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Within five years from the date of enactment, the Secretary, through the Director of the National Park Service, shall conduct and transmit to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs of the House of Representatives a study of additional areas and sites associated with the Pacific campaign of World War II. The study shall contain a description and evaluation of each area or site, and an estimated cost of acquisition, development, and maintenance of the area or site, if appropriate, together with such additional authority as may be needed to enable him to implement his recommendations. The Secretary shall concentrate his study within Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, but shall also investigate additional areas and sites within the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands to the extent possible and may include other areas and sites in the Pacific area if practicable.
The General Management Plan for War in the Pacific National Historical Park (April 1983) identifies additional sites on Guam. A historic resources study, Historic Resources, War in the Pacific National Historical Park, Guam (1984) by National Park Service historian Erwin N. Thompson identifies and summarizes NPS knowledge of other World War II sites on Guam. The general management plan and the historic resources study form the resource base for responding to Section 6(h) of Public Law 95-348 with regard to additional sites on Guam.
For those additional areas and sites outside Guam, the National Park Service has carried out a national historic landmark theme study of World War II in the Pacific. This study, also by historian Thompson, describes and evaluates theme related resources in more than 50 separate areas. The study was subdivided into four general subthemes:
Disturbed areas. Where man's activities, past and present, have altered the natural landscape to varying degrees. These areas consist of (1) those which were disturbed in the recent past and are now overgrown with secondary vegetation composed of small fast-growing trees (commonly Hibiscus tiliaceus and Macaranga carolinensis), shrubs, vines (usually weedy invaders), and grasses; (2) those now under cultivation, typically planted with a mixture of food-producing trees (predominantly banana), some ornamental, with an overstory of coconut and breadfruit and interspersed with open areas of taro; and (3) those covered almost exclusively with grasses and the result of the destruction of the forest vegetation by fire (subsequent fires here have prevented tree species from returning).
Wetlands. These are dominated by grasses, sedges, and herbs growing in standing water. On Moen and Dublon these are freshwater marshes located above sea level landward of the mangrove forest. They commonly contain tall, reed-like grasses and many are partially cultivated with taro, the taro often being intermixed with secondary vegetation. The ivory nut palm commonly grows at the edge of these freshwater marshes. A few small freshwater marshes are located in the uplands.
Mangrove forest. The most distinctive and uniform vegetation type on Moen and Dublon. Rhizophora spp. and Bruginera gymnorhiza are the most common species present; less common are Sonneratia alba and Xylocarpus granatum. Along the landward edge of the forest Heritiera litoralis, Nypa fruticans, and Achrostichum aureum, a large fern, are found. The mangrove forests of Moen and Dublon have been damaged by landfill operations and during World War II by oil spills.

Primary forest. The remnants of a unique forest flora that before the advent of man covered all but the coastal fringes of these two islands. Today these forests are confined to small, relatively inaccessible stands located in the uplands on mountaintops and rocky ridges. These upland forests contain several endemic species: Garcinia ponapensis var trukensis, Pentaphalangium carolinense, Astronidium carolinense (Kaneh.) Mgf., Eugenia trukensis Hosok, Macropsychanthus carolinensis Kaneh and Hosok, and Hoya trukensis Hosok.

Developed areas. Those now covered by man-made impervious surfaces -- buildings, paved roads, airport runway, tanks, towers, docks, ramps, etc. -- and generally lacking any sort of vegetative covering, except for small gardens or weeds.
Scientific Name (Family) English Trukese
Acanthuridae surgeonfish nangus
Apogonidae cardinalfish moson
Balistidae triggerfish ngungu
Carangidae jack
Chaetodontidae butterflyfish sanabob, nikereker
Labridae wrasses
Lethrinidae snapper
Mullidae goatfish
Pomacentridae damsalfish pachau
Scaridae parrotfish marau, ikenoch
Scombridae tuna esinou, angarap
Serranidae groupers kunufu
Signaidae rabbitfish umwune, nis, maramar, nawaw
Sphyraenidae barracuda sarau

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This page last updated April 22, 2004.

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Park Protection Alternatives

Existing laws and regulations providing protection to the sunken wrecks of Truk Lagoon and the World War II features on the islands within the lagoon include the following:

Section 401 of Chapter 4 (Protection of Artifacts) of Title 26 (Historical Sites and Antiquities) of the Code of the FSM which prohibits (1) the destruction, transportation, or exportation of historic artifacts and (2) the willful defacement, disfigurement, disturbance, or destruction of any historic property or artifact ("hisotric" is defined as an object produced by human beings 30 or more years previously).

Article VII, Section 4 of the Truk State Charter which gives the state "the power to conserve and develop...natural beauty, objects, places of historic or cultural interest, sightlines and physical good order and for that purpose private property shall be subject to reasonable regulation by law."

Despite the existence of law and regulation at the state and national levels, the sunken wrecks of Truk Lagoon are not adequately protected. Truk State has indicated that it is unable to protect the wrecks against vandalism (the State Marine Police Force, whose function it is to patrol lagoon waters, lacks the manpower and equipment and is inadequately funded). In 1986 Truk State requested financial assistance from the Park Service (Historic Preservation Fund) to control vandalism of the underwater fleet. Apparently fund monies to assist Truk State in this effort are not available in the amounts needed.

Establishing a historical park or reserve to manage and protect the sunken World War II wrecks of Truk Lagoon would not have any major effects on the traditional system of marine tenure which exists over lagoon waters. The sunken wrecks are already regarded as public domain. No clan or village has made claims of ownership or use rights to the wrecks.

During Truk Territory times the sunken wrecks were recognized and provided with protection through designation as a historicl monument. Later, enactment by the legislature of Truk State prohibiting the removal of any artifacts from the wrecks provided additional legal proteciton. Historical park or reserve designation would essentially provide for the establishment of a managing agency enpowered to patrol lagoon waters to protect the wrecks against vandalism, to ensure visitor safety, and provide visitor services not already provided by the commerical dive operators. The park managing agency should also be empowered to conduct research (resource monitoring) aimed primarily at obtaining baseline information relevant to the long-term management of the sunken wrecks.

Based on the above mission of the park managing agency, it would not be necessary to acquire any ownership of use rights over the sunken wrecks and enforce laws prohibiting vandalism. The authority to manage and protect the wrecks would reside in the government (Truk State and/or FSM) setting aside (dedicating) the previously indentified areas specifically for park purposes and enpowering an agency with the needed management authority.

With regard to protection alternatives for the historic side proposed for park or reserve status, traditional land tenure would need to be accommodated. There appear to be several options for acquiring the right to use these lands for park purposes:

-- By covenant or lease whereby the government and the owners of the land would enter into a legal agreement which would be binding on future owners to allow public use of that land and to agree not to change the basic uses to which the land is to be put. Provisions would be included for some sort of appropriate payment or other consideration by the government.

-- By easement. Would be similar to the above, but restricted to a single purpose -- like access, etc. Compensation could also be included.

-- By having the owners declare the site a public area. Statutory provisons would be created for the owners to declare portions of their lands available for public use. Under this option control remains with the owners and the arrangement could be cancelled at their request.

Leasing of land for public purposes appears to be an acceptable method in Truk. Most of the schools are on privately-owned lands leased by the state or municipal governments.

Land Use and Vegetation on the Islands
in Truk Lagoon (in Acres)
Primary Forest
± 1,670
± 750
± 580
Disturbed and
Developed Areas
± 7,300
± 10,300
Moen Dublon Eten
Primary Forest ± 890 ± 190 ± 20
Mangrove ± 370 ± 170 -
Wetlands ± 320 ± 160 -
Disturbed and
Developed Areas
± 3,020 ± 1,980 ± 120
± 4,600 ± 2,500 ± 140
Figure 6. Truk Lagoon is one of the great protected anchorages in the world.
Figure 4. Land Use, Island of Moen
Figure 5. Land Use, Islands of Dublon and Eten

The build-up of Truk's defensive capabilities by the Japanese continued and was, in fact, accelerated after the air attacks of February and April 1944 despite the enormous hazards encountered by the Japanese in getting material and manpower past U. S. submarines. By April 1945, there were nearly 15,000 army personnel there and nearly 10,000 navy, plus more than 14,000 Japanese civilians.

