WWII Jeeps Shipwrecked and Dumped at Sea Page


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Dumping of Equipment and Jeeps at the end of WWII
Million Dollar Point, Espirito Santo in Vanuatu:
An amazing junk pile that in some ways shows why the Allies won World War Two. 
Million Dollar Point is located on Segond Channel less than a kilometre to the east of the SS President Coolidge. At the end of the war, the Americans had insufficient space on its ships returning to the US to fit all the masses of equipment that had accumulated in Vanuatu. It was considered, quite reasonably, that the space was needed to take the hundreds of thousands of troops home rather than the equipment. 

Additionally, it was also thought that if all the equipment returned to the US, it could severely affect the US economy as no-one would want to buy new trucks, bulldozers or jeeps when they could pick up a very cheap ex-Army one. It has also been reported to me that the vehicle/equipment manufacturers actually had clauses in their contracts with the US Government which forbid the return of equipment sent overseas. This was to protect their post-war market in the USA. I am not sure if this is true, but it could be correct. 

Before and during the Second World War, most of the non-native residents of Santo were French. Apparently the US offered to sell all the surplus equipment to the residents and/or the Colonial (French-English) Government (possibly to the residents via the Government) at a very low price. However, in a gamble that failed, the residents and the Government refused to pay in the expected knowledge that the Americans could only fit a small amount of the equipment onto their ships. The thought in the back of their minds was that the Americans would just up and leave and the equipment would be theirs to have free of charge. This was a bad tactic as the Americans had other ideas. 

The American Army lined up all the surplus equipment on the shore with engines running. Hand throttles were slammed on and bricks placed on accelerators and the equipment rumbled into the channel, disappearing into water 35 metres deep just a few metres off the shore. From that day on, the site received its name due to the (then) value of the equipment dumped into the water. 

After the war, there was some salvaging of the equipment by locals and fortune seekers. Reece Discombe, a New Zealander now resident in Port Vila salvaged 14 bulldozers and hundreds of tyres in 1948/9. He first dragged one bulldozer out, washed it in freshwater, put in new oil, batteries and electrics. It then started. He then used this dozer to pull the other ones out. The bulldozers, despite being in the water for more than three years, were apparently in pretty good condition (just shows the quality of US goods then). These dozers were sent to Australia where they were sold to the Joint Coal Board of New South Wales, Australia. He also reports that he salvaged propellers, propeller shafts, copper and copper wire. However, the tyres which were sold to locals, suffered different fates. The ones which were on rims soon collapsed as they rusted to pieces. The ones not on rims were almost as good as new tyres once installed on new rims. 

As well as dozens of six wheel drive Studebaker or General Motors trucks and Willys jeeps, you will still see many bulldozers with lots of tracked excavators, graders, forklift trucks, tractors, steam-rollers, motorised scrappers, low loaders, prime movers, semi-trailers and even scaffolding. It is sometimes hard to figure out exactly what you are looking at, things are so intertwined. At the 15 metre range you will see more wreckage; Steering wheels, spare tires, Coke bottles and other items abound everywhere.
Photo labeled as: An upsidedown truck
Photo labeled as: A tracked crane just past the Jedele
Photo labeled as: An upsidedown bulldozer?
Photo labeled as: This rear axle of truck is very prominent
Photo labeled as: Another wheel

Thanks to Michael McFadyen for allowing us to repost his wonderful work researching Million $$$ point.

This site gained its name from the then value of the surplus World War II equipment dumped there by the departing US forces in late 1945 or early 1946.
Hundred Thousand Dollar Point
Elsewhere in the Pacific there are a number of similar dumps. In the Solomon Islands there are at least three more. One of these is a spot on the northern end of Tulagi Island in the Florida Islands group. Prior to the start of WWII, Tulagi was the colonial capital of the British Solomon Islands. The island is quite tiny, less than a kilometre across and not more than four or so long. There is only one road and that snakes its way around the outer edge of the island. Tulagi is separated from the main island of the group by a small channel. The channel is quite shallow on the north-east corner of the island but it then deepens as you head west to the open sea or south to Tulagi Harbour. 

At the end of the Second World War, a whole lot of equipment and supplies was dumped off the road just seaward of the shallow water (say about a kilometre at the most), just past the small village and petrol sale building visible from the sea and road. It has also been used as a rubbish dump since then as there are post-1970s items (beer cans for example). 

