Wake Island
Wake Island is a coral atoll having a coastline of 12 miles (19.3 km) in the North Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

, located about two-thirds of the way from Honolulu 2300 smi west to Guam
Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is one of five U.S. territories with an established civilian government. Guam is listed as one of 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories by the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United...

 1510 smi east. It is an unorganized
Unorganized territory
An unorganized territory is a region of land without a "normally" constituted system of government. This does not mean that the territory has no government at all or that it is unclaimed territory...

, unincorporated territory of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, administered by the Office of Insular Affairs
Office of Insular Affairs
The Office of Insular Affairs is a unit of the United States Department of the Interior that oversees federal administration of several United States possessions...

, U.S. Department of the Interior
United States Department of the Interior
The United States Department of the Interior is the United States federal executive department of the U.S. government responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native...

. Access to the island is restricted, and all activities on the island are managed by the United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

. There is also a missile facility operated by the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

. The largest island, Wake Island, is the center of activity on the atoll
An atoll is a coral island that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.- Usage :The word atoll comes from the Dhivehi word atholhu OED...

 and has a runway of 9800 feet (2,987 m).

On January 6, 2009, President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 included the atoll as a part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. For statistical
Statistics is the study of the collection, organization, analysis, and interpretation of data. It deals with all aspects of this, including the planning of data collection in terms of the design of surveys and experiments....

 purposes, Wake is grouped as one of the United States Minor Outlying Islands
United States Minor Outlying Islands
The United States Minor Outlying Islands, a statistical designation defined by the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 3166-1 code, consists of nine United States insular areas in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea: Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll,...



Wake is located to the west of the International Date Line
International Date Line
The International Date Line is a generally north-south imaginary line on the surface of the Earth, passing through the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that designates the place where each calendar day begins...

 and sits in the Wake Island Time Zone
Wake Island Time Zone
The Wake Island Time Zone observes standard time by adding twelve hours to Coordinated Universal Time . The clock time in this zone is based on the mean solar time of the 180th degree meridian east of the Greenwich Observatory....

, one day ahead of the 50 U.S. states
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...


Although Wake is officially called an island in the singular form, it is actually an atoll comprising three islands surrounding a central lagoon:

An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...

The acre is a unit of area in a number of different systems, including the imperial and U.S. customary systems. The most commonly used acres today are the international acre and, in the United States, the survey acre. The most common use of the acre is to measure tracts of land.The acre is related...

The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres , and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2...

Wake Islet 1,367.04 553.22
Wilkes Islet 197.44 79.90
Peale Islet 256.83 103.94
Wake Island 1,821.31 737.06
A lagoon is a body of shallow sea water or brackish water separated from the sea by some form of barrier. The EU's habitat directive defines lagoons as "expanses of shallow coastal salt water, of varying salinity or water volume, wholly or partially separated from the sea by sand banks or shingle,...

1,480.00 600.00
Sand Flat 910.00 370.00

Referring to the atoll as an island is the result of a pre-World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 desire by the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 to distinguish Wake from other atolls, most of which were Japanese territory.


Wake Island lies in the tropical
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

 zone but is subject to periodic temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 storms during the winter. Sea surface temperatures are warm all year long, reaching above 80 °F (26.7 °C) in summer and autumn. Typhoons
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

 occasionally pass over the island.


On September 16, 1967, at 10:40 pm local time, the eye of Typhoon Sarah
1967 Pacific typhoon season
The 1967 Pacific typhoon season has no official bounds; it ran year-round in 1967, but most tropical cyclones tend to form in the northwestern Pacific Ocean between June and December...

 passed over the island. Sustained winds in the eyewall were 130 knots (241 km/h), from the north before the eye, and from the south afterward. All non-reinforced structures were demolished. There were no serious injuries, and the population was evacuated after the storm.

On August 28, 2006, the United States Air Force evacuated all 188 residents and suspended all operations as category 5 Super Typhoon Ioke
Hurricane Ioke
Hurricane Ioke was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Central Pacific...

 headed toward Wake. By August 31, the southwestern eyewall of the storm passed over the island, with winds well over 185 miles per hour (297.7 km/h), driving a 20 ft (6 m) storm surge
Storm surge
A storm surge is an offshore rise of water associated with a low pressure weather system, typically tropical cyclones and strong extratropical cyclones. Storm surges are caused primarily by high winds pushing on the ocean's surface. The wind causes the water to pile up higher than the ordinary sea...

 and waves directly into the lagoon inflicting major damage. A US Air Force assessment and repair team returned to the island in September 2006 and restored limited function to the airfield and facilities leading ultimately to a full return to normal operations.

