser Kurama under Vice Admiral Tanin Yamama along with a cruiser escort, part of the First South Seas Squadron still officially in pursuit of the German East Asiatic Squadron, entered the Truk Lagoon and discharged a permanent occupying force ashore
Japan immediately adopted a policy of secrecy regarding its aggressive occupation and exploitation of Micronesia including making it plain that it did not welcome entry of any other ships into Micronesian waters, even those of its allies. These devious actions caused great ire amongst the Anglo-Saxon nations. The intentions of the Japanese were brought under further suspicion when requests for assistance to the Allies in other important theaters of the war where help was desperately needed were obstinately refused. Britain took measures to try to prevent Japan from establishing a permanent claim to its Micronesian spoils. The new course of action was to utilize diplomacy to bolster Britain's view that all respective British and Japanese occupation of Germany's Pacific territories should be considered a temporary wartime measure and the final disposition of the islands should be left to discussion between the Allies following the end of the war. Japan's answer was to immediately increase its presence in the islands. A Second South Seas Squadron sent to Micronesia would be transformed into the Provisional South Seas Defense Force (Rinji Nan'yo Gunto Bobitai) under the jurisdiction of the Yokosuka Naval District which would administer the newly occupied territories until war's end. During the war year 1917, Japan was still able to extract promises regarding the islands from both Britain and Australia that the United States was not informed of. An agreement was forged out that would guarantee Britain's support for Japanese claims to ex-German Islands north of the equator in return for likewise Japanese support for British claims to others south of the equator. This agreement was reached after Britain sent appeals for help in the European war theater ... in particular, a request for Japanese naval units to assist in anti-submarine patrol work in the Mediterranean. In making this agreement, Britain rationalized at the time that it was inevitable that Japan would retain these islands anyway. Australia, a major force in the British Empire, was able to convince the British the agreement was necessary as it was similarly determined to retain naval garrisons in New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago thereby providing a means of preventing further southward expansion by the Japanese. With an agreement in place for Britain's support, Japan was then able to bargain for similar secret treaties from other Allies including France, Russia, and Italy. All of this happened during a period of rising mutual resentment between Japan and the United States. American naval strategists were greatly alarmed because of Japan's occupation of Micronesia and the veil of secrecy that had been dropped around its conquests; an armed Micronesia would place American strategic plans in dire jeopardy. America's naval station at Guam was potentially in danger and the path to the Philippines bases could be blocked by the strategic cover of Japanese held islands.
When America's President Woodrow Wilson learned of the secret arrangements Japan and the other Allies had made regarding Japan's acquisition of Micronesia, he became determined to block the claims being made and set a course of creating new methods for international conduct and handling of spoils of war. He campaigned for a program of international guardianship under the League of Nations where prior agreements with regards to conquered territory would not be honored. The policy that was finally agreed upon on by U.S. naval advisers of the President was the insistence of military neutralization of Micronesia. President Wilson encountered reluctance on the part of the British to renege on its 1917 agreement with Japan; the problem was compounded by the agreements with Australia (and New Zealand) with regard to their disposition of Pacific territories south of the equator on the grounds that these were necessary for their national security. Throughout Japan, there was a widespread supposition (especially with naval planners) that they should be rewarded with the islands for their contribution to the war effort and for the security of the nation. A no-retreat stance on the issue was considered by many a matter of national honor. It was hard to refute at this time that Japan was already established in Micronesia and that during each of the five years of occupation it had consolidated it presence and the islands had virtually become a Japanese colony. Such were the major arguments that would be considered by delegates the 1919 Paris Peace Conference; all concerns would be tied to the most critical concern amongst the participants, the issue of strategic value.
