Buried Treasure

Gas engines found in the Marshall Islands.


Power-generating engines still standing in remains of destroyed buildings.

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If you go about 2,500 miles west of Hawaii to the central Pacific and see a wide scattering of islands and atolls, you will find the Marshall Islands. These islands were part of the Japanese Empire from about 1914 until 1945. During that time, the Japanese spent a fantastic amount of labor and money fortifying the islands, which were on the outer perimeter of their empire. Their headquarters for the entire area were on Jaluit Atoll, a circle of small islands surrounding a beautiful lagoon, which is about 30 miles long by 20 miles wide.

Jaluit Atoll had a major sea plane base that was equipped with large, four-engine Kawanishi H8K sea planes and float-equipped Zero A6M2 fighter aircraft. The base was also an important supply headquarters for all Japanese forces in that part of the Pacific. Because Jaluit was such a vital base for the Japanese, it was bombed numerous times by U.S. military aircraft. All the buildings, gun emplacements and aircraft were either destroyed or heavily damaged to the point that the entire base was neutralized.

Now, more than 60 years later, the jungle and mother nature are slowly taking care of all the ruins and aircraft pieces, but it is still very interesting to find and explore the ruins and look for the remains of engines scattered in the jungle or still stored in some of the building shells.

Last January I visited Jaluit on an underwater expedition. As a gas engine enthusiast, I was especially happy to find a number of single-cylinder, open flywheel engines still lined up in the heavily damaged supply building. In addition, there are aircraft engines scattered in the area of a number of large engines used for electrical power generation. I feel lucky to have been able to visit the Marshall Islands several times and have plans to return later this year. Who knows, maybe I will find some more engines during the next trip – I hope so!

Contact V.T. Hunn at: 5100 Dayton Road, Fort Worth, TX 76140-8042; (817) 561-6171; hunn792@sbcglobal.net

Jaluit Atoll is open to tourists. Continental Airlines serves the capitol of Majuro where there are several hotels, restaurants, etc. From Majuro, the commuter airline, Air Marshall Islands, flies to Jaluit. On Jaluit, there is a hotel and other places to stay and local guides that will take tourists by boat to the old Japanese base. Travel to that base is by boat only; however, there are other ruins that a person can get to by car; there are no buses on Jaluit. – V.T. Hunn