Pre-European discovery

Indigenous peoples of Oceania
The indigenous peoples of Oceania are those peoples identified as indigenous peoples, as per the modern global definition of the term.Many of the present-day Pacific Island nations in the Oceania region were originally populated by Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian peoples over the course of...

 Marshallese oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 suggests that prior to European exploration, nearby Marshall Islanders
Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands , , is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. As of July 2011 the population was 67,182...

 traveled to what is now Wake Island, which the travelers called Enen-kio after a small orange shrub-flower said to have been found on the atoll. In the ancient Marshallese religion, rituals surrounding the tattooing of tribal chief
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

s, called Iroijlaplap
Iroijlaplap is the title given to the paramount chiefs in the Marshall Islands. An ordinary chief holds the title of Iroij ....

, were done using fresh human bones, which required a human sacrifice
Human sacrifice
Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual . Its typology closely parallels the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals and of religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice has been practised in various cultures throughout history...

. A man could save himself from being sacrificed if he obtained a wing bone from a very large seabird said to have existed on Enen-kio. Small groups would brave traveling to the atoll in hopes of obtaining this bone, saving the life of the potential human sacrifice. No evidence exists to suggest there was ever a permanent settlement by Marshall Islanders on Wake Island.

Based upon oral tradition, along with concepts of first-usage land rights commonly held in Micronesian
Micronesian may refer to:* Something of, from, or related to Micronesia, a subregion of Oceania composed of hundreds of small islands in the Pacific Ocean...

 cultures as legitimate for settling indigenous land disputes, a group of Marshall Island descendants formed the Kingdom of EnenKio
Kingdom of EnenKio
The Kingdom of EnenKio, or "EnenKio" for short, is a small separatist group of Marshall Islander heritage who lay claim to the United States' unincorporated territory of Wake Island. EnenKio seeks recognition as a sovereign Micronesian state in the Northern Marshall Islands...

 to claim ownership of Wake Island. The Marshall Islands and U.S. governments, who have competing claims to the island, vigorously deny this.

European discovery and exploration

On October 20, 1568, Álvaro de Mendaña de Neyra, a Spanish explorer with two ships, Los Reyes and Todos Santos, discovered "a low barren island, judged to be eight leagues
League (unit)
A league is a unit of length . It was long common in Europe and Latin America, but it is no longer an official unit in any nation. The league originally referred to the distance a person or a horse could walk in an hour...

 in circumference", to which he gave the name of "San Francisco". The island was eventually named for Captain William Wake, master of the British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 trading schooner
A schooner is a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts with the forward mast being no taller than the rear masts....

, Prince William Henry, who visited in 1796.

Jeremiah N. Reynolds
Jeremiah N. Reynolds
Jeremiah N. Reynolds , also known as J.N. Reynolds, was an American newspaper editor, lecturer, explorer and author who became an influential advocate for scientific expeditions...

' 1828 report to the US House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 describes Capt. Edward Gardner's discovery of a 25 miles (40.2 km) long island situated at 19°15' N, 166°32' E, with a reef at the eastern edge when he was captain of the Bellona in 1823. The island was "covered with wood, having a very green and rural appearance" and, Reynolds concluded, was probably Wake Island. It was placed on charts by John Arrowsmith
John Arrowsmith (cartographer)
John Arrowsmith was an English geographer and member of the Arrowsmith family of geographers. He was born at Winston, County Durham....


On December 20, 1840, the United States Exploring Expedition, commanded by Commodore
Commodore (USN)
Commodore was an early title and later a rank in the United States Navy and United States Coast Guard and a current honorary title in the U.S. Navy with an intricate history. Because the U.S. Congress was originally unwilling to authorize more than four ranks until 1862, considerable importance...

