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Title: A Magnificent Fight: Marines in the Battle for Wake Island
Author: Cressman, Robert J.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Magnificent Fight: Marines in the Battle for Wake Island" ***

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Transcriber’s note: Table of Contents added by Transcriber and placed
into the public domain. Boldface text is indicated by =equals signs=.


Contents

  A Magnificent Fight: Marines in the Battle for Wake Island
    Sidebar: Major James P S. Devereux
    Sidebar: Commander Winfield S. Cunningham
    Sidebar: Major Paul A. Putnam
    Sidebar: Defensive Mainstay: The M3 Antiaircraft Gun
    Sidebar: The Nells, Bettys, and Claudes of Japan
  Humbled-by Sizeable Casualties
    Sidebar: The Defense Battalion’s 5-Inch Guns
    Sidebar: Captain Hentry T. Elrod
  Still No Help
    Sidebar: Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher
  All Hands Have Behaved Splendidly
  This Is As Far As We Go
  A Difficult Thing To Do
  Sources
  About the Author
  About this series of pamphlets
  Transcriber’s Notes



    A MAGNIFICENT
    FIGHT:

    MARINES IN THE
    BATTLE FOR
    WAKE ISLAND


    MARINES IN
    WORLD WAR II
    COMMEMORATIVE SERIES


    BY ROBERT J. CRESSMAN


[Illustration: _In 1945, RAdm Shigematsu Sakaibara, back to camera at
right, surrenders his garrison to returning Americans._ (_Department of
Defense [USMC] Photo 133686_)]


[Illustration: _Col Walter L. J. Bayler, reputedly “the last Marine
off Wake” in December 1941, is the first to set foot on the island in
1945._ (_Department of Defense [USMC] Photo 133688_)]



A Magnificent Fight:

Marines in the Battle for Wake Island

_by Robert J. Cressman_


It is Monday, 8 December 1941. On Wake Island, a tiny sprung paper-clip
in the Pacific between Hawaii and Guam, Marines of the 1st Defense
Battalion are starting another day of the backbreaking war preparations
that have gone on for weeks. Out in the triangular lagoon formed by the
islets of Peale, Wake, and Wilkes, the huge silver Pan American Airways
_Philippine Clipper_ flying boat roars off the water bound for Guam.
The trans-Pacific flight will not be completed.

Word of war comes around 0700. Captain Henry S. Wilson, Army Signal
Corps, on the island to support the flight ferry of B-17 Flying
Fortresses from Hawaii to the Philippines, half runs, half walks toward
the tent of Major James P. S. Devereux, commander of the battalion’s
Wake Detachment. Captain Wilson reports that Hickam Field in Hawaii has
been raided.

Devereux immediately orders a “Call to Arms.” He quickly assembles his
officers, tells them that war has come, that the Japanese have attacked
Oahu, and that Wake “could expect the same thing in a very short time.”

Meanwhile, the senior officer on the atoll, Commander Winfred S.
Cunningham, Officer in Charge, Naval Activities, Wake, learned of
the Japanese surprise attack as he was leaving the mess hall at the
contractors’ cantonment (Camp 2) on the northern leg of Wake. He
ordered the defense battalion to battle stations, but allowed the
civilians to go on with their work, figuring that their duties at sites
around the atoll provided good dispersion. He then contacted John
B. Cooke, PanAm’s airport manager and requested that he recall the
_Philippine Clipper_. Cooke sent the prearranged code telling John H.
Hamilton, the captain of the Martin 130 flying boat, of the outbreak of
war.

Marines from Camp 1, on the southern leg of Wake, were soon embarked in
trucks and moving to their stations on Wake, Wilkes, and Peale islets.
Marine Gunner Harold C. Borth and Sergeant James W. Hall climbed to the
top of the camp’s water tower and manned the observation post there. In
those early days radar was new and not even set up on Wake, so early
warning was dependent on keen eyesight. Hearing might have contributed
elsewhere, but on the atoll the thunder of nearby surf masked the sound
of aircraft engines until they were nearly overhead. Marine Gunner
John Hamas, the Wake Detachment’s munitions officer, unpacked Browning
automatic rifles, Springfield ’03 rifles, and ammunition for issue to
the civilians who had volunteered for combat duty. That task completed,
Hamas and a working party picked up 75 cases of hand grenades for
delivery around the islets. Soon thereafter, other civilians attached
themselves to Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 211, which had been on
Wake since 4 December.

Offshore, neither _Triton_ (SS 201) nor _Tambor_ (SS 198), submarines
that had been patrolling offshore since 25 November, knew of
developments on Wake or Oahu. They both had been submerged when word
was passed and thus out of radio communication with Pearl Harbor. The
transport _William Ward Burrows_ (AP 6), which had left Oahu bound for
Wake on 27 November, learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl while she
was still 425 miles from her destination. She was rerouted to Johnston
Island.

[Illustration:

    National Archives Photo 80-G-451195

_A May 1941 photo taken from the northeast, from a Navy Catalina
flying boat, reveals the Wake Island coral atoll in the mid-Pacific
beneath broken clouds. Wishbone-shaped Wake proper lies at left, as
yet unmarked by construction of the airfield there. The upper portion
of the photo shows Wilkes; at right is Peale, joined to Wake by a
causeway._]

Major Paul A. Putnam, VMF-211’s commanding officer, and Second
Lieutenant Henry G. Webb had conducted the dawn aerial patrol and
landed by the time the squadron’s radiomen, over at Wake’s airfield,
had picked up word of an attack on Pearl Harbor. Putnam immediately
sent a runner to tell his executive officer, Captain Henry T. Elrod, to
disperse planes and men and keep all aircraft ready for flight.

Meanwhile, work began on dugout plane shelters. Putnam placed VMF-211
on a war footing immediately; two two-plane sections then took off
on patrol. Captain Elrod and Second Lieutenant Carl R. Davidson flew
north, Second Lieutenant John F. Kinney and Technical Sergeant William
J. Hamilton flew to the south-southwest at 13,000 feet. Both sections
were to remain in the immediate vicinity of the island.

[Illustration: MAP I

DEFENSE INSTALLATIONS ON WAKE

8-23 DECEMBER 1941]

The _Philippine Clipper_, meanwhile, had wheeled about upon receipt
of word of war and returned to the lagoon it had departed 20 minutes
earlier. Cunningham immediately requested Captain Hamilton to carry
out a scouting flight. The _Clipper_ was unloaded and refueled with
sufficient gasoline in addition to the standard reserve for both the
patrol flight and a flight to Midway. Cunningham, an experienced
aviator, laid out a plan, giving the flying boat a two-plane escort.
Hamilton then telephoned Putnam and concluded the arrangements for the
search. Take-off time was 1300.

Shortly after receiving word of hostilities, Battery B’s First
Lieutenant Woodrow W. Kessler and his men had loaded a truck with
equipment and small arms ammunition and moved out to their 5-inch
guns. At 0710, Kessler began distributing gear, and soon thereafter
established a sentry post on Toki Point at the northernmost tip of
Peale. Thirty 5-inch rounds went into the ready-use boxes near the
guns. At 0800, he reported his battery ready for action.

General quarters called Captain Bryghte D. “Dan” Godbold’s men of
Battery D to their stations down the coast from Battery B at 0700, and
they moved out to their position by truck, reporting “manned and ready”
within a half hour. The lack of men, however, prevented Godbold from
having more than three of his 3-inch guns in operation. Within another
hour and a half, each gun had 50 rounds ready for firing. At 1000,
Godbold received orders to keep one gun, the director, the heightfinder
(the only one at Wake Island for the three batteries), and the power
plant manned at all times. After making those arrangements, Godbold put
the remainder of his men to work improving the battery position.

While the atoll’s defenders prepared for war, Japanese bombers droned
toward them. At 0710 on 8 December, 34 Mitsubishi G3M2 Type 96 land
attack planes (Nells) of the _Chitose Air Group_ had lifted off from
the airstrip at Roi in the Marshalls. Shortly before noon, those 34
Nells came in on Wake at 13,000 feet. Clouds cloaked their approach
and the pounding surf drowned out the noise of their engines as they
dropped down to 1,500 feet and roared in from the sea. Lookouts sounded
the alarms as they spotted the twin-engined, twin-tailed bombers a
few hundred yards off the atoll’s south shore, emerging from a dense
bank of clouds. At Battery E, First Lieutenant Lewis telephoned Major
Devereux’s command post to inform him of the approaching planes.

Although Putnam was rushing work on the six bunkers being built along
the seaward side of the runway, he knew none of them would be ready
before 1400. He also knew that moving the eight F4F Wildcats from
their parking area would risk damage to the planes and obstruction of
the runway if the planes were in fact damaged. Since any damage might
have meant the loss of a plane--Wake possessed virtually no spare
parts--Putnam decided to delay moving the Wildcats and the materiel
until suitable places existed to protect them.

No foxholes had been dug near the field, but the rough ground nearby
offered natural cover to those who reached it. Putnam hoped that
his men would obtain good cover if an attack came. The movement of
gasoline, bombs, and ammunition; the installation of electrical lines
and generators; and the relocation of radio facilities kept all hands
busily engaged.

The attack found Second Lieutenant Robert “J” Conderman and First
Lieutenant George A. Graves in the ready tent, going over last minute
instructions concerning their escort of the _Philippine Clipper_.
When the alarm sounded, both pilots, already in flight gear, sprinted
for their Wildcats. Graves managed to reach one F4F, but a direct hit
demolished it in a ball of flame as he was climbing into the cockpit,
killing him instantly. Strafers’ bullets cut down Conderman as he tried
to reach his plane, and as he lay on the ground a bomb hit the waiting
Wildcat and blew it up, pinning him beneath the wreckage. He called
to Corporal Robert E. L. Page to help him, but stopped when he heard
another man crying for help. He directed Page to help the other man
first. Strafing attacks killed Second Lieutenant Frank J. Holden as he
raced for cover. Bullets and fragments wounded Second Lieutenant Webb.

Marine Gunner Hamas, who still had 50 cases of hand grenades in his
truck, having just delivered 25 to Kuku Point, saw the red sun insignia
on the planes as they roared low overhead. Immediately, he ordered the
vehicle stopped and instructed his men to head for cover.

Confident that his airborne planes would be able to provide sufficient
warning of an incoming raid, Commander Cunningham was working in his
office at Camp 2, when he heard the “crump” of bombs around 1155. The
explosions rattled windows elsewhere in the camp, prompting many men to
conclude that work crews were blasting coral heads in the lagoon.

Guns 1 and 2 of Battery D opened up on the attackers, collectively
firing 40 rounds during the raid. The low visibility and the altitude
at which the Mitsubishis flew, however, prevented the 3-inch guns from
firing effectively. No bombs fell near the battery, but the guns’ own
concussions caved in the sandbag emplacements, Marine antiaircraft
fire damaged eight Nells and killed a petty officer in one of them.
Returning Japanese aircrews claimed to have set fire to all of the
aircraft on the ground, and reported sighting only three airborne
American planes.

On Peacock Point, First Lieutenant Lewis’ Battery E had been
standing-to, ready to fire. Like Godbold, Lewis did not have enough men
for all four of his guns. Lewis manned two of the 3-inchers, along with
the M-4 director, while the rest of his men busily completed sandbag
emplacements. After telephoning Devereux’s command post when he saw the
falling bombs, Lewis quickly estimated the altitude and ordered his
gunners to open fire. Again, however, the height at which the attackers
came rendered the fire ineffective.

In about seven minutes, Japanese bombs and bullets totally wrecked
PanAm’s facilities. Bombing and strafing set fire to a hotel--in which
five Chamorro employees died--and also to a stock room, fuel tanks,
and many other buildings, and demolished a radio transmitter. Nine of
PanAm’s 66-man staff lay dead. Two of the _Philippine Clipper_’s crew
were wounded.

[Illustration: TABLE OF DISTANCES FROM WAKE IN NAUTICAL MILES

    Manda               2676
    Guam                1302
    Midway              1034
    Honolulu            2004
    Pokaakku Atoll       304
    Kwajalein Atoll      660
    Roi                  670
    Majuro               840
    Wotje                600
    Jaluit               814
    Marcus               760
    Saipan              1260
    Truk                1120
]

Almost miraculously, though, the 26-ton _Clipper_, empty of both
passengers and cargo but full of fuel, rode easily at her moorings
at the end of the dock. A bomb had splashed 100 feet ahead of her
without damaging her, and she received 23 bullet holes from the
strafing attack--none had hit her large fuel tanks. Captain Hamilton
courageously proposed evacuating the passengers and PanAm staff and
Commander Cunningham assented. Stripped of all superfluous equipment
and having embarked all of the passengers and the Caucasian PanAm
employees, save one (who had been driving the atoll’s only ambulance
and thus had not heard the call to report for the plane’s departure),
the flying boat took off for Midway at 1330.

Although he had received a bullet wound in his left shoulder, Major
Putnam immediately took over the terrible task of seeing to the
many injured people at the field. His dedication to duty seemed to
establish the precedent for many other instances of selflessness which
occurred amidst the wreckage of the VMF-211 camp. Sadly, the attack
left five pilots and 10 enlisted men of VMF-211 wounded and 18 more
dead, including most of the mechanics assigned to the squadron. On
the materiel side, the squadron’s tents were shot up and virtually no
supplies--tools, spark plugs, tires, and sparse spare parts--escaped
destruction. Both of the 25,000-gallon gasoline storage tanks had been
demolished. Additionally, 25 civilian workmen had been killed.

As the bombers departed, Gunner Hamas called his men back from the
bush, and set out to resume delivery of hand grenades. As he neared the
airfield, though, he stopped to help wounded men board a truck that
had escaped destruction. Then, he continued his journey and finally
returned to Camp 1, where he found more civilian employees arriving to
join the military effort.

Earlier, as they had returned to the vicinity of Wake at about noon,
Kinney and Hamilton had been descending through the broken clouds about
three miles from the atoll when the former spotted two formations of
planes at an elevation of about 1,500 feet. He and Hamilton attempted
unsuccessfully to catch the formations as they retired to the west
through the overcast. Kinney and Hamilton remained aloft until after
1230, when they landed to find the destruction that defied description.
Neither Elrod nor Davidson had seen the enemy.

In the wake of the terrible devastation wreaked upon his squadron,
Putnam deemed it critical to the squadron’s reorganization to keep the
remaining planes operational. Since his engineering officer, Graves,
had been killed, Putnam appointed Kinney to take his place. “We have
four planes left,” Putnam told him, “If you can keep them flying
I’ll see that you get a medal as big as a pie.” “Okay, sir,” Kinney
responded, “if it is delivered in San Francisco.”

Putnam established VMF-211’s command post near the operations area.
His men dug foxholes amidst brush and all of the physically capable
officers and men stayed at the field. Putnam ordered that pistols,
Thompson submachine guns, gas masks, and steel helmets be issued, and
also directed that machine gun posts be established near each end of
the runway and the command post. Meanwhile, the ground crews dispersed
the serviceable planes into revetments, a task not without its risks.
That afternoon, Captain Frank C. Tharin accidentally taxied 211-F-9
into an oil drum and ruined the propeller, reducing the serviceable
planes to three. Captains Elrod and Tharin (the latter wounded
superficially in the attack) later supervised efforts to construct
“protective works” and also the mining of the landing strip with
dynamite connected up to electric generators. Contractors bulldozed
portions of the land bordering the field, in hopes that the rough
ground would wreck any enemy planes that attempted to land there.

[Illustration:

    Author’s Collection

_1stLt John F. Kinney (seen here circa September 1941), became
engineering officer for VMF-211 upon 1stLt Graves’ death on 8
December, and, along with TSgt William H. Hamilton and AMM1c James F.
Hesson, USN, kept Wake’s dwindling number of battered Wildcats flying
throughout the bitter 15-day siege._]

That afternoon, over at Battery D, Godbold’s men repaired damaged
emplacements, improved the director position, and accepted delivery
of gas masks, hand grenades, and ammunition. Later that afternoon, 18
civilians reported for military duty. Godbold assigned 16 of them to
serve under Sergeant Walter A. Bowsher, Jr., to man the previously
idle Gun 3, and assigned the remaining pair to the director crew as
lookouts. Under Bowsher’s leadership, the men in Gun 3 were soon
working their piece “in a manner comparable to the Marine-manned guns.”

