The Info List - Battle Of Wake Island

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449 USMC personnel consisting of:

399 infantry of the 1st Defense Battalion 50 det. VMF-211

6 coastal artillery pieces 12 aircraft 12 anti-aircraft guns 68 U.S. Navy personnel 5 U.S. Army personnel

Casualties and losses

First attempt: 2 destroyers sunk 325 sailors killed Second attempt: 2 transports sunk 2 patrol boats wrecked 7–8 aircraft shot down 20 aircraft damaged[Note 1] ~320 killed ~333 wounded 52 killed 49 wounded 2 missing 12 aircraft lost[3] 433 captured[4]

70 civilians killed 1,104 civilians interned, of whom 180 died in captivity[2]

v t e

Japanese offensives, 1940–1942

French Indochina Thailand Malaya Borneo Pearl Harbor Hong Kong Philippines Guam Wake Dutch East Indies New Guinea Singapore Burma Australia Indian Ocean Solomons Coral Sea North America

The Battle of Wake Island
Wake Island
began simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor naval/air bases in Hawaii
and ended on 23 December 1941, with the surrender of the American forces to the Empire of Japan. It was fought on and around the atoll formed by Wake Island
Wake Island
and its minor islets of Peale and Wilkes Islands by the air, land, and naval forces of the Japanese Empire against those of the United States, with marines playing a prominent role on both sides. The island was held by the Japanese for the duration of the Pacific War theater of World War II; the remaining Japanese garrison on the island surrendered to a detachment of United States
United States
Marines on 4 September 1945, after the earlier surrender on the battleship U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay
Tokyo Bay
to General Douglas MacArthur.[5]


1 Prelude 2 First landing attempt

2.1 Aborted USN relief attempt

3 Second assault 4 Japanese occupation

4.1 War crimes

5 Escape 6 Order of battle

6.1 American forces

7 Gallery 8 Notes 9 References 10 Further reading 11 External links

Prelude[edit] In January 1941, the United States
United States
Navy constructed a military base on the atoll. On 19 August, the first permanent military garrison, understrength elements of the 1st Marine Defense Battalion,[6] totaling 450 officers and men,[7] were stationed on the island, under Major James P.S. Devereux, USMC of Baltimore. The defense battalion was supplemented by Marine Corps fighter plane squadron VMF-211, consisting of 12 F4F-3 Wildcat fighters, commanded by marine aviator Major Paul A. Putnam, USMC. Also, present on the island were 68 U.S. Navy personnel and about 1,221 civilian workers for the Morrison-Knudsen
Civil Engineering Company. Forty-five Chamorro men (native Micronesians from the Mariana Islands
Mariana Islands
and Guam) were employed by Pan American Airways at the company's facilities on Wake Island, one of the stops on the Pan Am Clipper
Pan Am Clipper
trans-Pacific amphibious air service initiated in 1935.

5"/51 caliber gun
5"/51 caliber gun
on Texas 1914.