 Charles Wilkes
Charles Wilkes
Charles Wilkes was an American naval officer and explorer. He led the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 and commanded the ship in the Trent Affair during the American Civil War...

 of the U.S. Navy, landed on Wake and surveyed the island. Wilkes described the atoll as "a low coral one, of triangular form and eight feet above the surface. It has a large lagoon in the centre, which was well filled with fish of a variety of species among these were some fine mullet
Mullet (fish)
The mullets or grey mullets are a family and order of ray-finned fish found worldwide in coastal temperate and tropical waters, and in some species in fresh water. Mullets have served as an important source of food in Mediterranean Europe since Roman times...

." He also noted that Wake had no fresh water but was covered with shrubs, "the most abundant of which was the tournefortia." The expedition's naturalist
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

, Titian Peale
Titian Peale
Titian Ramsay Peale was a noted American artist, naturalist, entomologist and photographer. He was the sixteenth child and youngest son of noted American naturalist Charles Willson Peale.-Biography:...

, collected many new specimens, including an egg from a short-tailed albatross
Short-tailed Albatross
The Short-tailed Albatross or Steller's Albatross, Phoebastria albatrus, is a large rare seabird from the North Pacific. Although related to the other North Pacific albatrosses, it also exhibits behavioural and morphological links to the albatrosses of the Southern Ocean...

 and various marine life specimens.

Wreck of the Libelle

Wake Island first received international attention with the wreck
A shipwreck is what remains of a ship that has wrecked, either sunk or beached. Whatever the cause, a sunken ship or a wrecked ship is a physical example of the event: this explains why the two concepts are often overlapping in English....

 of the barque
A barque, barc, or bark is a type of sailing vessel with three or more masts.- History of the term :The word barque appears to have come from the Greek word baris, a term for an Egyptian boat. This entered Latin as barca, which gave rise to the Italian barca, Spanish barco, and the French barge and...

 Libelle. On the night of March 4, 1866, the 650 ton Libelle, of Bremen, Germany, struck the eastern reef of Wake Island during a gale. Commanded by Captain Tobias, the ship was en route from San Francisco to Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

. Among its passengers were opera singer Anna Bishop (ex wife of the celebrated French harpist Nicolas Bochsa), her husband Martin Schultz (a New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 diamond merchant), and three other members of an English opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...


After 21 days on Wake, the 30 stranded passengers and crewmen sailed in a longboat
In the days of sailing ships, a vessel would carry several ship's boats for various uses. One would be a longboat, an open boat to be rowed by eight or ten oarsmen, two per thwart...

 and the gig
Captain's Gig
The captain's gig is a boat used on naval ships as the captain's private taxi. It is a catchall phrase for this type of craft and over the years it has gradually increased in size, changed with the advent of new technologies for locomotion, and been crafted from increasingly more durable...

 for the then Spanish island of Guam. The longboat, containing the opera troupe, Mr. Schultz and other passengers, reached Guam on April 8. Unfortunately, the gig, commanded by the captain, was lost at sea. Captain Tobias had buried valuable cargo on Wake, including 1,000 flasks (34,500 kg) of mercury
Mercury (element)
Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

, as well as coins and precious stones worth about US$150,000. At least five ships conducted salvage
Marine salvage
Marine salvage is the process of rescuing a ship, its cargo, or other property from peril. Salvage encompasses rescue towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship...

 operations for its recovery. The plight of the Libelles passengers and the buried cargo was reported by newspapers around the world.

American possession

Wake Island was annexed as empty territory by the United States on January 17, 1899. In 1935, Pan American Airways constructed a small village, nicknamed "PAAville", to service flights on its U.S.–China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...


The village was the first human settlement on the island, and relied upon the U.S. mainland for much of its food and water supplies. However, Wake Island is credited as being one of the early successes of hydroponics
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, mineral wool, or coconut husk.Researchers discovered in the 18th...

, which enabled Pan American Airways to grow vegetables for its passengers, as it was prohibitively expensive to airlift in fresh vegetables and the island lacked natural soil.

PAAville remained in operation up to the day of the first Japanese air raid in World War II.

Military buildup

In January 1941, the United States Navy constructed a military base on the atoll. On August 19, the first permanent military garrison, elements of the 1st Marine Defense Battalion
Marine defense battalions
Marine defense battalions were United States Marine Corps battalions charged with coastal defense of various naval bases in the Pacific during World War II...

