Truk Lagoon consist of eleven major islands and many smaller islets within
a forty mile wide lagoon surrounded by a protective reef. To the south-east is Kuop Atoll and Kuop Lagoon.
Truk was considered 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.
The area was heavily defended with anti-aircraft guns, coastal guns and later in the war defenses were bolstered with additional submarine nets placed in the water along with more mines and even rocket
launchers. There were over eighty 25mm anti-aircraft 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
any attempted Allied landing.
Allied missions against Truk
January 15, 1941 - June 30, 1945
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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May 22, 2017