The disposition of the islands had become an international issue of global significance. Allied representatives met in Versailles in January 1919 to establish the League of Nations and to decide the issues of the war including the Japanese claim to Micronesia. Japan's delegates argued that Micronesia should be awarded to them because of its record of humanitarian accomplishments in the islands. President Wilson spoke for the international community who opposed all annexations of wartime acquisition territories and pressed for the alternative of having the ex-German islands be governed by a disinterested third party smaller nation excluding Japan under a mandate, that the administrative nation should refrain from the fortifying the islands, that freedom of commerce and trade be preserved, and that the administrator should protect the welfare of the inhabitants of their mandated islands. This proposal brought about a heated debate within the delegates with major criticism coming from countries under British reign, particularly Australia. Prime Minister William Hughes of Australia, even though concerned that Japan was Australia's biggest threat, argued vehemently for his country's right to annex certain territories south of the equator. The results of the debate over Hughes' spoils-of- war arguments and President Wilson's stance of having the islands be administered by a third-party nation under the League of Nations brought about a compromise. Japan received a League of Nations mandate to govern occupied Micronesia, henceforth to be known as the Mandated Islands. Terms of the mandate specified that the islands be demilitarized and Japan was not to extend its influence beyond its presently occupied islands in the Pacific. The previously proposed Open Door policy of trade and immigration between Mandated Islands held by Japan and those by Australia and New Zealand was rejected. These last two provisions were an attempt to deny Japan's aspirations for a southward advance below the equator. Eliminating the Open Door policy restricting trade and immigration would provide Japan an argument for keeping the Mandated Island waters off limits to foreigners. In retrospect, the terms of the mandate provisions allowed the islands to be administered as Japanese possessions and not as territories under temporary supervision of the international community. Access to the islands in the final context of the mandate would serve as a springboard for Japan's advance into the South Pacific and for its development as a major maritime power. The diplomatic arguments and bad feelings over the issues of Japan's occupation of Micronesia would result in a legacy of suspicion and resentment and cause of strain and ill will in U.S.-Japanese relations. Having secured a mandate from the League of Nations with only minimal and ineffectual constraints by the international community, Japan's rule over the islands and peoples began with governing policies following guidelines more like a colonial administration instead of a trusteeship. Five naval districts were established in Palau, Saipan, Truk, Ponape, and Jaluit with headquarters for this command under a rear admiral at Truk. The naval administration in all districts would take the form of Japanese controlled assimilation under force leading to the exploitation and regimentation of the islanders with the objective being to make Micronesia an integral part of the Empire. Similar measures were implemented in all districts and included the following:
Dealing swiftly with any resistance.
Issuing laws and regulations needed to insure peace and order.
Importation of traders, teachers, doctors, and scientists.
Supervising education, hygiene, and sanitation.
Initiating surveys and censuses.
Expanding the road systems, docks, wharves, and navigational channels and buoys.
Charting of island coastlines, reefs, and obstacles.
Promoting Japanese language instruction.
Restructuring village life to conform to Japanese values and customs.
Promoting agriculture and trade.
Subsidizing steamship services between territories.
Japan's adopted policies in pursuit of its opportunities for national self-interest were limited only by the yearly scrutiny by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations in Geneva. In June of each year, the Japanese Mandate came up for review and the Commission would examine reports by Japanese officials and ask questions relevant to the specific terms of the covenant. Exchanges between Japanese representatives and members of the Commission to discuss the progress in fulfilling terms of the Mandate produced little. Following the submission of the annual report by Japanese representatives, Commission members restricted themselves to questioning of the representatives on the basis of their own careful securitization of the prepared report. With no first-hand knowledge of the mandated territories under question, the Commission members were limited in their understanding of the subject at hand and their supervisory capacity was severely limited. No attempt was made by Commission members to inspect the mandated territories since this might obstruct the progress of the administration and any attempt to do so might imply League suspicion regarding the word and good faith of the Japanese. When critical questioning and rebuffs to Japanese policy implying misconduct regarding practices in the mandates did occur on rare occasions, no action would result. In reality, the Commission was powerless and incapable of accurately judging the Japanese obligations with respect to the mandates. The principal responsibility imposed on Japan as a trustee over the territories to promote and protect the material well being of indigenous inhabitants and help in their becoming a free, self-governing people was ignored. The period between 1914 and 1920 was characterized by a transition from naval to civilian administration. By 1920, all Naval Defense Force authority was transferred to the Civil Affairs Bureau in Truk. This bureau, responsible to the Navy Ministry, would be transferred from Truk to Palau in 1921. The naval garrisons were disbanded at this time per terms of the Mandate. Governing of the islands by a purely civilian administration would begin with the establishment of the "South Seas Government" or "Nan'yo-Cho" in March 1932.