The Japanese army troops were responsible for the construction of the fortifications. After Hailstone, many caves were dug and tunnels and bunkers constructed. These were used for living and duty quarters, ammunition and supply storage; a few caves were dug for aircraft. The Navy troops were primarily responsible for manning the large coastal defense guns and anti-aircraft positions. According to U. S. intelligence reports, Truk's defensive capabilities amounted to more than 101 army guns in 86 positions, 85 navy guns, and more than 300 smaller caliber automatic weapons.

The sites and features found today on the islands in the lagoon reflect the build-up of Truk by the Japanese military as a defensive base. These fortifications were never tested since Truk was bypassed and never invaded. Consequently, they are numerous and often in excellent state of preservation. After extensive on-the-ground surveys, it appears that the great majority of the sites and features which remain are found on the islands of Moen and Dublon. These two islands are today the most heavily developed and densely populated in the lagoon, and where adaptive uses of the more substantial of these World War II features is most apparent.

The tables on the following pages describe those World War II resources remaining in Truk which have been located; nearly all of them have been identified. More than 40 sunken wrecks are listed and there are undoubtedly more at the bottom of the lagoon waiting to be located and identified. The uniqueness of these wrecks, their site integrity, and often excellent state of preservation make them extraordinarily significant and worthy of additional protection.

The World War II features on the islands in the lagoon are varied, numerous -- nearly 100 are listed -- and have a high degree of site integrity. Nearly all of them are defensive installations, structures, or military hardware built by the Japanese. Where feasible, they should be protected. Here, too, there are likely to be additional sites, objects, or features which have not yet been "discovered."

The World War II resources listed in this report were compiled by the Park Service and are based primarily on two publications, World War II Wrecks of Kawjalein and Truk Lagoons by Dan E. Bailey and Field Survey of Truk: World War II Features by D. Colt Denfeld. The Park Service planning team and the Submerged Cultural Resources Unit have made dives on several of the wrecks. In November 1986, the planning team conducted on-site inspections of many of the known World War II relics on the islands of Moen, Dublon, and Eten. To maintain consistency, the numbering of the sunken wrecks in this report follows Bailey and the numbering of sites and features found on the islands follows Denfeld.

The Denfeld publication was the result of extensive and intensive field work over a two-month period in January and February of 1979. A ground survey was conducted for the islands of Moen, Dublon, Tol, Eten, and two of the islets on the reef. Additionally an aerial survey was made on the islands of Eot, Fefan, Param, Udot, and Uman. Denfeld's ground and aerial surveys utilized available military reports and studies of Truk Lagoon by the U. S. Navy (CINCPAC) and the U. S. Strategic Bombing Surveys carried out in 1945 and 1947.

Bailey's publication and the accompanying wreck map were based primarily on innumerable dives made by the author and others, as well as historic research plus a personal association with other divers, both recreational and commercial. Foremost among the latter is Kimino Aisek whose knowledge and experience with regard to the wrecks of Truk Lagoon is unparalled and includes being an eyewitness to Operation Hailstone as a teenager.

A few of the wrecks not listed on the table have been located but not yet identified. There are still others, known from U. S. intelligence reports to have been sunk that have not been located. The destroyer, FUMITSUKI, hit by a bomb and sunk, has not yet been found by divers. As noted on Table A, another destroyer, OITE, is believed to lie somewhere in the vicinity of North Pass, but again no trace of her has yet been found. Similarly, the SAPPORO MARU and MINSEI MARU, sunk in April 1944, also have not been located, along with several subchasers.

Figure 8. The old Japanese operations building on Dublon is now used as a residence. Note the precision Japanese Naval Base rockwork of the seawall.
Figure 7. The flat linear terrain near shoreline of Etan is the old air field, now tree covered.
Figure 10. World War II Wrecks of Truk Lagoon (Detail)
Table C. World War II Sites and Features on Moen
Figure 11. World War II Sites and Features on Dublon and Eten
Table D. World War II Sites and Features on Dublon
Table E. World War II Sites and Features on Eten
Table F. World War II Sites and Features on Tol
Table G. World War II Sites and Features on Eot
Table H. World War II Sites and Features on Fefan
Table I. World War II Sites and Features on Param
Table J. World War II Sites and Features on Udot
Table K. World War II Sites and Features on Uman
Figure 12. Potential Historic Sites, Island of Moen
Table L. Effects of Park Management Options
[4] February 16th in Hawaii.
[5] Samuel Eliot Morison, Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls, June 1942 - April 1944, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Vol. 7 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1975), p.331.
Figure 13. World War II Sites and Features on Dublon and Eten
Figure 14 Suggested Boundaries, Truk Lagoon National Historical Park
Figure 15. Potential Historic Sites, Island of Moen
Table A. World War II Shipwrecks of Truk Lagoon
Table B. World War II Aircraft Wrecks of Truk Lagoon

Background and Purpose
Study Setting
Compact of Free Association
Consultation and Coordination
World War II Resources of Truk
Adaptive Uses of World War II Features
Natural Values Associated with the World War II Wrecks
National Significance/National Register Listings
Truk Lagoon Historical Park
Management Concepts for a Truk Lagoon Historical Park
Park Protection Alternatives


Figure 1. The Pacific Ocean
Figure 2. Truk State, Federated States of Micronesia
Figure 3. Truk Lagoon
Figure 4. Land Use, Island of Moen
Figure 5. Land Use, Islands of Dublon and Eten
Figure 6. Truk Lagoon is one of the great protected anchorages in the world.
Figure 7. The flat linear terrain near shoreline of Etan is the old air field, now tree covered.
Figure 8. The old Japanese operations building on Dublon

Figure 9. World War II Wrecks of Truk Lagoon
Figure 10. World War II Wrecks of Truk Lagoon (Detail)
Figure 11. World War II Sites and Features of Truk Lagoon
Figure 12. World War II Sites and Features on Moen
Figure 13. World War II Sites and Features on Dublon and Eten
Figure 14. Suggested Boundaries, Truk Lagoon National Historical Park
Figure 15. Potential Historic Sites, Island of Moen


Table A. World War II Shipwrecks of Truk Lagoon
Table B. World War II Aircraft Wrecks of Truk Lagoon
Table C. World War II Sites and Features on Moen
Table D. World War II Sites and Features on Dublon
Table E. World War II Sites and Features on Eten
Table F. World War II Sites and Features on Tol
Table G. World War II Sites and Features on Eot
Table H. World War II Sites and Features on Fefan
Table I. World War II Sites and Features on Param
Table J. World War II Sites and Features on Udot
Table K. World War II Sites and Features on Uman
Table L. Effects of Park Management Options

Background and Purpose

In August 1978 the United States enacted Public Law 95-348 establishing the War in the Pacific National Historical Park on Guam. The park's purpose was "to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of those participating in the campaigns of the Pacific theater of World War II" and to preserve and interpret select battle sites related to the recapture of Guam during World War II.

Public Law 95-348 also required the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study of other areas and sites associated with the Pacific campaign of World War II. Section 6(h) of that law directed:

Figure 1. The Pacific Ocean

(1) Japanese Expansion in the Pacific, (2) The United States Home Front, (3) Alaska and the Aleutians, and (4) The United States' Central Pacific Drive. The geographic area surveyed consisted of United States territory in the states of Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Washington, as well as Midway and Wake islands; and the area encompassing the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, from which four political entities have recently emerged: the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. The study determined that within this expanse there were certain theme-related areas and sites which were of national significance and possessed sufficient integrity to warrant being nominated for designation as national historic landmarks. Most of these have since been designated National Historic Landmarks by the Secretary of the Interior.

The purpose of this study is to examine those areas nominated for national historic landmark designation -- i.e., judged to be of national significance -- within the two subthemes, United States' Central Pacific Drive and Japanese Expansion in the Pacific, and to determine whether any of these nationally significant areas and sites are feasible for inclusion within the national park system. Those considered were Kwajalein, Republic of the Marshall Islands; Roi?Namur, Republic of the Marshall Islands; Enewetok, Republic of the Marshall Islands; Truk Lagoon, Federated States Micronesia; Ulithi, Federated States of Micronesia; selected sites on Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas; sites on Tinian, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas; Peleliu, Republic of Palau; Hickam Air Force Base, Wheeler Field, Kaneohe Naval Air Station, Fort Shafter (Palm Circle), and CINCPAC Headquarters, all in the State of Hawaii; and Midway and Wake islands, both U. S. Possessions. Of these only three appeared to meet the criteria as potential additions to the national park system: Peleliu, Truk Lagoon, and a site on Saipan. The others presently are active military bases and denied public access and consequently judged to be infeasible at this time. This report deals with Truk Lagoon.

