Truk Lagoon: Remains of War


The greatest concentration of World War II shipwrecks on the planet lies in a remote lagoon in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Today the island of Chuuk is a backwater, but in 1944 it was the centre of Japanese naval operations in the Pacific, until Operation Hailstone, an airstrike which was the US payback for the attack on Pearl Harbour. Over two days, American planes sunk around 40 Japanese ships at their anchorages.

Most of the ships lie on the sea floor still intact. Many still contain cargoes of planes, tanks, weapons and munitions. Ghostly corridors lead to engine rooms, cabins, and long abandoned bridges with controls still intact. Bones and skulls are still commonplace.

Wreckage of crashed fighter planes and even submarines litter the seafloor. On land bunkers and even the airfield command centre is eerily intact, gradually becoming immersed into the jungle.

Focusing on five of the major shipwrecks, and their histories poignant and intriguing, we tell the tale of this ghost fleet of the Pacific. Archive footage adds wartime immediacy to the coral festooned hulks.

The ghost tanker – supposedly sunk many times whose spirits are even now taking lives; the huge luxury passenger ship turned troop carrier spectacularly blown in half on board in which thousands died; the “million-dollar wreck” so diverse and expensive its cargo; the plane transporter ship that has become a lush coral garden; and the submarine whose crew were entombed and doomed to slow and lingering death.

Entwined around these major themes are stories of downed planes, unusual cargoes, and the daily life of a major Japanese wartime base.

From today’s perspective we look back on that fateful two days, and the starvation and even cannibalism that followed as the islands were isolated from the world until the end of the war.

This is the first 4K film ever made at Chuuk, and the footage from land, underwater and the air is stunning.

With the 75th anniversary of Operation Hailstone in February 2019, and of the end of the Pacific War in 2020, this documentary is extremely relevant and timely.