This new civilian government would continue the policy of ignoring advancement of the well being and development of the indigent populace; the paramount interest of the Japanese was to make the South Sea Islands produce a profit. The emphasis by the Japanese was to enhance the interests of its own nationals by exploiting and developing the island's natural resources. From the beginning, the policies in the islands were established with the Micronesians being treated as a third class people behind the Japanese nationals and the Korean/Okinawan immigrants. Schooling for the islander children was primarily oriented towards teaching them the Japanese language and preparing them for subservient roles limited to manual labor and lower positions in the Japanese system. The government seized all unused or uncultivated land within the islands including communal property. There was significant potential for copra production in Truk and islanders were instilled into the operation as laborers, harvesters, and producers. They were given subsidies to clear land, plant more coconut trees, put up drying sheds, and harvest the crop. Copra produced would be sold to Japanese brokers who would act as intermediaries between the islander producers and the South Seas Trading Company (Nan'yo Boeki Kaisha or Nambo or NBK). Commercial fishing was also important at Truk. The South Seas Development Company (Nan'yo Kohatsu Kaisha or Nanko or NKK) had a fish processing operation on Dublon Island run by its subsidiary, Nanko Marine Products Company (Nanko Suisan). Although the commercial fishing was dominated by the Japanese and Okinawans, many locals were hired as laborers in the processing of the catch for export. Even though the Trukese were exploited for their labor, they were able to attain a modest affluence. Not only did they have money in their pockets, there was a considerable selection of consumer goods available to them from Japan at the village level to purchase. With Japan's war in China in the late 1930s, demands for raw material were increased along with the labor need to produce it. This situation led to an unprecedented boom in the economy of the islands. Further increased demands for labor and local foodstuffs would occur with increased military presence and visits by naval shipping. Even during German rule, the South Seas Trading Company had established a network of freight transportation, passenger service, commercial fishing enterprises, inter island mail services, and trading posts throughout the islands with a fleet of small schooners. The company would take over the majority of all German commercial enterprises in the islands when World War I began as a result of the Japanese Navy prohibiting foreign shipping in South Seas waters. In 1915, the Japanese Navy awarded the company an exclusive contract for freight, passenger, and mail service between both the Empire and the interisland routes. When the lucrative shipping contract between the Empire and the islands drew the attention of larger, more influential shipping companies, the South Seas Trading Company was forced to relinquish the route to the largest steamship lines in the Empire, Nippon Yusen Kaisha (The Japanese Mail Steamship Company or NYK);
it did manage to retain the inter island shipping contract with the Japanese Navy. The NYK initially chose vessels for the South Seas circuit from ships it could spare from the more lucrative routes in the Orient including the 1912 built 4,000-ton class passenger-cargo ships Yamashiro Maru, Yokohama Maru, Yawata Maru, and the Shizuoka Maru. Two main routes were established: the western route from Kobe by way of Yokosuka, Saipan,Yap, Palau, Davao, and Manado to British North Borneo; and the eastern route from Kobe by way of Yokohama, Saipan, Truk, Ponape, and Kusaie to Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands. In the early 1920s, the NYK vessels would typically ply these routes every six weeks carrying passengers along with cargoes of sundries, building materials, foodstuffs, machinery, and coal. With the upswing in commerce and industry and a dramatic increase in immigration to the South Seas in 1925, service was increased in the two routes to once every three weeks. New sailing routes were added at that time: an east-west route from Kobe to Jaluit via Palau, Woleai, Truk, Ponape, and Kusaie; and a route from Kobe to the Marianas (Rota) via Saipan andTinian. New 4,500-ton class passenger-cargo ships were built to serve the now important South Seas service including the Palau and Saipan Marus. The luxurious amenities offered aboard these vessels brought about the beginning of Japanese tourism to the islands. The South Seas Trading Company, under NYK contract, increased the number of routes commensurately to six between the main South Seas ports and the outlying islands of the Mandates. These lines were extended further to include the British Gilberts and Rabaul. Rapid development of long-range aircraft by the Japanese aviation industry in the 1930s led to the beginning of commercial air routes to the Mandates. With little flat land available in the islands for airfields and sheltered bodies of water accessible near most population centers for landing areas, the flying boat became the plane of choice for commercial aviation in the Mandates. Pioneer commercial flights were begun in 1935 by Great Japan Airways (Dai Nippon Koku) using Kawanishi 97-type flying-boats (later to be known to the Allies of World War II as the Mavis-author) leased from the Japanese Navy. Initial regular commercial flights to Palau and eastward via Yap, Truk, and Ponape to Jaluit were begun in 1940 and regular service in 1941. With only limited passenger seating (the Kawanishi 97-type flying boat held only 18 passengers-author), these flights would not contribute vastly to the immigration and tourism to the South Seas Islands. Transportation in this manner was limited to affluent travelers and government/navy officials. The establishment of these routes was important in the development and strategic use of the flying boats and would provide valuable experience leading to the widespread war time network of seaplane bases throughout the islands. The commercial service would terminate within months following the outbreak of war in the Pacific.