Study Setting

The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) extend over a vast ocean area for more than 1,500 miles, taking in all of many archipelagos which comprise the Caroline Islands except for Palau. The nearly one thousand volcanic and coral islands, atolls, and reefs, however, comprise only about 435 square miles of land scattered over an ocean area encompassing well over one million square miles.

Figure 2. Truk State, Federated States of Micronesia
The Government of the FSM has been patterned after the U. S. federal system. FSM adopted its constitution in May 1979. Under it, a national government was established consisting of a 14-member Congress who choose a president and vice-president from among its members. Congress consists of one member at large elected from each of the four states for a four-year term and ten members who serve two-year terms and are apportioned according to population as follows: Truk, 5 members; Ponape, 3 members; Kosrae, 1 member; and Yap, 1 member. The judicial branch of the national government is headed by a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The national capital is located on Ponape. Each state elects its own governor and legislature, and like the national government, has executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

The Constitution establishes the territory of the FSM as "the waters connecting the islands of the archipelago are internal waters regardless of dimensions, and jurisdiction extends to a marine space of 200 miles measured outward from appropriate baselines, . . . any any other territory or waters belonging to Micronesia by historic right, custom, or legal title." By law, the marine boundary between adjacent states is to be determined using the principle of equidistance.

The Constitution incorporates a bill of rights. It also provides for the protection of traditional rights under Article V which states that "nothing in this Constitution takes away a role or function of a traditional leader as recognized by custom and tradition, or prevents a traditional leader from being recognized, honored, and given formal or functional roles at any level of government as may be prescribed by this Constitution or by statute."

The islands which comprise the land area of the four states of FSM -- Ponape, Yap, Kosrae, and Truk -- each have their own distinct character and geography. Ponape consists of a large (accounts for nearly one-half of the total FSM land area), mountainous, lushly vegetated volcanic island plus several outlying atolls; the small islands of Yap are lower, sedimentary in structure and mostly atolls; Kosrae is a single jungle-covered volcanic island; and Truk is composed of 11 volcanic islands lying within an immense lagoon plus several outlying atolls and low islands. The islands of the lagoon comprise more than three-quarters of the total land area of Truk State.

Figure 3. Truk Lagoon
The principal islands within Truk Lagoon -- Tol, Moen, Fefan, Udot, Uman, and Dublon -- plus several smaller islands and islets, are all enclosed by a great 140-mile long barrier reef, one of the largest and longest in the world. The barrier reef is a nearly circular ring of limestone rock, rubble, and sand -- the accumulated growth of corals, algae, and other limestone-forming organisms. The reef encloses a sapphire-blue lagoon covering more than 1,300 square miles. Within the lagoon are believed to be the wrecks of more than 50 Japanese ships of World War II vintage, nearly all of them sunk by U. S. Navy carrier aircraft during Operation Hailstone in February 1944.

The islands within Truk Lagoon are volcanic in origin and similar in appearance: narrow coastal flats and steep interior uplands. The coastal portions of the islands generally consists of mangrove swamp, hibiscus, and other low, spreading tree species. Coconut, breadfruit, and pandanus are also found along the coast. The vegetation here is tropical and lush. Secondary forests cover the lower slopes of the uplands. On the more heavily populated islands these slopes are dominated by planted gardens and groves of breadfruit, coconut, and banana. There is usually a shrub or grassy understory in these planted areas.

These high islands are the remnants of a much larger, eroded shield volcano composed of basalt, andesite, and trachyte lava flows. These flows have been cut by dikes and interbedded with pyroclastic rocks and conglomerates. Sediments consisting of alluvium, slope wash, and marsh and swamp deposits lie on top of the volcanic rocks.

Soils of the islands of Truk are thin, often eroded, and only moderately fertile. More than three-quarters of the plant nutrients are contained in the vegetation, making constant recycling necessary to sustain or permit new plant growth.

Truk's climate is tropical -- warm and humid throughout the year. The mean annual temperature is about 81 degrees F and the relative humidity is usually in excess of 75 percent. From November through June the tradewinds blow in from the east or northeast; from July through October the winds are light and variable. Truk is north and west of the major typhoon track, so typhoons are not common in the vicinity. Truk's most destructive typhoon on record occurred in 1971. In November 1987, Tropical Storm Nina hit Truk causing extensive property damage, particularly on Moen.

The annual rainfall in Truk averages about 160 inches, ranging from a little less than 100 to more than 200 inches. Geographic location makes for distinct variations in the amount of rainfall. During the months of January through March, the monthly rainfall averages 6 to 9 inches; from April through June the monthly average is about 12 inches; from July through December it is more than 12 inches per month.

The population of the FSM, particularly Truk State, is growing at a rapid rate. In 1955 Truk's population was 11,200. By 1973, less than 20 years later, it had increased to 31,609, nearly tripling. The 1980 census figure for what is now the FSM was 73,160 with Truk (district) accounting for 37,488 -- about half of the total. About 80 percent of these people live on the islands within Truk Lagoon. According to projections developed by the FSM Office of Planning and Statistics, Truk's population will be about 54,800 by 1990 and 77,200 by the year 2000.

POPULATION (by island)
14,218 3
All others
11,200 1
31,609 2
36,562 2
37,488 2
1 Population census, Truk district, Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, 1957
2 1986 Truk Statistical Yearbook
3 U. S. Department of State 38th Annual Report to the U. N.
People from the other islands in the lagoon have come to Moen in search of better job opportunities and educational facilities. The population density of Moen is presently about 2,200 people/square mile and projected to be in excess of 3,000/square mile by the year 2000. Most of Moen's population increases have come from migrations from the other islands. Due to the steepness of the terrain, the amount of land suitable for residential or commerical development is very limited.

In addition to the rapid growth rate, the population is very young -- about half is under the age of 15.

Truk's large population (relative to the land area) has greatly modified the native vegetation of the larger islands. More of the vegetation on these islands is second growth; i.e., it is now or has at some time in the past been used for subsistence agriculture. Those areas not now under cultivation are covered by small trees, shrubs, vines, and grasses. The rainforest of the interior uplands has been greatly intruded upon by population pressure and is now mostly agroforest (mixture of food-producing trees, such as coconut, bananas, and breadfruit interspersed with open areas of taro patches and other useful and ornamental species). The small amount of native rainforest which remains is confined to the more inaccessible mountaintops and rocky ridges.

The island of Moen is the commercial, transportation, administrative, and educational center for Truk. It is also the most heavily developed island with a commercial center, airport, port, government administrative facilities, and schools -- all located primarily on the western side of the island. Dublon was once the site of the largest Japanese naval installation outside of the home islands. Not only did Dublon contain fleet headquarters, it also was the location of a large Japanese community of stores, restaurants, a civilian hospital, and geisha houses. Little of this remains today. Most of the facilities and buildings were destroyed by bombing and are now abandoned or used for other purposes. The more substantial structures have been adapted for uses such as residences, schools, etc. In 1986 a cold storage facility was completed on Dublon and the drydocking facility is nearly completed. Plans to develop a large fish cannery on Dublon never materialized despite the construction of a large wharf on the south coast. Development on Tol and Fefan, the other large islands, is limited and consists of traditional villages.

As with the rest of FSM, Truk State receives most of its revenue through U. S. grants and assistance programs. The government is the largest employer. More than half of the tax-paying wage earners work directly for the government. Nearly all of the remaining wage earners rely to some degree on spending by either the government directly or by government employees. Unemployment is high. The number of people engaged in subsistence farming and fishing is declining. There is little production and income is low. A small amount of income is derived from tourism, fishing, and copra production. A great deal has been accomplished in Truk State in the area of health services. Health facilities, however, remain substandard; an adequately staffed hospital, a safe and dependable water supply, and sewage disposal system are all still lacking (in 1982-1985, there was a serious outbreak of cholera).

Compact of Free Association

The agreement between the U. S. and the FSM to implement the Compact of Free Association was signed by the two parties in November 1986. With the signing, the trustee relationship with the U. S. ended and the FSM became self-governing. The agreement constituted the final step, coming after the signing of the Compact and its subsequent approval by the U. S. Congress and the President in September 1986. Earlier, in June 1983, a national plebiscite was held resulting in 79 percent of the total FSM electorate voting in favor of the Compact.

The Compact constitutes both a law and an international agreement for the U. S. The agreement brings into force the provisions of the Compact and terminates the Trusteeship Agreement between the U. S. and the FSM.

