The Atoll of Chuuk, also named Truk’s atoll, is one of four Federal States of Micronesia and part of the Caroline Islands. It is situated between the States of Yap (on the West) and Phonpei (in the East). This magnificent lagoon lost in the Pacific includes eleven major islands: Tol, Udot, Fala Beguets, Romanum and Eot which are part of Faichuk (left the West of the lagoon to the specific dialect), and Moen, Fefan, Dublon, Uman, Param and Tsis east of the lagoon, part of Namoneas. It is one of the biggest lagoons of the world!
Truk is discovered as scuba diving paradise by Jacques Cousteau in 1971 and ” The Ghost Fleet of the Lagoon of Truk ” revealed its treasures: wrecks remained for the great majority intact, fulled of war’s treasures: fighters, tanks, trucks, bikes, motorcycles, cars, ammunitions, radios and telegraphs, bombs, torpedoes … The whole colonized by quantity of corals (multicolored Alcyonaires, Acropora pichoni, gorgonians)), we can spot sharks, barracuda, snappers, and more than 2600 sorts of reef fishes…
Chuuk is Mecca of wreck’s dive for all divers levels. The atoll is a submarine museum, a tale of the World War II, a protected area, thanks to men as Kimio Aisek, founder of the Blue Lagoon Dive Shop and the witness of the Operation Hailstone, who worked all his life at the protection of wrecks and their amazing environment.
The ancient history of Chuuk is based on the legends and the oral tradition, always very present in the life of Chuukois, but stay very underestimated. Truk was colonized by the Spanish Empire in 1732 with the visit of the first missionaries, but remained very protected from the Spanish influence until 1875, dates in which Spain claims officially Caroline Islands and administers it from the Filipinas. The Germans, who occupied Yap, claim Caroline Islands because Spain does not occupy them. An refereeing of Pope Léon XIII in 1885 confirmed the rights of Spain but gave the right of free business to Germany.
Further to the war Spain-USA of 1898, Spain had to give up to Germany Caroline Islands for a price of 17 million marks-golds, transaction sealed by a treaty between both nations in 1899. Chuuk stayed property of Germany until 1919, date in which the Japanese occupation began, under mandate from League of Nations following to the defeat of Germany during WWI.
Chuuk becomes under the Japanese occupation the main naval base of the Land of the Rising Sun in the South Pacific. There were 27,856 soldiers of the IJN (Imperial Japanese Navy) under the command of the Vice – Admiral Masami Kobayashi and then the Vice – Admiral Chuichi Hara, and 16,737 soldiers of the IJA (Imperial Japanese Army) under the command of General Kanenobu Ishuin. The Department of the Japanese Civil engineering built on the atoll 5 airports, a base of seaplane, a submarine base, a base of supply in torpedoes, a center of communication, a center of command and a radar tracking station.
An important part(party) of the Japanese fleet was based on Chuuk, whose center of command of the operations for the South Pacific was on Tonoas.
The heavy, natural fortifications as well as those built by Japanese, made that Chuuk was nicknamed by the Allies ” Gibraltar of the Pacific “. Many of these fortifications and installations are still visible nowadays.
Besides being a military base, Chuuk was an important logistic platform and of provisioning for the whole Imperial fleet in the South Pacific. Numerous merchant ships (San Francisco Maru), tankers (Shinkoko Maru) or luxury passenger ships (Rio de Janeiro Maru, Heian Maru,) reconvert to troop transportation and cargo boat, anchored in the lagoon.
In the beginning of February, 1944, the Japanese army, aware of the exposure of Chuuk in an American attack, decides to re-locate their fleet of attack on Yap and Peliliu to Palau. Around thirty combat ships and about forty transport ships, tankers, supply crafts, cargo boats stays in Chuuk …
All in all about 270 Japanese planes were destroyed. The Japanese retort got organized at night from 17 till 18 February. An air attack is launched but they succeed only in torpedoing US INTREPID, without pouring it but by causing important damage. The American attack continued the next day with the same efficiency.
In the end, it is an overwhelming victory for the US Navy, that had only a damaged aircraft-carrier (US INTREPID), a slightly affected cruiser (US Iowa), 25 planes destroyed and 40 deaths. The Japanese losses are major: 3 light cruisers (Agano, Katori and Naka), 4 destroyers (Oite, Fumizuki, Maikaze and Tachikaze), 3 auxiliary cruisers (Akagi Maru, Aikoku Maru and Kiyosumi Maru), 2 supply crafts of submarine (Heian Maru, Rio de Janeiro Maru), a transport ship of plane ( Fujikawa Maru) and 32 merchant ships are sent to the bottom of Pacific Ocean… The great majority of the sailors aboard these ships died in attacks and the wrecks.
Further to this attack, Truk loses its role of advanced base of the Imperial fleet. Any hope is lost for the Japanese when the Japanese garrison on Eniwetok refuses the sending of reinforcements. In April, Japanese army relocated approximately 100 planes of Rabaul towards Truk. An American attack destoys most of them from 29 till 30 April 1944. It is the last American attack on Truk. From then, Chuuk is isolated from Japan.
The Japanese force stayed on Chuuk, isolated of any provisioning, are left with the biggest confusion. The consequences of the American attack on the atoll are disastrous. The numerous poured ships, among which supply tankers, released quantity of diesel oil and fuel in the Atoll, affecting largely the ecosystem and the marine life. The famine and the disease settle down for Chuukois and staying Japanese soldiers, until the surrender of Japan in August, 1944 and the American occupation.
On July 18th, 1947, United Nations created the Trust territory of the Pacific Islands (Trust Territory of the Pacific Island or TTPI) and confided the mandate to the United States. On July 12th, 1978, four districts (Chuuk, Yap, Pohnpei and Kosrae) voted during a referendum to become an Independent Federation: the Federal States of Micronesia.