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HISTORY IS WRITTEN BY THE WINNERS

Truk Lagoon is a lush atoll with 245 islands. It first encountered widespread human settlement in the 14th century but was mostly undisturbed by outside influence until the 19th century when the Spanish came and unsuccessfully tried to assert power. The Germans subsequently took over in 1899 and this is where the term “Truk” came from; the short version of the story is that the Germans simply couldn’t pronounce Chuuk!

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After the German defeat in WWI, Truk came under the Japanese Empire after a mandate from the League of Nations, a precursor to the UN. Immediately, the Japanese started planning and building the largest Japanese naval base in the entire Pacific theater. It boasted five airstrips, hundreds of planes, seaplane bases, submarine repair shops, advanced infrastructure, and communications on land as well as massive anchorages for the navy.

A significant portion of the Imperial Japanese Navy´s combined fleet had anchorage at Truk. Aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, tankers, cargo ships, minesweepers, submarines, and numerous merchant vessels garrisoned around 28,000 people. It became the key logistical and operational hub supporting Japan’s defenses in the Central and South Pacific.

It wasn’t until 1941 that the US entered an escalating WWII. Perhaps in part because they saw it as a European concern. The straw that broke the camel’s back, and American detachment, was Pearl Harbor. After entering the Pacific Theater, US reconnaissance flights discovered Truk Lagoon in 1943. They also discovered that this tiny outlying atoll was the largest Japanese naval base in the entire Pacific. 

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“It wasn’t until 1941 that the US entered an escalating WWII. Perhaps in part because they saw it as a European concern. The straw that broke the camel’s back was Pearl Harbor”

Operation Hailstone

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It’s 05:14 am on the 17th of February, 1944.

35 Task Force 58 planes take off from the American aircraft carrier Essex. The planes are loaded with 500 and 1000-pound armor piercing bombs. The first raid is about to begin. Half an hour before, eleven Hellcats had already reached their target for an initial sweep at the 4th Fleet Anchorage, making the job of the bombers effortless.

At 7 am, a bomb with a delay fuse is dropped on the Nippo Maru, blowing a large hole in the ship, flooding the engine room, and sinking it immediately. Operation Hailstone has begun. The naval task force, armed with over 500 aircraft, attacks the lagoon for 48 hours straight, decimating over 50 vessels and 250 aircraft. The biggest wreck diving ghost fleet in the world is created.

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