3"/50 caliber gun
3"/50 caliber gun
aboard Slater

The Marines were armed with six 5-inch (130 mm)/51 cal pieces, originating from the old battleship USS Texas; twelve 3 in (76 mm)/50 cal anti-aircraft guns (with only a single working anti-aircraft director among them); eighteen .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning heavy machine guns; and thirty .30 in (7.62 mm) heavy, medium and light water- and air-cooled machine guns. On 28 November, naval aviator Commander Winfield S. Cunningham, USN reported to Wake to assume overall command of U.S. forces on the island. He had 10 days to examine the defenses and assess his men before war broke out. On 8 December, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor (Wake being on the opposite side of the International Date Line), 36 Japanese Mitsubishi G3M3 medium bombers flown from bases on the Marshall Islands attacked Wake Island, destroying eight of the 12 F4F-3 Wildcats on the ground.[8] The remaining four Wildcats were in the air patrolling, but because of poor visibility, failed to see the attacking Japanese bombers. These Wildcats shot down two bombers on the following day.[9] All of the Marine garrison's defensive emplacements were left intact by the raid, which primarily targeted the aircraft. Of the 55 Marine aviation personnel, 23 were killed and 11 were wounded. Following this attack, the Pan Am employees were evacuated, along with the passengers of the "Philippine Clipper", a passing Martin 130 amphibious flying boat that had survived the attack unscathed. The Chamorro working men were not allowed to board the plane and were left behind.[10] Two more air raids followed. The main camp was targeted on 9 December, destroying the civilian hospital and the Pan Am air facility. The next day, enemy bombers focused on outlying Wilkes Island. Following the raid on 9 December, the guns had been relocated in case the Japanese had photographed the positions. Wooden replicas were erected in their place, and the Japanese bombers attacked the decoy positions. A lucky strike on a civilian dynamite supply set off a chain reaction and destroyed the munitions for the guns on Wilkes.[10] First landing attempt[edit] Early on the morning of 11 December, the garrison, with the support of the four remaining Wildcats, repelled the first Japanese landing attempt by the South Seas Force, which included the light cruisers Yubari, Tenryū, and Tatsuta; the destroyers Yayoi, Mutsuki, Kisaragi, Hayate, Oite, and Asanagi; two Momi-class destroyers converted to patrol boats (Patrol Boat No. 32 and Patrol Boat No. 33), and two troop transport ships containing 450 Special
Naval Landing Force troops. The US Marines fired at the invasion fleet with their six 5-inch (127 mm) coast-defense guns. Major Devereux, the Marine commander under Cunningham, ordered the gunners to hold their fire until the enemy moved within range of the coastal defenses. "Battery L", on Peale islet, sank Hayate at a distance of 4,000 yd (3,700 m) with at least two direct hits to her magazines, causing her to explode and sink within two minutes, in full view of the defenders on shore. Yubari's superstructure was hit 11 times. The four Wildcats also succeeded in sinking the destroyer Kisaragi by dropping a bomb on her stern where the depth charges were stored. Both Japanese destroyers were lost with nearly all hands (there was only one survivor, from Hayate), with Hayate becoming the first Japanese surface warship to be sunk in the war. Kisaragi and Hayate sank with 325 Japanese sailors. The Japanese force withdrew without landing. This was the first Japanese setback of the war against the Americans. After the initial raid was fought off, American news media reported that, when queried about reinforcement and resupply, Commander Cunningham was reported to have quipped, "Send us more Japs!" In fact, Cunningham sent a long list of critical equipment—including gunsights, spare parts, and fire-control radar—to his immediate superior: Commandant, 14th Naval District.[11] But the siege and frequent Japanese air attacks on the Wake garrison continued, without resupply for the Americans. The initial resistance offered by the garrison prompted the Japanese Navy to detach the aircraft carriers Sōryū and Hiryū from the force that had attacked Pearl Harbor to support the second landing attempt. Aborted USN relief attempt[edit]

VMA-211 Insignia.

The projected US relief attempt by Admiral Frank Fletcher's Task Force 11 (TF 11), supported by Admiral Wilson Brown’s TF 14, consisted of the fleet carrier Saratoga, the fleet oiler Neches, the seaplane tender Tangier, the heavy cruisers Astoria, Minneapolis, and San Francisco, and 10 destroyers. The convoy carried the 4th Marine Defense Battalion and fighter squadron VMF-221, equipped with Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo fighters, along with 9,000 5-inch rounds, 12,000 3-inch (76 mm) rounds, and 3,000,000 .50-inch (12.7 mm) rounds, as well as a large amount of ammunition for mortars and other battalion small arms. TF 14—with the fleet carrier Lexington, three heavy cruisers, eight destroyers, and an oiler—was to undertake a raid on the Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
to divert Japanese attention. At 21:00 on 22 December, after receiving information indicating the presence of two IJN carriers and two fast battleships (which were actually heavy cruisers) near Wake Island, Vice Admiral
Vice Admiral
William S. Pye—the Acting Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet—ordered TF 11 to return to Pearl Harbor.[12] Second assault[edit]

Wreckage of Wildcat 211-F-11, flown by Captain Henry T. Elrod
Henry T. Elrod
on December 11 in the attack that sank the Japanese destroyer Kisaragi.

