Dan Carey   Diving Truk Lagoon

Dan Carey contributes some photographs from their dives at Truk Lagoon. Dan Carey has recently returned from a dive trip to Truk Lagoon.

I spent the weekend in the darkroom, developing slides from the dive trip. Unfortunately, there are going to be some gaps in my coverage due to errors on my part including the dreaded flooded camera. I did get some shots of the heavy gun emplacements on Uman. The Uman trip was recorded on negative film, which is a different process than the slides. I haven't done the negatives yet, but I'll process the roll soon.

   There are few ships that sunk outside the major anchorages: The Combined Fleet anchorage, the 4th Fleet anchorage and the Repair anchorage west of Uman. The Hanakawa is the farthest out, but on the way between Moen, the main island where we stayed, and Tol, there are a couple of ships that are great dives: The Second Class DD Fumitzuki and the AO Shinkoku Maru. On the way out to Tol and the Hanakawa we dove the Fumitzuki.

Gun Enplacment
Dan Carey 2000Stack of Hokuyo Maru
Dan Carey 2000
Zeke in hold of Fujikaw Maru
Dan Carey 2000
Fumitzuki
Hanakawa Maru
Rio De Janeiro Maru
Shinkoku Maru
Aikoku Maru
Hoki Maru
 

Fumitzuki
It's surprising that the Fumitzuki is not in deeper water. She rests in something like 110-120 fsw far from land. Personally, I'd expect the water to be deeper way out in the lagoon, but apparently the bottom is relatively flat. She was an old destroyer when she went down and even though the Japanese had suffered significant loss to their excellent destroyer fleet, the Fumitzuki was primarily deployed as a convoy escort. She was shot up pretty badly and limped to Truk in the weeks before the raid, and was anchored in the Repair anchorage as Operation Hailstorm started.

   Truk historians agree that the Fumitzuki was riding her anchor as the raid began, undergoing repairs with both her engines disassembled. The Captain was ashore, as was part of the complement of about 150, leaving the Gunnery Officer in command. The little ship banged away with her AA batteries while the repair crew worked to get at least one screw turning, and eventually the ship got underway on one turbine.

   Attacking pilots identified, optimistically, the ship as a cruiser and a detachment was sent after her. A bomb to the engine room destroyed the operational engine and flooded the compartment. The ship was abandoned and she sank sometime later after the wounded were transferred to a hospital ship.
The ship's in good shape and although the water's a little turbid on the wreck, she's a good dive. It's hard to believe that over 100 sailors lived on this little tin can; she's that small. Some distinctive features of the ship are found at the foreship. The forecastle is not decked flat as one would expect, but has a curved "whaleback" deck. Perhaps this was designed to shed water in heavy seas.

Fumitzuki Bow GunThe bow gun has boxes of ammunition and spent shell casings near to hand. The Fumitzuki went down fighting. Just aft, there is a welldeck with a triple torpedo launcher for the famed Japanese "Long Lance" torpedoes. The bridge was just aft of the welldeck, but it's toppled over. The superstructure seems small and overall the ship looks shrunken compared to the big auxiliaries in the lagoon.

Aft of where the superstructure was attached, AA emplacements, torpedo reloads with a railroad for transporting the "fish", and the after superstructure are located. The engine room was below the aft superstructure and there is significant damage here. The stern carries a gun platform, and the rudder and screws.

There is plenty of marine life on the Fumitzuki, which adds a little color to the dive. The visibility was marginal when we dove her, but the wreck is an interesting and historically significant dive.

 Hanakawa Maru


  I did get a good roll from a trip we took out to the Hanakawa Maru. She sunk off Tol in the western part of the lagoon and we were lucky enough to get a calm day for the trip. Trying to talk the dive guides into slamming over the lagoon to Tol is a waste of time when it's rough, but we got a good day and took advantage of it. Dan Bailey and his group were along for the ride, which gave us lots to talk about on the long ride out and back.
She was unloading troops, probably from the 52nd division, when she was hit. It seems as though her forward holds were carrying another of Japan's precious commodities: Fuel in drums. A well placed torpedo sent her to the bottom quickly, and a fuel fire spread over the water to the shore. It is unknown how many of the soldiers survived.

   The Hanakawa Maru is not a deep wreck and there is lots of marine life on her. She's a pretty dive. There are still many drums of fuel or aviation gas that, being lighter than water, floated up to the deckheads of the tween decks and got trapped there. The superstructure is open and it's interesting to swim through the bridge and officer's quarters. Aft, the holds probably held soldiers and their gear in crowded conditions.

 
 Shinkoku Maru

   On the way back from Tol we dove the Shinkoku Maru. The Shinkoku was a fleet oiler that reportedly participated in both the Pearl Harbor and Midway attacks. She had been damaged previously and been repaired. But for Task Force 58 tankers were high priority targets, and the this time Shinkoku would not escape.

   The Shinkoku is an uncommonly beautiful dive. She's shallow and the corals and fish on her are amazing. Soft corals of spectral colors, huge, colorful anemones with clown fish, jellyfish and even a school of barracuda were sighted on the Shinkoku during this dive.