, totaling 449 officers and men, were stationed on the island, commanded by Navy Commander
Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...

 Winfield Scott Cunningham. Also on the island were 68 U.S. Naval personnel and about 1,221 civilian workers.

They were armed with six used 5 inch/51 cal (127 mm) cannons, removed from a scrapped
Ship breaking
Ship breaking or ship demolition is a type of ship disposal involving the breaking up of ships for scrap recycling. Most ships have a lifespan of a few decades before there is so much wear that refitting and repair becomes uneconomical. Ship breaking allows materials from the ship, especially...

 battleship; twelve 3 inch/50 cal (76.2 mm) M3 anti-aircraft guns
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

 (with only a single working anti-aircraft director
Director (military)
A director, also called an auxiliary predictor, is a mechanical or electronic computer that continuously calculates trigonometric firing solutions for use against a moving target, and transmits targeting data to direct the weapon firing crew....

 among them); eighteen Browning M2 .50 caliber heavy machine guns; and thirty heavy, medium, and light, water or air-cooled Browning M1917 .30 caliber  machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s in various conditions but all operational.

Battle of Wake Island

On December 8, 1941, the day after the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

 on the opposite side of the International Date Line
International Date Line
The International Date Line is a generally north-south imaginary line on the surface of the Earth, passing through the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that designates the place where each calendar day begins...

, at least 27 Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese Mitsubishi G3M
Mitsubishi G3M
The Mitsubishi G3M was a Japanese bomber used during World War II.-Design and development:...

 medium "Nell" bombers flown from bases on Kwajalein
Kwajalein Atoll , is part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands . The southernmost and largest island in the atoll is named Kwajalein Island. English-speaking residents of the U.S...

 in the Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands , , is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. As of July 2011 the population was 67,182...

 attacked Wake Island, destroying eight of the 12 F4F Wildcat
F4F Wildcat
The Grumman F4F Wildcat was an American carrier-based fighter aircraft that began service with both the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy in 1940...

 fighter aircraft belonging to United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

 fighter squadron VMF-211
Marine Attack Squadron 211 is a United States Marine Corps attack squadron consisting of AV-8B Harrier jets. Known as the "Wake Island Avengers," the squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 13 and the 3rd Marine Aircraft...

 on the ground. The Marine garrison's defensive emplacements were left intact by the raid, which primarily targeted the aircraft.

The garrison — supplemented by civilian volunteers — repelled several Japanese landing attempts. An American journalist reported that after the initial Japanese amphibious assault was beaten back with heavy losses on December 11, the American commander was asked by his superiors if he needed anything. The commander sent back the message, "Send us more Japs!" - a reply which became a popular legend. However, when Lt. Col. James Devereux
James Devereux
James Patrick Sinnott Devereux was a United States Marine Corps general, Navy Cross recipient, and Republican congressman. He was the Commanding Officer of the 1st Defense Battalion during the defense of Wake Island in December 1941. He was captured on Wake Island as a prisoner of war, along with...

 learned after the war that he was credited with that message he pointed out that contrary to reports he was not the commander on Wake Island and denied sending that message. "As far as I know, it wasn't sent at all. None of us was that much of a damn fool. We already had more Japs than we could handle."

In reality, Commander Winfield S. Cunningham was in overall charge of Wake Island, not Devereux. Cunningham ordered that coded messages be sent during operations, and a junior officer had added "send us" and "more Japs" to the beginning and end of a message to confuse Japanese code breakers. This was put together at Pearl Harbor and passed on as part of the message. Cunningham and Deveraux both wrote books about the battle and their Japanese imprisonment ordeal.

Denied support from Hawaii, the isolated U.S. garrison was eventually overwhelmed by a reinforced and greatly superior Japanese invasion force on December 23. American casualties numbered 52 military personnel (Navy and Marine) and approximately 70 civilians killed. Japanese losses exceeded 700 dead, with some estimates ranging as high as 1,000. Wake's defenders sank two Japanese destroyers and one submarine, and shot down 24 Japanese aircraft.

In the aftermath of the battle, most of the captured civilians and military personnel were sent to POW camps in Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, though some of the civilian laborers were enslaved by the Japanese and tasked with improving the island's defenses.