Gunner Hamas and his men, meanwhile, carted ammunition from the
quartermaster shed and dispersed it into caches, each of about 20 to
25 boxes, west of Camp 1, near Wilkes Channel, and camouflaged them
with coral sand. Next, they dispersed hundreds of boxes of .50- and
.30-caliber ammunition in the bushes that lined the road that led to
the airfield. Before nightfall, Hamas delivered .50-caliber ammunition
and metal links to Captain Herbert C. Freuler and furnished him the
keys to the bomb and ammunition magazines.

About 25 civilians with trucks responded to First Lieutenant Lewis’
request for assistance in improving his battery’s defensive position.
Then, Lewis ordered his men to lay a telephone line from the battery
command post (CP) to the battery’s heightfinder so that he could obtain
altitude readings for the incoming enemy bombers, and relay that
information to the guns.

Commander Campbell Keene, Commander, Wake Base Detachment, meanwhile,
reassigned his men to more critical combat duties. He sent Ensigns
George E. Henshaw and Bernard J. Lauff to Cunningham’s staff.
Boatswain’s Mate First Class James E. Barnes and 12 enlisted men joined
the ranks of the defense battalion to drive trucks, serve in galley
details, and stand security watches. One of the three enlisted men
whom Commander Keene sent to VMF-211 was Aviation Machinist’s Mate
First Class James F. Hesson. Kinney and Technical Sergeant Hamilton
soon found the Pennsylvanian with light brown hair, who had served in
the Air Corps before he had joined the Navy and who had just turned
35 years of age, to be invaluable. VMF-211 also benefitted from the
services of civilians Harry Yeager and “Doc” Stevenson, who reported to
work as mechanics, and Pete Sorenson, who volunteered to drive a truck.

For the remainder of the day and on into the night, in the contractor’s
hospital in Camp 2, Naval Reserve Lieutenant Gustave M. Kahn, Medical
Corps, and the contractors’ physician, Dr. Lawton E. Shank, worked
diligently to save as many men as possible. Some, though, were beyond
help, and despite their best efforts, four of VMF-211’s men--including
Second Lieutenant Conderman--died that night.

At Peacock Point, that afternoon, just down the coast from
the airfield, “Barney” Barninger’s men had completed their
foxholes--overhead cover, sandbags, and chunks of coral would come
later. Later, at dusk, Barninger evidently sensed that the atoll
might be in for a long siege. Thinking that they might not be in camp
again for some time, he sent some of his men back to Camp 1 to obtain
extra toilet gear and clothing. In the gathering darkness, he set his
security watches and rotated beach patrols and observers. Those men not
on watch slept fitfully in their foxholes.

That night, Wake’s offshore guardians, _Tambor_ to the north and
_Triton_ to the south, surfaced to recharge batteries, breathe fresh
air, and listen to radio reports. From those reports the crews of the
_Tambor_ and _Triton_ finally learned of the outbreak of war.

The 9th of December dawned with a clear sky overhead. Over at the
airfield, three planes took off on the early morning patrol, while
Kinney had a fourth (though without its reserve gas tank) ready by
0900. A test flight proved the fourth F4F to be “o.k.,” since she
withstood a 350 mph dive “without a quiver.” It was just in the nick of
time, for at 1145 on the 9th, the _Chitose Air Group_ struck again, as
27 Nells came in at 13,000 feet. Second Lieutenant David D. Kliewer and
Technical Sergeant Hamilton attacked straggling bombers, and claimed
one shot down. Battery D’s number 2 and 4 guns, meanwhile, collectively
fired 100 3-inch rounds. The Marines damaged 12 planes, but the enemy
suffered only very light casualties: one man dead and another slightly
wounded.

[Illustration:

    Author’s Collection

_Sgt William J. Hamilton, (seen here on 20 January 1938) was one of two
enlisted pilots serving in VMF-211 at Wake, and not only flew patrols
but helped keep the squadron’s planes in the air._]

Once more, though, the Japanese wreaked considerable havoc on the
defenders. Most of their bombs fell near the edge of the lagoon, north
of the airfield, and on Camp 2, demolishing the hospital and heavily
damaging a warehouse and a metal shop. One wounded VMF-211 enlisted man
perished in the bombing of the hospital while the three-man crew of one
of the dispersed gasoline trucks died instantly when a bomb exploded in
the foxhole in which they had sought shelter.

Doctors Kahn and Shank and their assistants evacuated the wounded and
saved as much equipment as they could. Shank carried injured men from
the burning hospital, courageous actions that so impressed Marine
Gunner Hamas (who had been trapped by the raid while carrying a load
of projectiles and powder to gun positions on Peale) that he later
recommended that Shank be awarded a Medal of Honor for his heroism. The
hard-pressed medical people soon moved the wounded and what medical
equipment they could into magazines 10 and 13, near the unfinished
airstrip, and established two 21-bed wards.

Once the bombers had gone, the work of repairs and improving planes
and positions resumed. That night, because the initial bombing had
destroyed the mechanical loading machines, a crew of civilians helped
load .50-caliber ammunition. That same evening, work crews dispersed
food, medical supplies, water, and lumber to various points around the
atoll, while the communications center and Wake’s command post were
moved.

Earlier that day from near the tip of Peacock Point, Marine Gunner
Clarence B. McKinstry of Battery E had noted one bomber breaking off
from the rest. Supposing that the plane had taken aerial photographs,
he suggested that the battery be moved. That afternoon, First
Lieutenant Lewis received orders to reposition his guns after dark; he
was to leave two 3-inchers in place until the other two were emplaced,
and then move the last two. Aided by about a hundred civilians
with several trucks, Lewis and McKinstry succeeded in shifting the
battery--guns, ammunition, and sandbags--to a new location some 1,500
yards to the northwest. Marines and workmen set up dummy guns in the
old position.

As the 10th dawned, Marine Gunner McKinstry found himself with new
duties, having received orders to proceed to Wilkes and report to
Captain Wesley McC. Platt, commander of the Wilkes strongpoint. Battery
F comprised four 3-inch guns, but lacked crewmen, a heightfinder, or a
director. Consequently, McKinstry could only fire the guns accurately
at short or point-blank range, thus limiting them to beach protection.
Assisted by one Marine and a crew of civilians, Gunner McKinstry moved
his guns into battery just in time for the arrival of 26 Nells which
flew over at 1020 and dropped their bombs on the airfield and those
seacoast installations at the tip of Wilkes.

While casualties were light--Battery L had one Marine killed and one
wounded (one civilian suffered shell-shock)--the equipment and guns in
the positions themselves received considerable damage. Further, 120
tons of dynamite which had been stored by the contractors near the site
of the new channel exploded and stripped the 3-inch battery of its
fresh camouflage. The gunners moved them closer to the shoreline and
camouflaged them with burnt brush because they lacked sandbags with
which to construct defensive shelters for the gun crews.

In a new position, which was up the coast from the old one, Battery
E’s 3-inchers managed to hurl 100 rounds skyward while bombs began
hitting near Peacock Point. The old position there was “very heavily
bombed,” and a direct hit set off a small ammunition dump, vindicating
McKinstry’s hunch about the photo-reconnaissance plane. Battery D’s
gunners, meanwhile, claimed hits on two bombers (one of which was seen
to explode later). Although Captain Elrod, who single-handedly attacked
the formation, claimed two of the raiders, only one Nell failed to
return to its base.

That night, the itinerant Battery E shifted to a position on the toe
of the horseshoe on the lagoon side of Wake. Their daily defensive
preparations complete, Wake’s defenders awaited what the next dawn
would bring. They had endured three days of bombings. Some of
Cunningham’s men may have wondered when it would be their turn to wreak
destruction upon the enemy.


[Sidebar (page 1):

[Illustration]

Major James P. S. Devereux, Commanding Officer of the Wake Detachment
of the 1st Defense Battalion (seen here as a POW at Shanghai, _circa_
January 1942), was born in Cuba and educated in the United States and
in Switzerland. Devereux enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1923. He saw
service at home (Norfolk, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Quantico,
among other places) and abroad (Cuba, Nicaragua, and China). He was
awarded the Navy Cross for his leadership of the Marines at Wake. After
his retirement, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
]


[Sidebar (page 2):

[Illustration]

An unshaven Commander Winfield S. Cunningham, Officer in Charge, Naval
Activities, Wake Island, and commander of the defense of Wake, was
photographed as a POW on board the Japanese transport _Nitta Maru_, at
Yokohama, Japan, about 18 January 1942. A member of the Naval Academy
Class of 1921 and an excellent pilot, he had flown fighters and flying
boats, and had been schooled in strategy and tactics. Contemporaries
in the Navy regarded him as an intelligent, quick-witted officer who
possessed moral courage. His long and varied experience in aviation
duty had fitted him well for his independent duty at Wake. He would
earn the Navy Cross for his leadership of the defense of Wake.
]


[Sidebar (page 3):

[Illustration]

Major Paul A. Putnam, a “model of strong nerves and the will to fight,”
is pictured at right in the autumn of 1941. One of his men, Second
Lieutenant David Kliewer, praised Putnam’s “cool judgment, his courage,
and his consideration for everyone [that] forged an aviation unit that
fought behind him to the end.” Putnam had become commanding officer of
VMF-211 on 17 November 1941 at Ewa, after having served as executive
officer. Designated a naval aviator in 1929, he had flown almost every
type of Marine plane from a Ford Tri-motor to a Grumman F4F-3. He
had distinguished himself in Nicaragua in 1931. One officer who had
flown with him there considered him “calm, quiet, soft-spoken ... a
determined sort of fellow.” He was awarded a Navy Cross for his heroism
at Wake.
]


[Sidebar (page 4): Defensive Mainstay: The M3 Antiaircraft Gun

[Illustration]

At right, in the firing position, is an Army pattern M3 3-inch
antiaircraft gun of the type that the 1st Defense Battalion had at
Wake. Already obsolescent at the outbreak of World War II, this weapon
was the mainstay of the defense battalions in the first months of the
war. Twelve of these guns were emplaced at Wake.

As early as 1915, the U.S. Army, recognizing the need for a high-angle
firing antiaircraft gun and resolving to build one from existing
stocks, chose the M1903 seacoast defense gun and redesignated it the
M1917. Soon after America’s entry into World War I, however, the
requirement for a mobile mount (one with less recoil) compelled the
selection of the less powerful M1898 seacoast gun for conversion to the
M1918. Development of both guns and mounts continued throughout the
interwar years, leading ultimately to the standardization of the gun as
the M3 on the M2 wheeled mount.

On the eve of World War II, each of the seven Marine defense battalions
then activated had 12 3-inch guns in three four-gun batteries. Each
mount weighed a little over six tons. The normal crew of eight could
fire 25 12.87-pound high-explosive shells per minute. The guns had an
effective ceiling of nearly 30,000 feet and an effective horizontal
range of 14,780 yards.
]


[Sidebar (page 6):

[Illustration:

    National Archives Photo 80-G-179013
]

The Nells, Bettys, and Claudes of Japan

A formation of Mitsubishi G3M1 and G3M2 Type 96 bombers (Nell), above,
fly in formation in 1942. The first models flew in 1935, and more than
250 were still serving in the Japanese land-based naval air arm in
December 1941. Nells, instrumental in the reduction of Wake’s defenses,
served alongside the newer, more powerful Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 97
bombers (Betty)--earmarked to replace them in front-line service--in
helping to sink the British capital ships HMS _Prince of Wales_ and HMS
_Repulse_ off Malaya on 10 December 1941.

Two 1,000-horsepower _Kinsei_ 45 engines enabled the Nell to reach a
speed of 238 miles per hour at 9,840 feet. Normally crewed by seven
men, the G3M2 model carried a defensive armament of one 20-mm and two
7.7-mm machine guns, and a payload of either one 1,764-pound torpedo or
2,200 pounds of bombs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although Mitsubishi A5M4 Type 96 carrier fighters (Claude), also
equipped the _Chitose Air Group_, none accompanied the group’s Nells
because of the long distances involved. Marine antiaircraft or fighter
aircraft gunfire at Wake destroyed at least four Nells during December
1941. Since the number of G3Ms engaged varied from raid to raid--no
more than 34 or fewer than 17--so, too, did damage figures. On at least
two occasions, though, as many as 12 returned to their base in the
Marshalls damaged.
]



‘_Humbled-by Sizeable Casualties_’


During the night of 10 December 1941, Wake’s lookouts vigilantly
scanned the horizon. Those of her defenders who were not on watch
grabbed what sleep they could. Shortly before midnight, the _Triton_
was south of the atoll, charging her batteries and patrolling on the
surface. At 2315, her bridge lookouts spied “two flashes” and then the
silhouette of what seemed to be a destroyer, dimly visible against the
backdrop of heavy clouds that lay behind her. The _Triton_ submerged
quickly and tracked the unidentifiable ship; ultimately, she fired a
salvo of four torpedoes from her stern tubes at 0017 on 11 December
1941--the first torpedoes fired from a Pacific Fleet submarine in World
War II. Although the submariners heard a dull explosion, indicating
what they thought was at least one probable hit, and propeller noises
appeared to cease shortly thereafter, the _Triton_’s apparent kill had
not been confirmed. She resumed her patrol, submerged.

[Illustration: _The 3,587-ton light cruiser_ Yubari, _seen here at
Shanghai, China, in April 1937, was completed in July 1923. Armed with
5.5-inch guns, she served as Rear Admiral Sadamichi Kajioka’s flagship
for the operations against Wake in December 1941._

    Naval Historical Center Photo NH 82098
]

The ship that _Triton_ had encountered off Wake’s south coast was,
most likely, the destroyer deployed as a picket 10 miles ahead of
the invasion convoy steaming up from the south. Under Rear Admiral
Sadamichi Kajioka, it had set out from Kwajalein, in the Marshalls,
on 8 December. It consisted of the light cruiser _Yubari_ (flagship),
six destroyers--_Mutsuki_, _Kisaragi_, _Yayoi_, _Mochizuki_, _Oite_,
and _Hayate_--along with _Patrol Boat No. 32_ and _Patrol Boat No. 33_
(two ex-destroyers, each reconfigured in 1941 to launch a landing craft
over a stern ramp) and two armed merchantmen, _Kongo Maru_ and _Kinryu
Maru_. To provide additional gunfire support, the Commander, _Fourth
Fleet_, had also assigned the light cruisers _Tatsuta_ and _Tenryu_ to
Kajioka’s force.

Admiral Kajioka faced less than favorable weather for the endeavor.
Deeming the northeast coastline unsuitable for that purpose, invasion
planners had called for the converted destroyers to put 150 men ashore
on Wilkes and 300 on Wake. If those numbers proved insufficient,
Kajioka’s supporting destroyers were to provide men to augment the
landing force. If contrary winds threatened the assault, the troops
would land on the northeastern and north coasts. Since the weather had
moderated enough by the 11th, though, the force was standing toward the
atoll’s south, or lee, shore in the pre-dawn hours, confident that two
days of bombings had rendered the islands’ defenses impotent.

Meanwhile, far to the east, at Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Fleet
continued to pick up the pieces after the shattering blow that the
Japanese had delivered on the 7th. The enemy onslaught had forced
Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet
(CinCPac), to revise his strategy completely. Kimmel wanted to
relieve Wake, but deploying what remained of his fleet to protect sea
communications, defend outlying bases, and protect far-flung territory,
as well as to defend Oahu, would have required a wide dispersal of
the very limited naval forces. By 10 December (11 December on Wake),
the scattered positions of his aircraft carriers, which were at sea
patrolling the Oahu-Johnston-Palmyra triangle, militated against
deploying them to support Wake. Cunningham’s garrison, however, in a
most striking fashion, would soon provide inspiration to the Pacific
Fleet and the nation as well.