  We repeated the dive before we left Truk and penetrated the engine room and aft superstructure. The engine room was typical of a diesel ship; several levels of catwalks with tools and spare parts bolted to the bulkheads. A spare cylinder liner as big as a trash can was on one wall. The engine room is accessible through a torpedo hole on port, and a diver can exit through the open hatches into the superstructure.

   At the after portion of the superstructure is the galley. The dominating feature of the galley is, somewhat predictably, the stove. A few utensils remain inside, but others have been displayed on the exposed decks so that divers don't have to penetrate into the ship to see them.

   A mast was added aft of the superstructure to handle fuel transport lines during refueling operations. As was the practice during the war, a deck gun was carried aft. Usually, these were old guns that lacked the fire control systems to make them very effective, and typically could not be elevated above 45 degrees, so they were useless against aircraft. But they could prevent submarines from engaging in a surface attack, so at least they had some utility.

 

 Aikoku Maru  

A Hunter and Her Prey: Diving the Aikoku Maru and the Hoki Maru.

One of the most interesting tales about Truk is the one about the Aikoku Maru. She was built as an ocean liner for about four hundred passengers, but had only a brief civilian career. The ship was converted into what was called an ďarmed merchant raiderĒ and became essentially a pirate ship, seizing enemy merchant shipping on the high seas.

Skull Among Debris
Peter Ordling 2000

Two sorties of the Aikoku are particularly interesting. On November 11, 1942, she was cruising in the Indian Ocean with her sister ship, the Hokoku Maru. They sighted a tanker escorted by the Indian minesweeper Bengal. The marus moved to capture the tanker but were stood off by the little minesweeper. Armed with only a 3Ē deck gun, the Bengal should have been no match against two ships, each armed with eight 6Ē guns. However, the Bengal sent the Hokoku to the bottom and the Aikoku back to port.

Earlier in 1942, the two raiders were hunting in the same area when they happened upon the Hauraki, a freighter sailing under the New Zealand flag.† The Hauraki was captured and sent to Japan, where she entered the Emperorís service as the Hoki Maru.

Both the Hoki and the Aikoku went down at Truk. Both met extremely violent ends. Both are great dives.

In early February 1944 the Aikoku was transporting men and supplies to the Marshall Islands, which were under intense allied attack. The Marshalls lie east of Truk and were Japanís most forward military outposts. Therefore, the bases in Majuro and Kwajalein were also Japanís most exposed, most difficult to supply and most venerable.

The Marshalls fell quickly. Itís likely that the Aikokuís orders were changed en route and the soldiers, part of the 1st Amphibious Brigade, were diverted to defend the Carollines. Some men were offloaded in Ponape, while others were at Truk during the Operation Hailstone attack. It seems that there were no facilities to encamp the men ashore because so many went down with the ship. At one time the aft holds, which had been converted into temporary living quarters, were heaped with mortal remains.
Aikoku's Stern Gun
Peter Ordling 2000

The forward holds, on the other hand, probably contained supplies and ordinance for the troops. When the ship was attacked during the second wave of aircraft flown off the deck of Intrepid, explosives in the holds were touched off and the resulting blast was impressive. The plane that scored on the Aikoku disintegrated and its pilot, Lt. J.E. Briggs and the crew of his TBF Avenger were lost. When the smoke cleared the stern of the Aikoku was on the bottom of the lagoon and pieces of the foreship were still falling from the sky.

Hoki Maru
The Hoki Maru, ex. M/V Hauraki, was still afloat at the end of the first dayís attacks. She had been strafed, bombed and had a torpedo punched into her. At dawn she had sunk. Itís not known if fires aboard ignited ordinance in her forward holds or if she was a victim of the night attack launched from USS Enterprise, but she was missing when the attack restarted the next morning.

. She lies on the bottom, with heavy equipment in her aft holds. The bridge and foreship are present, unlike the Aikoku, but unrecognizable. The foreship of the Hoki could be accurately described as a debris field.

Diving the Hoki is one of Trukís best memories because the cargo is interesting. Before she was identified she was known as ďthe Bulldozer WreckĒ. There are a couple of† small bulldozer in the aft hold. The holds are crammed with equipment like trucks and asphalt rollers. It looks like Japan had decided to get serious about building Truk into a major naval airbase, but too late.

When one dive boat is tied up over the Hoki and another is on the Aikoku, one can see the other clearly. Itís ironic that the two ships which shared so common a past ended up so close to each other. The Aikoku is maze of cabins and passageways. The superstructure aft of the bridge is intact if somewhat distorted by the blast that sunk the ship. The interior of the superstructure is interesting to see, since some of the facilities such as the heads and galleys survived the explosion and long immersion under the sea.

Hoki's Hold and Trucks
Peter Ordling 2000
Hoki's Hold and Trucks
Peter Ordling 2000
Hoki's Hold and Trucks
Peter Ordling 2000

 

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