Stan Gajda

Maloelap Atoll

Arrival on Majuro
Arrived about mid-day in Majuro via Kosrae with Air Nauru on Monday the 25th April 1988 and spent the rest of that day frantically running around seeing the right people to get permission to stay in Maloelap on Taroa island. It is impossible to stay there without permission. Landed on Taroa on Tuesday the 26th via Wotje atoll. After a bit of familiarisation established a base with the UN representative Rueben Rinon, a Philipine. No transport on this island whatsoever not even pushbikes so all sightseeing was done on foot.

Island Defenses
Other relics to be seen around the island are many 150mm coastal defence guns and several sets of twin mounted 127mm semi automatic anti aircraft guns. All these guns are located near the sea and have now reached an advanced state of corrosion and would now be totally unsalvageable. There are many concrete bunkers, observation posts and bomb proof shelters. On the rim of one crater that marked the position of a destroyed O.P. I found the handset of a field telephone. In another bunker were many empty fuse contaners the Jap writing still legible. There was a lot of radio gear here as well. In araher place which was probably a maintenance workshop judging by the machinery scattered around was a lathe, the brass job unfinished still clamped in the chuck. There were many torpedoes scattered about as well as aircraft engines of several different kinds some still in shipping frames and with protective plugs and ' sleeves still in place.

Lagoon
In the lagoon is a very large sunken Jap transport ship with the masts still protruding out of the water. A dive on this ship was most interesting. The hull is still largely intact but shows evidence of bomb strikes and near misses. Some brass portholes still remain and in the bathroom ceramic tiles are still in place. All the holds are empty and the port side of the bow is missing where a quantity of bombs was detonated in the early 1970s by divers from Majuro.

Taroa Airfield
Taroa is about three miles long and one mile wide. Taroa was a major air base and was the most eastern air base of the Japanese Empire. I saw many Zero wrecks on this island. There was also Val stuff there, and A6M5 Claude wreckage. I even found a Claude wreck out on the reef at low tide here. This is the place where they reckon Amelia Erhart landed. Heavily bombed during the war, it was a favourite target for bombers from Makin, Tarawa and Abemama. Only place I've been to where there are continuous overlapping bomb craters.

Runways
Discovered that there were two very long and originally very excellent runways aligned aprox. NW-SE NE-SW that were bitumenised and had concrete channels around the entire perimeter that drained water into vast underground storage tanks from the runway surface catchment.

Seaplane Base
The Mavis and Emily seaplanes used to operate from here to the French Frigate Shoals and to Hawaii. There are planes in the water here too.

Aircraft Boneyard
Near the NW area of the island is an area that was probably the Japanese spare parts and aircraft junk yard. There is a lot of heavy vegetation here now but after carefully searching and burrowing through vines etc I was able to locate the wrecks and remains of zeros, Betty bombers and large sections of a Nell bomber. Rear canopy frames from a Val was identified as well as a pair of undercarts off a rare A5M Claude fighter. Four hundred yards away near the centre of the island is another small gathering of planes there being three Bettys and a Zero all victims of bombing and straffing.

Zero Wrecks
Near the SE end of the island and where the AMI plane taxis in to load up can be seen the wrecks of three more Zeros. One is an early type 21 and the others are later type 32s with long reduction casings on the engines. The 20mm wing mounted cannons are still in these wrecks which are all totally destroyed. Bombed straffed and burnt they still retain, the outlines and shapes of their original profiles but everything is mouldering. There are very large bomb craters all over the island and in the "airport" area there can be found at least two wrecks comprising of little else than an engine a tail and wingtips scattered around the perimeter of a crater.

Near here I found a wreck inside an overgrown revetment. This plane had been hit by a bomb about midway between cockpit and tail and was upside down. After chopping away 45 years of trees vines and creepers I found that the cockpit was unpillaged and contained all equipment and.instrumentation although everything was in an advanced state of decay. There were all instruments,ammunition in belts and the two 7.7mm cockpit guns these being completely rusted. The swivelling cockpit light and the face off a cylinder head temp gauge were salvaged and the rest laid out off the ground to slow down the final disintegration of these relics. A 20mm gun poking out of the ground alongside the cockpit fell apart when an attempt was made to excavate it. One wing section from a Zero It still contained the 20mm gun, the 60 round magazine and a live round which was still partially chambered in the breech of the gun.

Zero Recovery
The Zero at Duxford, England which came from Maloeplap atoll in the Marshall islands.

 A6M3 Zero
A6M3

Near the main runway at Taroa island in Maloelap atoll in the eastern Marshall Islands. Note long barreled 20mm wing gun. All the spar caps had rotted off and the wing was beginning to sag onto the ground. There were four Zeros here, one still on its undercarrage.

 


Zero



 Ki 48 Lily
Ki 48 Lily

View of the rear fuselage of a Jap Lily twin-tailed twin-engined bomber. There were two of these on Taroa. 1988


Ki 48


 G4M Betty

G4M Tail

Engine bearers rusted through and the engines fell off. Fuselage burnt out. Tail section still at rear. There were several Betty wrecks just like this except one still had fuselage (upside down) Outer wing panels were still good then, in 1988.


Ki 48


Departing the Island
On Tuesday the 3rd May I flew out in the Dornier 228 directly to Majuro and on the 6th flew to Tarawa in the AMI HS748. My scheduled flight by Air Nauru back to Sydney did not eventuate due to an unresolved airline strike so I had to travel to Fiji by AMI once again and pick up a connecting Jumbo to Sydney from Nadi. A chap from Australia accompanied me. He was ill for several days on Taroa and was not much use or help to me. I did the exploration of the island on my own. When we arrived in Tarawa he took the next plane back to Australia. The islands are not for everyone, I discovered then.

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