Japanese Patrol Boat No.32 (left) and Patrol Boat No.33

The second Japanese invasion force came on 23 December, composed mostly of the ships from the first attempt with the major reinforcements of the carriers Hiryū and Sōryū, plus 1,500 Japanese marines. The landings began at 02:35; after a preliminary bombardment, the ex-destroyers Patrol Boat No. 32 and Patrol Boat No. 33 were beached and burned in their attempts to land the invasion force. After a full night and morning of fighting, the Wake garrison surrendered to the Japanese by mid-afternoon. The US Marines lost 49 killed, two missing, and 49 wounded during the 15-day siege, while three US Navy personnel and at least 70 US civilians were killed, including 10 Chamorros, and 12 civilians wounded. 433 US personnel were captured. USMC History estimates that 125 Japanese were killed in ground combat with another 125 wounded. It also estimates 92 killed and 195 wounded from damaged ships.[13] At least 28 land-based and carrier aircraft were also either shot down or damaged. The Japanese captured all men remaining on the island, the majority of whom were civilian contractors employed by the Morrison-Knudsen
Company.[14] Captain Henry T. Elrod, one of the pilots from VMF-211, was awarded the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
posthumously for his action on the island during the second landing attempt, having shot down two Japanese A6M2 Zeros and sunk the Japanese destroyer Kisaragi. A special military decoration, the Wake Island
Wake Island
Device, affixed to either the Navy Expeditionary Medal or the Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal, was created to honor those who had fought in the defense of the island. Japanese occupation[edit]

Attack by Yorktown planes in October 1943

Fearing an imminent invasion, the Japanese reinforced Wake Island
Wake Island
with more formidable defenses. The American captives were ordered to build a series of bunkers and fortifications on Wake. The Japanese brought in an 8-inch (200 mm) naval gun which is often incorrectly[15] reported as having been captured in Singapore. The U.S. Navy established a submarine blockade instead of an amphibious invasion of Wake Island. As a result, the Japanese garrison starved, which led to their hunting the Wake Island
Wake Island
Rail, an endemic bird, to extinction. On 24 February 1942, aircraft from the carrier Enterprise attacked the Japanese garrison on Wake Island. U.S. forces bombed the island periodically from 1942 until Japan’s surrender in 1945. On 24 July 1943, Consolidated B-24 Liberators led by Lieutenant Jesse Stay of the 42nd Squadron (11th Bombardment Group) of the U.S. Army Air Forces, in transit from Midway Island, struck the Japanese garrison on Wake Island. At least two men from that raid were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses for their efforts.[16] Future President George H. W. Bush also flew his first combat mission as a naval aviator over Wake Island. After this, Wake was occasionally raided but never attacked en masse. War crimes[edit]

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See also: Japanese war crimes

The 98 rock

On 5 October 1943, American naval aircraft from Lexington raided Wake. Two days later, fearing an imminent invasion, Japanese Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara
Shigematsu Sakaibara
ordered the execution of the 98 captive American civilian workers who had initially been kept to perform forced labor. They were taken to the northern end of the island, blindfolded and executed with a machine gun. One of the prisoners (whose name has never been discovered) escaped, apparently returning to the site to carve the message "98 US PW 5-10-43" on a large coral rock near where the victims had been hastily buried in a mass grave. The unknown American was recaptured, and Sakaibara personally beheaded him with a katana. The inscription on the rock can still be seen and is a Wake Island landmark. On 4 September 1945, the remaining Japanese garrison surrendered to a detachment of US Marines. The handover of Wake was officially conducted in a brief ceremony aboard the destroyer escort Levy. After the war, Sakaibara and his subordinate, a lieutenant commander, were sentenced to death for the massacre of the 98 and for other war crimes. Several Japanese officers in American custody had committed suicide over the incident, leaving written statements that incriminated Sakaibara. Sakaibara was hanged on 18 June 1947. Eventually, the subordinate's sentence was commuted to life in prison. The murdered civilian POWs were reburied after the war in Honolulu's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known as Punchbowl Crater. Escape[edit] William L. Taylor, like many of the Wake Island
Wake Island
POWs, was relocated to China
for forced labor for the Japanese army. In 1945, he was traveling on a Japanese train as part of a work detail from Shanghai when he escaped with Jack Hernandez by jumping off the train when Japanese guards were not looking.[citation needed] Hernandez broke his leg and was forced to remain behind, as Taylor continued his journey. Down the line, Taylor met up with Chinese communist soldiers who he quoted as saying, "You're OK now, we are friends with the Americans." After 10 weeks of traveling with the Chinese communists in northern China, he was able to contact American military forces, who called for a plane to pick him up and take him to an American base in northern China. Before he left China, he met Mao Zedong, who gave him a gift of Chinese rugs and told him he was the only POW who had successfully come through north China.[citation needed] In an interview with the History Channel during the episode "Wake Island: The Alamo of the Pacific", he said that Mao saved his life.[citation needed] Order of battle[edit] American forces[edit]