The Compact provides for the FSM to be fully self-governing, while retaining close ties with the U. S. The U. S. is to provide for economic assistance for a period of 15 years. This assistance will be in the form of block grants and program assistance, tax and trade benefits such as duty free treatment of goods from FSM. Some U. S. programs such as airport safety and the post office will continue, and the U. S. is to continue to have responsibility for FSM's defense in the form of military rights. FSM is treated as a State or Territory in regard to receiving U.S. appropriations for historic preservation.


Land tenure in Truk, as in most of the Pacific, was based on and associated with subsistence activities where a community's lands and waters were the source of its food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities. Land also was the basis for social organization (hierarchy), culture, and religion. Today, traditional land tenure still exerts an influence on land use. The people of Truk continue to place a high value on land, both economically and in terms of the social status it brings. Land on the islands of Truk Lagoon is a very valuable reosurce and in short supply; consequently, the Trukese are reluctant to part with it.

Although real property may be owned individually (during the German and Japanese periods, small amounts of land were acquired by the government, missionaries, corporations and individuals), most of the lands in Truk are family or lineage lands, considered to be "owned" in common by all the members of the extended family. Lineage is usually based on female descent -- i.e., is matrilineal -- but patrilineal and bilateral lineage exist as well. Rights to lands are held by a kinship group who have inherited them from a common ancestor. Traditionally, the eldest male generally apportioned the land among the members and directed its use. The sale of land in Truk to outsiders (non-Trukese) is uncommon, having occurred only on the island of Moen. Places on Moen like the airport, the government center, schools, the port, are publically owned; all of the other lands with minor exception are communally owned. The Catholic Church owns a parcel of land on Moen and the Continental Hotel is on leased lands.

The types of real property traditionally recognized in Truk include not only land but mangrove swamp, submerged reef areas, and even isolated coral heads. The use of a particular area of land or reef may be restricted by the decree of the traditional chief; for example, following the death of someone who was associated in some way with such an area.

Land tenure is normally characterized by many kinds of rights -- the right to clear and cultivate, build houses, hunt, fish, fetch water, have access across (transit), or obtain particular resources such as firewood, salt, clay, etc. These rights vary in their strength and permanence -- several people can hold rights over the same piece of land and the whole group is involved in making decisions, while in other cases, decisions are concentrated in the hands of a chief. In some instances the rights to individual trees or to cultivate or harvest breadfruit may be held separately from the land. Generally, the rights to use lands which are located in or near a village or community are more defined and individualized compared with those lands further away -- i.e., rights (and boundaries) become more vague and belong more to the group away from areas of permanent settlement.

With regard to marine tenure, in the traditional system a village could claim exclusive rights of use to a particular water area. Usually, the boundaries of these submerged reef areas were extensions of the village -- i.e., the use rights to the reef or ocean areas would be based on the rights associated with the adjacent lands. Outsiders would be excluded or could gain access to fish in these areas only with the permission of the village clans. Today, villages still claim ownership rights to the adjacent reef. Village chiefs and clan members are aware of boundaries. As a matter of protocol, non-villagers still obtain permission to fish or otherwise utilize the reef area. The government, since Trust Territory days, has claimed ownership of marine areas, but customary and traditional use rights are still recognized.

The importance of land (and waters) in Truk means that there are generally strict controls on any permanent transfer out of the kinship group. Extensive consultation involving large numbers of people is needed; foremost in importance are the village chiefs and councils, as well as the heads of clans that may have different rights to a particular parcel.

A land registration program to determine ownership was begun in Truk several years ago. It is estimated that these are about 15,000 parcels of real estate in Truk. The program was begun on the island of Moen, then extended to Dublon, Udot, Eot, and later to Uman and Fefan. The program is scheduled for completion by the end of 1989.

Consultation and Coordination

During November 1986, a National Park Service planning team from Honolulu, accompanied by Mr. Mike Gawel, Chief of the Division of Marine Resources, FSM, spent a week in Truk conducting an on-site reconnaissance of World War II sites and features found on the islands of Moen, Dublon, and Eten. Mr. Kayo Noket, historic preservation officer for Truk State, acted as guide on the trips to Dublon and Eten.

At that time meetings were also held with representatives of Truk government agencies, including Mr. Joe Suka of Resources and Development to obtain information and data and to brief them on the goals and objectives of the Park Service study.

The Park Service planning team also had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Kimino Aisek, Truk's most knowledgeable and experienced commerical dive operator (and a 17year old eyewitness to the 1944 attack on the Japanese ships in the lagoon). Mr. Aisek revealed a deep personal concern over the inadequacies in the existing protection of the sunken wrecks. They are, according to Mr. Aisek, being systematically looted. The looting is apparently coming from two sources: unescorted recreational divers looking for souvenirs and fishermen and others looking for unexploded ordinance. Mr. Aisek maintains that the other operators are too few in numbers to keep track of all the divers who seek to explore the sunken wrecks.

In 1981 the National Park Service Submerged Cultural Resources Unit visited Truk. During that visit reconnaissance dives were made on the sunken wrecks.


There is direct air service to Truk three times/week. These flights originate in Honolulu and terminate in Guam, with a stop at Truk (Moen), along with stops at Majuro and Kwajalein in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Ponape in the FSM.

Although presently only a small source of revenue, tourism in Truk appears to have great potential. One of the most important attractions for visitors is the underwater fleet in Truk Lagoon. Most of the tourists who visit Truk come to scuba dive on the sunken wrecks. The diving here is world-class. There are several commercial dive operators located on Moen.

According to available statistics, tourism on Truk has increased by about 35 percent over the past decade or so. The long-term trend appears to be upward, although significant fluctuations downward occurred in 1981, 1983, and 1984.

1975 - 1985
1 1975
Tourist Earnings (000)
2 $290
Visitors by Country
of Origin
51% 52% 42% 52% 44% 59%
25% 25% 22% 28% 36% 33%
24% 23% 36% 20% 20% 8%
1 Includes tourists, business people, missionaries, and expatriates.
2 Tourist expenditures, based on fisal year.
Source: 1986 Truk Statistical Yearbook
As noted, the principal draw for tourists is the opportunity to dive on the sunken wrecks in the lagoon. It is estimated that well over 1,000 sport divers come each year. There are three dive shops, all on Moen, which have equipment for divers to rent and provide guides and boats to dive sites as well.

Land Use and Vegetation

On the high lands of Truk Lagoon the natural landscape has been greatly modified by man. Evidence of human activities, present and past, is apparent to varying degrees on all these islands. These human activities have been in the form of:

--extensive clearing of vegetation for crops
--the introduction of noxious weeds and alien plants and animals

The depletion of Truk's native forest has gone on for centuries. However, during World War II, the process of reducing the native vegetation was accelerated with the arrival of large numbers of Japanese and imported laborers who carried out large construction projects in the form of military facilities. The U. S. military, after February 1944, greatly exacerbated the situation by cutting off the islands from Japanese supplies. This forced the Japanese (numbering about 35,000) and the Trukese (about 10,000) to put more pressures on the available land and water resources in order to survive. All available lands were put under cultivation resulting in a further depletion of the native vegetation. After the war's end the U. S. military added more construction, encroaching even more on the native vegetation.

As a result of these activities, the native vegetation of these islands has been extensively disturbed and largely replaced. This is particularly true on the islands of Moen and Dublon. What remains here of the native forest is confined to a few mountain tops and rugged cliffs.
Moen, with its dense population, is the most developed and is where the natural landscape has been most severely altered. Even though most of the people live along the flat areas paralleling the shoreline, the steeply sloped interior lands are greatly modified and utilized extensively and intensively for subsistence agriculture. Dublon, though supporting a considerably smaller population than Moen, also has had its natural vegetation substantially reduced. Most of this occurred during World War II.

The other large islands -- Tol (including Pata and Polle), Fefan, Uman, and Udot -- although less developed, have had their natural vegetation greatly modified too. Much of the coastal marshes are under wetland taro cultivation. Scattered over the lowlands and on the interior slopes are abundant tree crops such as breadfruit, mango, coconut; along with smaller though more intensively cultivated plots of banana, dryland taro, pineapple, yams, sweet potatoes, papaya, and other vegetables.

