Chuuk Island’s Historic WWII Sites

Chuuk Island WW II Sites on Land

Our last blog talked about Chuuk Island’s underwater WW II sites. But a lot of relics still remain on the land. The above-ground sites, many of which were destroyed of damaged by U.S. bombs during the two days (February 17 and 18) of “Operation Hailstone”.

Weno Island sites include:

  • A Japanese radio communications center, with its 2.5-foot thick walls, has been repurposed as Xavier High School;

Japanese school 01

  • A Japanese hospital and bunker that are now barren, graffiti-marked ruins;

Hospital 01

  • A Japanese ice factory, also in ruins.

Japenese Ice House

  • Tonato Cave installations, which we did not get to, were enlarged and fortified to house large guns, munitions and living stores, and some living quarters.
  • Nefo Cave, a 78-foot-long fortified cave that contains a gun that protected the island’s north pass and living quarters for dozens of Japanese soldiers.

Nefu Cave gun

  • Sapuk Lighthouse guns, which we did not get to see, were used to prevent American ships from entering the lagoon;

Etton Island, meanwhile, has the:

  • Tonoas Airfield, a Japanese airbase that were destroyed by U.S. bombs;
  • A large, two-story, reinforced concrete radio communications center whose second floor has largely collapsed and is not being taken over by the tropical jungle in a way somewhat similar to, although much less dramatic than Angkor Wat

Etton Island Radio Communication 02

  • A rugged, very steep, very slippery and very difficult 40 minute hike to a mountain crest to a battery of Japanese anti-aircraft guns. This very steep, ungraded, slippery trail combined with the 85 degree temperatures and 95 percent humidity made this one of the most difficult trails we have ever hiked, one that Tom wouldn’t have made without quite a bit of help from our guide.

Etton Island gun 02Etton Island gun 03

Although our guide was incredibly helpful on the trail, calling him a guide or what he took us on a tour, are overly generous uses of the terms. Even after clarifying what we wanted to see with his boss, we had to continually ask to see certain sites and many times he was unable to understand what we were looking for. We ended up missing a number of sites that we requested, including one that we later learned that we were only a few steps from.

When he did get us to a site his descriptions were no more than one or two words (“gun”, “hospital”, “radio center”, etc.). Any effort to get further descriptions were useless. The dive shop should be ashamed to call this a tour.

Blue Lagoon Resort

Although we originally planned to stay at the newer, more centrally-located L5 hotel, Blue Lagoon was so accommodating in setting up tours—as long as we stayed at their resort—that we decided to stay there. We were generally happy that we did. The large, rather rustic looking resort has a lovely, nicely-tended, palm-studded lawns studded with painted WW II artifacts and holes that house what must be thousands of land crabs. It has one of the largest and best dive shops on the island (through whom we arranged our tours), a lounge and restaurant (where we spend most of our spare hours, despite their extraordinarily limited, and mostly undrinkable wine selection) and a reception area which was the only place at the resort where we could get even semi-reliable Internet access.

The rooms were much nicer than we anticipated. While the décor was a bit tired, it was very comfortable. The AC worked well and we had a large balcony overlooking the lagoon. The balcony was very handy for drying our swimming suits and snorkels after a day of being in the water. The property has multiple 3 story building which housed several unites per floor. Wifi was available at the reception area, but not in the rooms.

artillerie shellDSC00149

Blue Lagoon Restaurant

Those who stay at the Blue Lagoon without a car have little real choice but to eat there. In some cases, meals turned out quite sell. We really enjoyed our first lunch of grouper sandwiches and the grilled grouper we had for our first dinner. That meal’s sautéed shrimp with garlic, onions and tequila honey was okay, but not very interesting. The shrimp coconut cream curry, other than having far more lamb (which was not even listed as an ingredient) than the three small shrimp, had zero taste other than for the yellow curry, which seemed like a jar of curry powder had been poured into a little milk, without having been stirred. Our next day’s dinner, tuna steak (cooked mi cui as we requested) and an amazingly priced special dinner of tuna sashimi, ½ rock lobster, chicken cordon bleu and hot fudge sundae were also delicious, other than for the rather strange decision to use something suspiciously like Cheese Whiz as an alternative to Swiss. Nor did our final evening’s meal disappoint. The tuna sashimi, was, of course, incredibly fresh. While our seafood brochettes (grouper, shrimp, red and green peppers and onion) were overcooked, their replacements were quite good.

There was, however, one constant the restaurant. The food, seemingly regardless of whether the restaurant is filled or if you are the only customer, takes forever to arrive. Although there are far too few servers when the restaurant is busy, this doesn’t appear to be an issue with servers. It is an issue with the kitchen. This, however, isn’t to unduly praise the servers. Examples include lack of silverware on the table and the need for two requests for bread and butter—on two occasions. And, when Tom left his shrimp curry uneaten and told her than the fish was good but that I did not at all enjoy the curry, our server took our plates without a single word.

And oh yeah, there is also a resort-wide issue about wine. The three reds (two merlots and a shiraz) were virtually undrinkable and the white (a Frontera chardonnay which was available at the bar, but not at the restaurant) wasn’t much better. We did, however, find one (but only one) relatively drinkable 2014 Beelgern sauv blanc/semillon in the guest shop that we were able to bring to the restaurant.

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