Commandant, 14th Naval District

Island Commander, Wake. Winfield S. Cunningham

   1st Defense Battalion
1st Defense Battalion
Detachment, Wake – Major James P.S. Devreaux

Unit Commander Remarks

5-inch Artillery Group Maj. George H. Potter

3-inch Artillery Group Capt. Bryght D. Godbold

Independent batteries

(Marine Corps Fighter Squadron) Maj. Paul A. Putnam Equipped with 12 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighters

1st Defense Battalion Maj. James Devereux Understrength - total 450 officers and men

A memorial to the Wake Island
Wake Island
defenders stands near the command post of Major Devereux


Admiral Kajioka’s flagship, the cruiser Yubari

Japanese destroyer Hayate, sunk at Wake

Japanese destroyer Kisaragi, sunk at Wake

Japanese artillery on Wake

Wake Island
Wake Island
attacked in 1943

The formal surrender of the Japanese garrison on Wake Island
Wake Island
on 4 September 1945. Shigematsu Sakaibara
Shigematsu Sakaibara
is the officer in the right foreground.

Sakaibara signing the surrender of Wake Island
Wake Island
aboard USS Levy on 4 September 1945.

A memorial to the American civilian POWs


^ USMC History estimates 21 aircraft shot down and 51 aircraft damaged by flak.[2]

^ Naval and air personnel not included. ^ a b "The Defense of Wake". Ibiblio.org/.  ^ Martin Gilbert, the Second World War (1989) pg 282 ^ 20 later died in captivity ^ "War in the Pacific NHP: Liberation - Guam
Remembers". nps.gov. Archived from the original on 2012-12-17. Retrieved 2014-09-13.  ^ 1st Marine Defense Battalion Archived August 25, 2005, at the Wayback Machine. ^ Only 449 marines were on hand for the battles at Wake Island
Wake Island
because one officer [Major Walter Baylor], USMC had been ordered to leave on 20 December with official reports. ^ Urwin, Gregory. "Battle of Wake Island". Encyclopædia Britannica.  ^ "Battle of Wake Island, 8-23 December 1941". historyofwar.org. Retrieved 2014-09-13.  ^ a b Cunningham, W. Scott (1961). Wake Island
Wake Island
Command. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.  ^ Robert J. Cressman, A Magnificent Fight: Marines in the Defense of Wake Island, World War II
World War II
Commemorative Series, ed. Benis M. Frank (Marine Corps Historical Center: Washington, D.C.:1998). Electronic version - accessed 6-10-2006 ^ Lundstrom, John B. The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1990. ISBN 1-59114-471-X. ^ The Defense of Wake: Appendix III ^ A MAGNIFICENT FIGHT: Marines in the Battle for Wake Island
Wake Island
Archived May 12, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. ^ "Dirk H.R. Spennemann, 8-inch Coastal Defense Guns". marshall.csu.edu.au. Retrieved 2014-09-13.  ^ Scearce, Phil; "Finish Forty and Home", pgs 113-114.

References[edit] See also: Bibliography of Wake Island

Burton. Fortnight of Infamy: The Collapse of Allied Airpower West of Pearl Harbor. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-096-X.  Devereaux, Colonel James P.S., USMC (1947). The Story of Wake Island. The Battery Press. ISBN 0-89839-264-0. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) Sloan, Bill. Given up for Dead: America's Heroic Stand at Wake Island. Bantam Books, 2003. ISBN 0-553-80302-6 Uwrin, Gregory J.W. (1997). Facing Fearful Odds: The Siege of Wake Island. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-9562-6. 

Further reading[edit]

Moran, Jim (2011). Wake Island
Wake Island
1941; A battle to make the gods weep. Osprey Campaign Series #144; Osprey Publishing. Illustrator: Peter Dennis. ISBN 978-1-84908-603-5 Urwin, Gregory J. W. Victory in Defeat: The Wake Island
Wake Island
Defenders in Captivity, 1941–1945, (2010) Naval Institute Press, ISBN 978-1-59114-899-9

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(1942) on IMDb Wake Island: Alamo of the Pacific (2003) on IMDb Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2000–2005). "To Hell and Back: Wake During and After World War II". Digital Micronesia. Charles Sturt University. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 

Coordinates: 19°17′24″N 166°36′04″E / 19.2900°N 166.6010°E /