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    Wake Island United States Minor Outlying Islands United States
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USN January 2, 1942

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USN February 24, 1942

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Kirby Crawford 1967

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USN 2000
Location
Wake Island is the largest island in Wake Atoll surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Peacock Point is located on the southeast corner. Borders the lagoon to the northwest. The northern tip borders Peale Island and the western tip borders Wilkes Island. In 1899 the United States took possession of Wake Atoll. Today Wake Island is unorganized, unincorporated territory and is considered part of the United States Minor Outlying Islands of the United States of America (USA).

Prewar
A causeway connected the northwest tip of Wake Island to the southeast tip of Peale Island. Another causeway connected the southwest tip of Wake Island to the southeast of Wilkes Island. Before the start of the Pacific War, Wake Island was developed with defenses in anticipation of a Japanese attack. Contractors Morrison-Knudsen Company, one of of eight construction companies that formed the Contractors Pacific Naval Air Bases (CPNB) built Wake Island Airfield. Defended by U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) personnel from the 1st Defense Battalion.

Wartime History
On December 8, 1941 after the Japanese attack against Hawaii, Japanese G3M2 Nell bombers from the Chitose Kokutai bombed Wake Island. Meanwhile a Japanese invasion force departed Kwajalien arriving off Wake on December 11, 1942 and the Japanese attempted a landing but were repulsed with the loss of Kisaragi and Hayate and damage to Yayoi and the landing was aborted.

On December 23, 1941 during the early morning, the second Japanese invasion force arrives off Wake and Special Naval Landing Force (SNLF) troops make an amphibious landing. After a short battle, the U.S. forces surrender with 1,603 Americans becoming Prisoners Of War (POWs). Among them were 1,150 civilian contractors employed by Morrison-Knudsen Company / Contractors Pacific Naval Air Bases (CPNB).

Japanese missions against Wake Island
December 8, 1941–December 23, 1941

During the Japanese occupation, Wake Island was renamed "Otorishima". On June 26, 1943, the first American bombing mission against Wake was flown by four B-24. USS Yorktown aircraft attacked on October 5, 1943. After these air raids, Japanese commander Admiral Sakaibara saw these air raids as an indication that an invasion was imminent. He ordered the execution of the 98 American prisoners "to eliminate any threat they might pose". For the remainder of the Pacific War, U.S. aircraft bombed Wake Island.

American missions against Wake Island
February 14, 1942–August 6, 1945

During Sepptember 1945, after the official surrender of occupied by U.S. forces.

Today
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) maintained a station on Wake Island. During July 1969, Japanese chemical weapons in canisters began leaking a poison gas, reportedly chloropicrin that resulted in several USCG personnel to be evacuated.

Wake Island Airfield
Runs the length of the island, built by civilian contractors. Occupied by the Japanese until the end of the war.

"98" Rock
The "98 rock", a large piece of coral standing in the lagoon inscribed "98/U.S./P.W/5-10-43", a message carved by one of the 98 POW's later executed on Wake Island.

Command Posts and Fortifications
Other significant remains include USMC command post and hospital bunkers, and the Japanese command post bunker. Numerous Japanese pillboxes, fighting positions, tank traps and aircraft revetments remain on the island.

References
History of the Fifth Bomb Group: The Story of 5th Bombardment Group (Heavy) (1946) page 34
"Wake Island... On or about June 7 [1942] Colonel Waldron and crew of the 394th Squadron took part in a strike against Jap-held Wake Island. On this mission three enlisted men [Moeller, Scheid and Wagner] of the 394th were lost when they went down with General Clarence Tinker [aboard LB-30 Liberator AL589].
Another mission was performed by the Commanding Officer of the 31st Squadron Major George E. Gober. Major Gober and his crew flew almost halfway to Japan in making a photo reconnaissance of Wake Island. This single B-17 completely surprised the Japs, making to runs over the island before being attacked by six enemy fighters. In 40 minutes of a running fight four fo the Zero were shot down by the lone Fortress and one of the Zeros was probably destroyed. The B-7 [sic B-17] and its crew received slight damage only, and returned safely to the home base [Midway Airfield]. This reconnaissance produced the first picture of Wake Island made since the Pearl Harbor attack."
New York Times "A Mysterious Irritant Forced Evacuation of Island in Pacific" July 4, 1969
"In July of 1969 'Japanese WWII' canisters began leaking gas, reportedly containing chloropicrin. Several members of the US Coast Guard station there were sickened by the gas and the area was evacuated."
YouTube - Wake Island driving/walking tour (October 2015)

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Last Updated
December 9, 2021

 

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