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Kwajalein Atoll’s Airplane Graveyard

Known by locals as the “airplane graveyard,” it has turned into a boon for divers, as more than 100 airplanes rest in sand after being pushed off the back of a ship.

Kwajalein Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, played a major role in the Pacific Theater during World War II. It was 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. Interestingly, the conclusion of the fighting left its mark in the atoll’s lagoon as well.

SBD Dauntless

Diving Kwajalein Atoll

At the end of the military campaign, the U.S. didn’t need many of the airplanes and other equipment that they’d transported to Kwajalein. It would have been far too costly to haul everything 5,000 miles back to the United States, so they dumped much of it into Kwajalein’s lagoon and offshore.

SBD Dauntless (3)

This area, known by locals as the “airplane graveyard,” has turned into a boon for divers. More than 100 airplanes were simply pushed off the back of a ship into the lagoon. They remain there 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 military simply discarded them.

Curtiss C-46 Commando and Jeep

Mostly still intact, the planes have been underwater for over 70 years. Divers can see props, seats inside the planes and controls. Marine life congregates around these artificial reefs as well, 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.

SBD Dauntless (5)

By guest author Brandi Mueller

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