Wake’s lookouts, like _Triton_’s, had seen flickering lights in the
distance. Gunner Hamas, on duty in the battalion command post, received
the report of ships offshore from Captain Wesley McC. Platt, commander
of the strongpoint on Wilkes, and notified Major Devereux, who, along
with his executive officer, Major George H. Potter, stepped out into
the moonlight and scanned the southern horizon. Hamas also telephoned
Cunningham, who ordered the guns to hold fire until the ships closed on
the island.

Cunningham then turned to Commander Keene and Lieutenant Commander
Elmer B. Greey, resident officer-in-charge of the construction
programs at Wake, with whom he shared a cottage, and told them that
lookouts had spotted ships, undoubtedly hostile ones, standing toward
the atoll. He then directed the two officers to order an alert and
immediately headed for the island’s communications center in his pickup
truck.

As the Japanese ships neared Wake, the Army radio unit on the atoll
sent a message from Cunningham to Pearl Harbor at 0200 on the 11th,
telling of the contractors’ casualties, and, because of the danger that
lay at Wake’s doorstep, suggesting early evacuation of the civilians.
Army communicators on Oahu who received the message noted that the
Japanese had tried to jam the transmission.

At 0400, Major Putnam put VMF-211 on the alert, and soon thereafter he
and Captains Elrod, Tharin, and Freuler manned the four operational
F4Fs. The Wildcats, a 100-pound bomb under each wing, then taxied into
position for take-off. Shortly before 0500, Kajioka’s ships began
their final run. At 0515, three Wildcats took off, followed after five
minutes by the fourth. They rendezvoused at 12,000 feet above Toki
Point. At 0522, the Japanese began shelling Wake.

The Marines’ guns, however, remained silent as Kajioka’s ships “crept
in, firing as they came.” The first enemy projectiles set the oil
tanks on the southwest portion of Wake ablaze while the two converted
destroyers prepared to land their _Special Naval Landing Force_ troops.
The column of warships advanced westward, still unchallenged. Nearing
the western tip of Wake 20 minutes later, Kajioka’s flagship, the
_Yubari_, closed to within 4,500 yards, seemingly “scouring the beach”
with her 5.5-inch fire. At 0600, the light cruiser reversed course yet
again, and closed the range still further.

The _Yubari_’s maneuvering prompted the careful removal of the brush
camouflage, and the Marines began to track the Japanese ships. As the
distance decreased, and the reports came into Devereux’s command post
with that information, the major again told Gunner Hamas to relay the
word to Commander Cunningham, who, by that point, had reached his
command post. Cunningham upon receiving Hamas’ report, responded, “What
are we waiting for, open fire. Must be Jap ships all right.” Devereux
quickly relayed the order to his anxious artillerymen. At 0610, they
commenced firing.

Barninger’s 5-inchers at Peacock Point, Wake’s “high ground” behind
them, boomed and sent the first 50-pound projectiles beyond their
target. Adjusting the range quickly, the gunners soon scored what
seemed to be hits on the _Yubari_. Although Barninger’s guns had
unavoidably revealed their location, the ships’ counterfire proved
woefully inaccurate. Kajioka’s flagship managed to land only one shell
in Battery B’s vicinity, a projectile that burst some 150 feet from
Barninger’s command post. “The fire ... continued to be over and then
short throughout her firing,” Barninger later reported. “She straddled
continually, but none of the salvoes came into the position.” It
was fortunate that the Japanese fire proved as poor as it was, for
Barninger’s guns lay completely unprotected, open save for camouflage.
No sandbag protection existed!

Captain Platt, meanwhile, told Major Potter via phone that, since
Battery L’s rangefinder had been damaged in the bombing the previous
day, First Lieutenant McAlister was having trouble obtaining the range.
After Platt passed along Potter’s order to McAlister to estimate
it, Battery L opened fire and scored hits on one of the transports,
prompting the escorting destroyers to stand toward the troublesome guns.

Platt carefully scrutinized the Japanese ship movements offshore, and
noted with satisfaction that McAlister’s 5-inchers sent three salvoes
slamming into the _Hayate_. She exploded immediately, killing all of
her 167-man crew. McAlister’s gunners cheered and then turned their
attention to the _Oite_ and the _Mochizuki_, which soon suffered hits
from the same guns. The _Oite_ sustained 14 wounded; the _Mochizuki_
sustained an undetermined number of casualties.

[Illustration: _A portable coincidence range-finder is like those
used at Wake Island in conjunction with the 5-inch/51 caliber guns of
Batteries A, B, and L. It was believed that they had been removed from
decommissioned and deactivated battleships in the 1920s._

    Charles A. Holmes Collection, MCHC
]

First Lieutenant Kessler’s Battery B, at the tip of Peale, meanwhile,
dueled with the destroyers _Yayoi_, _Mutsuki_, and _Kisaragi_, as well
as the _Tenryu_ and the _Tatsuta_, and drew heavy counterfire that
disabled one gun. The crew of the inoperable mount shifted to that
of a serviceable one, serving as ammunition passers, and after 10
rounds, Kessler’s remaining gun scored a hit on the _Yayoi_’s stern,
killing one man, wounding 17, and starting a fire. His gunners then
shifted their attention to the next destroyer in column. The enemy’s
counterfire severed communications between Kessler’s command post
and the gun, but Battery B--the muzzle blast temporarily disabling
the rangefinder--continued with local fire control. As the Japanese
warships stood to the south, Kessler’s gun hurled two parting shots
toward a transport, which proved to have been out of range.

[Illustration: MAP 2

SURFACE ACTION OF 11 DECEMBER 1941]

The _Yubari_’s action record reflects that although Wake had been
pounded by land-based planes, the atoll’s defenders still possessed
enough coastal guns to mount a ferocious defense, which forced Kajioka
to retire. As if the seacoast guns and the weather were not enough
to frustrate the admiral’s venture--the heavy seas had overturned
landing boats almost as soon as they were launched--the Japanese soon
encountered a new foe. While Cunningham’s cannoneers had been trading
shells with Kajioka’s, Putnam’s four Wildcats had climbed to 20,000
feet and maintained that altitude until daylight, when the major had
ascertained that no Japanese planes were airborne. As the destroyers
that had dueled Battery B opened the range and stood away from Wake,
the Wildcats roared in.

Major Putnam saw at least one of Elrod’s bombs hit the _Kisaragi_.
Trailing oil and smoke, the damaged destroyer slowed to a stop but then
managed to get underway again, internally afire. While she limped away
to the south, Elrod, antiaircraft fire having perforated his plane’s
oil line, headed home. He managed to reach Wake and land on the rocky
beach, but VMF 211’s ground crew wrote off his F4F as a total loss.
Meanwhile, _Tenryu_ came under attack by Putnam, Tharin, and Freuler,
who strafed her forward, near the number 1 torpedo tube mount, wounding
five men and disabling three torpedoes.

The three serviceable Wildcats then shuttled back and forth to be
rearmed and refueled. Putnam and Kinney later saw the _Kisaragi_--which
had been carrying an extra supply of depth charges because of the
American submarine threat--blow up and sink, killing her entire crew
of 167 men. Freuler, Putnam, and Hamilton strafed the _Kongo Maru_,
igniting barrels of gasoline stowed in one of her holds, killing three
Japanese sailors, and wounding 19. Two more men were listed as missing.
Freuler’s Wildcat took a bullet in the engine but managed to return
to the field. Technical Sergeant Hamilton reached the field despite a
perforated tail section.

The _Triton_, which had not made contact with an enemy ship since
firing at the unidentified ship during the pre-dawn hours, did not
participate in the action that morning. Neither did her sistership, the
_Tambor_. The latter attempted to approach the enemy ships she observed
firing at the atoll, until they appeared to be standing away from Wake.
Then, she reversed course and proceeded north, well away from the
retiring Japanese, to avoid penetrating the _Triton_’s patrol area.

Meanwhile, after Kinney witnessed the _Kisaragi_’s cataclysmic demise,
he strafed another destroyer before returning to the field. Having been
rearmed and refueled, he took off again at 0915, accompanied by Second
Lieutenant Davidson, shortly before 17 Nells appeared to bomb Peale’s
batteries.

Davidson battled nine of the bombers, which had separated from the
others and headed toward the southwest. Kinney tackled the other eight.
Battery D, meanwhile, hurled 125 rounds at the bombers. Although some
of the enemy’s bombs fell near the battery position on Peale, the
Japanese again inflicted neither damage nor casualties, and lost two
Nells in the process. Eleven other G3M2s had been damaged; casualties
included 15 dead and one slightly wounded. Putnam later credited Kinney
and Davidson with shooting down one plane apiece.

Ordered to move Battery D’s 3-inch guns the length of Peale during
the night, Godbold reconnoitered the new position selected by Major
Devereux, and at 1745, after securing all battery positions, began
the shift. For the next 11 hours, the Marines, assisted by nearly
250 civilians, constructed new emplacements. By 0445 on 12 December,
Godbold could again report: “Manned and ready.” At Peacock Point, on
the night of the 11th, Wally Lewis gave permission for all but two men
at each gun, and at the director, to get some sleep--the first the men
had had in three days.

[Illustration: _A pre-war view of the destroyer_ Kisaragi, _sunk as the
result of damage inflicted by two 100-pound bombs dropped by Capt Henry
T. Elrod on the morning of 11 December 1941. Out of the crew of 167
men, not one sailor survived._

    Naval Historical Center Photo NH 3065
]

[Illustration:

    National Archives Photo 80-G-179006

_Wrecked Grumman F4F-3s from VMF-211 near the airstrip on Wake
(photographed after the Japanese took the island). The Wildcat in the
foreground, 211-F-ll, was flown on 11 December by Capt Elrod in the
attack that sank the Japanese destroyer_ Kisaragi. _Having suffered
such damage as to make it unserviceable, 211-F-ll was ultimately
cannibalized for spares._]

The Japanese force, meanwhile, “... humbled by sizeable casualties,”
withdrew to the Marshalls, having requested aircraft carrier
reinforcement. Hundreds of miles away, at Pearl Harbor, elements of
the 4th Defense Battalion received orders to begin preparing for an
operation, the destination of which was closely held. The Marines of
the battalion fervently desired to assist their comrades on Wake Island
and many of them probably concluded, “We’re headed for Wake!”


[Sidebar (page 10):

[Illustration]

The Defense Battalion’s 5-Inch Guns

In the photo above, a 5-inch/51 seacoast gun of Battery A, 1st Defense
Battalion, rests at the Marine Corps Base, San Diego, on 21 October
1940, prior to its being deployed “beyond the seas.” Private Edward F.
Eaton, standing beside it, serves as a yardstick to give the viewer an
idea of the size of the gun that could hurl a 50-pound shell at 3,150
feet per second up to a range of 17,100 yards. These guns gave a good
account of themselves at Wake Island, particularly in discouraging
Admiral Kajioka’s attempted landing in December 1941.
]


[Sidebar (page 13):

[Illustration]

Captain Henry T. Elrod (seen at right in the fall of 1941), VMF-211’s
executive officer, distinguished himself both in the air and in the
ground fighting at Wake, with deeds which earned him a posthumous
Medal of Honor. Born in Georgia in 1905, Elrod attended the University
of Georgia and Yale University. Enlisting in the Corps in 1927, he
received his commission in 1931. Elrod is the only Marine hero from
Wake who has had a warship--a guided missile frigate--named in his
honor.
]



‘_Still No Help_’


Well before dawn on 12 December, unsynchronized engines heralded
the approach of a Japanese flying boat. Captains Freuler and Tharin
scrambled their planes to intercept it. The enemy plane--a Kawanishi
H6K Type 97 reconnaissance flying boat (Mavis) from the _Yokohama Air
Group_ dropped its bombs on the edge of the lagoon and then sought
cover in the overcast and rain squalls. Tharin, although untrained in
night aerial combat techniques, chased and “splashed” it. None of its
nine-man crew survived.

Later that same day, 26 _Chitose Air Group_ Nells bombed Wake Island.
Returning aircrewmen claimed damage to a warehouse and an antiaircraft
gun in the “western sector.” Antiaircraft fire shot down one plane and
damaged four; Japanese casualties included eight men killed. Once the
bombers had departed, “Barney” Barninger’s men continued working on
their foxholes, freshened the camouflage, cleaned the guns, and tried
to catch some sleep. The daily bombings, he wrote later, “were becoming
an old story, and it was a relief from waiting when the raid was over.”

[Illustration: _Capt Frank C. Tharin (seen here as a first lieutenant,
8 August 1939) would earn a Silver Star Medal, a Distinguished Flying
Cross, and two Air Medals for his performance of duty at Wake Island._

    Marine Corps Historical Collection
]

Weathering bombing attacks, taking the enemy’s blows, was one thing,
but striking at the Japanese was something else--something to boost
morale. At about 1600 on the 12th, Second Lieutenant Kliewer, while
patrolling, spotted a surfaced submarine 25 miles southwest of Wake.
With the sun behind him, he dove from 10,000 feet. Convinced that the
submarine was Japanese, Kliewer fired his four .50-calibers broadside
into the submarine. Turning to the right, and seeking to increase his
chances of scoring maximum damage on the enemy, he dove and dropped
his two 100-pounders at such a low altitude that bomb fragments ripped
large holes in his wings and tail surfaces. Emptying his guns into the
submarine on his next pass, he looked behind him and saw her submerge.
Major Putnam flew out to verify that the sub had been sunk and spotted
an oil slick at the spot Kliewer indicated.

[Illustration:

    Marine Corps Historical Collection

_2dLt David D. Kliewer (seen here_ circa _September 1941), a minister’s
son, would be awarded a Bronze Star Medal and two Air Medals for his
service at Wake._]

That night, a stateside radio report praised Wake’s Marines. It stated
that for security reasons it could not mention the size of the garrison
defending the atoll, but noted that “we know the number is very small.”

“Nothing like letting the enemy know our status,” Kinney noted
sardonically in his diary. “Still no help.”

Although help was a subject very much on the minds of Admiral Kimmel
and his staff back at Pearl Harbor, by 11 December plans to reinforce
Wake had not yet “crystallized.” Nor could they, until the carriers
around which any task forces could be formed could be marshalled
for the task. As Captain Charles H. “Soc” McMorris, Kimmel’s war
plans officer, had estimated, all of the nearly 1,500 people on Wake
could be accommodated very rapidly on board the seaplane tender
_Tangier_ (AV-8) if they either destroyed or abandoned their personal
belongings. _Tangier_ would be crowded, but he believed it could be
done. Protecting the tender, though, was key. “She should not go,”
McMorris wrote, “until air protection is available.” If the evacuation
of Wake was decided upon--and he recommended against it--the “promptest
measure” would be to have _Tangier_ assigned to a task force formed
around the aircraft carrier _Lexington_ (CV-2). Then, accompanied by
destroyers, she could evacuate Wake’s garrison while _Lexington_’s
planes provided cover. Even as the people at Pearl Harbor considered
plans for her employment, however, “Lady Lex” and her consorts were
encountering difficulty refueling in the heavy seas northwest of
Oahu. Ultimately, Task Force 12 had to put into Pearl to complete the
refueling.

The following day, 13 December, found VMF-211 conducting its patrols as
usual with three available aircraft. Meanwhile, ground crews dragged
Captain Elrod’s old plane over from the beach and propped it up across
the runway to serve as a decoy. The contractors promised Kinney that a
light-proof hangar would be finished that night.

Listening to the radio that evening provided little inspiration. As
Kinney noted in his diary, Kay Kyser, the reknowned bandleader, had
dedicated a song to the “Wake Marines,” while commentators noted that
Wake’s defenders, when asked what they required, had said “Send us more
Japs.”

“We began to figure out,” Kinney wrote, “that the U.S. was not going to
reinforce us.”

