Truk Lagoon is part of the Federated States of Micronesian,
and consist of 11 major islands and many smaller islets within
a 40 mile wide lagoon surrounded by a protective reef.
Truk was the Japanese "Gibraltar of the Pacific"
the seemingly impregnable base for its combined and Fourth Fleets.
It was also used as a ferry point for aircraft from factories
in Japan to theaters of operation in New Guinea and the Solomons.
Five wartime airstrips and seaplane bases were built during
the war. For Japanese aircraft, it was an important way point
for flights from Japan to other South Seas bases. Aircraft carriers
occasionally ferried planes through the Truk strips.
Heavily defended Truk's defenses were bolstered with additional sub and
torpedo nets placed in the water along with more mines and even rocket
launchers from Japan. There were over eighty 25mm guns and 12cm guns
in emplacements along with many smaller guns. Kaiten units of
manned suicide torpedoes were assembled to the outer islands and Daihatsu
landing craft were converted into torpedo boats. Mine fields in the
passes and lagoon along with beach defenses were the main defenses against
possible American invasion.
On the morning of February 17, 1944 a surprise United States
Navy air attack code named "Operation Hailstone" caught a fleet
of Japanese Merchant vessels and warships by surprise in
Truk Lagoon. 400 tons of bombs and torpedo rained down on the
lightly defended base. After a day of attacks, forty ships and
thousands of men went to the bottom. Ten weeks later, a second
successful raid added a score more ship to the bottom. For more
than two years after the war, oil from the sunken ships covered
the beaches and reefs. Truk was strategically bypassed
and neutralized by incirclement, island hopping and aerial attack by the USN, 13th AF and 7th AF.
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January 8, 2014