Diving the Spectacular Japanese Ship Graveyard of Truk Lagoon, Micronesia

(Image: gh0stdot, reproduced with permission)

Truk Lagoon in Micronesia is home to a spectacular wealth of sunken military treasures, courtesy of Operation Hailstone, a massive US Navy assault launched against the Japanese fleet based there on February 17-18 1944.  Almost 50 Japanese vessels were sunk and 270 aircraft destoyed, some of which still litter the seabed amid the incredible submerged ship graveyard.  Now, more than 65 years later, Flickr user gh0stdot has documented a selection of the Lagoon’s most impressive shipwrecks and other wartime artifacts.

San Francisco Maru

(Images: gh0stdot, reproduced with permission)

Built in 1919, the cargo ship San Francisco Maru served as a transport between Japan and the “Inner South Seas” before arriving in Truk Lagoon on February 5, 1944. Two weeks later, a Grumman TBF Avenger operating from USS Essex scored a direct hit, killing five crew and sending the stricken ship to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Rediscovered by Jaques Cousteau in 1969, San Francisco Maru is known as the “Million Dollar Wreck” due to the value of its military cargo, including three Type 95 Ha Go tanks.

Fujikawa Maru

(Images: gh0stdot, reproduced with permission)

When the Fujikawa Maru sank on February 18, 1944, her future place amid the world’s finest shipwrecks – named among The Times’ top 10 wreck dives in the world and fourth best according to Aquaviews – was the last thing on her crew’s mind. Launched in 1938, Fujikawa Maru saw service at the Battle of Midway before being sunk by American torpedo bombers from USS Yorktown. This ship’s hold is also the final resting place of three A6M Zero fighters and one A5M “Claude”.

Kensho Maru

(Image: gh0stdot, reproduced with permission)

Another Truk Lagoon resident, the Kensho Maru was discovered by Klaus Lindermann in 1980. Lying upright with a 20 degree list to port, the wreck remains relatively intact and boasts ammunition, binoculars, radio equipment, as well as bottles of beer and sake below deck.

Other Truk Lagoon Shipwrecks and Submerged Military Aircraft

(Image: gh0stdot, reproduced with permission)

The above images feature two more of the staggering 47 shipwrecks in Truk Lagoon – the cargo ship Nippo Maru and navy transport vessel Yamagiri Maru.  Nearby, resting on the seabed, are the shattered remains of several aircraft.  Here, a diver explores a seriously damaged Mitsubishi G4M Betty, while an engine still attached to the wing of a Kawanishi H8K Emily remains reasonably intact.  Taken collectively, the submerged ship graveyard of Truk Lagoon, complete with sunken cargoes of tanks and planes, is a powerful time capsule that tells the story of two fateful days during World War Two when almost an entire fleet was lost.

Keep reading – explore these incredible ship graveyards and abandoned docks, take a trip to one of the world’s most impressive submarine graveyards on the Kola Peninsula, or learn about the grim history of Britain’s notorious prison ships.

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