Land use and vegetation on the islands of Truk Lagoon can be divided into five major categories:

Land Use Categories in Acres

Figures 4 and 5 show existing land use patterns on the islands of Moen, Eten, and Dublon, where the great majority of the remaining World War II sites and features have been located.
World War II Resources of Truk

The great lagoon of Truk provides one of the best natural anchorages in the world. The Japanese military realized this when Truk first came under their control in 1914, but made no attempt to build any fortifications there for quite some time. It was not until the 1930's that Imperial Japan began to build the large navy which would eventually use Truk Lagoon as its most important advanced base.

Due to its great natural advantages Truk Lagoon was easily developed into a large naval base. The barrier reef encompasses a protective lagoon approximately 140 miles in circumference with only a few navigable breaks in the reef to allow ships to enter. The lagoon was large enough to easily accommodate the entire Japanese Imperial Fleet. It was easily defended; ships attempting to attack the fleet by entering the lagoon would have to enter through one or more of the four main passes which could be easily defended by fortifying the small islands and islets located along the reef. The protecting barrier reef allowed ships anchored within the lagoon to be outside the range of all but the guns of large battleships. Even those ships within range could be protected by the high islands. Truk Lagoon, prior to February 1944, was perceived by the U. S. as an impregnable fortress.

Truk's development as a naval base did not reach its peak until 1943. It was not until January 1944 that the Japanese Army began preparations for an expected invasion by the U. S. By that time the military installations spread over the larger islands of the lagoon consisted briefly of the following facilities and defensive fortifications:

Dubon: ship repair, docks, seaplane base, submarine base, fleet headquarters, a 2,500-ton floating drydock, torpedo storage dumps, torpedo boat base, hospital, aviation repair and supply station, fuel storage, coastal communication center, coastal defense, and anti-aircraft guns.

Moen: bomber field, seaplane and fighter base, torpedo storage, torpedo boat base, radio communications center, and coastal and anti-aircraft batteries.

Fefan: supply center, piers, warehouses, barracks, ammunition dumps, and dual-purpose guns.

Etan: fighter base, hangars, administration building, barracks, dual-purpose guns.

Param: bomber base, coastal defense and anti-aircraft guns.

Tol: torpedo boat base, coastal defense and anti-aircraft guns.

Ulalu: radio direction finder station, barracks, and warehouses.

Udot Island: Coastal and anti-aircraft defenses.

Work on these fortifications had not been completed when the U. S. carrier forces attacked Truk in February 1944.

By February 1944, there were nearly 7,000 Japanese army troops at Truk brought there to bolster defensive capabilities. These were in addition to the several thousand naval personnel who manned the ships and controlled air operations. Japanese aircraft at Truk consisted of 11 different types of aircraft and totalled more than 360 planes.

U. S. intelligence had indicated that the ships of Japan's Combined Fleet operating out of Truk at the time consisted of 3 to 4 battleships, 4 carriers, 12 cruisers, several submarines, dozens of destroyers, plus more than 100 support vessels including transports, tugs, barges, and other smaller craft. A few weeks prior to the Hailstone operation, on February 4, an overflight by U. S. reconnaissance aircraft revealed the presence of the battleship, MUSASHI, 2 carriers, 8 heavy cruisers, 4 light cruisers, 20 destroyers, and 12 submarines.

Operation Hailstone was the first time carrier forces were put in enemy territory beyond the reach of land-based aircraft. Previously, U. S. carrier-based air strikes had been used primarily to provide protection and support for amphibious assaults. Hailstone's objective was through a series of coordinated attacks to completely neutralize Truk as a naval and air base.

The most significant remaining World War II resources of Truk are the sunken ships at the bottom of the lagoon. Nearly all of them are merchantmen. More than 40 years old, the exterior parts of many are now covered with soft corals and sponges. Most of the ships, when sunk, were loaded with military equipment -- tanks, howitzers, field pieces, anti-aircraft guns, ammunition, including 18-inch projectiles for the battleships, YAMATO and MUSASHI -- as well as gasoline, oil, machinery, tractors, medicine, and rice. All this material, except where disturbed or removed by divers (usually on the shallow, more accessible wrecks), remains intact.

The wrecks, most known and located, still lie where they were sunk more than four decades ago. The warm, clear, and relatively shallow lagoon waters, in combination with sunlight, have allowed these wrecks to be transformed into what is probably the largest man-made coral "reef" in the world. Thus, recreational divers can experience not only an incredible assemblage of World War II relics, but also a wonderland of underwater habitat containing countless and colorful marine life forms.

The importance of these wrecks has been long recognized by the people of Truk. Nearly 20 years ago attendees at the First Truk Marine Resources Conference agreed that the sunken wrecks had great potential to attract visitors and that Truk Lagoon should be preserved as a historic site. In 1971, the Truk District Legislature (Trust Territory) designated the sunken wrecks of Truk Lagoon as historical monuments and made the removal of any artifacts or marine life from the shipwrecks or planes illegal. More recently, the ocean area over the wrecks was designated the Truk Lagoon State Monument and by state law prohibiting of any artifact. Moreover, every visiting diver must obtain a wreck diving permit. In 1985, the Truk Lagoon Underwater Fleet was designated a U. S. national historic landmark.

Nearly all of the known wrecks lying within Truk Lagoon were sunk by U. S. carrier based planes during Operation Hailstone during attacks made on February 16 and 17, 1944. These ships, mainly merchantmen and auxiliaries, were what remained of the Combined Fleet after the major warships had pulled out anticipating the coming attack by powerful carrier forces of the U. S. Navy. Apparently many had been forced to remain because of a fuel and water shortage and because strong winds earlier had prevented them from being unloaded while others were undergoing repairs (these had been damaged earlier by U. S. planes while ferrying supplies to Rabaul). The warships that did remain consisted of two light cruisers and eight destroyers. The battleship (the 64,000-ton MUSASHI), 2 aircraft carriers, 12 submarines, 4 of the 6 heavy cruisers, 2 of the 4 light cruisers, and 12 of the 20 destroyers, spotted two weeks earlier by U. S. reconnaissance aircraft, had all headed for safer waters.

Most of these ships that remained were subsequently sunk by U. S. torpedo bombers and dive bombers attacking Truk in several strikes, including one at night. The attacks on shipping were carried out only after U. S. carrier-based fighters had established air supremacy by destroying the Japanese planes sent up to challenge them and then U. S. torpedo bombers made the island airstrips unusable to prevent counterattacks on the nearby carriers.

The ships sunk within the lagoon consisted of 2 light cruisers, 4 destroyers (the other 4 were heavily damaged), about 30 merchantmen or merchant conversions, including 4 tankers, 3 subchasers, a motor torpedo boat, and a yacht. Nearly all merchantmen were sunk within the lagoon, many of them while at anchor. All of the warships were underway when sunk, one within the lagoon, another while attempting to enter North Pass, and the others outside of the lagoon trying to get away to the open ocean. A large submarine was also lost, not by the attacking U. S. forces, but apparently due to the negligence of her crew. Altogether, in two days and one night of almost continuous raids over 200,000 tons of shipping were sunk along with about 270 aircraft destroyed. Seventy aircraft were shot down, and 200 destroyed on the ground. The loss of these planes, particularly the 50 or 60 combat fighters, was more keenly felt by the Japanese than the loss of the shipping. Unfortunately, only two of the wrecks of these fighters have been located. No others are known to exist.

Other ships were sunk during subsequent attacks by U. S. forces. On April 21 and again on April 30, Truk was again attacked by U. S. carrier-based aircraft. The primary purpose of these later strikes was to destroy aircraft defensive installations and buildings; however, ships in the lagoon were also attacked. A cargo ship, 2 auxiliary subchasers, 2 small tugs, and about 18 other smaller craft were sunk.

Attacks by land-based U. S. heavy bombers took place following the carrier raids and continued periodically until the war's end. These attacks concentracted on aircraft and shore-based installations. In June 1945, carrier forces again attacked Truk -- this time by the British -- but caused little damage.

Most of these wrecks have been located and identified, some as recently as 1983. It is possible that new wrecks will be identified as divers continue to explore the waters of the lagoon.

Figure 9. World War II Wrecks of Truk Lagoon
Adaptive Uses of World War II Features

During the NPS on-site reconnaissance of the islands of Moen, Dublon, and Eten in 1986, it become apparent that the residents of those islands were making widespread and practical uses of many of the World War II relics there. Denfeld (pages 126-127) also notes the variety of uses which the Trukese were making of materials and structures on several more islands he visited in 1979.