Captain Henry T. Elrod, USMC
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

, one of the pilots from VMF-211, was awarded the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 posthumously for shooting down two Japanese Zero fighters, sinking a destroyer and later fighting on foot when his plane was destroyed to defend the island. Many of his comrades were also highly decorated for their part in the fighting. The Wake Island Device
Wake Island Device
The Wake Island Device is an award of the United States military which is presented as a campaign clasp to both the Navy and Marine Corps Expeditionary Medals....

 was created for American veterans of the battle to wear on their Pacific Theater of Operations ribbon.

Japanese occupation and surrender

The Islands Japanese garrison was composed of the IJN
The abbreviation IJN may refer to:* International Justice Network or IJNetwork, a Human Rights Organization* Imperial Japanese Navy, the navy of Japan from 1868 until it was dissolved in 1947* Institut Jean Nicod, a French interdisciplinary research center...

 65th Guard Unit (2,000 men), Japan Navy Captain Shigematsu Sakaibara
Shigematsu Sakaibara

 and the IJA
IJA can refer to:* Imperial Japanese Army* International Jugglers' Association* International Jousting Association* Instituto Justo Arosemena* The Internet Journal of Anesthesiology* International Judges Association* Empress Ija...

 units which became 13th Independent Mixed Regiment (1,939 men) under command of Colonel Shigeji Chikamori. The Japanese-occupied island (called by them Otori-Shima or "Bird Island" for its birdlike shape) was bombed several times by American aircraft; one of these raids was the first mission for future United States President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...


After a successful American air raid on October 5, 1943, Sakaibara ordered the execution of all of the 98 captured Americans that remained on the island. They were taken to the northern end of the island, blindfolded, and machine-gunned. One prisoner escaped the massacre, carving 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. This unknown American was soon recaptured and beheaded. Sakaibara and his subordinate, Lieutenant Commander Tachibana, were later sentenced to death for this and other war crimes. Tachibana's sentence was later commuted to life in prison. The remains of the murdered civilians were exhumed and reburied at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is a cemetery located in Honolulu, Hawaii that serves a memorial to those men and women who served in the United States Armed Forces...

 in section G.

During the Japanese occupation, Wake Island's only native species, the flightless Rail Bird
Wake Island Rail
The extinct Wake Island Rail was a flightless rail and the only native land bird on the Pacific atoll of Wake. It was found on the islands of Wake and Wilkes, but not on Peale, which is separated from the others by a channel of about 100 meters.-Description:The adult bird had a length of . The...

 was hunted and eaten to extinction, after the Japanese military occupants supply route was cut in 1944. Due to its flightlessness and natural curiosity, it was easy for two men to catch the bird with their hands. The last Wake Island Rail was killed sometime in 1945 by nearly starving Japanese soldiers.

On September 4, 1945, the Japanese garrison surrendered to a detachment of United States Marines. The handover of Wake was conducted in a brief ceremony.


15 October 1950 U.S. President Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

 and General Douglas MacArthur met on Wake Island (Wake Island Conference
Wake Island Conference
15 October 1950 U.S. President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur met on Wake Island to "confer with General [Douglas] MacArthur about the progress of the war [in Korea] and that he would meet him between here and Korea so that General MacArthur would not have to be away from the troops...

) to confer about the progress of the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. They chose to meet at Wake Island because of its closer proximity to Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 so that General MacArthur would not have to be away from the troops in the field for long.

Subsequently the island was used for strategic defense and operations during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. In 1952 or 1953, the young Kris Kristofferson
Kris Kristofferson
Kristoffer "Kris" Kristofferson is an American musician, actor, and writer. He is known for hits such as "Me and Bobby McGee", "For the Good Times", "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down", and "Help Me Make It Through the Night"...

 worked for a dredging contractor on the island. It was administered by the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command (formerly known as the United States Army Space and Strategic Defense Command). Since 1974, Wake Island has served as a launch platform for military rockets involved in testing anti-missile systems and atmospheric re-entry trials. Launches take place from 19°17′24"N 166°37′05"E. In conjunction with the aerospace use, the island's airstrip, Wake Island Airfield
Wake Island Airfield
Wake Island Airfield is a military airport located on Wake Island, which is known for the Battle of Wake Island. It is owned by the U.S. Air Force and operated by the Thirteenth Air Force servicing practically only to military purposes within the Wake Island region, yet little military presence is...

