Truk's War History
In the early 1940s, Japan constructed major
fortifications on islets near the five entrances as well
as airstrips and bases on the main islands, including
Moen, Dublon, Eten, Fefan, Uman and Parum Islands.
Situated as it is, Truk was the most important Japanese
base in the Pacific Ocean, providing a vital staging
point for air and sea support for the war fronts of the
Solomons and New Guinea. Truk became known as the
Gibraltar of the Pacific due to these fortifications.
Truk was considered the most formidable of all Japanese
strongholds in the Pacific. This reputation caused an
overconfident Truk command to relax their vigil against
invasion, in spite of U.S. forces fast approaching from
the East. Supplies from Japan had almost ceased, due to
immense successes of U.S. submarines finally equipped
with torpedoes that found their mark. Supply convoys
receiving nearly 90% losses enroute to Truk, deprived
the garrison of food, fuel and new armaments desperately
required to maintain strength.
A US Task Force led by the giant battleship USS New
Jersey (with nine carriers) launched air raids
against Truk. During the battle, the Japanese lost 275
aircraft and 45 ships (over 220,000 tons) including 6
destroyers/cruisers, 5 sub-chasers, 5 tankers, and 26
merchantmen. In addition, 27 ships were damaged. In
contrast, the US only lost 25 aircraft with 29 crew
killed. A torpedo hit on the carrier USS Intrepid
also killed 11 crew.
From 14 March to 7 April 1944 B-24 Mitchell bombers
repeatedly attacked Truk from Bougainville destroying
130 aircraft. On 29-30 April 1944 further attacks by
aircraft from 12 carriers destroyed 123 aircraft and 3
ships. Further attacks by B-24s continued through
October 1944 and from October till the end of the war,
32 experimental flights of Boeing B-29 Superfortresses
occurred in practice for the bombing of Japan.
After a follow up attack in April, 1944, Truk was
reduced to rubble with over 70 shipwrecks, 400 aircraft
destroyed or sunk, and the menace of this big fortress
U.S. forces declined engagement with the 40,000 troops
at Truk, and after these attacks, starvation consumed
many of the defenders before the eventual surrender of
Japan late in 1945.