Adaptive use (or reuse) of World War II equipment and buildings, American and Japanese, appears to be fairly commonplace on the islands of Truk, particularly on the densely populated and developed island of Moen but also is evident on Dublon and other islands. Buildings, particularly the more substantial ones made of concrete, are in use as homes, offices, commercial establishments, and schools. In the years following the end of World War II, the collection of scrap metal was an important economic activity in Truk. Consequently, many World War II artifacts left Truk in ships to be sold as scrap metal. Others were pushed into huge piles, then dumped into the lagoon. Still other artifacts, like the buildings, have been adapted by the Trukese into more practical uses. For example:

narrow guage rail stock (roof beams or planks)

Quonset hut metal frames (fence posts)

Marston mats (sheds or pen fencing)

tipple car wheels (foundation posts)

radio masts (support posts for buildings)

fuel tank plating (driveway ramps)

searchlight reflector glass (mirrors)

In addition, many of the large caves and tunnels are today utilized as shelters during typhoons.

It is important to protect what remains of the World War II relics found on the islands of Truk. Although much remains, much has already been lost. However, because of the very limited amount of land there, any historical park area that might be established should not unduly deprive the Trukese of making use of that land or of the improvements on it -- even if the improvements are wholly or partially of World War II vintage.

Natural Values Associated with the World War II Wrecks

The floor of Truk Lagoon is generally covered with a thick layer of sand and coral debris. Few corals occur on the loose bottom material of the lagoon; the dominating organism is usually the sand-forming green algae, Halimeda. The most common corals occurring on the floor of the lagoon are branching or staghorn species of Acropora. In the shallower portions of the lagoon, massive corals, usually Porites, as well as smaller branching hard corals, corals, mussels, sponges, etc. often occur. Those portions of the lagoon containing patch reefs (isolated coral areas that rise up from the floor to or near the surface) usually support more abundant and rich coral growth, as well as fish and other reef animals.

Within the barrier reef forming the lagoon is a significant fishery resource. The more common species include:

In addition, the lagoon waters provide habitat for several species of seabirds, including petrels, shearwaters, tropicbirds, boobies, terns, and the great frigatebird. Occasionally, hawksbill and green turtles have been spotted in lagoon waters.

The outer edges of the fringing reefs around the islands in the lagoon support a rich coral growth and fish are also abundant here. The fringing reefs of the lagoon are the traditional fishing areas for the Trukese.

It is the man-made reefs of the lagoon, however, that have become Truk's most significant and impressive "natural" feature. The sunken wrecks, termed the earth's largest man-made reef, have become home for an incredibly rich and diverse display of marine organisms. The superstructures and hulls of these sunken ships have become not only richly productive with marine life, but also things of extraordinary beauty. Virtually every surface exposed to light has been covered with a thick layer of marine growth. Over the more than four decades which these wrecks have lain on the bottom of the lagoon, a complex food chain has evolved, ranging from coral, sponges, and algae, to plants, to small fish browsing on the algae. The small fish, in turn, provide the food source for larger fish such as barracuda, groupers, and sharks -- taken place since 1944.

The wrecks are of considerable interest to marine biologists -- as a living laboratory. Because the exact age of these artificial reefs is known, the growth rate of the attached marine life can be measured with a high degree of accuracy. In the past, measurements have recorded the growth rates of some coral species to be about two inches a year. In addition to their record growth rates, the marine life of the sunken wrecks includes a new genus of red algae, discovered there more than a decade ago, and several new plant species.

National Significance/National Register Listings

Based on study by NPS historians, the "underwater fleet" of Truk Lagoon was found to possess exceptional significance to the history of the United States and nominated to the National Register of Historic Places as a national historic landmark. In February 1985, the Secretary of the Interior formally designated the Truk Lagoon Underwater Fleet National Historic Landmark. Documentation of the historic significance of this site has been included as an appendix to this study report.

In addition to the national historic landmark, the following World War II related sites and features have been studied and because of their historic importance listed on the National Register:

Japanese Army Headquarters, Roro, Dublon Island (9/76)

Japanese Radio Station (now the St. Xavier Academy), Moen Island (9/76)

Tonotan Guns and Caves, Moen Island (9/76)

Tonnachau Mountain, Iras, Moen Island (9/76)

More recently, Truk State has expressed interest in nominating the Japanese lighthouse at Sapuk on Moen to the National Register.

Boundaries for the Truk Lagoon Underwater Fleet National Historic Landmark were identified several years ago as part of the nominating process. The boundaries then suggested consisted of all waters within the lagoon enclosed by the barrier reef. The islands within the lagoon were not included within the landmark boundary. Since that time, NPS has learned more about marine tenure in the lagoon. Consequently, in order to minimize the possibilities of landmark designation being perceived as interferring with any traditional uses rights on the nearby reef or lagoon waters, it is recommended that the landmark boundary be tightened so as to include only the following areas:

- Combined Fleet Anchorage/Combined Fleet Repair Anchorage. Located to the north of Fefan and to the west of Dublon.

- Fourth Fleet Anchorage. Located east of Dublon.

- Sixth Fleet Anchorage. Located near Uman.

These boundaries should include the waters above and in the general vicinity of the sunken wrecks; but they should not, if possible, extend over to the fringing reefs of the nearby islands or otherwise interfere with established, traditional marine tenure.

Truk Lagoon Historical Park

The World War II sunken wrecks of Truk Lagoon are utterly unique. They are significant not only because of their historic value but also in terms of the rich and colorful array of marine life they have become host to. Nowhere else in the world can one find as many wrecks in a single locality in such clear water and so accessible to divers. While a few of the wrecks are rusting, silt-covered hulks, most are in an excellent state of preservation. Others have been transformed into living reefs composed of soft and hard corals and sponges. These "reefs" provide habitat for thousands of marine organisms. In some instances, these artificial reefs appear to be more diverse, supporting more organisms than even the best natural reefs. Marine biologists, as yet, have been unable to explain this phenomenon.

The facilities, fortifications, and equipment of World War II vintage built by the Japanese on the islands of Truk because they were not subjected to ground assault, remain numerous and often in good to excellent condition. Noteworthy are the number and condition of large coastal defense guns, several substantial concrete structures, and what is believed to be a very rare type of Japanese World War II aircraft.

For the sunken wrecks, the establishment of a historical park or reserve seems to be particularly appropriate in light of the long-standing concerns over looting and vandalism of commercial dive operators and their very limited capabilities of dealing with these problems. It appears that a park-managing agency needs to be established, funded, and staffed to provide the needed protection.

Such a park-managing agency could be established at either the state level (by Truk State) or at the national level (by FSM). Due to the national significance of the resources involved and the increased capability of funding opportunities at the national level, it appears that the national park agency would be a more appropriate managing entity. Varying degrees of involvement by the U. S. National Park Service are possible under the "free association" relationship that now exists between these two nations as spelled out in the Compact of Free Association.

Historical park boundaries on the waters of Truk Lagoon should consist of the same areas recommended in this report for national historical landmark boundaries. A historical park to protect the integrity of the sunken wrecks should take in areas in the immediate vicinity of the sunken wrecks, generally encompassing the areas known as the Combined Fleet Anchorage/Combined Fleet Repair Anchorage, Fourth Fleet Anchorage, and Sixth Fleet Anchorage. The HANAKAWA MARU, the sunken wreck located outside of these areas off the southeast coast of Tol is not proposed for inclusion in the historical park.

Despite the presence of numerous significant World War II sites and features on the islands of Moen, Dublon, and Eten, there are compelling reasons that may override the establishment of any historical parks to protect these important resources. The setting aside of large areas containing these sites and features for park purposes is, we believe, largely untenable due to the scarcity of land on these islands and the adaptive uses to which many of the World War II structures have been put. A striking example of the latter is the Japanese radio station building on Moen. In terms of size and the excellent state of preservation, this structure is perhaps the most impressive World War II remnant in all of Micronesia. Despite its significance, the now Jesuit-owned St. Xavier school probably should not be within any historical park area because of its present important use as a school. Another example is the operations building for the Japanese seaplane base on Dublon. Again, a most impressive structure in an excellent state of preservation. However, its present use as a home precludes its being used for park purposes. Similarly, other important sites and features, because of their existing use or their location near other non-park uses, could not easily be set aside within a park or reserve. It is hoped that the owners of these important structures will continue to recognize their historic character and not make any modifications to them which would adversely affect their integrity.

