The Imperial Japanese Navy operated two all-weather, heated, lit runways on Matsuwa Island in the Kuril island chain.

Matua Island

This island is littered with German fuel drums manufactured in 1943. It also has a 200W transformer on the Island which was manufactured in Opole Silesia, 1939, which was a part of Germany.

For the sake of clarity allow me to mention Evgeniy ("Eugene") Vereshchaga has led many investigative expeditions to the island. He takes tours there every year to view the many WW2 Japanese tanks and guns on the island.

According to Eugene's many blogs on the island (in Russian), there is a Soviet era fuel dump on the island, but all the drums from that fuel dump are tightly packed together and are not dispersed amongst the German fuel drums which are scattered randomly.

The runways had hot geothermal water ducted under them to keep them ice free year around. The heat of the island's Sarachev Volcano keeps the island unusually fog free too. In addition during WW2 the IJN kept the runways lit for night operations.

Access to the island from the sea is impeded by an escarpment with only one narrow concreted landing. Whilst some have suggested the German fuel drums arrived there because of the Soviets, none of the Soviet era airstrips at Sakhalin or other Kurile Islands have German fuel drums. It is something unique to this one island.

Matua Airstrip

I can find no record of German vessels in that area during 1943, or 1944.Please can anybody explain how they got there and provide a source to their explanation?

1943 drum


  • 7
    How do you know they were deposited there in 1943? The Soviets might have done this after the war.
    – sds
    Jun 20, 2014 at 15:25
  • 1
    Then provide your evidence in a proper post with sources.
    – user2357
    Jun 21, 2014 at 6:46
  • 2
    Note that any answer will involve speculation, but one place to start looking would be exchanges that took place after the 1943 "Treaty on Economic Cooperation". A couple of successful exchanges were made via submarine runs, which required refueling. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Comintern
    Jun 22, 2014 at 19:34

1 Answer 1


The actual explanation is two fold:

The island has some German fuel drums. German fuel drums from this time period were galvanized steel and thus have not yet rusted away. The island is not "littered" with them. There is just a small quantity of German fuel drums discarded.

There is more information on the drums here:


They were stamped for the service they were intended for, in this case the "Wehrmacht" or German Army. Had the Luftwaffe or Kriegsmarine been supplying this base the fuel drums would be stamped for them.

The Soviet's occupied the island. The drums are stamped 1943. They would have been captured by the Soviet's on the eastern front from the Wehrmacht. They were used throughout the war by the Soviet crews and eventually carried to the island. When you can't get the things you need, you improvise. In this case with captured fuel drums. It's entirely possible that the drums were actually used to hold something other than fuel.

But the German 200 L drums are not likely to fit into a Soviet post World War II supply chain. The dimensions were probably odd compared to the Soviet ones and the capacity probably did not line up. After World War II ended, things like fuel drums were no longer in short supply. The Soviet crews just discarded the drums wherever once empty. Any actual Soviet drums would have been reused.

Of course the exact answer is likely lost to history. But perhaps somewhere in Russia there is an elderly Red Army veteran sitting in his apartment. When he arrived on his first assignment to Matua island, he too was curious about the German barrels and asked the Soviet crews there. Maybe he got an answer from them, or maybe his curiosity was simply dismissed.

  • 6
    Barrels stamped "Wehrmacht" do not preclude use by the Kriegsmarine or Luftwaffe. The Wehrmacht was the armed forces of Germany. That includes the Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, and Heer. The Heer is the German army (ground forces). The Wehrmacht is distinct from the Schutzstaffel (SS), the military arm of the Nazi party.
    – Schwern
    Jul 12, 2017 at 16:21

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