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Dan E. Bailey
Author, Diver & Truk Lagoon Expert

Dan Bailey is the author of WWII Wrecks of Palau and WWII Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon an impressive, new, and comprehensive edition that culminates over eight years of new research, painstaking accuracy in creating maps, and including over 150 color wreck photographs. For anyone interested in Truk or Palau, these are definitive books.

Tell a little more about yourself, and your interest in WWII
I was raised in an inland valley area in Northern California (Redding). I went to college at Brigham Young University, got an electrical engineering degree, and went to work for Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. in the Silicon Valley. In 1969, I was offered a job with GTE Sylvania working on the ALTAIR radar project on Roi-Namur Island in the Kwajalein Atoll. Immediately after arriving, I got acquainted with the fishermen on the island as I was a fishing fanatic. While being around the dock area, I got acquainted with several divers who showed me underwater photographs of the shipwrecks in the nearby lagoon along with artifacts that they had recovered. These fascinated me as I had always been interested in ship and WW II history since childhood days; becoming a shipwreck diver was a natural progression.

After becoming a wreck diving fanatic at Kwajalein and Roi-Namur, Truk was another natural progression with me as was Palau (I wrote the book, WWII Wrecks of Palau, also.) The I-169 film definitely was interesting to me. I could not wait to dive on a Japanese submarine! I have a copy of [ Jacques Cousteau's 1969 ] Lagoon of Lost Ships.

My first dives in 1971-72 were on a limited number of wrecks that had been found. Few divers had ever visited these wrecks and their structural integrity was almost completely intact; the sheer number of artifacts, the coral growth, and the fish life around them was phenomenal. Over the years, there was the opportunity on many trips to dive on a newly found shipwreck. This was also a special highlight. My dive groups and I were fortunate to find a couple aircraft and small shipwrecks that had been unknown previously.

On my second or third trip to Truk, Kimiuo Aisek (who introduced diving services at Truk) was having difficulties with a well-known dive industry personage. This fellow, who was used to being catered to, felt that he was not being taken care of. Kimiuo asked me to intervene and help solve the misunderstanding. It took a simple explanation on my part to the VIP and everything was solved. Kimiuo then kind of adopted me following this and was my personal dive guide for many years. The discussions about the wrecks and the many dives with Kimiuo were very special. Having him show me the best that Truk had to offer was a major highlight. When Kimiuo's health slowed him down, I was fortunate enough to dive with his son, Gradvin, for many years also. I have a long personal friendship relationship with several of the diving guides, including Chenny Tipwek, and boat operators that is very gratifying.

At one point in my book-writing career, it became important to me to keep track of the number of trips that I had made to both Truk and Palau. In 1986, I went through my collection of slides and jotted down the dates on them to help formulate a list of the dates/years that I had been diving at these places. Old airplane tickets and receipts helped in making the list. I may have lost track of one trip date because I went without a working underwater camera and had no slides to refer to. I did keep exact track of my trips (up to three times per year) after 1986 and these now number more than 40 at both Truk and Palau. I have been exploring Truk for the last 30 years with only 2-3 years in the 1971-2001 time period that I missed going.

The most interesting artifact I have seen is an optical signaling device. It is a rare find and its presence on the ship belies the importance of the Heian Maru as a sub-tender for the 6th Submarine Fleet.

The next most exciting artifact to me was a metal case I found on the Nippo Maru filled with intricate and beautiful brass navigational measurement instruments. This rusty-looking case was almost covered completely with silt and it was a thrill pulling it out and opening it up to find the beautiful instruments inside.

For those people who contact me about visiting and diving at Truk for the first time, I tell them there is a major problem in doing so. When they ask what that problem is, I tell them that after going there they will not want to go anywhere else but Truk in the future. Many get back to me after going and tell me I was right!

WWII Wrecks of the Truk LagoonTell about your book on Truk Lagoon
World War II Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon is the culmination of eight years of concentrated effort: diving exploration, travel, research, computer drawing, and writing. It is my "flagship" works (so to speak) and likely the last one I will produce. It will be updated in follow-on editions/printings.

Click For EnlargementThe book's Target Area Maps were modified from those found in original intelligence bulletins and the information included with them was derived from a combination of photo-interpretation notes by analysts, post-war sources, and my own analysis of various photos taken during the air raids. I have an interest and background in photo-interpretation analysis of enemy installations from working in intelligence related projects during my Aerospace engineering career. There were hundreds of hours spent in drawing / re-drawing these maps, compiling the content information, and studying various action photos.