Notwithstanding the above constraints, there is potential for setting aside World War II historic sites and features on Moen. These would be at sites are located in areas apart from any developments or active agricultural uses and where no adaptive uses have been made of any of the features there. The following sites provide both a sampling of the many defensive fortifications built by the Japanese on Truk and are among the most significant and well preserved:

1. the summit area of Mt. Tonachau plus the two turreted guns on the slopes below;

2. the saddleback area in the uplands of northeast Moen containing a complex of defensive emplacements; and

3. the lighthouse and the four turreted guns in the vicinity of Sapuk.

4. the MYRT aircraft wreck lying in the wetlands west of the hospital.

The Mt. Tonachau historic site would encompass no more than one acre and consist primarily of the summit area containing the remains of the Japanese lookout (M15). The site is part of the larger area listed on the National Register as Tonachau Mountain. This site, due to its central location, would be an excellent place for a scenic lookout, covered and housing outdoor exhibits to illustrate the various types of defensive fortifications built by the Japanese on Moen and on the other islands within Truk Lagoon. Since the mountain is also the source of several local myths, wayside exhibits to interpret these aspects of the park would be appropriate here also. The high ground of Mt. Tonachau was the location for a major concentration of defensive fortifications built by the Japanese.

The vegetation here, originally upland forest, is now composed of grasses and shrubs. No agroforest or crops are present. Access to the site is via about one-half mile of trail. Connected to the summit area by means of a battery road are the two turreted naval guns (M30). The guns remain in an excellent state of preservation and should also be included in the historic site to protect an example of the planned defense of Truk by the Japanese. The historic battery road would connect the two sites. The guns plus the fire control cave would encompass less than one acre.

The second site, containing features M38, M39, M40, and M41, would preserve in one location both anti-aircraft and coastal defense guns plus other defensive emplacements all connected by a battery road. The vegetation like the previous site has been disturbed and is now composed of grasses and shrubs. This site would encompass about 10 acres. A trail exists to the site from the village of Peniesene. However, access is somewhat difficult, involving a hike of about three-quarters of a mile and an elevation gain of about 700 feet.

The third site would set aside the Japanese lighthouse and the four large turreted guns (M45 and M46). The fortified lighthouse is in good condition and the four guns are in excellent condition. Both of these features are exceptional and should be protected. The site should encompass the other World War II features located nearby -- altogether less than ten acres. Portions of the site are in agroforest with an understory weedy trees, shrubs, and grasses.

A short trail exists to the fourth site, the MYRT aircraft (M2), making it readily accessible to visitors. The wreck appears to be in the spot where it crashed more than forty years ago. Despite damaged and missing parts, it is in good condition. It is theonly World War II aircraft found so far on land in Truk and of the more than 360 Japanese aircraft at Truk, only 16 were MYRTs. Located in a Japanese wetland, a railed wood boardwalk could be built to and around the wreck to allow visitors a close look, while keeping them from climbing over it. The area site aside would consist of the crash site plus the trail access.

As noted, these sites do not appear to be used for any non-park purpose at this time. Setting them aside as historic sites would not unduly disrupt or preclude any existing uses. However, including them in any park or reserve area would first require obtaining the permission from the local residents or owners. Ultimately, it would require some sort of formal arrangement for allowing public access and park management.

These sites could be included as units of a national historical park made up of the underwater fleet, or they could be set aside, managed, and protected as separate components by Truk State.

Another important aspect of the historical park concept is not associated with any tangible resource -- be it a sunken ship, large coastal defense gun, airplane remains, or a large military structure -- but is nonetheless extremely important and altogether worthy of preservation. This is the story of the Trukese and other island people, and how the historic events they got caught up in -- Operation Hailstone and the occupation by the Japanese military -- affected them. Unfortunately, nothing tangible remains of this aspect of World War II except the graves of Nauruans on Tol. What does remain, however, are the memories, attitudes, and traditions of those individuals who, like Kimino Aisek, were there during the historic period and experienced things like Hailstone and the occupation first-hand. The establishment of a historical park provides a means to preserve these intangibles and, through interpretation, pass them on to others.

As part of the historical park entity, the development of a visitor center/museum would be needed so that park visitors -- divers, non-divers, residents, and non-residents -- could learn more about the sunken wrecks, defensive fortifications, the effect of World War II on island people and other park themes. Interpretation would be in the form of exhibits, appropriate relics, photos, maps, models, oral history videos, etc., in addition to talks given by park rangers, interpreters, some of whom may be resident eyewitnesses to the historic events of the park.

A site in the vicinity of the Continental Hotel at the southern tip of the island would appear to be the most ideal location to construct the facility. It is also near to where most of the commercial dive operators are located.

Management Concepts for a Truk Lagoon Historical Park

The purpose of establishing an historical park is to ensure that the sunken wrecks and the unique artifacts they contain will be there for future generations to appreciate, understand, and enjoy. Any historical park though would be more than just an impressive array of historical and natural resources. The sunken wrecks are, of course, tombs and in a sense memorials to the many Japanese sailors who were killed during the attacks of World War II. Thus, any historical park would have some of the aspects of a memorial too. The park's purpose would be accomplished through education of the visitor and on-site management of the resource. The designation of the underwater fleet first as a historical monument in 1971, then as a state monument by Truk State, and most recently as a national historic landmark in 1985 were all important benchmarks in the recognition of this significant resource. However, the shortcomings associated with merely designating have become all too apparent, both to Truk State and to the commercial dive operators in Truk. There needs to be on-site management and adequate protection of the resource too.

Resource management within the historical park should be limited primarily to monitoring. Basically, there should be no actions taken by park staff to either stabilize or preserve or otherwise disturb the wrecks themselves or the artifacts and burials they contain. No salvage should be allowed. Any large-scale disturbance would risk releasing the massive amounts of fuel still believed to be contained within some of the wrecks (small amounts of fuel leakage has apparently been going on continually since 1944 and do not appear at this time to be doing damage to the marine life.)

In addition to the fuel, some wrecks are known to contain unexploded ordnance, while others emit caustic substances. These are all potential hazards to visitors (i.e., recreation divers) and the fuel leakage a potential hazard to the marine life and should be continually monitored by park staff.

Management objectives for the historical park should consist of:

a.the active and continual monitoring and protection of the wrecks;

b.the maintaining of open relationships with all commercial dive operators;

c.the practice and enforcement of a conservation ethic; and

d.the consistent, fair, and strict enforcement of laws, directives, policies, and regulations dealing with historic resources.

Park management should be governed always by what is in the best interests of the resources and their long-term enjoyment by visitors. There should be a partnership forged between the historical park and the sport-diving community as represented by the commercial dive operators. The commercial dive operators of Truk have long recognized the economic benefits associated with the protection of the sunken wrecks. These divers have long held a preservation ethic.

Any historical park established should be funded and staffed to permit the acquisition, operation, and maintenance of a patrol craft (or crafts) capable of regularly covering park waters to prevent looting or vandalism of the sunken wrecks. Park staff should include individuals who are capable of diving on the wrecks so that management objectives related to monitoring can be carried out. Park divers need to be adequately trained in the management of diving accidents. The park must have a capability of responding to diving accidents, if they happen.

It is likely that in the future the remains of more ships will be located at the bottom of Truk Lagoon. This may be accomplished by the park managing agency, dive operators, or by visitors. Discovering new wrecks would be in the best interest of the historical park because it would ensure their protection from vandalism. Park management should make it clear that when a new wreck is located, they should be the first to be notified.

As noted, there is potential for setting aside as historic sites some of the more significant World War II features found on the islands of Truk. The four potential World War II historical park sites on Moen would have as their purpose to protect and interpret for visitors of a sampling of the fortifications set up by the Japanese for their defense of the "Gibralter of the Pacific."

Management objectives for these sites should consist primarily of: of the features they contain within their historical setting,

b.interpretation for visitors of the many other defensive fortifications and structures found on the islands of Truk Lagoon using those located on-site as representative samples,

c.fostering a close relationship and cooperation within the chiefs and village councils on whose lands are located.


Acquaye, Ben and R. Crocombe (editors). 1984. Land Tenure and Rural Productivity in the Pacific Islands. United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Rome.

Aldrich, Alexander. 1981. Termination of the U. S. Trusteeship of the Islands of Micronesia. Comments of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

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Crocombe, Ron (editor). 1987. Land Tenure in the Pacific. Institute of pacific Studies, University of South Pacific, Suva, Fiji.

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Appendix A. "Statement of Significance, National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination Form, "Truk Lagoon Underwater Fleet, Truk Atoll, by Erwin N. Thompson, Historian, National Park Service.

