the Battle Of Wake Island, December 8-23. 1941

Having reinforced the island's defenses only days before, Marine Fighting Squadron 211 (VMF-211) used parts from damaged aircraft to keep their fighters flying until the final days of the battle. (USMC)

Dates: December 8-23. 1941

Location: Wake Island in the Central Pacific Ocean

American: Winfield S. Cunningham
Japanese: Shigeyoshi Inoue, Sadamichi Kajioka

Outcome: Japanese Victory

Soldiers Engaged: American: 1,100  Japanese: 2,500 infantry

Casualties: American:120 killed; 49 wounded, 2 MIA  Japanese: 820 killed, 333 wounded

Battle Of Wake Island summary:
The Attack of Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Wake Island were simultaneous and Wake Island finished on December 23, 1941. The surrender was of American troops to those of Japan. The battle was for a small island in Central Pacific with the Marines and civilians of the island defending against invaders from Japan.

It was a site for a submarine and air base for the U.S. that was partially completed. Just a few hours before the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941 Japan hit the island with 36 bombers. A few days later, on December 11th a naval task force from Japan complete with destroyers and cruisers attempted an attack but was forced back by a strong defense on the coast from aircraft and guns.

The Japanese Overrun Wake Island

Though it sounded like the island would pull through, the Japanese kept the island under a near constant air attack and even U.S. relief failed to turn it aside. The Japanese came back December 23 with more force and power and within a mere five hours the island had to surrender. Commander from the U.S. Navy Winfield Scott Cunningham was in charge of the forces and their eventual surrender. The result was 1,616 Americans being captured and in turn being evacuated then to Japan and even China. Though the Japanese heavily fortified the island and attempted to hold it, American aircrafts repeatedly attacked it throughout the war creating major devastation. It was again surrendered on September 4, 1945 back to America.

An interesting and sad historical note is that on October 5, 1943 when the Japanese saw imminent invasion an execution was ordered of 98 American civilians. They were taken to one side of the island and shot with machine guns. A prisoner escaped and returned to carve a memorial into a large rock ’98 US PW 5-10-43,’ and it can still be seen there today. This prisoner was caught and also executed shortly after.