At Pearl Harbor, however, efforts proceeded apace to disprove those who
despaired of relief: the _Tangier_ began discharging aviation gasoline
to a barge alongside, as she prepared for her impending mission. Early
the following morning, she began unloading warheads and torpedoes
and commenced loading aviation stores earmarked for Wake. Later, she
shifted to the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, where she continued discharging
gasoline and unloading torpedoes. “Wake Island,” Rear Admiral Claude
Bloch, the Commandant of the 14th Naval District, wrote on 12 December
(13 December on Wake) “is putting up a magnificent fight. Kimmel is
doing his best to devise means for reinforcing it and getting out the
civilians....” The _Lexington_ and her consorts entered Pearl to fuel
on 13 December, while _Saratoga_ (CV-3) and her escorts (three old
destroyers) steamed toward Oahu--also delayed by heavy weather.

The enemy, meanwhile, maintained aerial pressure on the atoll. Three
flying boats bombed the island at 0437 on Sunday, 14 December, but
did not damage anything. The Marines, sailors, and contractors went
about their daily business of improving their defensive positions. The
artillerymen replaced the natural camouflage with fresh foliage.

Wake had little need for “more Japs,” despite media claims. It did,
however, need tools with which it could defend itself. Cunningham
radioed to the Commandant of the 14th Naval District a lengthy list of
supplies--including fire control radars--required by his 5- and 3-inch
batteries, as well as by the machine gun and searchlight batteries.

At the airfield, the 14th dawned with just two planes in service.
Kinney determined, though, that one of those, an F4F “bought” from VF-6
(embarked on the USS _Enterprise_), required an engine replacement.
They would scavenge the parts required from two irreparably damaged
planes. As a work crew tackled that task, 30 Nells from the _Chitose
Air Group_ began sowing destruction across Wake. One bomb hit one of
the aircraft shelters and set afire an F4F.

[Illustration:

    National Archives Photo 19-N-25360

_The seaplane tender_ Tangier _(AV-8) (seen here off Mare Island,
California, in August 1941), a converted freighter, had elements of the
4th Defense Battalion embarked as well as vitally needed ammunition and
equipment, including radar._]

Scrambling over to that Wildcat after the raid had ended, Kinney saw
that the enemy ordnance had hit close to the tail but had damaged only
the oil tank and intercoolers. Since that was the squadron’s best
engine, Kinney knew that it must be removed, mount and all. Kinney used
an improvised hoist to lift the plane by its nose.

With only the single makeshift hoist, Kinney and his crew removed one
engine and attached the other mount by nightfall, fortified only by a
gallon of ice cream which Pete Sorenson, one of the contractors, had
thoughtfully brought them. Since the hangar was not complete, they had
to work quickly to avoid the blackout.

Kinney instructed the civilian foreman to call him as soon as the
hangar was ready to receive the plane. He sent Hamilton to bed at
0800, and retired, himself, to be awakened an hour and a half later.
With Hamilton in tow, he awoke the three civilians who had been
helping them, and all went to the hangar. With a bit more effort, they
were ready for the aircraft at 1130. Kinney and his civilian helpers
completed installing the engine by 0330 on the 15th.

The failure to have the hangars completed, meanwhile, proved to be
a sore point for Major Putnam. Commander Cunningham differed with
his Marine subordinate over just how much pressure to apply to the
civilians, eschewing the use of armed force in favor of addressing the
workers in small groups and appealing to them to lend a hand.

Annoyed that Cunningham seemed to be using only “moral suasion” on
the contractors, Putnam, on 14 December, personally persuaded the
contractors to work on the underground shelters--no work having been
done for the previous 24 hours--and the civilians turned out in force
(“about 300 when only 50 could work,” Kinney noted).

The enthusiastic turnout, however, had an unexpected effect. Curiosity
moved many workmen to line the airstrip to watch the take-off of the
evening patrol. The surging crowd caused Captain Freuler to ease his
plane to the left to avoid hitting any men, and in so doing found
that he had aimed the plane toward a crane which sat on the north
side of the airfield. Continuing to the left, Freuler tried to miss
the piece of heavy equipment but instead “ground-looped” his F4F into
the “boondocks,” wrecking it. Hauled back to the runway, the damaged
Wildcat served, thereafter, as a decoy.

At Pearl Harbor, at 1231 on 14 December (0901 15 December, on Wake),
Task Force 11 (formerly Task Force 12) stood out to sea. Its commander,
Vice Admiral Wilson Brown, had been ordered to raid Jaluit to divert
attention away from Task Force 14, which was to sortie the following
day and proceed to Wake. Brown’s force was to conduct the raid on
Jaluit--reckoned to be the center of Japanese operations in the
Marshalls--and then to retire toward Pearl Harbor the day before Task
Force 14, under Rear Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, was to reach Wake.

Fletcher’s task, meanwhile, was to see that the _Tangier_ reached her
objective. The _Saratoga_, with VMF-221 embarked, was to launch the
Marine fighters to fly into Wake while the seaplane tender was to
moor offshore to begin the process of putting ashore reinforcements,
ammunition, provisions, and equipment--including an important radar
set. The _Tangier_ was then to embark approximately 650 civilians and
all of the wounded men and return to Pearl Harbor. Kimmel and his
staff had estimated that the process of unloading and debarkation
would take at least two days; embarking all the people at Wake could
be accomplished in less than one. Unfavorable weather, however, could
lengthen the time considerably. At 1331 (at Pearl Harbor), on 15
December Kimmel informed the Chief of Naval Operations (Admiral Harold
R. Stark) of the relief expedition he had just launched. He received
Admiral Stark’s concurrence early the following morning.

Meanwhile, during the day on the 15th, Dan Godbold’s men observed the
usual routine, starting the day at full alert and replacing the natural
camouflage before reducing the alert status at 0700. His men completed
the shelters near the guns during the day and began work on a shelter
at the heightfinder position. They stopped work at 1700 to return to
full alert. A half hour later, however, battery lookouts reported a
plane lurking amongst the low clouds to the east, and Godbold reported
the presence of the intruder to the island command post. At 1800, four
flying boats came in at 1,000 feet and dropped bombs on what their
crews thought was the “barracks area (Camp 1) on the northern part of
the island.” They also strafed the area near Batteries D and B. The
Japanese reported their bombing as having been “effective,” but it
inflicted no material damage. One civilian workman was killed. From his
vantage point, Marine Gunner McKinstry, in Battery E, thought all of
the bombs landed in the ocean.

The next day, the 16th, 33 Nells raided Wake Island at 1340. The
Marines, however, greeted the Japanese fliers with novel fire control
methods. Kinney and Kliewer, aloft on patrol, spotted the incoming
formations closing on the atoll at 18,000 feet, almost 10 minutes
before they reached Wake’s airspace. The U.S. pilots radioed the
enemy’s altitude to the gun batteries. The early warning permitted
Lewis to enter the data into the M-4 director and pass the solution to
Godbold. Battery D hurled 95 rounds skyward. Battery E’s first shots
seemed to explode ahead of the formation, but Gunner McKinstry reported
that the lead plane in one of the formations dropped, smoking, to the
rear of the formation. He estimated that at least four other planes
cleared the island trailing smoke. Godbold estimated that four planes
had been damaged and one had crashed some distance from the island.
Japanese accounts, however, provide no support for Godbold’s estimate,
acknowledging neither losses nor damage to Japanese aircraft during
the attack that day. Kliewer and Kinney each attacked the formations
of planes, but with little effect, partly because only one of Kinney’s
four machine guns functioned.

That day, as half of Wake’s submarine support--the _Tambor_--retired
toward Oahu because of an irreparable leak in her forward torpedo
room, Kinney returned to the task of keeping the planes ready to fight
with field expedient repairs and borrowed gear. Kinney and his helpers
fashioned gun cleaning rods from welding rods. The pervasive, intrusive
coral sand threatened to cause severe mechanical damage to the planes.
Kinney borrowed a compressor from PanAm (two previous compressors had
been “strafed out of commission”) to try to keep the planes clean by
blasting a mixture of air and kerosene to blow out the accumulations of
grit.

[Illustration:

    National Archives Photo 80-G-266632

_Marines from the 4th Defense Battalion embark in_ Tangier _(AV-8) at
Pearl Harbor, 15 December 1941, bound for Wake. Barely visible beyond
the first Marine at the head of the gangway is a sobering reminder of
the events of eight days before: the mainmast of the sunken_ Arizona
_(BB-39). Tank farm spared by the Japanese on that day lies at right
background._]

To help Kinney and Hamilton and their small but dedicated band of
civilians, Aviation Machinist’s Mate Hesson, who had been wounded on
the 14th, violated doctor’s orders and returned to duty. He resumed
work on the planes, carrying on as effectively as ever in spite of his
injures. Putnam later recalled Hesson’s service as being “the very
foundation of the entire aerial defense of Wake Island.”

At Pearl Harbor, in the lengthening shadows of 15 December (16 December
on Wake), the relief expedition made ready to sail. The _Tangier_,
the oiler _Neches_ (AO-5) and four destroyers sailed at 1730 on the
15th (On Wake, 1400 on 16 December.). The _Saratoga_ and the remainder
of the escort--delayed by the time it took to fuel the carrier--were
to sail the following day. “The twilight sortie,” First Lieutenant
Robert D. Heinl, Jr., as commander of Battery F, 3-Inch Antiaircraft
Group, wrote of the _Tangier_’s sailing, “dramatized the adventure.”
The ships steamed past somber reminders of 7 December--the beached
battleship _Nevada_ and a Douglas SBD Dauntless from the _Enterprise_
that had been shot down by “friendly fire” off Fort Kamehameha. “The
waters beyond sight of Oahu,” First Lieutenant Heinl noted, “seemed
very lonely waters indeed.... Columbus’ men, sailing westward in hourly
apprehension of toppling off the edge of a square earth, could not have
felt the seas to be more inscrutable and less friendly.”

Wake’s dogged defense caused Vice Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue, Commander,
_South Seas Force_ (_Fourth Fleet_), to seek help. Admiral Isoroku
Yamamoto, the Commander in Chief of the _Combined Fleet_, responded
by assigning a force under the command of Rear Admiral Hiroaki Abe,
Commander, _8th Cruiser Division_, consisting of carriers _Hiryu_
and _Soryu_ and escorting ships, to reinforce Inoue. At 1630 on 16
December, the two carriers (with 118 aircraft), screened by the heavy
cruisers _Tone_ and _Chikuma_ and the destroyers _Tanikaze_ and
_Urakaze_, detached from their _Pearl Harbor Striking Force_, and
headed toward Wake.

As Abe’s ships steamed toward Wake, U.S. Navy radio intelligence
operators intercepted Japanese radio transmissions. The messages, when
decoded, caused the intelligence analysts to suspect that connections
existed among the Japanese _Fourth Fleet_ operations “CruDiv 8” (the
_Tone_ and the _Chikuma_), “Cardiv 2” (the _Soryu_ and the _Hiryu_),
and “Airon 24” (_24th Flotilla_). Aerial reconnaissance flights from
the Marshalls followed.

The following afternoon Rear Admiral Bloch sent a message that must
have seemed a trifle unrealistic to Cunningham, who was primarily
concerned with defending the atoll and keeping his men alive. The
message stated that it was “highly desirable” that the dredging of the
channel across Wilkes continue and inquired about the feasibility
“under present conditions” of finishing the work with equipment at
hand. It requested an estimated date of completion.

On 17 December, something occurred at Pearl Harbor which harbored ill
portents for the Wake Island relief operation. Admiral Kimmel was
relieved of command. In a perfunctory ceremony at the Submarine Base,
Kimmel relinquished command to Vice Admiral William S. Pye, who would
serve as the acting commander until Admiral Chester W. Nimitz arrived
to assume command. Pye inherited an operation about which he would soon
harbor many reservations. The next day (18 December), CinCPac’s radio
intelligence men noted again that ... “Cardiv and Crudiv 8 continued to
be associated with the Fourth Fleet in communications.”

While the acting CinCPac digested that latest disquieting intelligence
and sent it along to Fletcher and Brown, Wake’s defenders endured
another air raid. On the 19th, 27 Nells came in from the northwest
at 1135, and dropped bombs on the remainder of the PanAm facility on
Peale and on Camp 1 on Wake. Battery D fired 70 rounds at the attacking
planes, and both Godbold and Marine Gunner McKinstry reported seeing
one plane leaving the sky over the atoll, trailing a plume of smoke
behind it. An aviator, they said, drifted down in his parachute some
distance from land. Wake’s gunners had actually done far better than
they had thought. Of 27 planes engaged, 12 had been hit by antiaircraft
fire.

Cunningham responded to Bloch’s message of the previous day that up to
that point he had been concerned only with defending the island and
preserving lives. He addressed the completion of the channel by listing
the difficulties associated with the task. He pointed out that blackout
conditions militated working at night, and that Japanese air raids,
which came without warning, reduced the amount of work which could be
accomplished during the day. But working during the day was hazardous,
he said, because noisy equipment prevented workmen from being alerted
to the incoming planes in time for them to take cover. Furthermore,
the amount of contractor’s equipment was being continually reduced by
the bombings. Additionally, continuing the projects would require the
immediate replenishment of diesel oil and dynamite. With morale of the
civilian workmen generally low, Cunningham could not predict, under
the prevailing conditions, when the construction projects would be
completed. He further declared that “relief from raids would improve
[the] outlook.” After recording, in a second message the damage
inflicted by the Japanese on the base on Peale, the atoll commander
noted that, since the outbreak of war, the efforts involved in
assisting in the defense and salvage operations had fully occupied all
of the contractors’ men. Cunningham continued by noting the additional
numbers of dead or missing civilians since his earlier dispatch on
the subject, and described the civilians’ morale as “extremely low.”
He reiterated his request to consider evacuating the civilians, since
the large number of them who were not contributing to the defensive
efforts required sustenance, which drew on the stores required by those
actively engaged in the defensive operations.

In the meantime, Vice Admiral Pye had passed on to Brown information
pointing toward Japan’s establishment of an air base in the Gilberts
and the existence of a submarine force at Jaluit. Most disturbing
of all was the news that CinCPac’s intelligence people knew of “no
definite location of [the] force which attacked Oahu.” For all anyone
knew, the Japanese carriers whose planes had bombed Pearl Harbor could
be lurking almost anywhere!

Considering the newly established enemy air bases that he would have
to pass en route to Jaluit, Brown could see that Japanese air searches
from those places might spot Task Force 11 before it reached its
objective. He began fueling his ships on the 18th--the same day that
Rear Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr.’s Task Force 8 sailed from Pearl
to support Task Forces 11 and 14--and informed the task force of its
objective. Brown completed the fueling operations on the 19th. That
done, he detached his oiler, the _Neosho_ (AO-23), to stand out of
danger, and contemplated what lay ahead.

Fletcher’s Task Force 14, meanwhile, pressed westward. At noon on the
19th, the _Saratoga_ and her consorts were 1,020 miles east of Wake.
D-Day had been set for the 24th.


[Sidebar (page 17)]

Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, the commander of Task Force 14, is the
subject of much historical “Monday morning quarterbacking.” All
these commentators have the benefit of something neither Pye, the
overall commander, nor Fletcher, on the scene, had--hindsight. As
“Soc” McMorris (Admiral Kimmel’s war plans officer) put it, “We had
no more idea’n a billygoat,” about what Japanese forces lay off Wake.
The welter of message traffic linking CruDivs, CarDivs, and BatDivs
with land-based air painted a formidable picture of what might be
encountered by a _single_ U.S. Navy carrier task force. While the
Navy pilots may have been well trained, _Saratoga_’s embarked fighter
squadron was understrength, having only 13 operational Wildcats.