As early as 1918, the Provisional South Seas Defense Force initiated numerous surveys of the islands for their potential as naval bases as the Japanese navy recognized that the Mandate Islands were of great strategic importance and planning was needed for their rapid militarization in the event of war with the United States. Throughout the 1920s, Japan's policy of secrecy with respect to the islands including the exclusion of visits by foreign ships perpetuated the suspicions among Western powers that she was preparing the islands for war. In reality, Japan was concentrating more towards consolidating its colonization footholds and making a profit during these years and all efforts were oriented towards that end. In 1930, American, Japan, and British delegates met at the London Navy Treaty conference to revise and update naval arms limitation agreements that had initially been set eight years earlier in Washington. Japanese proposals, presented by Rear Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, for more equitable apportioning of naval ship building quotas were argued against vehemently by the American and British delegates. Following an intense struggle in a confrontational atmosphere with numerous compromises, the Japanese representatives signed the treaty agreement. Although the new warship building quotas agreed to swing in the direction of Japanese objectives, naval hard-liners in Japan heartily denounced the new treaty provisions and called for Japan's withdrawal from the naval treaty system. This reaction brought about increased fears of resurgent Japanese imperialism and questions about their intentions to build up their fleet and fortify the Mandate Islands. The only transformation of the islands that could be construed as preparations for military purposes through the 1930-34 time period was the construction of the commercial and communications facilities by the South Seas Government and the South Seas Development Company.
In 1934, construction began on the airfield on Eten Island. This project, necessitating the leveling of half of the island for the airstrip using only dynamite and manual labor would take nearly seven years to complete. After the expiration of the Washington Treaty with its naval limitations system non-fortification clauses in 1937, further communications facilities and air base construction was begun jointly between the Japanese navy and South Seas Government following the dispatch of the seaplane tender Kamoi with a naval engineer, Naoyoshi Itsumi, to survey the islands further for potential military sites. By 1939, plans were implemented for the intensified construction of naval and airfield facilities. Japan passed the Military Manpower Mobilization Law in at this time that provided for conscripted labor from the Empire. In addition, large numbers of Korean coolies were shipped to the mandates and local islanders were conscripted for heavy construction work. Further help was provided in October 1939 when nearly two thousand Japanese convicts, mainly from Yokohama Central Prison, were organized into penal labor battalions and shipped to the islands. Many of these convicts were sent to Truk where they were used principally for airfield construction on Moen Island. The Fourth Mandate Fleet was organized on November 15, 1939 as a Holding Force in the Central Pacific Fleet organization under orders of the Combined Fleet. Its primary mission was to protect the Mandated Islands area, now termed the Inner South Seas (uchi Nan 'yo). Under command of the Fourth Fleet was the Fourth Base Force ("konkyochitai") at Truk which controlled all naval garrisons and installations in the Eastern Caroline Islands.
You will read more about this in Dan Baileys book......