There has been a lot of work involved in accumulating wreck photos for this book. You have to be good with your photographic techniques, have good equipment, and be lucky in some cases. The 150 color plates represent less than one percent of the total taken over the years.

Many of the reports in the Air Campaign Section were found after making intensive searches through the National Archives. Much of this material has been mis-filed and in some cases was found by luck only. Eight consecutive years of research in the Archives, a week or more at a time, proved to be the answer to accumulating all the information. New information was found every year. Correspondence with Pacific War researchers has sled to tips where new material has been found. These researchers have graciously shared information.

Ever so often, I am contacted by American WWII pilots and other naval veterans about my book. In general, the pilots who flew at Truk comment that it was hard understanding the big picture based on their participation. They only learned about the total results from reading my book.

Click For EnlargementThat is Peter Ording on the cover. Peter contacted me in 1999 about joining me in a trip to Truk. He was able to do so in July 2000. He is a great gentleman and an accomplished wreck diver. Everyone on the trip enjoyed Peter; he was a great addition to the group. I now consider him a valued friend. We will be going to Truk together again (along with two of his best diving buddies) in February 2002.

Talk about the changes to the shipwrecks
The deterioration of the wrecks is a sad thing to see. I am very grateful to have been able to see the wrecks at their best in my lifetime. Every time I visit Truk now-a-days or see dive operators at stateside show, the guides and live-aboard folks make a point of telling me of changes that have occurred (collapsing of superstructures, deck guns falling to the seabed, etc.). It angers me when I hear about the damaging of wrecks due to careless dive boat anchoring or other man-produced means (like the dynamiting of the wheelhouse of the destroyer Fumitsuki to get at a safe inside).

The looting of munitions and artifacts from the wrecks is very disturbing to me. I love to try to get new and better photos of some of the same artifacts trip after trip and delight in showing them to new members of my diving groups. If these artifacts are found to be missing, it is a major disappointment. Removal of munitions by certain locals has damaged structures, artifacts, and coral life. However, the most disturbing thing to me is using dynamite to kill fish in the vicinity of the wrecks; the exteriors of several wrecks have been damaged in this way. This is a crime and I am happy when I hear of efforts being made to stop this practice.

What is the impression that Trukese have about WWII relics?
The increased popularity of wreck diving at Truk has brought about both negative and positive changes. Heavy diving pressure will damage the wrecks in a number of ways. On the positive side, new opportunities will present themselves. Only last year (2000), I was able to lead a group onto Uman Island to see the majestic Japanese coastal defense guns positioned there in caves and on the high hill sides. We were the first outsiders to ever see them since the war ended (a partial survey was made by the military occupation troops at that time).

There is a new attitude amongst Trukese working in the diving service area that I have noted in the last few years. It is a sense of pride in the wrecks and a protective attitude that I have not seen before. Now, the removal of artifacts is taken personally by these people. The realization that their future is tied to diving tourism and if the artifacts are taken and the wrecks damaged carelessly, now one will come to see the wrecks and their livelihood is being threatened. On the flip side of the coin, there is a market for artifacts taken from the shipwrecks and land sites. Artifacts are actually being marketed on a well-designed website.

Have you worked with Japanese researchers and veterans?
My contact with Japanese veterans has been limited to those I have met during my visits to Truk during the anniversaries of Operation Hailstone (February 17-18). One veteran in particular, who speaks good English, has provided me with maps and information that he passes on from other veterans and researchers. He had been invaluable in translating Japanese documents that have come into my hands by various means. I have done no more than provided this contact with a few photos I have taken and have joined him and his veteran friends in having a few beers and long discussions of their time at Truk while in the Japanese Navy.

What are your hopes for the future in terms of wrecks?
I hope to do further land exploration of the islands and spend some time looking for some small craft and airplane wrecks that have not yet been found. There has not been enough time to do this in the past. I have photographs that may help in finding both the small boats and airplanes in the lagoon.

Also, I have photographs that may lend a clue to finding some aircraft wrecks. In the future, I hope to allocate time to finding some of these. There is an amazing number of different types of Japanese aircraft lost in the lagoon waters of the atoll. There is something very unique and wonderful about finding a new airplane wreck, especially if it is relatively intact.

Thank you Mr. Bailey for the interview!
WWII Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon | WWII Wrecks of Palau

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