Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Battle Of Wake Island

 The Battle Of Wake Island.

This is the one that no one talks about and gets only a small mention in the history books.

Did you know the Japanese garrison at Wake held out till the end of the war?

Did you know that only ONE Marine escaped death or capture from that fight?

A quick down and dirty via Wikipedia...

Aborted USN relief attempt

Admiral Frank Fletcher's Task Force 14 (TF–14) was tasked with the relief of Wake Island while Admiral Wilson Brown's Task Force 11 (TF–11) was to undertake a raid on the island of Jaluit in the Marshall Islands as a diversion.[17]

TF–14 consisted of the fleet carrier Saratoga, the fleet oiler Neches, the seaplane tender Tangier, three heavy cruisers (Astoria, Minneapolis, and San Francisco), and 8 destroyers (Selfridge, Mugford, Jarvis, Patterson, Ralph Talbot, Henley, Blue, and Helm).[18] The convoy carried the 4th Marine Defense Battalion (Battery F, with four 3-inch AA guns, and Battery B, with two 5-inch/51 guns) and fighter squadron VMF-221, equipped with Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo fighters, along with three complete sets of Fire Control equipment for the 3-inch AA batteries already on the island, plus tools and spares; spare parts for the 5-inch coast defense guns and replacement fire control gear; 9,000 5-inch rounds, 12,000 3-inch (76 mm) rounds, and 3,000,000 .50-inch (12.7 mm) rounds; machine gun teams and service and support elements of the 4th Defense Battalion; VMF-221 Detachment (the planes were embarked on Saratoga); as well as an SCR-270 air search radar and an SCR-268 fire control radar for the 3-inch guns, and a large amount of ammunition for mortars and other battalion small arms.

TF–11 consisted of the fleet carrier Lexington, the fleet oiler Neosho, three heavy cruisers (Indianapolis, Chicago and Portland), and the nine destroyers of Destroyer Squadron 1 (squadron flagship Phelps along with Dewey, Hull, MacDonough, Worden, Aylwin, Farragut, Dale, and Monaghan).[17]

At 21:00 on 22 December, after receiving information indicating the presence of two IJN carriers and two fast battleships (which were actually heavy cruisers) near Wake Island, Vice Admiral William S. Pye—the Acting Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet—ordered TF 14 to return to Pearl Harbor.[19]

 War crimes

On 5 October 1943, American naval aircraft from Lexington raided Wake. Two days later, fearing an imminent invasion, Japanese Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara ordered the execution of the 98 captive American civilian workers who had initially been kept to perform forced labor. They were taken to the northern end of the island, blindfolded and executed with a machine gun. One of the prisoners (whose name has never been discovered) escaped, apparently returning to the site to carve the message "98 US PW 5-10-43" on a large coral rock near where the victims had been hastily buried in a mass grave. The unknown American was recaptured, and Sakaibara personally beheaded him with a katana. The inscription on the rock can still be seen and is a Wake Island landmark.[25]


The most interesting part of this is the composition of the defense force.

 1st Marine Defense Battalion Detachment, Wake – Major James P.S. Devreaux

Unit Commander            Remarks

5-inch Artillery Group Maj. George H. Potter

3-inch Artillery Group Capt. Bryght D. Godbold

VMF-211 (Marine Corps Fighter Squadron) Maj. Paul A. Putnam Equipped with 12 Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighters

Does this not sound like the WW2 version of the Marine Littoral Regiment?

Defense Battalion fought heroically but served only as pebbles in the road to the Japanese onslaught, not even speed bumps like hoped.

I worry that we're making the same mistake. 

Note.  Want to read a pretty remarkable life's story?  Check out the Wiki on BrigGen Devreaux.

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