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USN February 17, 1944
Truk Lagoon includes the Truk Islands (Chuuk Islands) located in Chuuk State (Truk) in the Federated States of Micronesia. Truk consist of eleven major islands and many smaller islets within a forty mile wide lagoon surrounded by a protective reef. Entrances into the lagoon including North Pass, North East Pass, Salat Pass, Wilger Pass, Otta Pass, Aualap Pass, Ulifauro Pass, Piaanu Pass, Taualap Pass. Truk Harbor (Eten Anchorage) is the inner anchorage bordering Dublon Island (Tonoas, Tonowas) to the north, Eten Island (Takeshima) to the east, Uman Island to the south and Fefan Island to the west. To the southeast is Kuop Atoll (Neoch Atoll).
On November 15, 1939, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Fourth Fleet (4th Fleet) under the command of Admiral Katagiri Eikichi established their base at Truk. Chitose was assigned as flagship with tenders Kamoi and Kinugasa Maru of the 17th Sentai to support the new fleet. In December 1939 twenty-four H6K Mavis flying boats from the Yokohama Kokutai were based at Truk Lagoon.
During the Pacific War, Truk Lagoon was an important anchorage and staging base. It was also used as a ferry point for aircraft flying Japan or aircraft carriers. From Truk, aircraft could proceed southward to Rabaul and onward to New Guinea or the Solomons. A total of five airfields and seaplane bases were built in Truk Lagoon.
The area was heavily defended with anti-aircraft guns, coastal guns and later in the war defenses were bolstered with additional submarine nets placed in the water along with more mines and even rocket launchers. There were over eighty 25mm anti-aircraft guns and 12cm guns in emplacements along with many smaller guns. Later in the war, manned torpedo bases were established on the outer islands and Daihatsu landing craft were converted into torpedo boats. Other defenses included sea mines in lagoon entrances and land mines on the outer islands.
Allied missions against Truk
January 15, 1941–June 30, 1945
On January 15, 1941 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Catalina flying boats flying from Rabaul via Kavieng bombed Truk. After the Japanese occupation of Rabaul, no Allied aircraft had the range to reach Truk. Heavily defended, Truk was dubbed the "Gibraltar of the Pacific". During 1942 and 1943, Truk Lagoon was beyond the range of Allied aircraft until early February 1944.
During the night of February 3, 1944 two U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) PB4Y-1 Liberators from VMD-254 piloted by Major Christensen and Capitan Yawn took off from Stirling Airfield on a photographic reconnaissance of Truk on a 12 hour flight. On February 4, 1944 during the early morning over Truk at an altitude of 23,000' they spot and photograph Musashi, a carrier, cruisers, destroyers, submarines and many other cargo vessels. Cloud cover prevented complete photographic coverage of the entire Truk Lagoon area. By February 10, 1944 the Japanese warships including Musashi with Admiral Mineichi Koga aboard was the last IJN battleship to depart Truk.
Afterwards, their photographs are studied by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) at Pearl Harbor for photo interpretation and ship designers review the huge battleship suggest that she must displace at least 60,000 tons and was armed with 18" inch guns. The photographs taken are used in the planning for Operation Hailstone.
During "Operation Hailstone" on February 16, 1944 and February 17, 1944 hundreds of U.S. Navy (USN) carrier aircraft from Task Force 58 (TF 58) under the command of Vice Admiral R. A. Spruance including USS Enterprise, USS Yorktown, USS Intrepid CV-11, USS Essex CV-9, USS Bunker Hill CV-17, USS Belleau Wood CVL-24, USS Cabot CVL-28, USS Monterey CVL-26 and USS Cowpens CVL-25 supported by seven battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers and submarines. The raid began on February 16, 1944 with a fighter sweep over Truk with strikes on February 17, 1944 and February 18, 1944. During the raids, 400 tons of bombs and torpedoes were dropped. In total, forty ships were sunk and thousands of Japanese died. Ten weeks later, a second raid sank more ships.