The site extends over about 200 metres along the shore and to a depth of about 30 to 35 metres. Things to be seen include at least six trucks or jeeps, including at least one 6 wheel drive truck, a number of very large engines, dozens of complete wheels and tyres, many wheel rims, many tyres, some pontoons, thousands of Coke bottles, aluminium (?) canisters with screw lids at both ends of unknown purpose, girders, trailers, at least one tip truck.  All in all, a very interesting dive after a deep dive on the USS Aaron Ward or USS Kanawha. 


MB/GPW Jeeps Ship Wrecked In World War Two 

The SS President Coolidge
The President Coolidge is often described as one of the greatest wreck dives in the world because it has such a wide variety of things to see.  It has all the fine furnishings and decor one would expect of a fine ocean liner - because it began life as a luxury passenger liner - yet at the same time the The President Coolidge has all the military hardware and equipment one would expect to see of a WWII combat vessel. The President Coolidge is such a large wreck, that many dives are needed to see the whole ship wreck in detail.
The SS President Coolidge was a luxury ocean liner that was originally built in 1931, along with her sister ship the SS President Hoover, for Dollar Steamship Lines. They were the largest merchant ships the US had built up to that time. In 1938, when the Dollar Steamship Lines collapsed, she was transferred to American President Lines. In 1941 she was converted to carrying troops in the South Pacific. 

Prior to World War II, she was operated by the American President Lines as a luxury liner providing trans-Pacific passage and commercial service. The Coolidge was aimed at holiday makers seeking sun in the Pacific and Far East. During her time as a luxury liner, she broke several speed records on her frequent trips to Japan from San Francisco. Passengers had a luxurious experience on the ship with spacious staterooms and lounges, private telephones, two saltwater swimming pools, a barber shop, beauty salon, gymnasium and soda fountain.

In March 1939, President Coolidge became the last ship to sight the custom-built Chinese junk Sea Dragon, built and sailed by American explorer Richard Halliburton, before she disappeared in a typhoon some 1,900 km west of the Midway Islands.[1]

In 1941, as war time activities increased, the US War Department began to use the President Coolidge for occasional voyages to Honolulu and Manila. She also helped evacuate Americans from Hong Kong when Japanese-British relations became strained in 1940. She was later called upon to assist in the evacuations of many people from Asia as the Japanese aggression increased. In June 1941, the Coolidge went into service with the American Army as a transport ship for reinforcing garrisons in the Pacific. A few months later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. After this, the Coolidge was stripped of her finery, painted haze gray, mounted with guns and turned into a troop ship. Many of the fixtures and fittings were removed or boarded up for protection. After full conversion in 1942, she could carry over 5,000 troops. As a troop carrier, she was never intended to see any action. In her first few months of service, her ports of call included Melbourne, Wellington, Auckland, Bora Bora, and Suva. On October 6, she set sail from her home port of San Francisco, California for New Caledonia and Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

A large military base and harbor had been established on Espiritu Santo and the harbor was heavily protected by mines. Information about safe entry into the harbor had been accidentally omitted from the Coolidge's sailing orders, and upon her approach to Santo on October 26, 1942, the SS Coolidge, fearing Japanese submarines and unaware of the mine fields, attempted to enter the harbor through the largest and most obvious channel. A mine struck the ship at the engine room and moments later, a second mine hit her near the stern.

Captain Henry Nelson, knowing that he was going to lose the ship, ran her aground and ordered troops to abandon ship. Not believing the ship would sink, troops were told to leave all of their belongings behind under the impression that they would conduct salvage operations over the next few days.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes, 5,340 men got safely off of the wreck and to shore. There was no panic as the troops disembarked - many even walked to shore. However, the captain's attempts to beach the ship were unsuccessful due to the coral reef. The Coolidge listed heavily on her side, sank, and slid down the slope into the channel. She now rests on her port side with her bow at a depth of 20 metres (70 ft) and her stern at 70 metres (240 ft).

There were 2 casualties in the sinking of the Coolidge: The first was Fireman Robert Reid, who was working in the engine room and was killed by the initial mine blast. The second, Captain Elwood J. Euart, US Army Field Artillery, had safely gotten off the Coolidge when he learned that there were still men in the infirmary who could not get out. He went back in to one of the sea doors, successfully rescued the men but was then unable to escape himself and he went down with the ship. A memorial to Captain Euart is located on the shore near the access points for the Coolidge.

