One of the deepest wrecks that we dived during our stay, was the Nippo Maru. She was only discovered in June 1980 by Klaus Lindemann, and is one of the most interesting wrecks in the Lagoon. (Klaus Lindemann wrote Hailstorm Over Truk Lagoon, the definitive work on the shipwrecks and associated history of Truk Lagoon.)
The Nippo Maru was a medium sized freighter, some three hundred and fifty feet long with a fifty-foot beam. She was built by the Kawasaki Dockyard and launched in September 1936. At first she was used as a fruit transporter, shipping bananas from Taiwan to Japan. Then she was converted into a water transport ship and munitions carrier. She would frequently stop at Truk to take on water and then distribute it and any munitions around the garrisons on the smaller coral islands that did not have enough of their own supply.
Whilst on one of these round robins on February 16th 1945 she was bombed and torpedoed and sank in 160 feet of water. She now rests upright with a heavy list to port, and her stern almost buried in a sloping reef. The Nippo Maru is often called the ” the million dollar wreck ” because her five holds are packed full with ammunition and armaments of all kinds. Hemispherical mines, cannon barrels, gun mounts for shore batteries, machine guns, gas masks, bronze rangefinders and small arms ammunition of all kinds lie scattered all around this wreck. The bridge is almost intact with its ships compass and engine telegraphs. Nearly all the wrecks that we dived had these instuments in their bridges, but it was still such a thrill to see these artefacts still in situ.
Near number 4 hold are three field howitzers still mounted on their wheeled carriages. These are a fantastic sight but the best was yet to come, and it is what the Nippo Maru has become famous for. A tank. That’s right a tank just standing on the main deck near number 2 hold at a depth of about 130 feet. This tank is a Type 95 Ha-Go or Ke-Go, built by Mitsubishi. They weigh about seven and a half tons, were powered by 120 horsepower diesel engine, and had a crew of three. The tank is a great sight, and as you drift back up to the dive boat you get to see the whole wreck laid out, but you keep your eye on the tank until it fades from view.