THE BATTLE OF WAKE ISLAND-8 DEC. 1941

Non-naval discussions about the Second World War. Military leaders, campaigns, weapons, etc.
User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

THE BATTLE OF WAKE ISLAND-8 DEC. 1941

Postby aurora » Wed Dec 31, 2014 5:16 pm

Wake Island was an American outpost in the central Pacific. Wake is a coral atoll, made up of three islands. Wake Island itself is the largest, and forms two sides of a triangle. Peale Island and Wilkes Island extend the two arms of Wake Island. The three islands are tiny – only 2.5 square miles in area, but their location in the central Pacific gave them a strategic significance far beyond their size. The Marshal Islands to the south and most of the Marianas islands to the west had been in Japanese hands since the First World War, when they seized them from the Germans.

As tension rose in the Pacific, the U.S. Navy decided to construct a base on Wake Island. Work started in January 1941, but was incomplete when the Japanese attacked. Despite this, the first permanent garrison, just under 400 men from the 1st Marine Defense Battalion, arrived on 19 August. The airfield was ready to take aircraft by December, and on 4 December twelve Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats from Marine Fighting Squadron VMF-211 arrived on Wake. The air base was usable but not complete. There were no revetments to protect the aircraft from bombs. The island’s radar was still at Pearl Harbor. Commander W.S. Cunningham had 449 Marines (including pilots) to resist any Japanese attack.

His first problem was that Wake Island was within range of Japanese bombers based in the Marshal Islands. The Japanese plan took advantage of that, using land based bombers to support a small naval force (no battleships or carriers were involved) carrying just under 500 invasion troops. This fleet left Roi, in the Marshal islands, on 9 December, the day after the first bombing raid against the island.That raid struck on 8 December, the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor (Wake is on the other side of the international date line, so the date is one day ahead of that on Hawaii). The garrison of Wake Island had received a warning from Pearl Harbor at 6.50 am. Lacking radar, it was decided to keep four of the Wildcats in the air. This saved them from destruction. At noon thirty six Mitsubishi G3M medium bombers attacked the airfield. Visibility was poor, and the four Wildcats in the air failed to spot the Japanese aircraft. Seven of the eight Wildcats on the ground were destroyed. VMF-211 lost 23 men dead and 11 wounded. No Japanese aircraft were lost. The next day a second, smaller, bombing raid met with less luck, losing two aircraft in combat with four Wildcats. The island was subjected to almost daily air raids for the rest of the battle.

The Japanese invasion fleet, under Admiral Kajioka, arrived off Wake Island early on 11 December. The attack went disastrously wrong. Despite the air raids, Wake Island still had teeth. A gun battery at Peacock Point on Wake Island scored direct hits on the Yubari, Admiral Kajioka’s flagship, forcing it to withdraw from the bombardment. Another battery on Wilkes Island did even better, destroying a Japanese destroyer, the Hayate, the first Japanese warship to be sunk by the Americans. Admiral Kajioka decided to withdraw. Before his force could escape, the remaining Wildcats launched an attack on his fleet. Two cruisers were destroyed, and a second destroyer, the Kisaragi, destroyed by a direct hit on depth charges stored on her deck. The Japanese had lost around 700 men. The naval bombardment of Wake had only caused four American casualties, none fatal. However, two of the four airworthy Wildcats were forced to crash land. Only two were left.

Wake was not left entirely to its fate. A relief force, led Admiral "Black Jack" Fletcher on the U.S.S. Saratoga, had been dispatched from Hawaii. However, its progress was slow. On 22 December the force was still 515 miles from Wake Island, and then had to spend a day refuelling. The next day the second Japanese invasion fleet reached Wake. The relief force was ordered back to Pearl Harbor.This was a much more powerful force. Admiral Kajioka had been reinforced with two fleet carriers, the Soryu and the Hiryu. This meant that the attack would have fighter cover. The invasion force was now over 1,500 men strong. Two old destroyers were to be beached on Wake to allow the troops to land.

On 22 December the last two Wildcats were lost in combat with Zeros from the carriers (one in combat, one had to crash land due to damage suffered). During the entire battle, the Wildcats had shot down at least 20 Japanese aircraft, mostly land based bombers, but including at least two Zeros.Before dawn on 23 December, the second Japanese attack went in. The two destroyers ran aground, and although one was destroyed by gunfire, by dawn 1,000 Japanese soldiers had landed. They quickly occupied the southern wing of the island, capturing the now-useless airfield. The situation was clearly hopeless. The marine commander, Major James Devereux, was now isolated on the northern part of Wake Island, and outnumbered by at least two to one (probably by more). With no hope of victory, Cunningham was forced to surrender.
The U.S. Marines lost 49 killed and two MIA during the entire 15-day siege, while three U.S. Navy personnel and at least 70 U.S. civilians were killed, including 10 Chamorros civilians, and 12 civilians wounded. Japanese losses were recorded at between 700 to 900 killed, with at least 300 more wounded, in addition to the two destroyers lost in the first invasion attempt and at least 28 land-based and carrier aircraft either shot down or damaged. The Japanese captured all men remaining on the island, the majority of whom were civilian contractors employed with Morrison-Knudsen Company
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: THE BATTLE OF WAKE ISLAND-8 DEC. 1941