Divers see a largely intact luxury cruise liner and a military ship at once. They can swim through numerous holds and decks (earthquakes have collapsed sections). There are WW2 guns, cannons, Jeeps, helmets, trucks and personal supplies, a beautiful statue of "The Lady" (a porcelain relief of a lady riding a unicorn) chandeliers, and a mosaic tile fountain. Coral grows around, with many creatures such as reef fish, barracuda, lionfish, sea turtles and moray eels.

Lying on her side in 70 240 ft (21-73m) of water, the SS Coolidge is perhaps the most accessible shipwreck of this size and type. The wreck is one of the most desirable dives due to relatively shallow site, easy beach access, visibility. The depths involved mean that, with care and decompression stops, recreational divers can explore large parts of the wreck without specialized equipment. The massive expanse of the wreck, combined with the gradual downward slope, means that care must be taken monitoring depth, as the diver's horizontal frame of reference may be skewed resulting in unaware continual gradual descent. from wikipedia


WWII Jeeps on the SS President Coolidge
SS President Coolidge - Hold One
It is crammed with equipment vital for the war effort, the loss of which must have severely affected the Americans' push into the Solomons. Today you can see the goods, six wheel drive trucks (10 wheels all up), jeeps and an upside-down tracked vehicle (a dozer?). These are just some of the things to see. 

On the right at the back of the hold there are seven jeeps stacked in twos. There is one by itself and the other six are stacked on top of each other (at least now). The wheels are not on the jeeps, they are stored inside the body. 