, has been used by the U.S. military and some commercial cargo planes, as well as for emergency landings. There are over 700 landings of all types a year on the island. There are also two offshore anchorages for large ships. On September 16, 1985, the World War II–related resources on Peale, Wilkes, and Wake Islands were designated a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 (and thereby also listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...


From late April until the middle of August 1975, Wake Island was used as a refugee camp for more than 8,000 Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

ese refugees who fled their homeland after the fall of Saigon ended the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 with a communist victory.

Currently, United States military personnel have left the atoll. There are no indigenous inhabitants. , an estimated 200 contractor personnel ("contractor inhabitants") were present.

The island remains a strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean and serves as an emergency landing location for twin-engined ETOPS commercial transpacific flights passing overhead. Some World War II facilities and wreckage remain on the islands.

Territorial claim by the Marshall Islands

The territorial claim by the Republic of the Marshall Islands on Wake Atoll leaves a certain amount of ambiguity regarding the actual or hypothetical role of the U.S. military, responsible under agreement for the defense of Marshallese territory in the event of any strategic crisis or hostilities involving Wake. A small separatist group is known as the Kingdom of EnenKio
Kingdom of EnenKio
The Kingdom of EnenKio, or "EnenKio" for short, is a small separatist group of Marshall Islander heritage who lay claim to the United States' unincorporated territory of Wake Island. EnenKio seeks recognition as a sovereign Micronesian state in the Northern Marshall Islands...

 also claims the island. However, the atoll was formally annexed by the United States at the end of the 19th century and is still administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs
Office of Insular Affairs
The Office of Insular Affairs is a unit of the United States Department of the Interior that oversees federal administration of several United States possessions...


In popular culture

Wake Island has been featured as a playable map in many of EA Digital Illusions CE's popular Battlefield series of video games. This began with its inclusion in Battlefield 1942
Battlefield 1942
Battlefield 1942 is a 3D World War II first-person shooter computer game developed by Swedish company Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts for Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh . The game can be played in singleplayer mode against the computer game AI or in multiplayer mode...

 which is set during the Second World War. The island's next appearance in the was in Battlefield 2
Battlefield 2
Battlefield 2 is a computer game by the Swedish developer Digital Illusions CE . During development, Trauma Studios contributed to the development of the game after it was acquired by DICE...

 where it was remade to suit the more modern setting of the game. The inclusion of the island as a playable map has since become a de facto tradition with the map featured also in Battlefield Heroes
Battlefield Heroes
Battlefield Heroes is a cartoon-style action video game developed by DICE initially—now developed by —and published by EA for Microsoft Windows. It is played from a third-person EA are calling it FPS perspective. The game is less demanding on computer specifications than the previous games of the...

, Battlefield 2142
Battlefield 2142
Battlefield 2142 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Digital Illusions CE and produced by Electronic Arts . It is the fourth game in the Battlefield series...

, Battlefield 1943
Battlefield 1943
Battlefield 1943 is an online multiplayer World War II first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network via digital download only. Unlike Battlefield 1942, this game takes place only in the Pacific...

 and Battlefield 3
Battlefield 3
Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and EA Mobile confirmed a port for...


J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard
James Graham Ballard was an English novelist, short story writer, and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction...

's 1976 collection Low-Flying Aircraft and Other Stories
Low-Flying Aircraft and Other Stories
Low-Flying Aircraft and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by J. G. Ballard published in 1976. It includes:* "The Ultimate City"* "Low-Flying Aircraft"* "The Dead Astronaut"* "My Dream of Flying to Wake Island"...

 includes a short story entitled "My Dream of Flying to Wake Island".

The battle for Wake was the subject of a song by Oscar Brand
Oscar Brand
Oscar Brand is a folk singer, songwriter, and author. In his career, spanning over 60 years, he has composed at least 300 songs and released nearly 100 albums, among them Canadian and American patriotic songs...

on his album Tell It To The Marines (1960-Elektra'). "Wake Island" is the 15th track on the album.

See also

External links

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