The Allies bypassed Truk and instead bombed the anchorage and bases to neutralize them from the air. During 1944, attacked by B-24 Liberators from the 7th Air Force and later Far East Air Force (FEAF). During 1945, Truk was within range of B-25 Mitchells from the Central Pacific and escorting fighters including P-38 Lightnings and P-47 Thunderbolts and B-29 Superfortress flew bombing familiarization missions until the end of June 1945. On the ground, the Japanese garrison was cut off from resupply but continued to defend Truk until the official surrender of Japan in September 1945. Until the late 1940s, oil from the sunken ships and war debris covered the beaches and coral reefs.
For more than two years after the Pacific War, oil from the sunken ships covered the beaches and reefs. Caustic substances like high octane aviation fuel, oils, gasoline and acid seep on many of the wrecks. Many wrecks contain unexploded ordnance including explosives, mines, detonators, torpedoes and shells.
Truk Lagoon arguably has the world's best wreck diving because of numerous wrecks, excellent preservation and natural beauty at depths from the surface to over 200'. Divers are allowed to penetrate the shipwrecks but are forbidden from removing artifacts, remains or marine life. Fines and a possible jail sentence await those who disobey. The Trukese people strive to preserve the lagoon and wrecks as an underwater monument and attraction for dive tourism.
Kikukawa Maru sunk October 7, 1943 after accidental fire/explosion into Truk Lagoon.
Ojima sunk October 7, 1943 after accidental explosion into Truk Lagoon.
Kiyosumi Maru sunk February 16, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Momokawa Maru sunk February 16, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Reiyo Maru sunk February 16, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Aikoku Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Amagisan Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Fujikawa Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Hanakawa Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Heian Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Nagano Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
I-169 "Shinohara" (I-69) sunk April 4, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Hino Maru No.2 sunk April 30, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Kensho Maru sunk April 30, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Rio De Janeiro Maru sunk February 16, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
San Francisco Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Sankisan Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Seiko Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Tonan Maru No.3 sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Fujisan Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Fumitsuki sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Gosei Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Hoki Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Hokuyo Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Hoyo Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Matsutani Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Taiho Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Yubae Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Nippo Maru sunk February 18 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Unkai Maru No.6 sunk February 18, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Shinkoku Maru sunk February 18, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Oite sunk February 18, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Sapporo Maru sunk May 29, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Patrol Boat No. 34 sunk July 3, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Futagami sunk after September 1945 into Truk Lagoon.
Yamagiri Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Gun High Wreck sunk to the west of Uman Island into Truk Lagoon.
"Tugboat Wreck" sunk into Truk Lagoon.
Taijun Maru sunk April 11, 1942 after catching fire into Truk Lagoon.
Kotohira Maru sunk April 15, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Gyoraitei No. 10 sunk February 16, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Naka sunk February 16, 1944 west of Truk Lagoon.
Tachikaze sunk February 17, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Akagi Maru sunk February 17, 1944 into the northern part of Truk Lagoon.
Minsei Maru sunk during the night of April 29-30, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Katsuragisan Maru sunk after hitting a sea mine in the northeast channel.
Hakushun Maru sunk in Truk Lagoon.
Sub Chaser No. 29 sunk February 17, 1944 to the west of Truk Lagoon.
Sub Chaser No. 38 sunk April 30, 1944 into Truk Lagoon.
Sub Chaser No. 46 sunk April 5, 1944 sunk by B-24 Liberator.
Sub Chaser No. 66 sunk August 7, 1945 by B-29 Superfortress.
A6M Zero (Dublon) ditched southeast of Dublon Island.
A6M Zero (Fefan) crashed upside down near Fefan Island.
A6M Zero (Param) crashed or ditched off Param Island.
H8K2 Emily (Dublon) sunk at mooring off Dublon Seaplane Base.
G4M1 Betty ditched into Truk Lagoon.
D4Y1 Judy (Eten) crashed or ditched off Eten Island.
A6M Zero (Eten) ditched into shallow water off Eten Island.
B6N2 Jill (Eten) ditched northeast of Eten Island.
Feb 4, 1944
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