[Illustration]

Nor could the Marines of VMF-221 (bound for Wake) have been counted
on as an effective adjunct to _Saratoga_’s squadron, since they had
not operated from a carrier. An even more compelling argument for how
VMF-221 would have performed in the emergency is that Major General
Ross Rowell, commanding the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, knowing of 221’s
manpower and operational deficiencies, lamented having to send “[Major
Verne] McCaul’s half-baked outfit into that mess.” Rowell knew that
maintaining the temperamental Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo fighters at a
stateside air base with all the conveniences had been a chore--let
alone having to operate the F2A-3 at an advance base (especially
one that had been so badly cut-up as Wake had been) or at sea on a
carrier (where the F2A’s performance--especially with landing gear
failures--was nearly infamous).

And, too, the three carriers committed to the relief expedition were
all there were in the Pacific. There were no reserves. Even though the
Japanese harbored no ideas of conquest of Hawaii at that time--they
were through with Oahu for the time being--Pye and his advisors had
no way of knowing that. What intelligence existed pointed toward a
potential disaster for an island where the issue was, as Cunningham
correctly perceived, very much in doubt!

When asked in 1970 if the relief expedition’s arrival would have made
any difference in the outcome at Wake, retired Brigadier General
Devereux answered: “I rather doubt that that particular task force,
with its size and composition, could have been very effective.... I
think it was wise ... to pull back.”
]



‘_All Hands Have Behaved Splendidly_’


Shortly before 1600 on 20 December, scrutinized by Wake Island’s only
serviceable F4F, a Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat bearing mail
landed in the lagoon. It arrived in the midst of a rain squall, but the
defenders welcomed the precipitation because it worsened the flying
weather and inhibited the Japanese bombing efforts. Commander Keene’s
sailors moored the Catalina and fueled it for the next morning’s flight.

As “Barney” Barninger observed, the flying boat’s arrival “set the
island on end with scuttlebutt.” Most men surmised that the civilians
would be evacuated. The scuttlebutt was partially correct. From the
secret orders carried on board the PBY, Cunningham learned that he was
to prepare all but 350 civilians (those to be selected “by specific
trades to continue the more important of the projects,” one of which
was the completion of the ship channel between Wake and Wilkes) for
evacuation. He was also notified that fire control, radar, and other
equipment was being sent, along with reinforcements of both men and
machinery.

That day, Commander Cunningham recounted the events which had occurred
to date in a report to Rear Admiral Bloch. Although many air raids
had occurred, he reported, that most had resulted in few casualties
and little damage to installations. He attributed Wake’s escape from
more serious damage to the effectiveness of the Marines’ antiaircraft
fire--fire delivered despite the lack of fire control equipment. A
former fighter pilot, he also lavished unstinting praise on VMF-211’s
aviators, who had “never failed to push home attacks against heavy
fire.” That none of the planes had been shot down, he marvelled, “is a
miracle.”

The representative of the Bureau of the Budget, Herman P. Hevenor,
who had arrived on Wake via the _Clipper_ on 7 December to check the
progress of construction on the atoll and review the expenditures,
wrote to the Bureau telling them of the siege to that point and
praising those who led the defense. “The Commanding Officer
[Cunningham] and his staff, including the Marine Officers, have done
a big job and an efficient one. Their stand against the Japs has been
marvelous and they deserve everything our Government can give them....”

Major Putnam dashed off a report of VMF-211’s operations to Lieutenant
Colonel Claude A. Larkin, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group
(MAG) 21. After recounting the losses of both planes and men suffered
by his squadron, and the damage he felt his men had inflicted upon the
enemy, Putnam wrote that a large share of the squadron’s records had
been destroyed on the first day, and since then, “parts and assemblies
have been traded back and forth so that no airplane can be identified.
Engines have been traded from plane to plane, have been junked,
stripped, rebuilt, and all but created.” Practically all of 211’s gear
had been destroyed. Quartermaster property lay scattered about, wholly
unaccounted for.

Nevertheless, he praised his men. “All hands have behaved splendidly
and held up in a manner of which the Marine Corps may well tell.”
He singled out the “indefatigable labor, the ingenuity, skill, and
technical knowledge of Lieutenant Kinney and Technical Sergeant
Hamilton,” since “it is solely due to their efforts that the squadron
is still operating.”[A]

    [A] In a marginal note to this report by Putnam upon his return
        from a POW camp in Japan, in October 1945, he added AMM1c
        Hesson’s name to those of Kinney and Hamilton.

The next morning the PBY crew and their only passenger, Major Walter
L. J. Bayler, who had completed his temporary duty at Wake, clambered
on board the Catalina. The PBY taxied into the lagoon and took off for
Midway.

As the PBY departed, a Japanese task force steamed toward Wake Island,
intent upon attacking on the 22d. The arrival and departure of that
PBY, however, influenced the Japanese plans. On 20 December, Rear
Admiral Abe received a report (based upon the radio messages the PBY
sent as it approached Wake) that planes from Patrol Squadron 23 had
advanced to Wake from Midway the previous day. Consequently, the
commander of the _South Seas Force_, hoping to catch and destroy those
planes, pressed Abe to advance the attack one day. The _Wake Island
Reinforcement Force_ increased its speed to 30 knots.

In the meantime, on the morning of 21 December, Rear Admiral Kajioka
set out from the Marshalls for a second attempt at Wake. The attacking
naval forces included the same ships that had participated in the
first attack, the destroyers _Asanagi_ and _Yunagi_ (which replaced
the _Hayate_ and the _Kisaragi_, which had been sunk during the
initial attack), and some reinforcements, four heavy cruisers (_Kako_,
_Aoba_, _Furutaka_ and _Kinugasa_) that had recently taken part in the
occupation of Guam, and the seaplane carrier _Kiyokawa Maru_. Instead
of 225 troops in each converted destroyer, 250 (some of whom had taken
part in the seizure of Guam) had been embarked. Landing exercises had
been conducted at Kwajalein.

At 0700 on the 21st, beneath cloudy skies, _Hiryu_ and _Soryu_ turned
into the northeasterly wind and began launching planes. The aircraft
arrived over Wake at about 0900 to find a 200-meter ceiling and, seeing
no U.S. patrol planes, circled at 50 to 200 meters and began attacking
shore installations. Antiaircraft fire hardly seemed to hinder them
as they “worked things over a bit” and gave embattled defenders
their first taste of dive-bombing. _Soryu_’s and _Hiryu_’s aviators,
having experienced the flak over Pearl Harbor, reported “very slight”
resistance from antiaircraft fire. “The enemy,” Rear Admiral Abe
reflected, “seemed to lose their fighting spirits.”

The blow had fallen without warning. It caught Second Lieutenant
Kliewer eating breakfast with the crews of the two .50-caliber machine
guns at the west end of the field. He admired them for the way in which
they stuck to their guns amidst the bombing and strafing, continuing to
fire “when other guns on the island [had been] silenced.”

The raid had caught Major Putnam returning from Camp 2 in a truck. He
attempted to reach the only flyable F4F, but strafing Zeroes twice
forced him away. Only after the Mitsubishis and Aichis left the
vicinity, at about 1020, was he able to take off and attempt to follow
them to their ships. Although he was not successful in that endeavor,
his attempt typified the “highest order of courage and resolution” that
he displayed throughout the siege. As Putnam searched for the Japanese
fleet, Cunningham radioed word of the morning’s raid to CinCPac and
the Commandant of the 14th Naval District.

Later that day, 33 Nells paid Wake a visit. The antiaircraft fire,
however, apparently forced them to bomb from a higher altitude than
before (18,000 feet _vice_ 13,000). Although Dan Godbold claimed
to have seen one plane dropping from the skies over Wake, trailing
smoke, all G3M2s returned safely to Roi. Their bombs, however, had
fallen thickly about the battery, scoring a bullseye on the director
emplacement, killing Platoon Sergeant Johnalson E. Wright, wounding
three other men, and knocking unconscious the range officer, Second
Lieutenant Robert W. Greeley. The M-4 director, although destroyed by
the bomb, deflected the full force of the explosion from Greeley and
saved his life.

Wright, the firing battery officer, had been known for his cheerfulness
and boundless vitality. Although during previous raids he had been told
to take cover, he had remained at his post, calmly giving orders and
disregarding the bombs. His seemingly tireless efforts to improve the
efficiency of the battery earned him a Bronze Star posthumously.

At Peacock Point, a bomb had fallen near the shelter belonging to
Barninger’s no. 2 gun crew, causing the entrance to be blocked and
blowing the sides in. Fortunately, no one was hurt. “The bomb hitting
the shelter,” Barninger wrote later, “was the only one close to the
guns.” He and his men spent the rest of the day repairing the damaged
shelter. Most of the Marines, though, began feeling that foxholes were
better. “Although we didn’t lose a man,” Barninger commented, “it was a
close thing and with the heavy caliber bombs the shelter is too light.
For that reason we are all back in the foxholes.”

On the previous day, Major Devereux had ordered Marine Gunner McKinstry
to keep the two guns of Battery F firing to divert the enemy’s
attention from the only complete battery on the island, Battery E. On
the 22d, McKinstry’s gunners put on a fine performance, despite having
neither director nor heightfinder to help them. Firing by the expedient
of “lead ’em a mile,” the two guns of Battery F kept the enemy guessing
as to which group of guns was the greater threat.

[Illustration:

    Marine Corps Historical Collection

_2dLt Carl R. Davidson (seen_ circa _September 1941), VMF-211’s
assistant gunnery officer, was awarded a Navy Cross posthumously for
courageously and unhesitatingly attacking an overwhelming number of
Kates on 21 December._]

Nevertheless, all of the planes from _Hiryu_ and _Soryu_ returned
undamaged to their decks. Then, Abe’s force steamed south to be in a
position 200 miles from Wake the next day to provide an antisubmarine
screen for Kajioka’s ships.

At Pearl Harbor, Vice Admiral Pye read with concern Cunningham’s
dispatch reporting the raid by carrier planes. The Japanese had
inserted a dangerous new factor into the equation. Pye deemed it
essential “to insure [the] defense of the [Hawaiian] islands.” With
the Army’s Hawaiian defense in shambles, and the battleship strength
significantly reduced by the Japanese attack on 7 December, he believed
that the Pacific Fleet’s three carriers constituted the best protection
for Oahu. After he considered the evidence of increased Japanese air
activity in the Marshalls, with one, or perhaps two, carrier groups
in that vicinity, as well as “evidence of extensive offshore lookout
and patrol,” he decided that a surprise raid on Jaluit could not be
conducted successfully. Thus, Pye reluctantly abandoned the proposed
carrier raid on the Marshalls.

While he allowed the efforts to relieve Wake to continue, Pye warned
Fletcher not to get within 200 miles of the atoll, and directed Brown
to move north with Task Force 11 to support Task Force 14. That
decided, on the afternoon of 20 December, he radioed his decision to
the Navy Department.

With efforts to relieve Wake progressing, CinCPac radioed Cunningham on
the morning of the 22d (21st at Pearl Harbor) and asked him to report
the condition of the aircraft runways. He also requested to be informed
immediately of any significant developments.

At 0800 on 22 December, 39 planes from the _Soryu_ and the _Hiryu_
ascended and headed into the gray skies above the beleaguered atoll.
Their pilots expected to meet American fighters.

Second Lieutenant Davidson took off from Wake at 1000, cranked up his
landing gear, and set out on the regular midday patrol. Engine trouble
prevented Captain Freuler from getting aloft until 1030.

Shortly before noon, Davidson, patrolling to the north of Wake, radioed
Freuler, then flying to the south of the atoll, informing him of
approaching enemy aircraft. In spite of the odds, both men gave battle.

[Illustration:

    Marine Corps Historical Collection

_Capt Herbert C. Freuler (seen_ circa _September 1941), was VMF-211’s
gunnery and ordnance officer. Freuler was commissioned a second
lieutenant in July 1931. He was awarded a Navy Cross and a Bronze Star
for heroism at Wake._]

Freuler engaged six carrier attack planes and dropped one, trailing
smoke, out of formation on his first pass. As the group of Nakajimas
broke up, he made an opposite approach and fired, flaming one Kate,
which exploded in an expanding ball of fire about 50 feet beneath
him. As his controls responded sluggishly, and his badly scorched
F4F’s manifold pressure dropped, he glanced back toward Wake and saw
Davidson engaging several enemy planes. An instant later, a _Hiryu_
Zero got on Freuler’s tail and opened fire. Bullets penetrated
Freuler’s fuselage, both sides of his vacuum tank, the bulkhead, seat,
and parachute. After his plane was hit, Freuler threw his F4F into a
steep dive--the Japanese pilot did not follow him--nursed it home,
and landed with the canopy stuck in the closed position. Ground crews
extricated him and took him to the hospital.

Carl Davidson, unfortunately, did not return. The pilot who had knocked
Freuler out of the fight went to the rescue of his shipmates and shot
down Davidson. Rear Admiral Abe later paid homage to the two Marine
pilots who had challenged his carrier planes, lauding them as having
resisted fiercely and bravely.

The _Soryu_ lost two planes and their three-man crews. Damage suffered
in the aerial action compelled a third to ditch, but one of the
screening ships recovered its crew.

That afternoon, at 1320, Cunningham radioed Pye that a “combined land-
and carrier-based plane attack” had occurred and that his fighters had
engaged the attackers. He reported Davidson’s loss and the wounding
of Freuler, but noted that they had shot down “several” planes. The
atoll had suffered “no further damage.” As “Barney” Barninger later
recounted: “Dive bombers again--the carriers must still be in the
vicinity.... Things are getting tense. Rumor continues to fly about
relief, but the dive bombers [are] also present. Things go on in the
same manner as before. All that can be done is being done, but there is
so little to do [it] with.”

Heavy seas bedevilled Frank Jack Fletcher’s Task Force 14 as it pressed
westward. Having been ordered to fuel to capacity before fighting,
Fletcher began fueling his ships from _Neches_ in the turbulent seas.
Rolling swells and gusty winds slowed that process considerably and
permitted the fueling of only four of his destroyers. If Fletcher was
expected to fight, his ships would require more fuel to be able to
maneuver at high speed, if necessary. He resolved to top off the rest
the following day (23 December).

[Illustration: _Wreckage of what is probably Capt Freuler’s plane,
on the beach where he crash-landed it on 22 December, after he had
destroyed a Kate in aerial combat. Bullets penetrated his fuselage,
vacuum tank, bulkhead, seat, and parachute._

    National Archives Photo 80-G-413519
]

Meanwhile, at around 1900 on 21 December (1530, 22 December Wake), the
PBY that had borne Major Bayler (the “last man off Wake Island”) from
Wake to Midway arrived at Pearl Harbor. The plane’s commander dictated
a report, which was transcribed by a CinCPac stenographer shortly after
the pilot’s arrival, regarding Wake’s desperate plight. Pye, upon
reading the report, was deeply moved. Members of Pye’s staff, many of
whom had also faithfully served on Admiral Kimmel’s staff, pleaded
with Pye’s Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Milo F. Draemel, on behalf
of the Wake relief efforts. Referring to the PBY commander’s report,
Pye declared later, “the situation at Wake seemed to warrant taking a
greater chance to effect its reinforcement even at the sacrifice of
the _Tangier_ and possible damage to some major ships of Task Force
14.” The admiral therefore removed the restrictions on Task Force 14’s
operations. The _Tangier_ was to be detached with two destroyers to run
in to Wake to begin the evacuation of the civilians and to disembark
the Marines.

[Illustration:

    Marine Corps Historical Collection

_The sound of the heavy surf surging ashore continuously in the
defenders’ ears as it pounded the reef that ringed the atoll, militated
against their hearing approaching enemy planes--a decided disadvantage
in view of Wake’s lack of radar._]

Pye also rescinded the restrictions on the operating areas of Task
Forces 8 and 11, allowing them to support Cunningham’s command more
effectively. Those on the staff who had pleaded for the relief force to
continue toward Wake felt vindicated by Pye’s decision that night.

Meanwhile, at Wake, with Commander Cunningham’s prior approval, Paul
Putnam, with no flyable planes left, reported his men to Major Devereux
for service as infantrymen. Devereux ordered Putnam to keep his
squadron where it was and await further orders.



