Silent Wrecks -

An incomplete review

When I announced to some of the guys at Holloman/White Sands that I was leaving to work at Kwajalein, one of them responded “Kwajalein! I helped take that island!” As I recall a few uncomplementary epithets followed, but since back then World War II veterans were hardly middle-aged and my interest in history was casual at best, it didn’t cross my mind to ask him to share his experience. Many times in the years to follow I have thought of that lost opportunity – never more than upon viewing The Silent Wrecks of Kwajalein Atoll.

For those of us fortunate enough to have lived on Kwaj in later years, memories are made of sunshine and beaches, fellowship and fun. Although some of us may have delved into the atoll’s more solemn history, most who have done so are probably like me – read a bit about the battle, visited the remainders of its violent past, and maybe contemplated the weeks it took for American forces to travel what was a short bicycle ride for us.

Silent Wrecks gives us the sunshine and the waves lapping and the palm trees swaying; enough to make the most jaded Kwaj alumnus weepy with homesickness, but it soon takes us into the darker regions below the surface and distant in time. It takes us to a place of which we were vaguely aware but few of us visited. Some who did lost their lives, like the divers trapped in the Prinz Eugan while I was there.

The darkness in Silent Wrecks is for the most part metaphoric, since the underwater scenes in this outstanding documentary are well-lit and crystal clear. The explorations of the aircraft and ships, both American and Japanese, are never tedious or overly long (as I find many undersea documentaries), and the narration is stimulating and informative.

The light and dark contrast continues underwater, oil leaking from the wrecks, scenes of death and loss and tragedy while new life takes up residence in these reefs of disaster – beauty born of catastrophe. A turtle, old enough to have witnessed the sinking of the ship he now lives in swims unconcernedly through the wreck, holding thoughts and memories of which we can only surmise…

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Fred Pierce
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