The amazing wrecks of Truk Lagoon, by Aleksei Kondratuk

Shipwrecks, WW2 Pacific Treasures

By Pierre Kosmidis

Light Japanese tank Ha-Go
Truk Lagoon is considered as the “Holy Grail” of wreck diving worldwide, due to the wide variety of wrecks, many of them in nearly intact condition.
Aleksei Kondratuk in Chuuk (formerly known as Truk)
Aleksei Kondratuk, a scuba diver and underwater photographer from Vladivostok, Russia, shares his stunning photos from the destroyed fleet of the Japanese, that remind us of the fierce battles that took place at this remote area of the Pacific Ocean back in 1944.
Another stunning plane wreck is a Zero aircraft. It feels like this plane landed here by itself.  After 70 years underwater, the wreck is still in perfect condition: wing with guns, tail part, even an antenna cord. Unfortunately propeller is gone. Covered with beautiful corals this wreck is a must see wreck.
During WW2 Truk Lagoon provided Japan an excellent harbor that could accommodate the Imperial fleet.
The Fujikawa Maru is regarded as the best scuba diving site in Truk Lagoon. Amongst the most striking features on the wreck are four disassembled Mitsubishi fighter aircraft in one of the forward holds. Three of the aircraft are A6M Zeros and the fourth is an A5M Claude. The vessel also boasts a 6 inch bow gun. In the engine room you can find the famous “R2D2” air compressor, which looks like it got out from a Star Wars movie. Today the Fujikawa Maru has an abundance of colorful soft coral and large formations of hard corals. 
The military facilities in the area included five airstrips, a seaplane base, a torpedo boat station, a radar station,  a submarine repair station, and a communication center.
“R2D2”. Air pump in Fujikawa maru. When i decided to visit Truk, a looked through a lot of pics of wrecks. When i found a picture of this air compressor, i told to myself: “i have to make one like this!”.Fujikawa Maru is a really stunning wreck, it has a lot things to see. Before the dive i asked the dive guide to show me the air pump. He said that it was not safe, the superstructure on this wreck is failing and he will show me where is it, and will wait for me outside the room. So, when i saw it, I was completely satisfied. I had only a pilot light on my strobes on that dive, and it was difficult to take autofocus with strobes turned away from r2d2, because when i moved, my strobe on r2d2, all backscatters were in shot. So the i set F to 18 , switched the lens to manual mode and tried to “shoot in a focus”. So i got it, and was happy with it. By the way, that dive was my last on that trip to Truk. I brought home about 500 pics from Truk lagoon, but this one is my favorite. 
Thousands of troops and a wide variety of heavy guns well hidden in caves, secured that the lagoon remained an impenetrable fortress.
Gas mask in the cockpit of a “Zero”
The “Gibraltar of the Pacific“ was a threat to any Allied operation in the Pacific.
The Heian Maru was sunk on the second day of”Operation Hailstone”. A torpedo struck her amidships and because of damage already sustained during the earlier raids, the Heian Maru sank quickly. Of the roughly 45 ship wrecks that make up Truk’s “Ghost Fleet”, the Heian Maru is among the most popular with divers. It’s at a depth of about 33 meters or 108 feet. It is the largest wreck in the lagoon, and its name is still clearly visible on the bow, in both English and Japanese. Lying on its port side, some of the Heian Maru’s cargo holds are accessible, revealing stockpiles of torpedoes, artillery shells, submarine periscopes, and numerous other items.
And so it was the mission of the U.S. Navy Force 58 to neutralise this threat.
A torpedo that got inside the engine room, but didn’t explode 
«Operation Hailstone», the code  name for the assault on Truk Lagoon, culminated on February 17th and 18th, 1944.
Inside Heian Maru
The American armada included 5 Fleet Carriers and 4 Light Carriers.
 Sunken cargo Sankisan Maru contains aircraft engines, medical supplies and several trucks. This is a popular dive and is frequently visited. Her deck has large anemones and her masts contain heavy growth of soft coral. 
The Sankisan Maru is one of the most interesting wrecks in Truk Lagoon. The entire aft section of the ship is completely gone and it is thought that a bomb explosion in the ammunition laden aft hold, led to her sinking. 
Supporting the carriers were a fleet of 7 battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, a variety of support ships, and more than 500 aircraft.
Ammunition in the cargo hold
Japanese losses resulting from the U.S. Navy attack totaled over 250 aircraft and 45 ships.
A military vehicle encrusted in corals
Among the ships sunk were cruisers, destroyers, sub-chasers, tankers, and cargo carrying supply ships.
Shinkoku Maru is of the most picturesque wrecks in the Truk. Being a tanker, this ship doesn’t have a lot of holds. In the aft section is a long corridor where there are lots of interesting artifacts. Operating table, bones, bathrooms, and a huge engine room. The bow gun of the Sinkoku Maru is heavily encrusted with colorful coral. Her operating room is the only one in Truk Lagoon.
Divers from all over the world visit Truk Lagoon to see one of the best preserved underwater museums of WW2.
Operation table with human remains
Kensho Maru is beautiful wreck. A lot of soft corals covering a huge bow gun on the deck, interesting engine room, telegraph still in the wheelhouse, a lot of artifacts on the upper deck.
Huge bow gun on the deck covered in corals
Engine room
During “Operation Hailstone”, the Nippo Maru was attacked with a salvo of bombs. Her main features include a light tank and artillery pieces on her deck. There are a lot of artifacts on her decks and her holds are full of items like mines, detonators, gas masks, AA gun ammunition, water storage tanks, etc. This wreck is rather deep for recreational diving. Inside the bridge (highest point of wreck) at 24 m, you can find the telegraph and the ship’s wheel. At the deck at 30 m there is a light Japanese tank “Ha-Go”, artillery pieces  and truck frames with engines.  
Artillery gun on the deck
The Ha-Go light tank on the deck
The frame of a military vehicle is hanging from the deck
During “Operation Hailstone” , the Rio de Janeiro Maru was struck with at least one bomb. She was reported on fire and thought to have sunk on the first day. 
The ship lies on her starboard side. It rests on an incline with the stern deeper than the bow. You can find a lot of bottles in the cargo hold. The propellers, rudder, and large stern gun are excellent photo subjects.
Approximately 250 airplanes were destroyed in the lagoon. There are many warplanes at relatively shallow depths that are ideal for 2nd and 3rd dives later in a diving day. Some of the notable airplane wrecks are: Upside Down Zero, an attack fighter in 60 ft. of water. A Mitsubishi A6M5 carrier fighter given the name “Zero” by the Allied forces.
Another stunning plane wreck is Zero. It feels like this plane landed here by itself.  After 70 years underwater wreck it still is in nearly intact condition: wing with guns, tail part, even an antenna cord. Unfortunately propeller was gone. Covered with beautiful corals this wreck is must see object.
Another plane wreck is in the best condition, that I have ever seen. It’s rather deep, at about 35m. This Zero is laying on the seabed, like a ray. Propeller, wings, tail part, even the pilot’s seat is in good condition. This wreck is hard to find because of the visibility and the depth. Guides  says that this wreck doesn’t cost a time to spend on it (bottom time about 5 minutes before deco). But you must to see this treasure of the WWII.   
The Ha-Go tank
A scuba diver exploring a wreck in Truk Lagoon