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Coron's history of wrecks

Before 1939, Japan – a land which is not blessed by natural resources, used to depend on the United States for supplies of ores and petroleum, to thrive their industries. It was under the term of U.S. President Roosevelt and Cordel Hull, the Secretary of State, that American supplies to the Japanese were held back. This was done with the intention to indirectly force the Japanese to end all belligerencies against China.


After Japan stopped receiving the supplies of strategic minerals from U.S. they eyed the British and American colonies of the south to meet their demands for raw materials for their industries. As Japan attempted capturing the southern islands, it was only America which came in its way. The Pacific Fleet at the Pearl Harbour in U.S. was the only force which was capable of defeating the Japanese Navy. Another problem that Japan might have faced while its communication with East Indies was the American bases in the archipelago of Philippines. Oil tankers that were headed towards Japan needed to pass by Luzon – the northernmost group of islands in the archipelagic Philippines. At that time Philippines was under the reigns of America.


The Japanese, thus, contrived to declare war against America. First, it was a sudden attack on Pearl Harbour. Next, the Japanese usurped the U.S. bases at Guam and Wake islands. It was the same time that they also invaded Philippines. By that time the war had begun.


The Japanese went on putting up a fight and reinforce their forces to occupy Philippines, on 19th and 20th June, 1944, during the battle of the Philippine Sea, and 23rd to 26th October during the battle of Leyte Gulf.


The history of Coron dates back to 24th September, 1944. It was when a US Navy and dive bombers attacked a Japanese fleet of 24 ships, full of supply, in Coron Bay and around the Busuanga Island. The way by which the U.S. Navy spotted the Japanese fleet is still a topic of debate. Few think the Japanese fleet was observed by aerial photo investigative interpreters, while others are of the opinion that U.S. had intercepted the radio transmissions of the Japanese. Whatever were the ways of spotting the Japanese fleet, it led to an abrupt aerial attack by the U.S. Navy carrier based aircraft. As a consequence the Japanese fleet sank at anchor.


Admiral William F. 'Bull' Halsey was the commander of the U.S. Third Fleet. Halsey was suffering from severe skin rash and was admitted in naval hospital at Pearl Harbour, and thus missing the battle of Midway. He did not had to miss the chance of getting at the Japanese navy at Coron. He designed the course of action from New Jersey. Later, the tactical control of the Third Fleet was with the genius Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, the commander of Task Force 38 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lexington.


Although Mitscher was confident of success yet he was well aware of the logistical risks that were involved. The U.S. carrier group was at a distance of 340 miles from Coron Bay. This meant that the U.S. pilots would only have enough fuel for a certain time span by which they had to return to their own fleet from their enemy positions at Coron.


The attack

There were 96 Gruman F6F Hellcat fighters and 24 Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bombers that took off on 24 September at 0550 hours. After a flight of 3 hours towards their target, the U.S. fighters tracked their 11 huge Japanese war ships and supply ships at anchor, at Busuanga Island.


The first to be attacked by the squadron of Curtiss Helldivers were Akitsushima and Okikawa Maru. The Akitsushima, a heavy and well armed sea vessel, initially fought back aggressively, but she was soon overpowered by hits from multiple directions, internal explosions and conflagration. Within about 15 minutes the Akitsushima gradually sank in between the passage of Lajo and Manglet Island.


Okikawa Maru was a ship of fuel oil. Quite evidently it hardly took any time for Okikawa to set ablaze and get maimed. Still, she kept fighting and floated gradually towards the north, but it sunk during a 'mop-up' assault on 9th October.


Olympia Maru had withstood attacks from three American pilots, but as the fourth plane struck, the engine stopped functioning. She was left defenceless against any more attacks from the U.S. fighter planes. Slowly, the freighter sank with 19 crew members along with it.


The other ships also were devastated in a rapid succession by the bombings of the U.S. Navy. Kogyo Maru sank in the depth of the sea too, drowning with herself 39 seamen, near Lusong Island. Irako was a well-armed ship and had a wide range of flak guns. In the beginning Irako fought back vehemently but the end was no different than the other ships of the fleet. Irako went under the sea after it was overpowered by the U.S. Navy. The rest of the ships that were anchored at Coron Bay also went through the identical atrocity and eventually gave way in the same line of attack.


The final attack of the U.S. Navy was on the Japanese ship Kyokuzan Maru. The ship was anchored on the opposite side of the Busuanga Island, and she went on fighting even after she had been severely damaged by a number of dive bombings along with staffing runs. The mighty Kyokuzan Maru turned into a fiery hulk in no time and was scuttled by the Japanese.


Kamoi – an oil tanker of the Japanese, was the only ship that could manage to take escape way from Coron, in spite of the ruthless attacks that it endured by the U.S. Navy dive bombers. Later, she was known to have ported in Hong Kong.