SS President Coolidge - Holds Two and Three
Straight away you will see a huge wheeled artillery gun and more six wheel drive trucks and jeeps. The gun may be one of four 155 mm guns modified in Noumea and loaded onto the Coolidge at the last stop. These were to be linked up with bases being built at Santo. See Joseph Ritz's memories on the Coolidge's last trip page. There is a tracked vehicle here. It is upside down and appears to be a bulldozer. At the back right of the hold there are some aircraft drop tanks... On the 4th level in, right side as you enter (towards stern), there are three field guns. Two of these have huge wheels and are medium sized and the other is a smaller gun but still quite large. I never saw these till October 2002, despite diving here dozens of times before! 
Photo labeled as: Some of the wheels at the front of Hold Two
Photo (incorrectly) labeled as: A Jeep in Hold Two (not a Jeep - Dodge, GMC?) 
SS President Coolidge - Holds Seven and Six
In good visibility, you will see the Stern Six Inch Gun right at the end of the ship and below the two three inch guns (the starboard gun lies on the sand). Outside and below there is what at first looks like a large grader on the sand. However, this is probably the carriage for a large artillery gun, probably a "Long Tom" which has fallen out of the hold. Inside Hold Seven (the rear hold) there are a number of six wheel drive trucks and artillery guns. These guns, like the one visible in Hold Two, may be one of four 155 mm guns modified in Noumea and loaded onto the Coolidge at her last stop. These were to be linked up with bases being built at Santo. See Joseph Ritz's memories on the Coolidge's last trip page. There also appears to be a large road grader in here. At the rear (especially the right side) there are thousands of rounds of ammunition all over the hold. These come from broken open wooden boxes
Photo labeled as: One of the ambulances in Hold 6
Photo labeled as: One of the small field guns in Hold 7
Photo labeled as: What appears to be a grader in Hold 7
Photo labeled as: The small artillery gun near the Pool and Soda Fountain
Photo labeled as: Thousands of rounds of bullets are in the back of Hold 7
SS President Coolidge - Bow and Sand Below Holds
There used to be a pistol (maybe it is still there hidden), a typewriter, a large number of fire extinguishers, some Jeep steering wheels, a huge spare anchor that fell off the deck and further out a lot of aluminium aircraft drop tanks. From here you pass the masts and crane arms, which all point down to the sand. 
Photo (incorrectly) labeled as: Some of the Jeep steering wheels at the bow (not from a Jeep - Dodge, GMC?) 
SS President Coolidge - Dive to Stern
In front is the docking bridge and then the rear hold (Hold 7), containing more artillery guns, four-wheel drive trucks, jeeps and huge amounts of ammunition. Below the hold on the sand is what looks like a trailer of some sorts. I am not real clear on what it is as it is quite small and not like a normal type of trailer, however from a description of a gun in Hold 2 given by Peter Stone in his book The Lady and the President, it may be a Long Tom gun carriage. 
SS President Coolidge - Soda Fountain
The Soda Fountain was located under the Swimming Pool and now it is at the same depth. You can enter through one of the windows (at bottom or top). Here you will see a small wheeled artillery gun. This is upsidedown. It may be the one that was used for practise gunnery on the ship's voyage across the Pacific. From the artillery gun, turn right and go up a level and enter through the largest window. You will see the bar with spots for ice cream containers and the soda taps. On the bottom (actually the port wall) there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Coca Cola bottles (did you know that during the War, Coca Cola promised to supply American troops with a bottle of Coke for five cents, no matter where they were and what it might actually cost to produce and ship to them). 
Photo labeled as: The small artillery gun near the Pool and Soda Fountain
SS President Coolidge - Promenade Deck
As you swim along the deck, there are lots of things to see, helmets, water bottles, gas masks, rifles, bullets, Thompson sub-machine guns, plates, cups, cooking utensils, morphine and cat gut phials (these used to be there but have now disappeared) and many more pieces of equipment. 
SS President Coolidge - Hold Four - Medical Supplies, Bullets, Drop Tanks
Bullets, heavy calibre shells, plates, cups, teapots, cooking utensils, phones and other items. As indicated, this hold is called the Medical Supplies hold and was a large amount of medical supplies and equipment being carried here. 
SS President Coolidge - Salvage Works
After working in the Solomons (on the Honiara wrecks) and New Guinea, May came back to Santo in 1971 and returned to the Coolidge. During this work 50 tons of field gun shells and rifle rounds were removed. Most came from hold three and after removing the explosive, the casings were sent to Australia. They also removed wheels and tyres and sold them to locals. The wheels were useless, sometimes falling apart as soon as they were used, but the tyres were still okay. Rifles from the holds were also taken to the surface but they were corroded. Barry May and his crew entered the engine room but finding a almost four metres of oil in there, they decided not to open it up. The price being paid for used metal dropped around this time so they decided to stop the salvage work and left Santo. 
SS President Coolidge - Dive Index
Ahead you see winches and huge guns, then a mast and its cranes. Amazing! It is a breathtaking sight that confronts you. Ahead is the enormous bridge, stretching all the way to the bottom at more than 40 metres. To your right runs a jumble of huge masts and above you there is a huge gun emplacement and below you, yet another gun. The masts themselves disappear out of sight, angled down towards the sand. This is really a lot bigger than you imagined. Your first dive on the wreck has vastly changed your views on what to expect. This is the SS President Coolidge, the largest easily accessible shipwreck in the world.
SS President Coolidge - Main Index
History Page: The History of the Dollar Steamship Line, the American Steamship Lines, the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co .
The Ship: Details of the ship (size, engines, layout etc) 
The History of the Ship: Details of the history of the ship till its fatal journey 
Crossing the Pacific: Details of the last crossing of the Pacific from San Francisco to Noumea 
The Sinking: Details of the trip from Noumea to Vanuatu and the sinking 
Some Photographs of the Sinking: Includes some rarer phtographs 
Minute by Minute Account of Sinking: Log Book written by Lt Craig Hosmer - specifically 26 October 1942 
First Hand Memories of Sinking: Memories of the sinking by people who were there 
Coolidge Heroes: Details of awards given to some people involved in rescues and attempted rescues during sinking 
The Salvage Work: Details of the various salvage attempts carried out from 1942 to the mid-1970s 
Investigation into the Sinking: The investigation of the sinking and the three inquiries (courts or commissions) held after the sinking. This page leads to other related pages 
Diagram of the Wreck: An Interactive diagram of the ship as it is now 
Dives on the Wreck: Descriptions of many dives on the Coolidge 
The Fall of The Lady: The Lady has now fallen from the wall of the Smoking Lounge and is in the process of being salvaged. 
Thanks to Michael McFadyen for allowing us to repost his wonderful & extensive work researching the SS Pres. Coolidge.


The USS John Penn

USS John Penn 
On one trip (1943?) to Noumea in New Caledonia (perhaps the first and only one), a new jeep was collected at the Army Base by E. Wallace Haynes, MoMM First Class. He brought it back to the John Penn and it was loaded aboard. On board the ship was a Commodore, perhaps by the name of Anderson. This jeep was for his use. When the John Penn was in New Zealand collecting suppliers, Mr Haynes drove Commodore Anderson around in the jeep
When I dived it in 1995 I found a Jeep on the sand nearby, also previously unknown. If you go out from the bridge, (which collapsed late in 95), the Jeep is sitting upright about twenty metres from the wreck. I don't know if the bridge has collapsed onto the aircraft remains which consisted of the entire tail section from about three feet forward of the vertical stabiliser, and an oleo strut (wheel leg). The jeep was obviously the one collected by Mr Haynes in Noumea and used in New Zealand. 