Postby aurora » Wed Dec 31, 2014 9:43 pm

On 5 October 1943, American naval aircraft from Yorktown raided Wake. Two days later, fearing an imminent invasion, the Japanese Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara ordered the execution of the 98 captured American civilian workers who had initially been kept to perform forced labour. The 98 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 the massacre, 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.

On 4 September 1945, the remaining Japanese garrison surrendered to a detachment of U.S. Marines. The handover of Wake was officially conducted in a brief ceremony aboard the destroyer escort Levy. After the war, Sakaibara and his subordinate—Lieutenant-Commander Tachibana—were sentenced to death for the massacre of the 98 and for other war crimes. Several Japanese officers in American custody had committed suicide over the incident, leaving written statements that incriminated Sakaibara. Admiral Sakaibara was hanged on 18 June 1947.

Eventually, Tachibana's sentence was commuted to life in prison. The murdered civilian POWs were reburied after the war in Honolulu's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known as Punchbowl Crater.
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

User avatar
José M. Rico
Administrator
Posts: 815
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2004 10:23 am
Location: Madrid, Spain
Contact:

Re: THE BATTLE OF WAKE ISLAND-8 DEC. 1941

Postby José M. Rico » Fri Jan 02, 2015 3:15 pm

Hello there,
Would you mind posting the source of your posts?
Also, unless it is absolutely necessary, there is no need to make use bold text.
Thanks!

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: THE BATTLE OF WAKE ISLAND-8 DEC. 1941

Postby aurora » Fri Jan 02, 2015 3:27 pm

Source material extracted from Wikipedia-see link hereunder

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Wake_Island
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim

User avatar
Dave Saxton
Supporter
Posts: 2882
Joined: Sat Nov 27, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Rocky Mountains USA

Re: THE BATTLE OF WAKE ISLAND-8 DEC. 1941

Postby Dave Saxton » Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:49 pm

Admiral Layton, who was CINPAC's Intel officer through all of WWII, in his book "And I was There", had some interesting comments on the fall of Wake:

Now the Navy began to pay the price for the premature removal of Admiral Kimmel....Admiral Pye, very conscious that he was merely keeping the seat warm for Admiral Nimitz, decided that he could not risk the loss of any of the carriers. He sent a dispatch ordering Brown north to support Fletcher. At the same time he instructed Fletcher to under take a refueling operation the next day. Although, it was not strictly necessary, Pye wanted to provide a fixed rendezvous [point for Brown's force to join Fletcher. The responsibility for this decision was to be hotly debated. Regardless of whether it was Pye's or Fletcher's initiative, it disasterously delayed the approach to Wake....If Fletcher continued a 20 knot run to Wake TF14 would have been within range to smash Kajioka's invasion force when it steamed into position to commence its second landing attempt.....


Thus Fletcher could not arrive in time. Neither could Fitch (TF11 Saratoga) or Halsey (TF8 Enterprize). It would take at least 12 hours before Fletcher could get into position to launch planes, but Kajioaka was still hung out to dry. Fletcher could still smash his naval force and supporting forces. A captain at CINPAC named Soc McMorris pointed this out, but his advice was rejected and Fletcher recalled:

McMorris pointed out the tactical advantages of Fletcher's position. Halsey's Enterprise could be brought south to assist, or to cover Fletcher's retirement if necessary. But no matter how you viewed it, the Japanese would have been trapped from three sides.....The tragedy was that Kimmel's strategy had worked perfectly to bring about the conditions for a spectacular American victory. Our three carriers and superior cruiser striking power would have been concentrated against two Japanese carriers and heavy cruisers. But by putting strategic caution before tactical calculation, Pye had deprived the navy of a chance to catch the enemy unawares in much the same circumstances that we were able to do six months later at Midway...
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

User avatar
aurora
Senior Member
Posts: 683
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 2:31 pm
Location: YORKSHIRE

Re: THE BATTLE OF WAKE ISLAND-8 DEC. 1941

Postby aurora » Tue Jan 06, 2015 5:36 pm

An extremely interesting and for me a very enlightening post Dave- for which my thanks-I always had the impression that Wake was doomed from the start; and now I learn how wrong I was-Wake Island could well have been saved as you have said :-

"But by putting strategic caution before tactical calculation, Pye had deprived the navy of a chance to catch the enemy unawares in much the same circumstances that we were able to do six months later at Midway."
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call

Jim


Return to “World War II”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests