In December, 1943 a series of attacks began leading up to the American invasion of Kwajalein Atoll. When the smoke cleared on February 5, 1944, the Japanese at Kwajalein were finished, and more than thirty of their ships and boats lay silent in the depths of the lagoon.
The end of World War II brought the beginning of the Cold War, and many of the islands of Kwajalein Atoll became part of the U.S. Army's Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR). The secret Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) experiments at KMR kept Kwajalein Lagoon closed to visitors and tourists until just a few years ago. For several decades, the ghost ships at Kwajalein were the exclusive domain of the technicians and support personnel working at the missile range. I was one of those fortunate few, blessed with the opportunity to dive the wrecks on an almost daily basis. I left Kwajalein many years ago.
I am, thankfully, still haunted by the intensity of my experiences at the bottom of Kwajalein Lagoon.
This is a photo of me in 1984 preparing to dive on one of the shipwrecks at Kwajalein.
Text and Photos © 1999 by Bob Hampton
Dive Buddies! I made dives at Kwajalein Lagoon with all the following people: Dave Baumert, Gene Baumert, Tim Grimm, Chris Shupp, Carl Pelletier, Pat Caskey, Al Romano, Mac Maynard (my NAUI dive instructor), Frank Cataldo, Tony Martin, Mike Peck, John Fratangelo, Mary Taylor, Jim Troxel, Bob Miller, Terry Carpenter, Tim Urbany, John Jewitt, Mike Quirk, Bruce Lockhart, Kate James, Kevin Opalek, Eric Dixon, Keith Koholokula, Mike Mouris, Dick Davis, John Colvin, Ken Crosby, Ellis Amundson, Joel Lubin, Brent Dezeeuw, Jeff Ash, Al Demarest, and Ray Wolf.