An island turned graveyard, resting the dead with immortal history.

Chuuk lagoon, also known as Truk lagoon, is a coral island created within the western part of the pacific that merged as a part of Chuuk state within the Federated States of Micronesia. To understand the aspects of its emergence as a personal favorite spot for divers and as a historical importance to the people, it is necessary to know the facts and incidents that happen during the ages. 

Geographical nature of the lagoon – 

The central pacific from the east to the west consists of sixteen highly eroded volcanic islands that have been consolidated within and significantly were controlled and taken advantage of by humans and state bodies as per their needs.

An overview of Chuuk Lagoon - Sheet1
An Aerial view of Chuuk islands surrounded by unachieved reefs_© Flickr user Matt Kieffer, CC BY-SA 2.0,

One of the Federated States of Micronesia is Chuuk, surrounded by barrier reefs. The state is mainly a center of focus for its Chuuk lagoon, which has two geographic divisions – Faichuuk, the western islands, and Namoneas, the eastern islands. With a land cover of 93.07 square kilometers, it has a population of 36,158 people. The Chuuk state consists of eleven islands (corresponding to the eleven municipalities of Truk lagoon, which are Tol, Udot, Fala-Beguets, Romanum, and Eot of Faichuk group, and Weno, Fefen, Dublon, Uman, Param, and Tsis of Namoneas group).

The historical vision of the lagoon – 

The island came into existence during the 14th century AD. The occurrence of the island during the war and the various emperor’s takeovers during the centuries impacted the archeological value of the island in today’s time. In the 19th century, under the rule of the Spanish empire, the island was inhabited by several tribes, foreign traders, and missionaries. As the Spanish emperors were temporary habitats over the island, their rule period was nominal and had led to tribal conflicts. Further, the Chuuk lagoon has experienced various war movements. 

The first rule changed in 1899 – 

The inhabitants did not have food, shelter, or occupation during the Spanish rule, which led to tribal violence. Thus, the spanish-american war took control of the Pacific and Cuba islands. The german emperors acquire the caroline islands after the defeat of the Spanish rulers.

An overview of Chuuk Lagoon - Sheet2
The pictorial representation of the Spanish-American war_Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (reproduction no. LC-DIG-pga-01889)_©

The pacific and caroline islands experienced infinite numbers of graves, which is why the lagoon is known as the massive human graveyard. The war movements over time influenced the sustenance and neighborhoods of the reef experienced by people today as submerged ruins from history.

The most impactful changes were during World War I and II after the imposition of Japanese emperors. The region of Chuuk till today is known for its history as a Japanese navy base. During World War I, the task of the Japanese emperors was to destroy the German east Asiatic squadron and to protect its shipping lanes. That way, the defeat of German rule clears the way for Japanese emperors to seize the islands. 

An overview of Chuuk Lagoon - Sheet3
The snippets from the World War II, “Truk Lagoon Underwater Fleet” _National Archives_©

The impression of Chuuk as a Japanese navy base – 

In 1921, the Japanese navy took over the rule of the Islands by affecting Micronesian life. But not as the german and Spanish rule; the Japanese emperor was more curious about the economic or strategic control over the pacific islands. The emperor converted mandate islands into an inner empire for their future beneficiaries. The Japanese governed their possession over Micronesian islands with bureaucratic control, an efficient police force, and manipulation of local cultural institutions to control the population as per their military needs.  

Henceforth, the Japanese emperors used Truk(Chuuk) lagoon as an intense navy base against the allied forces of the united states during World War II. The civil department of the Japanese navy constructed various roads, radar stations, caves, bunkers, and other facilities to execute the powers in the war. The allied forces considered the Truk base ”the Gibraltar of the Pacific”.

In 1944, the US-allied forces warned the Naval base with operation hailstone. Processed for three consecutive days, the air attacks over the naval base destroyed 12 warships, 32 merchant ships, and 275 aircraft. The sunken ships, thousands of soldiers, pilots, and tons of damaged oils and minerals were evidence of the attacks. Under this operation, the allied forces decided to cut off the supply of external resources to the island, makes difficult for the Micronesian people and Japanese rulers to survive. The US forces occupied most of the ocean at the end of 1944 by defeating the Japanese navy in operation hailstone. 

An overview of Chuuk Lagoon - Sheet4
2 man ship underwater affected from the operation hailstone_By w en: Aquaimages (talk | contribs) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, _©
1940s truck in the hold of the Haki Maru_By User Aquaimages on en. wikipedia – Image was taken by Clark Anderson/Aquaimages., CC BY-SA 2.5, _©

The impact of the war on the Chuukese people – 

The destruction that war has done to the islands and their resources is documented through stories, songs, and books to give knowledge of the history in present times. The impact of the war on the local population is still not shown to the public. Chuuk lagoon was the primary naval base, the home to the Japanese emperors and their fortified operation island until the American forces conquest the Micronesian islands. People went through starvation and sickness due to the economic and social stresses on the Chuuk and Yap islands.

  • As the affected islands by the war hurricane, the more intense losses that the Chuuk lagoon experienced were physical and human settlement losses. The framework that the people and Japanese have set up before the war was marred effectively, indeed after the conquer of the Americans, all the amenities such as medicinal, accommodation, and occupational establishments were edge to different evolutions. 
  • The other aspect that changed was the way of living people experienced. As the men of the family were away, the women did more work and brought the family to peaceful lives. The young members of the family traveled more, met new people every day, and brought new ideas to the house. 
  • The great material wealth displayed by both sides, especially by Americans, suggested to Islanders a new standard of economic and industrial potential. 

The possesion of American government ove the island had impacted in a positive way. In the present time, the micronesian states are being developed in every aspect.

External references – 

Chuuk lagoon (2023) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: (Accessed: February 19, 2023). 

Storyteller, T. (2022) The history of the world’s largest underwater graveyard, Medium. Lessons from History. Available at: (Accessed: February 19, 2023). (no date). Available at: (Accessed: February 19, 2023). 


Nancy is professionally an architect and emotionally an artist who wants to depict human emotions and buildings through her words. Her sole purpose is to become a connection between people and buildings and to reflect their feelings in buildings through her ideas.