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Pacific World War II Book Review  
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by Dan E. Bailey
North Valley Diver  2001
518 pages
Index, photos, maps, appendix
ISBN: 0-911615-06-7
$70.00 plus shipping

Order now at
Order now at

Laminated hardcover edition
Large (8 1/2- X 11-inch) format
High quality coated paper
150 color plates
101 black & white photos
173 maps and illustrations
Wreck drawings with important features shown
Expanded shipwreck descriptions
Descriptions of artifacts
Technical deep diving at Truk
Japanese Installations
Air battles
American/Japanese planes lost
Japanese ships present at Truk
Japanese after Op Hailstone
Details of April 29-30, 1944 raids
Diving requirements and skill levels needed

Photo by Peter Ording
Photo by Peter Ording

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World War II Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon

Dan Bailey first visited Truk Lagoon in 1971. Since then, he has returned over forty times in the past thirty years. The release of the beautiful hardcover edition of WWII Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon is a volume that anyone interested in Truk should acquire and add their book collection. This book builds off the previous 1989 version. With new research, discoveries and photography this book is an entirely new and expanded volume over 500 pages long! As you will see below, this book goes highly recommend, and is a benchmark for all history and photograph books in the genera of Pacific diving and history.

The first thing noted, is the production value of the book. It is certainly worth its weight - as it is a full size book, with hundreds of B&W wartime photos, line drawings, schematics and lavish color photographs taken underwater. Also, the author presents these photos in very large format 5 x 7 or larger. This is a treat for readers, who appreciate the crisp details of each image. The text is well laid out, and easy tread in two column format.

The cover of the book is a full sized image of deck of the San Francisco Maru, and the Type 95 Ha Go Light Tanks stowed on the deck. Aficionados of the Pacific Wreck Database website will appreciate that the diver behind the tank is contributor Peter Ording. This tank is the same pictured on National Geographic Magazine May 1976, that for many world wide sparked widespread interest in Truk Lagoon (myself included). In my opinion, Bailey's cover photo a far better photograph of this eerie scene.

Truk Today
The book begins with a very extensive listing of all terms, ships and aircraft types. This is a good reference, especially for those unfamiliar with the complicated Japanese nomenclature and dating systems. Next, Bailey describes contemporary life at Truk (Chuuk) Lagoon and interesting facts like pilgrimages back by Japanese veterans, and details diving operators and live aboard ships and a section on the recent use of mixed gas dives since 1996 at the lagoon that allows longer and deeper dives. Of particular interest, are his sections on the deterioration of the shipwrecks due to increased diving, natural decay and threats this presents. Also, about the removal of munitions illegally and how they are still being (illegally) used this day... and touching on the outcomes of increased tourism in Truk and its positive and negative impacts on wrecks and history there.

The next section deals with the history of the Japanese occupation of Truk after the islands were mandated them following WWI. Building up of the islands as military fortifications and bases during the 1930's The greatest contribution of this section are detailed force lists for all units based there during the war, including both Navy and Army units, and additional details like convoys the islands, names of commanders and captains of ships - together spanning six pages.

Island Installations
Detailed graphics, like this map of Dublon Island are provided for all of the areas targeted during Operation Hailstone. This extensive section spans from pages 19-102 of the book. Each target area has a location thumbnail, detailed line drawing, target area descriptions and intelligence analysis summary. When available, there are also WWII reconnaissance photos of the location. Aside from their historical importance, they provide an unprecedented resource for visitors or historians to retrace the bases, and know the identity of buildings and fortifications. This is the most detailed assembly of Truk area island fortifications, down to every building, gun, searchlight and depot. Below is an example, on page 49. Mouse over the map tread descriptions of each location.

Click For Enlargement Shops, Stores, Warehouses Shrine, ex-Roman Catholic Church Tonan Pier Small boat basin Raised Plateau overlooking harbor Covered Slip for Small Craft Transport Pier No. 10 Warehouses Open Stores Boat Sheds & rail lines Kimura Dockyard Buildings Residence of important personage Shopping District Boat Repair Base Water Storage marine hardware storage Small Boat Pier Breakwater & Jetty Warehouse / Barracks Small Homes Probable food storage warehouse Residences
Map of Dublon Island - Target Area D-10 page 49

Allied Air Campaign Against Truk
The next section includes over 150 pages dedicated strictly the Allied strikes against Truk. Operation Hailstone was a massive military event and this coverage does it justice, explaining every aspect of the raid in a very clear and concise format profiling each ship, plane, strike and target. Aside from summaries of the strikes and action, each subsection ends with a few paragraphs about particular specific pilot's experiences, like this except from Essex VF Sweep with 11 F6F's that also includes the experiences of each of the pilots, some a few sentences, other many paragraphs in length. For instance, this expert from on of the Essex F6F's:

Lt. (jg) H.R. Hudson Following a strafing run of the Param Airfield, Lt. Hudson came upon a Kate very low off the water (about 15 feet). He mad an astern run and obtained hits throughout the fuselage area. The Kate burned and crashed.

The level of history puts the reader in the cockpit of each airplane, and give one the sensation of the enormous operation, and how many planes participated, and how much damage was caused with bombs and bullets. WWII strike photographs that are breath taking accompany the accounts were appropriate.

Hailstone was the most famous event at Truk, but what is really exciting about the history section is that it includes far more that just this one mission. Equally intriguing and detailed are the coverage of the Japanese Strikes carried out in retaliation after the raid. Also, land based strikes by the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) 13th Air Force, Fast Carrier Strikes in late April, 1944 and in October 1944 to August 1945 experimental B-29 Superfortress raids and even an attack by Royal Navy carrier aircraft during "Operation Inmate"

The history section ends with details of the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945 when the remaining 24,061 Naval personnel and 14, 299 Army troops laid down arms. Following surrender, the American occupation that began on November 24, 1945 and efforts to repatriate the military personnel, clean up the island dispose of munitions and assist with the cleanup. The investigations and trials of war crimes committed against captured Allied aviators and other prisoners for torture, medical experiments The last Japanese military left on December 26, 1946.

Wrecks of the Truk Lagoon
The last 200 plus pages of this volume cover the ship and aircraft wrecks in the lagoon from WWII. Again, like the previous sections, the authors treatment is painstaking and arguably the most complete research available on each of these ships. Each wreck has a complete background history, that begins with its construction and equally interesting prewar and wartime history. Each ship has a full listing of military operations that it participated in, which reads like a history of the war in the Pacific itself, and many other interesting bits, like the camouflage schemes applied, relevant WWII photographs, full page schematics, color photographs from contemporary dives and diving notes for SCUBA divers.

This intensity of research is repeated for more than fifty Truk shipwrecks, and half dozen submerged aircraft. Reading about each of the Japanese wrecks widens the readers appreciation for the enormous amount of history and human interest stories about the Japanese side of the history and that each of these vessels contain, and the details of how they met their final demise in the Lagoon of Truk.

The book has many audiences, firstly any veterans of the Operation Hailstone February 1944 air strikes. Also, anyone interested in Pacific War, World War II history and the military archeology of the Truk. And, of course any SCUBA divers will appreciate Bailey's detailed dive notes for those who intend to dive Truk Lagoon themselves.

Interview with author Dan E. Bailey

Review by Justin Taylan  

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Last Updated
September 21, 2023

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