‘_This Is As Far As We Go_’


Shortly after midnight, First Lieutenant Barninger noted flashing
lights “way off the windy side of the island.” Alerted to the odd
display on the horizon in the darkness, Barninger telephoned Major
Devereux, who replied that he also had seen it. Devereux directed
Barninger to keep a watch out and cautioned the Peacock Point
strongpoint commander to be mindful that the lee shore posed the most
possibilities for danger. Lookouts continued to note irregular flashes
of light in the black, gusty, rainy predawn of 23 December 1941. It may
have been the _Tenryu_, the _Tatsuta_, and the _Yubari_ firing blindly
at what their spotters thought was Wake Island but which was, instead,
only empty ocean.

At 0145, however, a report came into the detachment commander’s command
post, telling of an enemy landing in progress at Toki Point, at the tip
of Peale. Devereux alerted the battalion. Kessler, in the meantime,
dispatched a patrol up the lagoon beach toward the PanAm facility,
which met a patrol from Battery D. Neither had anything to report.
On Wilkes, Captain Platt directed Battery L to move the men of two
5-inch gun sections (equivalent to two rifle squads) to the shore of
the lagoon, west of the area of the new channel being dredged across
the island. The rest of the men of the battery--fire controlmen and
headquarters men under McAlister, who had established his command post
near the searchlight section of the battery--moved into positions
they had readied along the south shore of Wilkes, between McKinstry’s
Battery F and the new channel.

Kessler, whom Devereux had requested to confirm or deny the accuracy
of the information regarding the landing, reported that there was
no landing in progress, but that he had seen the lights offshore.
Cunningham, at 0145, radioed the Commandant, 14th Naval District,
reporting “gunfire between ships to northeast of island.”

Wake thus alerted, Second Lieutenant Arthur A. Poindexter, at Camp
1 with the mobile reserve (predominantly supply and administration
Marines and 15 sailors under Boatswain’s Mate First Class James E.
Barnes), believed Peale to be threatened. He exercised initiative
and entrucked eight Marines and with four .30-caliber machine guns.
Reporting his intention to the detachment commander, Poindexter and
that portion of his mobile reserve sped past the airfield toward Peale.
It was nearing Devereux’s command post when he ordered it intercepted.
The major retained Poindexter’s little force where it was, pending
clarification of the situation.

The bad weather that prevented the Marines from seeing their foes
likewise hindered the Japanese. Shortly before 0200, _Special Naval
Landing Force_ troops clambered down into the medium landing craft
designated to land on Wilkes and Wake. Four landing craft were launched
some 3,000 to 4,000 meters offshore, but in the squalls and long swells
they experienced difficulty keeping up with _Patrol Boat No. 32_ and
_Patrol Boat No. 33_ as they churned on a northeasterly course, headed
for the beach. The landing craft designated to follow _No. 32_ lost
sight of her in the murky, gusty darkness.

At about 0230, Marines on Peacock Point detected the two patrol boats,
which appeared to them only as dark shapes as they made for the reef by
the airstrip. Then, the two ships ground gently ashore on the coral.
The Japanese naval infantrymen slipped over the side into the surf,
struggled ashore, and sprinted across the coral for cover.

On Wilkes, Gunner McKinstry called to Captain Platt and informed him
that he thought he heard the sound of engines over the boom of the
surf, and at 0235 one of his .50-caliber guns (gun no. 10) opened fire
in the darkness. Ten minutes later, McKinstry, having sought permission
to use illumination, caused a searchlight to be turned on. Although the
light was shut off as suddenly as it had been turned on, its momentary
beam revealed a landing boat aground on Wilkes’ rocky shore and, beyond
that, two destroyers, beached on Wake.

[Illustration:

    Poindexter File, Reference Section

_1stLt Arthur A. Poindexter (seen here in a post-war photograph),
commander of the mobile reserve on Wake, provided such evidence of
“exemplary conduct and ability to lead troops ... with utter disregard
for his own safety” that he was ultimately awarded the Bronze Star._]

McAlister ordered Platoon Sergeant Henry A. Bedell to detail two men
to hurl grenades into the enemy craft. The veteran non-commissioned
officer, accompanied only by Private First Class William F. Buehler,
gamely tackled the task, but Japanese gunfire killed Bedell and wounded
Buehler before either had been able to work their way close enough to
lob grenades into the boats.

McKinstry’s men, meanwhile, manned the 3-inchers of Battery F, but
the guns could not be depressed enough to fire onto the beach. The
Marines held their position until the men from the _Takano Unit_ of
the _Special Naval Landing Force_ approached closely enough to begin
lobbing grenades. Marines and Japanese grappled in the darkness,
hand-to-hand, before McKinstry’s men, after removing the firing locks
from the guns, pulled back to take up infantry positions. Their
concentrated fires kept most of the Japanese at bay near the 3-inch gun
position.

Other _Special Naval Landing Force_ troops, however, probed westward,
toward the 5-inch guns that had so humbled Kajioka’s force on the 11th.
They ran into heavy fire from gun no. 9, a well-camouflaged .50-caliber
Browning, handled skillfully by 20-year old Private First Class
Sanford K. Ray and situated some 75 yards west of where the _Takano
Unit_ had first swarmed ashore. Ray’s fire prevented the enemy from
advancing closer than 40 or 50 yards from his sand-bagged position,
and his proximity to the beach allowed him not only to harass the
enemy but also to report enemy movements. Although Japanese troops had
severed most wire communication lines, Platt remained in touch with
developments at the shoreline by reports from Ray.

Reports from observers along the beach soon began to deluge Devereux’s
command post, where he and his executive officer, Major Potter,
attempted to keep abreast of events. Gunner Hamas relayed the
information to Cunningham, at his command post. On the basis of those
reports, the island commander, at 0250, radioed the Commandant of the
14th Naval District: “Island under gunfire. Enemy apparently landing.”

At that point, Devereux directed Poindexter to move the mobile reserve
into the area between Camp 1 and the west end of the airfield. Since
the eight Marines had remained in the truck with the four machine
guns, only 15 minutes elapsed before they set up both gun sections in
a position commanding the road that ran along the south shore and also
covering a critical section of beach. Within moments, Poindexter’s
Brownings chattered and spat into the dim shape of the grounded
_Patrol Boat No. 32_, most of the bullets striking the after part of
the ship. _Special Naval Landing Force_ troops who disclosed their
positions by igniting flares soon came under fire. At Camp 1, just up
the coast, men from Battery I and the sailors who had been serving as
lookouts manned the four .30-caliber machine guns set up there. From
Poindexter’s vantage point, the enemy troops appeared confused and
disoriented, shouting and discharging a number of flares, perhaps for
“control and coordination.”

Having received a report of Japanese destroyers standing toward Wake’s
south shore (and well inside the range of the 5-inch batteries that
had so vexed the enemy on 11 December), Second Lieutenant Robert M.
Hanna, who commanded the machine guns emplaced at the airstrip, clearly
perceived the threat. Accompanied by Corporal Ralph J. Holewinski and
three civilians, Paul Gay, Eric Lehtola, and Bob Bryan, Hanna set off
at a dead run for the 3-inch gun that had been emplaced on the landward
side of the beach road, on a slight rise between the beach road and
the oiled tie-down area at the airstrip. Up to that point, Major
Putnam’s grounded airmen, their ground support unit, and the volunteer
civilians, had been awaiting further orders. As Hanna and his scratch
3-inch crew sprinted to the then-unmanned gun, Devereux ordered Putnam
to support the lieutenant.

Putnam assigned Second Lieutenant Kliewer to a post on the west end
of the airfield, along with Staff Sergeant John F. Blandy, Sergeant
Robert E. Bourquin, Jr., and Corporal Carroll E. Trego. They were
to set off the mines on the field if the enemy attempted to use it.
Two .50-caliber guns situated just north of the airstrip covered
Kliewer’s position. At the eastern end of the strip lay the guns manned
by Corporal Winford J. McAnally, along with six Marines and three
civilians and supported by a small group of riflemen. The gunners
enjoyed a perfect, unobstructed field of fire--the airstrip itself.

About 0300, just at a time when events began to develop with startling
rapidity as the Japanese pushed ashore on Wilkes and Wake, Major
Devereux lost touch with Camp 1, Putnam’s platoon, Hanna’s command
post near the airstrip, and Barninger’s Battery A. Advancing Japanese
troops probably had found the communication lines--the exigencies of
war had prevented them from being buried--and cut them. Devereux’s
last situation reports from those units painted a bleak picture. If
Cunningham received less-than-encouraging reports from the defense
battalion commander, he received equally grim news from CinCPac when,
at 0319 Wake time, Pearl Harbor radioed to Wake that the _Triton_ and
_Tambor_ were returning to Hawaiian waters. “No friendly vessels should
be in your vicinity today,” the message stated, “Keep me informed.”

[Illustration: _Painting by artist Albin Henning shows Marines firing
a .30-caliber Browning machine gun as Japanese landing force sailors
splash ashore. While inaccurate in details (barbed wire, for example,
is an artist’s invention because no such obstruction existed at Wake
Island, since the coral reef surrounding the atoll was bare of any
holding ground for the stakes or anchors necessary to keep them in
place), it does capture the desperate nature of the Marines’ final
day’s fighting._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 307142
]

Hanna and his men, meanwhile, reached the 3-inch gun and set to work.
Anxious hands fumbled in the darkness for ammunition while Hanna--since
the gun lacked sights--peered down the bore to draw a bead on the
beached and stationary _Patrol Boat No. 33_ that lay less than 500
yards away. The first round tore into the ship’s bridge, seriously
wounding both the captain and navigator, killing two seamen, and
wounding five. Hanna’s gun hurled 14 more rounds on target. Some of his
projectiles evidently touched off a magazine, and the beached warship
began to burn. The illumination provided by the burning ship revealed
her sistership, which Hanna and his hard-working gunners bombarded, as
well. A short time later three _Special Naval Landing Force_ sailors
attacked Hanna’s exposed position. In the ensuing fight, Hanna cooly
shot and killed all three enemy sailors with his pistol and resumed the
operation of his 3-incher.

[Illustration: MAP 3

SITUATION ON WAKE ISLAND

0400, 23 DECEMBER 1941]

Reinforcing Hanna’s cannoneers became the next order of business.
Devereux felt compelled to keep Peale’s Battery B intact to deal
with surface threats, and Battery E (which, by that point, had a
full complement of guns and crews along with the only heightfinder
and director) to deal with enemy planes. That left Godbold’s Battery
D, which by that point possessed only two operational guns and no
fire-control gear. Devereux directed Godbold to send one section (nine
men) to the battalion command post to reinforce Hanna’s crew. Under
Corporal Leon A. Graves, the squad clambered on board a contractor’s
truck and reached the command post about 0315. They were to proceed
along the road that paralleled the shoreline to a junction some 600
yards south of the airfield, where they were to leave the truck and
proceed through the brush to Hanna’s position. Quickly, they set out
into the night.

The flames from the wrecked _Patrol Boat No. 33_ disclosed Japanese
troops advancing past the west end of the airstrip into the thick
undergrowth in front of the mobile reserve’s positions. Poindexter,
after ordering one machine gun section to keep up a fire into the brush
to interdict that movement and protect his own flank, heard machine
gun fire from Camp 1, behind him. Wanting to see for himself if more
Japanese landing craft were coming ashore to his rear, the lieutenant,
accompanied by his runner, left the front in charge of Sergeant “QT”
Wade, and hurried back to the camp.

There, unable to see at what his neophyte sailor-gunners were expending
their ammunition, Poindexter asked each to point out his target. Two
could not--they’d opened fire only because the other two had done
so--but a third pointed to the dim outline of what appeared to be
a “large landing barge on the order of a self-propelled artillery
lighter.” When another craft of the same type seemed to materialize out
of the murk, Poindexter ordered firing resumed at what proved to be two
large landing craft that were attempting to ground themselves 1,200
yards east of the entrance to Wilkes Channel.

The enemy coxswains, however, appeared to be having difficulty coaxing
the unwieldy landing craft onto the beach, backing off and trying again
and again to land the _Special Naval Landing Force_ men crouched behind
the gunwales, which seemed to be deflecting the .30-caliber bullets
peppering them. Seizing the moment, Poindexter called for volunteers
to pick their way down the rocky beach to the water’s edge, there to
lob grenades into the boats. Poindexter organized two teams--Mess
Sergeant Gerald Carr and a civilian, Raymond R. “Cap” Rutledge (who had
served in the Army in France in World War I), in one, Poindexter and
Boatswain’s Mate First Class Barnes in the other. The grenadiers dashed
to the water’s edge while the machine guns momentarily held their fire.
Barnes, taking cover behind coral heads, remained hidden until the
barges ground ashore again. Then, exposing himself to enemy fire, he
hurled several grenades toward the Japanese craft, and managed to land
at least one inside, killing or wounding many of the troops on board.

The valiant efforts of Poindexter and his men, however, stopped the
Japanese just momentarily, for soon they began swarming ashore and
moving inland. Shortly before the wire communications to Devereux’s
command post failed, Poindexter reported the result of his foray.

Having seen flares streaking skyward in the murk, Captain Godbold on
Peale, meanwhile, sent out two patrols, one to move westward toward the
naval air base, and the other to go eastward along the lagoon’s shore.
Neither patrol encountered any enemy troops. A half-hour later, Godbold
established an outpost at the bridge connecting Peale and Wake.

[Illustration: MAP 4

JAPANESE LANDING ON WILKES

0300, 23 DECEMBER, 1941]

Meanwhile, after word of the enemy landing reached Pearl Harbor, Vice
Admiral Pye convened a meeting of his staff. By 0700 (22 December,
Hawaiian time), having received further word of developments at Wake,
Pye estimated that a relief of the island looked impossible, given
the prevailing situation, and directed that the _Tangier_ should be
diverted toward the east. With the relief mission abandoned, should
his forces attack the enemy forces in the vicinity of Wake? Or should
American forces be withdrawn to the east? He feared that the timing of
the Japanese carrier strikes and the landing then in progress indicated
that the enemy had “estimated closely the time at which our relief
expedition might arrive and may, if the general location of our carrier
groups is estimated, be waiting in force.” American forces could
inflict extensive damage upon Japanese, Pye believed, if the enemy did
not know of the presence of the U.S. carrier task forces. They had not
yet seen action, though, and no one could overestimate the danger of
having ships damaged 2,000 miles from the nearest repair facilities--“a
damaged ship is a lost ship,” Brown had commented in Task Force 11’s
war diary. Damage to the carriers could leave the Hawaiian Islands
open to a major enemy thrust. “We cannot,” Pye declared, “afford such
losses at present.”

Two courses of action existed--to direct Task Force 14 to attack
Japanese forces in the vicinity of Wake, with Task Forces 8 and 11
covering Task Force 14’s retirement, or to retire all forces without
any attempt to attack the enemy. These choices weighed heavily on
Pye’s mind. If American forces hit the Japanese ships at Wake and
suffered the loss of a carrier air group in the process, Pye deemed the
“offensive spirit” shown by the Navy as perhaps worth the sacrifice.

However, in the midst of his deliberations, shortly after 0736, Pye
received a message from the CNO which noted that recent developments
had emphasized that Wake was a “liability” and authorized Pye to
“evacuate Wake with appropriate demolition.” With Japanese forces on
the island, though, Pye felt that capitulation was only a matter of
time. “The real question at issue,” Pye thought, “is, shall we take
the chance of the loss of a carrier group to attempt to attack the
enemy forces in the vicinity of Wake?” Radio intelligence from the
previous day linked “CruDiv 8 ... CarDiv 2” and, erroneously, “BatDiv
3” (consisting of two battleships) with the forces off of Wake. A pair
of _Kongo_-class fast battleships, supported by carriers and heavy
cruisers would easily have overmatched Fletcher’s Task Force 14.

In the meantime, Japanese cruisers--probably the _Yubari_, _Tenryu_,
and _Tatsuta_--had begun shelling Wake, further discomfitting the
defenders. Despite Lewis’ Battery E firing “prearranged 3-inch air
burst concentrations” over the Japanese beachhead, the enemy continued
to press steadily toward VMF-211’s position around Hanna’s 3-inch gun.
Major Putnam, already wounded in the jaw, with blood from his wound
staining the backs of the snapshots of his little daughters, which he
carried in his pocket, formed his final line. “This,” he said, “is as
far as we go.”

[Illustration:

    Marine Corps Historical Collection

_Raymond R. “Cap” Rutledge, one of the contractors on Wake, (seen here
as a POW at Shanghai in January 1942), had served in the U.S. Army
during World War I and threw hand grenades into Japanese landing barges
off Wake in the pre-dawn fighting of 23 December._]

Putnam had placed Captain Elrod in command of one flank of VMF-211’s
defensive line, which was situated in dense undergrowth. In the
impenetrable darkness, the squadron executive officer and his men--most
of whom were unarmed civilians who acted as weapons and ammunition
carriers (until weapons became available)--conducted a spirited defense
which repeated attacks by _Special Naval Landing Force_ troops could
not dislodge. Each time he heard Japanese troops mounting a probe of
211’s position, Elrod interposed himself between the enemy and his
own men and provided covering fire to enable his detachment to keep
supplied with guns and ammunition. Shortly before dawn, a Japanese
sailor who had hidden himself among the heaps of casualties surrounding
Hanna’s gun shot and killed the gallant Captain Elrod.

Captain Tharin, in charge of a group of Marines on the left flank of
VMF-211’s line, delivered covering fire for the unarmed ammunition
carriers attached to his unit, which repulsed several assaults on
his position. At one point, Japanese sailors penetrated the defenses
in Tharin’s sector, but in the counterattack, which drove the enemy
from the position, Tharin captured an enemy automatic weapon and used
it “successfully and effectively against its former owners.” The
indomitable Aviation Machinist’s Mate First Class Hesson armed himself
with a Thompson sub-machine gun and some grenades and although wounded
by rifle fire and grenade fragments, single-handedly drove back two
concerted attacks--killing several Japanese and preventing them from
overrunning 211’s flank.

Despite the heroic efforts of Putnam’s “platoon,” the Japanese managed
to move into the roughly triangular area which was bounded by Peacock
Point, on one side, the beach and the south side of the airstrip on the
others. Corporal Graves’ squad from Battery D, meanwhile, detrucked
somewhat north of their intended destination (200 yards south of the
airstrip rather than 600), began walking toward VMF-211’s position,
and quickly encountered a Japanese patrol. In the ensuing fire-fight,
enemy machine gun and rifle fire killed one Marine and pinned down the
remainder for a time, until Graves and his men managed to extricate
themselves and retire northward toward the battalion command post.
Graves’ encounter indicated that the Japanese had penetrated the U.S.
defenses. Despite their extraordinary efforts, neither Kliewer and the
.50-caliber guns at the airfield, nor the Hanna-VMF-211 group at the
3-inch gun near the shore, had been able to stop them.

At the same time, Batteries A and E began to receive mortar, small
arms, and machine gun fire, prompting Barninger to deploy his range
section, armed with two .30-caliber Brownings, and deployed as
infantrymen, facing northwest “across the high ground” to the rear of
the 5-inchers at Peacock Point. Lewis, whose 3-inch fire had silenced
an automatic weapons position in the thick undergrowth southwest of
Battery E, dispatched a patrol to try to relieve the pressure on his
position. That group, under Sergeant Raymond Gragg, progressed only
50 yards beyond the perimeter before it came under heavy fire. The
Japanese, however, moved no further because of the resistance put up by
Gragg’s squad.

[Illustration: MAP 5

U. S. COUNTERATTACK ON WILKES

DAYBREAK, 23 DECEMBER 1941]

Amidst the chaos, Devereux groped for information about the progress
of the battle. At some point, he received word from one of the few
positions which had retained wire contact with his command post,
Corporal McAnally’s machine gun section, which was located at the
eastern end of the airstrip. McAnally reported that the Japanese were
advancing up the shore road, apparently intent upon launching a thrust
up the other prong of Wake. With one unit besetting Putnam’s at the
airstrip, another Japanese unit skirted Putnam and Hanna and was headed
into the triangular end of Peacock Point.

McAnally, establishing contact with the .50-caliber machine guns on
the east shore of Wake, some 400 yards south, carried on a “resolute,
well-coordinated defense” which stymied the enemy in the area. Perhaps
more important, McAnally served as Devereux’s eyes and ears on that
portion of the battlefield.

On Wilkes, Private First Class Ray’s defense of his position equalled
that of McAnally’s. Captain Platt, having lost communication with his
own posts and also with the defense battalion command post, set out on
a personal reconnaissance mission at about 0430. He crawled through
the thick underbrush and picked his way across the rocky beach, until,
at about 0500, he came to a place east of gun no. 10 where he could
see _Special Naval Landing Force_ men massed in and about Battery F’s
guns. Soon thereafter, while clambering back to the gun, Platt met
Sergeant Raymond L. Coulson and ordered him to gather two .30-caliber
machine gun crews and their guns at Kuku Point (where they had been
sent during the false alarm earlier that morning), along with the
searchlight crew and everyone else he could find, and to return to gun
no. 10.

Devereux, still isolated from his units and literally in the dark about
the actions on Wilkes and those in the vicinity of Camp 1, attempted
as best he could to keep the island commander informed. Cunningham,
consequently, also had scant comprehension of the way the fighting was
progressing in those areas. At 0500, about the time Captain Platt was
reconnoitering the Japanese position on Wilkes, Cunningham radioed
Commandant 14th Naval District, “Enemy on island. Issue in doubt.”

Poindexter, meanwhile, satisfied that Camp 1 was being defended as well
as possible, proceeded to the mobile reserve gun positions on the west
side of the airfield. Japanese machine gun and mortar fire, accompanied
by “much shouting” and “numerous pyrotechnic flares,” began to fall
around those positions, partially disabling one U.S. gun section. As
the sky over Wake began to lighten with the dawn, Poindexter became
concerned about the enemy fire that had begun to land near his men, and
also that the enemy troops infiltrating the woods might outflank the
mobile reserve. He ordered a retirement toward Camp 1. The sections
alternated in covering each other throughout the movement, maintaining
a steady volume of fire. Reaching Camp 1 after daylight, Poindexter
established a north-south line astride the shore road, east of a
prominent water tank.

While Poindexter deliberated the situation facing his force, Japanese
movement along the east shore road increasingly pressed Corporal
McAnally’s group. McAnally communicated his difficult situation to
Devereux’s command post. Japanese hand grenades and small arms fire
made life difficult for McAnally’s band, which nevertheless held its
ground and broke up several assaults.

Around 0530, Devereux told Major Potter to form a final defensive line
astride the north-south road, which was being threatened from the
south by the advancing Japanese. Calling Godbold’s Battery D into the
action soon thereafter, Devereux committed his last reserve troops
into the action on the east side of Wake. Aware of Corporal McAnally’s
predicament, Devereux ordered the corporal’s combat group to withdraw
northward, toward the command post, to join Major Potter’s detachment.

On Wilkes at about that time, Sergeant Coulson rejoined Captain Platt
with the two machine gun crews and guns, and eight riflemen. The
surf that had masked the sound made by the invaders now worked to
the advantage of the hard-pressed defenders. Along with the sputter
and crackle of gunfire along the south shore of Wake and on Wilkes,
it prevented the Japanese from discovering Platt’s briefing of his
Marines for the assault on the abandoned Battery F position. In the
waning darkness, Platt and his men crept toward the enemy, reaching a
point less than 50 yards away from the abandoned 3-inchers. On Platt’s
signal, the two machine guns chattered and spat toward the enemy
position. His skirmishers charged forward and soon began engaging the
Japanese--who, with no security on the west, were taken completely by
surprise, and whose only light machine guns had been emplaced facing
eastward, toward the old channel.

Almost simultaneously with Platt’s assault, but not at all coordinated
with it, McAlister (who lost contact with the Wilkes strongpoint
commander soon after the enemy landing) and his men encountered and
engaged a small enemy patrol on the beach ahead of them, killing one
man before the rest took cover behind some coral boulders. While
flanking fire pinned down the enemy, Gunner McKinstry started forward
to clean out that pocket of resistance. McAlister stopped him, but as
he was telling the Gunner to detail one of the men to do it instead,
Corporal William C. Halstead climbed atop the rocks and slew the
remainder of the enemy.

Platt’s and McAlister’s assaults cleaned out the Japanese in the 3-inch
gun position. Platt and McAlister reorganized their units and searched
for any enemy troops who might have escaped. They encountered no
further resistance and took two prisoners, who had been wounded and had
feigned death. The Marines counted at least 94 dead Japanese. American
losses included nine Marines and two civilians killed; four Marines and
one civilian wounded.

Meanwhile (shortly before dawn) on Wake, Japanese troops surrounded
Kliewer’s position. The four Marines, however, armed with only two
Thompsons, three .45-caliber pistols, and two boxes of hand grenades,
repelled multiple bayonet charges in the darkness. Dawn revealed a
full-scale enemy attempt to carry the post, but Kliewer and his three
shipmates, backed up by the two .50-caliber machine guns 150 yards
behind them, killed many of the attacking Japanese and continued to
hold their ground.

On Peale, with the departure of Captain Godbold and the Marines of
Battery D for the island’s command post on Wake, First Lieutenant
Kessler became strongpoint commander. At dawn, he scanned the other
islets. On Wilkes, he discerned Japanese flags whipping in the
breeze--one particularly large one flying where Battery F had been
(flags which Platt’s men would remove shortly thereafter). Kessler
reported his observations to Devereux, who had not heard a word from
Platt since around 0300. The report prompted Devereux to fear that
Wilkes had fallen.

As he scanned Wake at about 0600, however, Kessler observed the masts
of what proved to be _Patrol Boat No. 32_, which was aground on the
south shore of Wake. Kessler requested permission to fire at the ship.
His request was approved, but he was admonished to avoid firing into
friendly troops. Kessler ordered his 5-inchers to open fire. The first
salvo clipped off the mainmast. Then Battery B’s gunners lowered their
sights to hit the ship itself. They could see only the funnel tops
over the intervening island. Twenty-five minutes later, at 0625, the
command post ordered Battery B to cease fire, their target having been
“demolished.”

Twenty minutes later, Kessler observed four “battleships, or super
heavy cruisers” (probably the heavy cruisers _Aoba_, _Kinugasa_,
_Furutaka_, and _Kako_) off Heel Point, moving westward but remaining
well out of range. Those ships lay 10 kilometers offshore and shelled
the atoll, but achieved little success.

Additional Japanese forces were headed for Wake. At 0612, off to the
northwest, _Soryu_ turned into the wind and launched 12 planes. The
day’s air operations had begun. In less than an hour, the planes were
over the island.

Throughout the battle, Major Devereux had, as well as he could, kept
the island commander informed of the progress of the assault. While the
Marines, assisted by the sailors and civilians, had been attempting
to stem the tide, most of the news which trickled into Cunningham’s
command post boded ill. At 0652, he sent out a message reflecting the
situation as he knew it: “Enemy on island. Several ships plus transport
moving in. Two DD aground.” That was at 1032, 22 December 1941, on
Pearl Harbor. It was to be the last message from the Wake Island
defenders.

At Pearl Harbor, at about the time that Cunningham was sending that
last message, Vice Admiral Pye had reached making a decision. He
concluded that if Task Force 14 encountered anything but a weaker
Japanese force, the battle would be fought on Japanese terms while
within range of shore-based planes and with American forces having
only enough fuel for two days of high speed steaming. Like Brown, Pye
believed that a damaged ship was a lost ship, especially 2,000 miles
from Pearl Harbor. The risk, he believed, was too great. He ordered the
recall of Task Forces 14 and 11, and directed Task Force 8 to cover the
retirement.

Frank Jack Fletcher’s Task Force 14, meanwhile, was right on schedule,
and was in fact further west than Pye knew. His ships fully fueled and
ready for battle, Fletcher planned to detach the _Tangier_ and two
destroyers for the final run-in to Wake, while the pilots on board
the _Saratoga_ prepared themselves for the fight ahead. Fletcher, not
one to shirk a fight, received the news of the recall angrily. He
ripped his hat from his head and disgustedly hurled it to the deck.
Rear Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch, Fletcher’s air commander, similarly
felt the fist-tightening frustration of the recall. He retired from
the _Saratoga_’s flag bridge as the talk there reached “mutinous”
proportions.

As word of the recall circulated throughout Task Force 14, reactions
were pretty much the same. Pye’s recall order left no latitude for
discussion or disobedience; those who argued later that Fletcher should
have used the Nelsonian “blind eye” obviously failed to recognize that,
in the sea off Copenhagen, the British admiral could see his opponents.
Fletcher and Fitch, then 430 miles east of Wake, could not see theirs.
They had no idea what enemy forces they might encounter. The Japanese
had beaten them to Wake.

[Illustration: MAP 6

SITUATION ON WAKE ISLAND AT TIME OF SURRENDER

0900, 23 DECEMBER 1941]



‘_A Difficult Thing To Do_’


Even as deliberations proceeded to determine the fate of the relief
efforts, the men on Wake, ignorant of what was transpiring at Pearl
Harbor and on the bridges of Task Force 14’s ships, fought on.
Shortly before 0700 on Wake (1040, 22 December, at Pearl Harbor), the
two trucks bearing Battery D’s former antiaircraft gunners, under
Second Lieutenant Greeley and Captain Godbold, respectively, reached
Devereux’s command post. Major Potter deployed the new arrivals in an
attempt to form a thin defensive line running across the island. The
attempt was doomed because of the terrain they were being forced to
defend, an area which had been partially cleared of brush as part of
the airfield construction. It presented the Marines with 450 yards of
ground without cover or concealment. Marine Gunner Borth established
a defensive line near the battalion command post with two .30-caliber
guns crewed by command post Marines and a few Marines from Battery D.

At about the time Greeley and Godbold reached Devereux’s command post
with Battery D’s Marines, Second Lieutenant Kessler, at Battery B,
shifted his attention to a column of three destroyers off Kuku Point.
Four U.S. salvos appeared to inflict heavy damage on the lead ship, so
he shifted his attention to the second ship in column. After about 15
minutes, dive bombers directed bombs and strafing toward the position,
the battery’s firing having called attention to its existence.
Fortunately, their accuracy was poor, and Kessler’s men escaped without
casualty.

By that time, the situation seemed to be grim. Enemy planes were
attacking every visible target. Major Potter’s final defense line was
receiving increasingly heavy enemy rifle and machine gun fire. Japanese
troops near the airstrip continued probing and besetting VMF-211’s
encircled remnant. Wilkes had apparently fallen to the enemy. Major
Devereux saw little left to be done. Still having no communication with
the stubborn defenders of Wilkes and of Camp 1, Devereux had no way of
knowing which of his units were still fighting.

About an hour after daylight (0630), Commander Keene picked up the
telephone in the contractors’ headquarters and found Commander
Cunningham and Major Devereux engaged in conversation on the line.
The latter reported being hard-pressed at his command post. He did
not believe, he said, that the battalion could hold out much longer.
Cunningham told Devereux that if he did not feel he was able to
continue fighting, he should surrender. A discussion between the two
men then ensued. “You know, Wilkes has fallen,” Devereux stated.
Cunningham answered that he did. Devereux then stated that he did
not feel he should make the decision to surrender, that Cunningham,
the commander of the island, should decide. Pausing for a moment,
Cunningham then told Devereux that he authorized surrender, and to
take the necessary steps to carry it out. Uncertain of his ability to
contact the Japanese commander, Devereux asked Cunningham to attempt to
make contact with the enemy, as well. Cunningham responded: “I’ll see
what I can do.”

