|Wake Island (also known as Wake Atoll) is a coral atoll (having a coastline of 19.3 kilometers) in the North Pacific Ocean, located about two-thirds of the way from Honolulu (2,300 statute miles or 3,700 km west) to Guam (1,510 miles or 2,430 km east). |
On December 8, 1941 the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor (Wake being on the opposite side of the International Date Line), 16 Japanese medium bombers flown from bases on the Marshall Islands attacked Wake Island.
Early on the morning of December 11, the garrison, with the support of the four remaining Wildcats, repulsed the first Japanese landing attempt by the South Seas Force. This marked the first time in World War 2 where an amphibious assault was repelled by coastal guns.
The second Japanese invasion force, on December 23, composed most of the same ships from the first attempt with some new additions, plus 1,500 Japanese marines. The landings began at 02:35 hours where, after a preliminary bombardment, the destroyer transports P-32 and P-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. By the end of the war, all the U.S marines captured by the Japanese were killed, but one unnamed POW escaped the massacre, and wrote down 98 US PW 5-10-43 on a large coral rock nearby the massacre place. After a few weeks, he was captured and beheaded by a sword.
On September 4, 1945, the remaining Japanese garrison surrendered to a detachment of the United States Marine Corps. In a brief ceremony, the handover of Wake was officially conducted.
Today, it is a small Army/Navy base closed to the public, although it is an emergency trans-pacific landing facility.