Chuuk Lagoon (aka, Truk Lagoon), is a small atoll in Micronesia, lost in the Pacific Ocean, 1300 km northeast of New Guinea. Even though it might seem quite far of everything, this beautiful bay gained notoriety during and after the Second World War, as being one of the most important bases of the Imperial Japanese fleet, then later to become the largest shipwrecks underwater cemetery, with no less than 60 sunken boats and hundreds of fallen aircrafts ...
This small archipelago of 2,130 square kilometers was indeed the main base of Japanese South Pacific fleet during World War II, providing a supply center and repair, which allowed Japan to focus their attacks far to the East, West and South, including New Guinea, Marshall Islands and the Solomon islands. Those seas and islands shaped natural harbor, protected by a reef of over 200 km, have turned into a fortress with the Japanese invasion (prior to the war itself) until 17 February 1944, during the American operation Hailstone, when a huge armada of nearly 70 warships and 600 aircrafts, swept over the atoll.
9 aircraft carriers (4 light), 7 battleships, 10 submarines, and 45 other warships (destroyers, cruisers, ...), assisted by 589 fighters and bombers managed to sink 6 Japanese cruisers, 3 destroyers, 2 supply vessels submarines, 3 other smaller warships, and a flotilla of 32 merchant ships. around 270 Japanese aircraft were also destroyed, while the American losses amounted to only 25 aircraft shot down and 40 human casualties. It is estimated that 4000 to 5000 japanese have died during the attack, whom some gruesome remains can be seen on the seabed.
Many of these boats and planes now lie down at the bottom of the lagoon, which has nowadays become a popular touristic spot to divers. The famous sea explorer Commandant Jacques-Yves Cousteau produced a magnificent documentary (1969), showing the site's evolution. The crystalline water reveals almost unharmed wrecks, a ghostly fleet of about 60 ships and 275 aircraft, sometimes less than 50 meters deep. On larger vessels, lost cargoes of tanks, bulldozers, weapons ammunition and bombs, are gradually fading while nature takes its course, the site has become a strange paradise covered by corals over the years, where manta rays, turtles and sharks, swim and swing around the ships and war weapons, consumed by time in a slow deliquescence.