Surrendering, however, would take time, and the “word” did not reach
everyone right away. On Wilkes, having reorganized his men, Platt
attempted at about 0800 to phone the battalion command post on Wake. He
managed to reach someone at the Camp 1 motor pool, but got no farther,
because the motor pool was not in communication with the command post.

At about 0800, Devereux notified the units he could still reach of
the surrender decision. On Peale, Kessler received orders to cease
firing the 5-inch guns. At Battery E, Lewis’ men removed and smashed
the firing locks. When stuffing blankets into the muzzles and firing
a round did not do sufficient damage to the guns, the men rolled
grenades down the barrels. Other Marines smashed equipment and
chopped up electrical cables. Lewis himself destroyed the optics and
electromechanical parts of the heightfinder and director by firing 20
rounds into them from his .45. Satisfied with that work of destruction,
he marched his men as a unit to Devereux’s command post. At Peacock
Point, First Lieutenant Barninger ordered that the 5-inch firing locks
be broken and buried, the telescopes smashed, and the rangekeeper
destroyed. Then, running up a white flag, he ordered all hands,
including the civilians who had stood faithfully with the battery, to
eat as much as they could. No one knew how much the enemy would allow
their captives to eat.

As surrender preparations proceeded apace on one side of Wake and
in the positions that Devereux had been able to reach by telephone,
Poindexter’s men, meanwhile, established themselves along a line at
the edge of the clearing east of Camp 1. They emplaced 10 .30-caliber
machine guns to cover their entire front with interlocking fields of
fire. Occasional low-flying planes strafed their positions. Japanese
gunfire from their front, though, proved ineffective. Poindexter sent
back word to Camp 1 for all “special duty personnel” to join the
reserve as riflemen.

When, by 0900, the enemy at the front having shown no inclination
to attack his position, Poindexter ordered a counterattack toward
the airstrip. Dividing his men into three 10-man squads with a
non-commissioned officer in charge of each, the commander of the mobile
reserve decided to launch his attack along a front which extended from
the beach into the brush on the north side of the road. Poindexter’s
counterattack regained the terrain between Camp 1 and the road junction
west of the airstrip.

Meanwhile Devereux, accompanied by Sergeant Donald Malleck, who
held aloft a white rag attached to a swab handle, set out down the
north-south road along the eastern shore of Wake to contact the
Japanese. As he passed Marines still in action he ordered them to cease
firing.

[Illustration:

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 315174

_Civilian contractors are marched off to captivity after the Japanese
captured Wake. Some, deemed important by the Japanese to finish
construction projects, were retained there. Fearing a fifth column
rising, the Japanese executed 98 contractors in October 1943, an
atrocity for which atoll commander, RAdm Shigematsu Sakaibara, was
hanged after the war._]

A _Special Naval Landing Force_ sailor soon emerged from the brush
along the road and halted Devereux’s progress, covering the major and
Sergeant Malleck as they took off their helmets and laid down their
weapons. Unable to speak any English, the Japanese motioned them toward
the hospital bunker, where Devereux found an enemy officer who spoke
some English. The enemy had already captured the hospital, killing one
patient and wounding another when they fired into the entrance. Soon
thereafter, Commander Cunningham, who had changed into his blue uniform
for the occasion, arrived to arrange the details of the surrender.
Devereux and Malleck, accompanied by a Japanese officer, then began the
sad journey toward those Marines who still stubbornly held out ahead of
them.

Meanwhile, the resistance put up by Hanna and the remnant of VMF-211
had prompted the Japanese to call for more close air support. One
plane overflew the embattled 3-inch gun and carried out low-level
attacks that allowed the observer to fire on the position with his
flexible-mount 7.7mm gun. The strafing killed two civilians, Paul Gay
and Eric Bryan, and wounded Major Putnam, Second Lieutenant Hanna, and
Corporal Holewinski.

Having finally reached the airfield at around 0930, Devereux found that
the Japanese had taken cover behind the revetments and had pinned down
Hanna’s men and what remained of VMF-211’s force. The major ordered
Captain Tharin, the only officer who had not been seriously wounded, to
cease fire. Of the 10 men in that position, all--including the gallant
Aviation Machinist’s Mate First Class Hesson--had been wounded in the
last-ditch fighting.

Even as elements on Wake still held out, Vice Admiral Pye was informing
the CNO that Wake could not be evacuated. Japanese forces had landed,
supported by cruisers and destroyers and, probably, by a covering
force nearby. The “gallant defense of Wake,” Pye stated, “has been
of utmost value, but hereafter Wake is a liability.” In view of the
“extensive operations” then underway, the situation had forced Pye to
conclude that risking one carrier task force to attack enemy forces in
the vicinity of Wake was “not justifiable.” Pye had ordered the two
westernmost task forces (14 and 11) to retire toward Pearl Harbor. The
third (Task Force 8) he sent on an unrelated mission.

On Wake, Second Lieutenant Kliewer, seeing the Japanese flags all along
the beach, decided to set off the mines, blowing up the airfield,
and then to fall back in the confusion generated by the explosions.
Unfortunately, the rain had drowned the generator motor, which disabled
the electric detonator.

At 1015 Kliewer saw men carrying a white flag coming down the beach.
Major Devereux was among them, with a group of what appeared to be
Japanese officers. They stopped about 50 feet from Kliewer’s trench and
ordered him to surrender. Kliewer’s men counseled against giving up:
“Don’t surrender, lieutenant. The Marines never surrender. It’s a hoax.”

“It was a difficult thing to do,” Kliewer wrote later, “but we tore
down our guns and turned ourselves over.”

About one hour later, Devereux’s melancholy procession arrived at the
lines facing the mobile reserve, which still fought stoutly. A rifleman
shouted back to Poindexter that a “large group of Japs are coming
down the road toward us with a white flag.” As they trudged closer,
Poindexter could see no Americans in the group, and after ordering
his men to hold their fire, he stepped out into the road, Springfield
at the ready. Cautioning his men not to fire unless the enemy
fired at him, he walked toward the group. Soon, he discerned Major
Devereux amidst them, shouting to him, telling him that Wake had been
surrendered.

Dropping his rifle and grenades in the road, Poindexter joined
Devereux, who then told him to return to his unit and order his men to
drop their weapons and stand up. At that, Japanese troops, bayonets
fixed, began to rush the positions they had been engaging, but were
stopped by a Japanese officer who interposed himself between the two
sides. As Poindexter and his men trudged toward the airstrip, he saw
large numbers of enemy troops emerging from the brush and falling
in along the road, confirming his suspicions that the enemy had
established itself in force in the region.

[Illustration: _In a photo copied from a Japanese pictorial history_,
Special Naval Landing Force _troops pay homage to the memory of Lt
Kinichi Uchida, whose unit lost two other officers and 29 enlisted men
killed and 34 wounded at Wake Island._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 315175
]

Devereux then progressed to Camp 1, which was still held by the machine
gun sections of Poindexter’s group. There, a Japanese sailor climbed
to the top of the water tower observation post and cut down the stars
and stripes that had been flying throughout the battle. Elsewhere
at Camp 1, in what could be regarded as one of the last measures of
defiance to the now-victorious foe, Gunnery Sergeant John Cemeris, the
Wake detachment’s machine gun maintenance sergeant, unaware of the
surrender, fired briefly at a low-flying floatplane.

Cemeris was not alone in his defiance. Marines on Wilkes, ignorant
that their shipmates on Wake and Peale had laid down their arms, still
sought to carry on the fight as best they could. Platt, sighting ships
to the southwest of Wilkes, ordered Battery L to engage them. McAlister
and his men hurried back to the 5-inchers, only to find the ships out
of range. Enduring bombing and strafing attacks from Japanese planes,
around noon the Marines at Battery L spotted small boats standing
toward the channel between Wilkes and Wake, and observed several
transports and warships lying about 4,000 yards out. Manning the
5-inchers, the Marines discovered one would not move and that one of
the dive-bombing attacks had damaged the recoil cylinders of the other.
Platt then ordered McAlister’s Marines to take up a position along
the old channel and fire on the small boats. An exploding bomb killed
20-year-old Private First Class Robert L. Stevens while the men were en
route to their new positions. He was the last combat casualty suffered
by the Marines on Wake Island.

[Illustration:

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 529733

_One of the many cartoons that mirrored Wake’s gallant battle,
“Sun Spots,” shows holes marked “Wake Island Saga” and “Philippine
Fortitude” in a Japanese flag._]

At about 1300, Devereux reached Wilkes. Soon thereafter, a Japanese
destroyer closed with the island and opened fire, apparently intent on
bombarding them, but an exchange of signals quickly caused the ship
to cease firing. Almost a half hour later, at a point about between
the old and new channels, Devereux spotted “a few grubby, dirty men
[Piatt’s] who came out of the brush with their rifles ready.” They laid
down their arms and surrendered, too. The men of Wake had fought well,
impressing the victors with their tenacious bravery, which later proved
to be inspiring, not only to the Marine Corps, but also to the nation
as a whole.

Of the 449 Marines (1st Defense Battalion and VMF-211 detachments)
who manned Wake’s defenses, 49 were killed, 32 were wounded, and the
remainder became prisoners of war. Of the 68 Navy officers and men,
three were killed, five wounded, and the rest taken prisoner. The
small, five-man Army communications detachment suffered no fatalities;
they were all taken prisoner. Of the 1,146 civilians involved in
construction programs on Wake Island, 70 were killed and 12 were
wounded. Five of Wake’s defenders were executed by the Japanese on
board _Nitta Maru_. With the exception of nearly 100 contractors who
remained on Wake Island, all of the rest of the civilians joined
Wake’s Marines, sailors, and soldiers in prisoner of war (POW) camps.
The Japanese transported the wounded military men and civilians from
the island as their wounds healed and they were deemed well enough to
travel. They, too, were placed in POW camps until their liberation in
1945.

The Japanese lost two ships and seven planes; a score more were
damaged. The casualty statistics, though irrevocably incomplete, show
that at least 381 Japanese died and many more were wounded.

Wake was not recaptured by American forces during the war. Air raids
on Wake occurred throughout the war, the first occurring in February
1942. Raids in October 1943, however, had grave repercussions for
the contractors who had been left behind. Rear Admiral Shigematsu
Sakaibara, the atoll commander, who feared that the raids portended
a major landing, had them all executed. He was unwilling to have his
garrison threatened by such a large “fifth column.” For that offense,
he was hanged as a war criminal. The U.S. recovered Wake Island after
the Japanese surrender in 1945.

Wake’s defense in 1941 had been one of the few bright spots during the
first months of war in the Pacific. It provided Americans a stirring
example of heroism.

[Illustration: _In a 1942 Ralph Lee cartoon a battered but still
defiant Marine shakes his fist angrily at Japanese planes overhead._

    Department of Defense Photo (USMC) 307267
]



_Sources_


The author consulted primary materials in the Marine Corps Historical
Center Archives Section (including the source material gathered for Col
Robert D. Heinl, Jr.’s 1947 monograph _The Defense of Wake_); Reference
Section (November/December 1941 muster rolls); biographical material on
many of the individuals involved in the defense of Wake, and Subject
Files on Wake; Personal Papers Collection (Claude A. Larkin, Henry T.
Elrod, and John F. Kinney Collections), and Oral History Collection
(James P. S. Devereux and Omar T. Pfeiffer Interviews) as well as in
the Naval Historical Center Operational Archives Branch.

Charles L. Updegraph, Jr.’s _U.S. Marine Corps Special Units of World
War II_ (Washington: HQMC, 1972) proved useful for background on
defense battalions, while Woodrow M. Kessler, _To Wake and Beyond:
Reminiscences_ (Washington: MCHC, 1988) and James B. Darden III,
_Guests of the Emperor: The Story of Dick Darden_ (Clinton, North
Carolina: The Greenhouse Press, 1990) provided illuminating insights.

Older, but still useful, general works concerning Wake Island include
Winfield S. Cunningham (with Lydel Sims), _Wake Island Command_
(Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1961), James P. S. Devereux, _The Story
of Wake Island_ (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1947) (by the author’s own
admission, a ghost-written “romance”); and Robert D. Heinl, Jr., _The
Defense of Wake_. On general Pacific strategy (including the attempt at
relief of Wake), see John B. Lundstrom, _The First Team: Pacific Naval
Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway_ (Annapolis: Naval Institute,
1984).

Articles and periodicals consulted: from the _U.S. Naval Institute
Proceedings_: Ross A. Dierdorff, “Pioneer Party--Wake Island” (April
1943) and Homer C. Votaw, “Wake Island” (January 1941). See also John
R. Burroughs, “The Siege of Wake Island: An Eyewitness Account,”
_American Heritage_ (June 1959) and Robert D. Heinl, Jr., “We’re Headed
for Wake,” _Marine Corps Gazette_ (June 1946).



_About the Author_


[Illustration]

Robert J. Cressman, currently a member of the Naval Historical Center’s
Contemporary History Branch, earned both a bachelor of arts in history,
in 1972, and a masters of arts in history, in 1978, at the University
of Maryland. Formerly also a historian in the Marine Corps Historical
Center’s Reference Section, from 1979-1981, he has published articles
in such publications as the _Naval Institute Proceedings_, _Marine
Corps Gazette_, and _The Hook_. He is the author of _That Gallant Ship:
USS_ Yorktown _(CV-5)_ (1985), and editor and principal contributor of
_A Glorious Page in Our History: The Battle of Midway, 4-6 June 1942_
(1990). With J. Michael Wenger, he has co-authored _Steady Nerves and
Stout Hearts: The USS_ Enterprise _(CV-6) Air Group and Pearl Harbor,
7 December 1941_ (1990) and _Infamous Day: Marines at Pearl Harbor, 7
December 1941_ (1992), another title in this World War II commemorative
series of publications.



[Illustration]

THIS PAMPHLET HISTORY, one in a series devoted to U.S. Marines in
the World War II era, is published for the education and training of
Marines by the History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine
Corps, Washington, D.C., as a part of the U.S. Department of Defense
observance of the 50th anniversary of victory in that war.

Printing costs for this pamphlet have been defrayed in part by the
Defense Department World War II Commemoration Committee. Editorial
costs of preparing this pamphlet have been defrayed in part by a
bequest from the estate of Emilie H. Watts, in memory of her late
husband, Thomas M. Watts, who served as a Marine and was the recipient
of a Purple Heart.

    WORLD WAR II COMMEMORATIVE SERIES

    _DIRECTOR Of MARINE CORPS HISTORY AND MUSEUMS_
    =Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret)=

    _GENERAL EDITOR,
    WORLD WAR II COMMEMORATIVE SERIES_
    =Benis M. Frank=

    _CARTOGRAPHIC CONSULTANT_
    =George C. MacGillivray=

    _EDITING AND DESIGN SECTION, HISTORY AND MUSEUMS DIVISION_
    =Robert E. Struder=, Senior Editor;
    =W. Stephen Hill=, Visual Information Specialist;
    =Catherine A. Kerns=, Composition Services Technician

    Marine Corps Historical Center
    Building 58, Washington Navy Yard
    Washington, D.C. 20374-0580

    =1992=

    PCN 190 003119 00

[Illustration (back cover)]



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not
changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

To make this eBook easier to read, particularly on handheld devices,
most images have been made relatively larger than in the original
pamphlet, and centered, rather than offset to one side or the other;
and some were placed a little earlier or later than in the
original. Sidebars in the original have been repositioned between
chapters and identified as “[Sidebar (page nn):”, where the
page reference is to the original location in the source book. In the
Plain Text version, the matching closing right bracket follows the last
line of the Sidebar’s text and is on a separate line to make it more
noticeable. In the HTML versions, that bracket follows the colon, and
each Sidebar is displayed within a box.

Page 18: Missing closing quotation mark added after “Airon 24”.

Page 19 (Sidebar originally on page 17): “And, too, the three carriers
committed to the relief expedition were all there were in the Pacific.”
was printed that way.





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