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Taroa, Maloelap :: WW2 Relics -- Land and Lagoon

Our guided tour with Arii the policeman was fantastic. There is no way we could have seen the scope of pre-war Japanese entrenchment on this island without local knowledge. Walking around the outside edges, you would see the gunneries and concrete pill boxes but the interior revealed so much more. Arii's english was proficient because he had been married and lived in the US for a while. Like others we met, he came home to visit and never went back to the US. So he is a policeman now on the island, offers tours to cruisers who make it this far and is a regular pillar of his community.

He loves telling stories on himself too, so he is a very entertaining host. (Everyone on the island is shocked he became a police officer, wink-wink)

There were surprises as we made our way across the field of parked bombed planes. The types of things that have rusted more slowly, the clear workings of old radial engines, the rivets along wings edges and even original colors on metal.

And then out along the edge where ocean meets reef, I'm astounded again how far out the tide goes. What must that have felt like to be on this island watching for friendly supply ships to come in or later, enemy ships and planes incoming. There is SO MUCH concrete poured here for gun towers and bunkers and ammunition stores. Conscripted Korean labor to build it; power traveling by cable from two islands over to serve the needs of 388 buildings on Taroa. Buildings were above ground and also below ground. In one building there was an open lattice of rebar bulging 5 feet to the interior where a rocket hit its mark. In another there was a rail from end to end on the ceiling for moving heavy objects. So much concrete and steel for barriers

While making our way back into town, we went by the airport. The plane had done a low fly over due to the low clouds and continuing rain. With a clear view of the landing strip below, they came back around for touchdown. Graham and Mike offered to help unload when Arii thought he might get a pass for having cruisers with him. "Many hands make light work" won the moment.

Arii brought us to his house (his wife was feeding some happy animals) and while he took care of some business, we took to shelter like locals.

Continuing on back to the dinghys we came across the largest WW2 relic yet. The communications center. Trees have grown up through the holes that bombs had left in the structure, but there was enough to add to an overwhelming and already sobering sense of the serious enterprise of war. WW2 relics are in the lagoon as well. That's next.

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