Truk Lagoon is one of the best anchorages in the world. It was an excellent and formidable Japanese advanced naval base, if not as heavily defended as allied forces presumed. From July 1942 to February 1944, Japan's Combined Fleet operated out of Truk, extending its power into the southeast and southern Pacific. The threat of an American attack in early February 1944 caused the Combined Fleet to withdraw from Truk on February 10, never to return. The U. S. Navy's carrier strike on February 17 and 18, 1944, coordinated with an assault on Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands, seriously impaired Truk's air force, destroyed virtually all Japanese shipping in the lagoon, and heavily damaged land installations. Truk was now virtually defenseless and the United States decided an invasion was unnecessary. The successful attack allowed plans to be made to bypass Truk and to strike at Japan's inner defenses in the Marianas. The legend of Truk's invulnerability had been destroyed. American carrier strikes had matured into a fierce force; and a pattern had been set for future Pacific carrier attacks.

The Japanese at Truk, 1940-1944

Japan's Fourth Fleet was organized in 1939, its mission being the protection of the mandated islands of Micronesia. Headquartered at Truk in 1940, the Fourth Fleet established naval base forces in the Carolines, Marianas, and Marshalls. When Japan captured Wake Island in 1942, the Fourth Fleet established a base force there. At Truk, seaplane bases were developed on Dublon and Moen islands; land plane fields were constructed on Moen, Eten, and Param; and naval facilities were established on Dublon and other islands to replenish the fleet at anchor. No major docking or drydocking facilities were constructed, thus Truk was not the Japanese Pearl Harbor that American intelligence presumed it was.[1] Supplies, petroleum products, and ammunition were lightered from Dublon to ships anchored in the lagoon.

In August 1942, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander in chief of the Combined Fleet (First, Second, and Third Fleets and the Sixth Submarine Fleet) arrived at Truk, maintaining his headquarters on board the giant battleship, YAMATO.[2] When Admiral Yamamoto's plane was shot down near Rabaul on April 18, 1943, by American aircraft in an ambush attack, he was replaced by Admiral Mineichi Koga, whose flagship at Truk was the mighty MUSASHI.

Although the Imperial Navy established coastal and anti-aircraft defenses at Truk, ground defenses were not intensified until the arrival of the first elements of the Army's Fifty-second Division between November 1943 and January 1944.[3]

Ground defenses -- air raid shelters, bomb-proof tunnels, and alternate gun emplacements -- were not completed until August 1944, well after the United States had decided to bypass Truk.

[1] The Japanese had a 2,500-ton floating drydock at Truk. It was capable of taking vessels up to the size of a destroyer.
[2] YAMATO and her sister ship, MUSASHI, were armed with the world's largest naval guns, 18.1 inches in diameter. YAMATO was so large, it was called the Yamato Hotel. See Hiroyuki Agawa, The Reluctant Admiral (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1979), p. 326.
[3] The balance of the division did not arrive at Truk until after the February raid.

American Advances, 1944

In early February 1944, U. S. Marine and Army troops captured Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 955 miles east of Truk. The battle for Kwajalein was carried out so swiftly and successfully that Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief Pacific, concluded to speed up the Central Pacific campaign. He

directed the immediate invasion of Enewetak Atoll, also in the Marshalls, which had originally been set for May 1. Because Enewetak was only 670 miles from Japan's Gibraltar of the Pacific, Truk, Nimitz decided that a strong attack on Truk to neutralize Japanese forces there was a necessary adjunct to the Enewetak assault, now scheduled for February 17, 1944.

American intelligence knew little about Truk except its alleged invulnerability. On February 4, a U. S. Marine Corps "Catalina" flying boat flew over the atoll on a photographic mission. This reconnaissance showed that a Japanese battleship (MUSASHI), two carriers, ten cruisers, twenty destroyers, twelve submarines, and a large number of transports were in the lagoon. Japanese planes rose to the attack, but the flying boat evaded interception and returned safely to base with the important information. At Truk, the Japanese correctly judged this overflight presaged an enemy attack. Admiral Koga ordered the fleet to weight anchor. On February 10, led by MUSASHI, Japanese warships sailed for the Western Pacific, never to return to Truk. The battleship steamed toward Japan. Other warships withdrew to the Palau Islands and to the Philippines. About forty vessels, some undergoing repair, others loading or unloading cargo, remained in the lagoon.

Before dawn on February 17,[4] Vice Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, on board the battleship NEW JERSEY, sailed toward Truk. Under him, Rear Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, YORKTOWN, commanded Task Force 58, consisting of nine carriers, six battleships, cruisers, and destroyers. Nine patrol submarines accompanied the force. Japanese search planes on the previous days had failed to detect the approaching fleet and on this morning the Japanese were unprepared for the coming onslaught. Mitscher's first objective was to gain air superiority, as the Japanese had done on their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At sunrise, 72 American fighters from five fast carriers struck. Some 90 Japanese planes took to the air but over thirty of them were shot down. The American "Hellcats" then hit the airfields on Moen, Eten, and Param, destroying forty more planes. Only four "Hellcat" fighters failed to return to the carriers. Next, Avenger torpedo bombers hit the airstrips with fragmentation and incendiary bombs, again with few casualties. Eten was particularly easy pickings; aircraft were parked nose to tail awaiting ferry pilots to fly them to forward areas.

Mitscher's aircraft, including torpedo planes, dive bombers, and escort fighters next attacked enemy shipping. Although disappointed that the Japanese fleet was no longer present, the American pilots made 30 separate attacks throughout the day. They wiped out the few naval ships in anchorage and most of the 30 or so merchant ships, for a total of 200,000 tons sunk. Meanwhile, Spruance's surface ships cruised around the atoll in pursuit of escaping Japanese ships. By evening they had sunk a cruiser, destroyer, trawler, and another small vessel.

During the night of February 17-18, a Japanese torpedo plane managed to approach carrier INTREPID and loosed a torpedo, striking the carrier on her starboard quarter and causing casualties and damage. INTREPID limped from the scene and eventually reached San Francisco for repairs. Also on that night, Mitscher launched the first night time bombing attack in American carrier operational history. Guided by radar, the highly trained bomber crews succeeded in making eleven direct hits on enemy vessels (and on two small islets).

When carrier strikes resumed on the morning of February 18, not a single Japanese plane rose in protest. The American planes paid particular attention this day to land installations, blasting airstrips and fuel and ammunition dumps. At noon, Admiral Mitscher gave the order for retirement. The naval historian, Samuel Eliot Morison, wrote that as a result of this attack, Truk's "usefulness as a fleet anchorage and advanced naval base was gone after 18 February 1944. And the myth of Truk the Impregnable was shattered. Never again did the eight-rayed flag of Commander in Chief Combined Fleet meet the rising sun in Truk Lagoon."[5] Not only did Truk's shipping lay at the bottom of the lagoon, less than 100 of Truk's 365 aircraft remained operational.

Truk, 1944-1945

While the Japanese Navy never returned to Truk in force, for a time after the February raids, the defenses of the atoll continued to be improved. Additional army troops arrived, underground defenses were constructed, mines were laid in the passes to the lagoon, and antisubmarine nets were emplaced. All these endeavors were for naught. On March 12, 1944, the American Joint Chiefs of Staff decided that because of the successful February attack, Truk need not be invaded. They abandoned a plan that called for over five American divisions to be employed against the atoll. On April 30 and May 1, a second American fast carrier task force hit Truk. Of the 103 operational Japanese aircraft at the beginning of the attack, twelve survived. The few ships at anchor were destroyed. Land installations, the major objective of the strike, were battered.

Beginning in March 1944, the Seventh and Thirteenth Army Air Forces' B-24 "Liberator" bombers, based in newly won Kwajalein and Enewetak, began a series of raids on Truk, their primary objective being to keep the airfields inoperable, especially during the American campaign in the Marianas in the summer of 1944. When the Marianas were taken, huge airfields were constructed on Saipan, Tinian, and Guam for the B-29 Superfortress bomber. Before these planes were prepared to form the vast armadas for the long-range bombing of Japan, the air crews required further training to refine their techniques. Truk was selected as one of the targets for these training missions. Until the end of World War II, fresh B-29 air crews made routine missions over Truk. There was little of significance to bomb.

The surviving Japanese forces at Truk, starved for food and medical attention, formally surrendered aboard a United States destroyer on September 2, 1945.

Today, the "underwater fleet" at Truk, festooned with an infinite variety of marine life and containing the honored remains of Japanese warriors, is one of the world's underwater wonders.