The Toa Maru No 2

Toa Maru No 2 (Japanese)
This is a very good wreck, the equal of many of the Chuuk Lagoon shipwrecks. There are numerous items to see, including tanks, trucks, jeeps and other artefacts

On 31 January 1943 the Toa Maru was carrying equipment and supplies to Kolombangara again. Her destination was Vila Harbour (also called Disappointment Cove) on the south-eastern corner of the island where there was a Japanese supply base. The ship was spotted by coastwatchers (mostly Australian and British men stuck there when the war started) leaving Rabaul on New Ireland in Papua New Guinea a few days earlier. On 31 January 1943, 12 Douglas TBF Dauntless torpedo bombers from the Marine Scout/Torpedo Bomber Squadron VMSTB -142, as well as perhaps some Douglas SBD 5 Dauntless dive bombers (not sure how many), left Henderson Airfield on Guadalcanal to the south with the aim of attacking shipping in Vella Gulf. They were escorted by eight Grumman F4F-4 Wildcats from Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-112 (it was not necessarily mentioned in reports that the aim was to find and destroy the Toa Maru). The dive bombers had hit the Toa Maru. The wreck today has two bomb holes in the bow. The first is a large hole in the hull on the port side in Hold One and the second is a smaller hole between the Chain Locker and Hold One, also on the port side. It is also reported that the rear holds was hit, probably by the fighters. The Toa Maru sank sometime after on the northern side of Sepo Kokiti Island which is located about seven kilometres to the north of Gizo township. 

Between Holds One and Two is a mast. This is still in place and extends right out over the sand. Behind the mast is the hold. The most obvious thing you will see here is a two man tank. This is sitting upside down on the side of the hold's entrance. The turret is easily seen as is the small gun barrel that extrudes from it. Behind the tank there is another track. Whether this was a spare or from another tank buried under debris I do not know. In the hold there are thousands of beer bottles, steel girders and some ammunition. What we noticed most were timber packs containing four mortar bombs. There are hundreds of these.

Outside you will notice some very interesting things between the holds and on the sand under the opening to Hold Three. There is a large kingpost (the H shaped part of a ship) and above the uppermost support there is an object that Danny Kennedy of Adventure Sports dive shop at Gizo says is a motorcycle. He said that it originally had a side car. Nowadays it does not resemble a bike at all (apart from the seat perhaps). There are other objects here that appear to me to be parts of a largish field gun. I say this after my three trips to Chuuk Lagoon where I saw a lot of this on wrecks. To me, the "bike" looks like the parts of a gun where the crew sit and adjust the gun. However, Danny assures me that in the mid-1980s when he moved to Gizo it definitely looked like a bike. Despite this, I am confident that the other bits here are a gun. Why? Because on the hull above here there are at least two (or maybe three) large barrels and trigger assemblies, a gun mount and other parts of field guns. It is likely that the salvage attempts moved these here to get at other items in the holds or perhaps they had some intentions to later salvage them. 

Hold Three is mostly empty but just outside the hold there is a large truck. At the back of the upper level of this hold there are some lanterns. They look very nice when you put a torch inside them. In Holds Two and Three, Danny's dive guides have hidden away a lot of artefacts that they pull out to show you. Some of the things include large ampoules, bottles of pills and other items. There are also plates, cups, thermos flask and other items on display on the holds' edges. A level down is the communications area. There is a typewriter, telephone and radio equipment here. Further back there is the galley, with a stove, pots and other kitchen equipment. I seem to recall that in the bridge our guide also showed us a glass jar full of condoms!! Somewhere we also saw a pile of Japanese newspapers. 

Below the entrance to the Hold Four there are at least two trucks lying on the sand, covered with seagrass or kelp. Behind here is the rear H shaped kingpost. Coming out of Hold Five you will see a jeep to the rear under the rear mast. Hold Six contains hundreds of 44 gallon drums. Just outside the entrance to this hold there is a small fuel tanker, lying on its left side with the engine towards the wreck. The tank cylinder has rusted a fair bit and most of it has gone. 



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