By Brandi Mueller
Kwajalein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, played a major part in the Pacific Theater during World War II as the target of a concentrated U.S. bombardment, conducted in an effort to wrest the atoll from the Japanese. War battles left many ships, planes and other military equipment underwater, and interestingly the conclusion of the fighting left its mark in the atoll’s lagoon as well.
At the end of the military campaign, many of the airplanes and other equipment that had been transported to Kwajalein weren’t needed anymore. It would have been far too costly to transport everything 5,000 miles back to the United States, so much of it was dumped into Kwajalein’s lagoon and offshore.
This area, known by locals as the “airplane graveyard,” has turned into a boon for divers, as more than 100 airplanes were simply pushed off the back of a ship into the lagoon, where they remain today in 100 to 130 feet of water resting in the sand. Covering a few square miles there are Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers, F4U Corsairs, TBF/TBM Avengers, Helldivers, B-25 Mitchells, Curtiss C-46 Commandos and F4F Wildcats. Many of these planes probably saw action in the war, but they did not crash nor did their crews go down with them. The planes were simply discarded.
The planes have been underwater for over 70 years, and make for a fantastic underwater museum. They are mostly still intact and divers can still see props, seats inside the planes and controls. Marine lifehas congregated around these artificial reefs, where coral and brightly colored sponges have begun to take hold. Divers visiting the Marshall Islands should put the airplane graveyard at the top of their must-dive list.