The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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U.S. Navy. Via Morison (1951)
7.424N) is a collection of hilly islands, the tips of drowned
mountain peaks, surrounded by a
large barrier reef 40 miles (64 km) across with five passes.
It possessed the
best fleet anchorage in the Mandates, and it was
rumored before the Pacific War that Japan
had turned it into a "Gibraltar
of the Pacific." It was known from radio
Fleet had its headquarters here. Its
location, at the center
of the Caroline
was ideal for exploiting Japan’s interior lines of
communications. The Japanese had in fact developed
facilities here before the war, including four separate airfields and
storage for 77,200 tons of fuel oil, including a 10,000-ton underground tank and two 33,600-ton above-ground steel tanks (151.883E 7.369N).
Japanese fuel depot outside the home islands. Truk was also
an important submarine base.
However, it was never as strong as the Americans
initially believed, and it lacked piers and shore services, forcing
ships to anchor in the lagoon and have supplies delivered by lighter,
while their machinery had to be constantly running to provide power and water. Some of these deficiencies were remedied as the war progressed.
Japanese merchants first visited Truk in 1891, and the island group was seized by the Japanese from the Germans during the First World War. By the time war broke out, there were 3000 Japanese civilians and 18,000 natives living in the group. The latter were excluded from those islands taken over by the Japanese for military use.
The principal town was Dublon (151.877E 7.364N), on the island of the
same name. Dublon had about 1200 buildings and facilities for making
temporary repairs to warships
that included a 2500 ton floating
dry dock. Construction of fortifications did
until 1940 and was not pressed until January 1944. The garrison reached
a maximum of 7500 Army and about 4000 Navy troops by February 1944, and
coastal guns were sited to cover all five passes, which were also
protected with controlled mines. However,
there were only 40 antiaircraft
guns with no fire control radar.
Facilities completed by February 1944 are listed in the following table:
||3340' (1020m) bomber strip
Combined seaplane base and fighter strip
Coastal and antiaircraft guns
Torpedo boat base and torpedo storage
2500 ton floating dry dock
Oil, torpedo, and munitions storage
Coastal and antiaircraft guns
Aviation repair and supply station
||Supply center with pier
2 5" dual-purpose guns
Torpedo boat base
||3340' by 270' (1020m by 80m)
||3900' by 335' (1190m by 100m)
8 5" guns
4 80mm dual-purpose guns
3 medium antiaircraft guns
||Radio direction finding station
||3 8" dual-purpose guns
||4 6" coastal guns
A battery of antiaircraft guns
Torpedo boat base
Truk was smashed by carrier
strikes and surface bombardments on 17-18 February 1944 (Operation HAILSTONE) to prevent its
use against the American
landings at Eniwetok.
The Japanese lost two cruisers
and four destroyers,
250 aircraft, and
140,000 tons of merchant shipping.
The attacks included the first night shipping strike by carrier
aircraft of the
Pacific War, which proved highly successful, accounting
for a third of all shipping losses inflicted. However, the Japanese
main battle fleet had already fled to the Palaus and
escaped damage. Truk was never used as a major fleet
anchorage thereafter. The
Americans lost just 30 aircraft out of 1250 combat sorties, but
suffered a torpedo hit on Intrepid
from a night attack by six or seven radar-equipped "Kates" launched from Param Field.
The Americans did not make a final decision whether to assault Truk until 12 March 1944, when it was decided that the base would be bypassed. Another series of carrier strikes were carried out on 29-30 April to smash the remaining Japanese air power, which by then had been built back up to 104 aircraft. Of these, about 93 were destroyed in the air or on the ground, at a cost to the Americans of 35 aircraft (including operational losses.) Over half the downed American airmen were rescued by lifeguard submarines or seaplanes, including one crew within Truk lagoon itself. Occasional raids thereafter (mostly from Eniwetok and the Admiralties) prevented the base from becoming a serious threat again.
4 Naval Hospital. The naval hospital at Truk was commanded by Surgeon Captain Iwanami Hiroshi, who led his staff in conducting horrific "medical experiments" on American prisoners of war. These included cutting off the circulation in the arms and legs of prisoners with tourniquets, then releasing the tourniquets after several hours had passed. Two of the prisoners had their tourniquets released after seven hours and died of shock as soon as the tourniquets were released. Two others who had their tourniquets released after just two hours initially survived, but were then tied to stakes and had their feet blown off with explosives before being strangled and dissected. Other prisoners were injected with streptococcus bacteria cultures to induce fatal septicemia or were killed as bayonet practice targets.
Iwanami was convicted of murder and other charges by a
U.S. Navy tribunal after the war, and tried to cheat the hangman by
throwing himself at the wall of his cell while holding a small,
sharpened pencil to his heart. The suicide attempt failed and he was duly hanged.
Temperatures: Jan 81, Apr 81, Jul 81, Oct 81
Rainfall: Jan 19/8.4, Apr
23/12.3, Jul 25/12.3, Oct 24/13.5 ==
137.6" per annum
Boyd and Yoshida (1995)
Pearce and Smith (1990)
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