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 Given Up For Dead - the Battle of Wake Island
Brohawk  [Team Member]
2/26/2009 7:06:31 AM EST
I just finished this book and it provides great insight into the fight for the island. The detail into the battle(s) gives you a good understanding of the flow of events.

During the initial assault on 8 December, the Marines really put a smack down on the Japanese. Shore batteries sunk a couple of ships and others were damaged. It was estimated that along with the loss of ships, the Japanese had lost 700-800 men before they withdrew.

When the Japanese returned on 23 December with an overwhelming numerical superiority, the Marines again gave them a significant thrashing and were in the process of pushing them back when the order to surrender came.

Major Devereaux, the Marine commander, had been cut off from situation reports from all over the island, and assumed that the Japanese had taken most of the island, hence the surrender order.

This greatly frustrated the Marines, who sensed themselves to be on the verge of victory. They were mainly trying to hold on until the relief force dispatched from Pearl Harbor arrived.

However, unknown to them, the relief force turned back the day before, after the Navy commander on the island sent a message saying the situation was "in doubt."

I've read a bit on WWII, but this battle doesn't seem to get the credit due it. The day after Pearl Harbor US forces won a battle with the Japanese Navy.

From the initial fight to the abandonment of the relief effort, Wake was known as the "Alamo of the Pacific." Unlike the real Alamo, this one is largely forgotten.

Given Up For Dead is a good read.
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NWPilgrim  [Member]
2/26/2009 9:59:46 AM EST
Great report!

I have read several accounts of Wake Island and agree with your comments. The Marines put up a heck of a fight, repeatedly, patching up Wildcats, and repelling landings. I imagine the Navy commander surrendered because if you look at the strategic situation Wake was futile. But from the tactical perspective of the fighting Marines I'm not sure they cared much about the strategic, they were willing to fight for the Island to the last man.

My Dad was a WWII Pacific Marine. There was no love lost between the Marines and Navy, especially after Wake, and then again the Navy abandoning the Marines on Guadalcanal without all the supplies, and leaving them to endure Japanese Naval and air bombardments and landings uncontested by our Navy.

At least in WWII the Navy generally underestimated the fighting tenacity of the Marines, and over estimated the Japanese Navy many times. Some Navy commanders however seemed to be more Marine then Navy: Halsey, Task Force Taffy, and I can't remember the officer's name, but he was notable for taking his destroyer within 500 yds of the beach under heavy Japanese fire to lend fire support to the Marines.

The main point you make though stands: Wake should be better remembered as the first US "victory" of will in the Pacific war. Of course, the Marines don't lack notable battles of exemplary courage agains theavy odds: Tripoli, Boxer Rebellion, Belleu Woods, Wake, Tarawa, Guadacanal, Iwo, Saipan, Okinawa, Pusan, Inchon, Chosin, Khe Sanh, Hue, Fallujah, etc.

Although a few movies were made in the 1940s of the Wake Island battle, and it was referred to at the time as the "Alamo of the Pacific," it has unjustly faded from popular memory. Thanks for the reminder!
ntmid8r333  [Member]
2/26/2009 10:35:48 AM EST
as sad as it is, the Navy let down the Marines several times during the pacific campaign. The had not embraced the "one team, one fight" concept back then. Then again, I have deployed many times recently and found it to be the same. Instead of "one team, one fight" it turns into "one team, let's fight". Sometimes it seems they get caught up in rules, regs, policies, and lose sight on winning battles and taking the fight to the enemy. This is not saying that i haven't found warrior sailors too. Just depends on which command you get.

I have read a couple books on wake island. The navy originally tried to rescue the Marines, or at least resupply/reinforce them but were sidetracked by faulty intel. It was a classic case of indecision being worse than the wrong decision. Anyway, an excellant peice of American history and a really cool place to visit too!
Thegunwhisperer  [Member]
2/27/2009 10:25:29 PM EST
Originally Posted By ntmid8r333:
as sad as it is, the Navy let down the Marines several times during the pacific campaign. The had not embraced the "one team, one fight" concept back then. Then again, I have deployed many times recently and found it to be the same. Instead of "one team, one fight" it turns into "one team, let's fight". Sometimes it seems they get caught up in rules, regs, policies, and lose sight on winning battles and taking the fight to the enemy. This is not saying that i haven't found warrior sailors too. Just depends on which command you get.

I have read a couple books on wake island. The navy originally tried to rescue the Marines, or at least resupply/reinforce them but were sidetracked by faulty intel. It was a classic case of indecision being worse than the wrong decision. Anyway, an excellant peice of American history and a really cool place to visit too!


I am just curious....have you been there, it sounds like you have from your post. I would love to know what is still around after all these years.
Thegunwhisperer  [Member]
2/27/2009 10:52:06 PM EST
dupe
MoltenBarrel  [Member]
2/27/2009 11:35:23 PM EST
I had the honor and privilege to meet many of the surviving veterans of that battle (who were subsequently POWs). On many occasions, the veterans of the Battle of Wake Island would hold reunions. Back in 1985, they had decided, for the first time since they left the island (Wake is actually three islands - Wake, Peale, and Wilkes) to hold a reunion at Wake itself. At the time, I was assigned to VMA-211, the ancestor to VMF-211, which was the Marine Fighter Squadron of Wildcat aircraft assigned to the island at the time. I was one of 20 Marines selected to attend the reunion with these veterans.

The recounts of valor and courage conveyed to me by these vets were incredible. When we landed on Wake, as the vets started into their laments of the battle, it was amazing to hear from the people who were there, standing on the atoll where it took place, the details of the chaos.

I've been to Wake a couple times. At the time, there were still old relics of gun emplacements and bunkers, although those relics were put there by the Japanese (I'd bet they are still there).

It is an experience I will carry with me the rest of my life, although not anywhere near as intensely as the experiences of those vets.
gaweidert  [Team Member]
3/21/2009 5:55:10 AM EST
Since the Navy had more KIA in WWII than the Marines the myth that the Navy abandoned them is just that. My father-in-law (USMC 1939 - 1948) was part of the relief effort to reinforce Wake Island. After they were turned back they got dropped off at Midway. So he got to personally witness Pearl Harbor and part of the Midway campaign. The correct decision was made at Wake Island. Could we afford to risk the last two capital ships (aircraft carriers in this case) we had in the Pacific when we had no idea of the strength and position of the Japanese fleet? My father-in-law continues to have great admiration for the Navy. He witnessed the slaughter they endured at Guadalcanal to keep the Marines supplied, protected from Japanese naval bombardments and also try to stop the flow of supplies and reinforcement to the Japanese on the island . As he says, if someone shoots at a Marine they go to ground and look for cover. There is no cover on a ship. Your only option is to stand fast to your post and shoot back. On some nights some of the Marines would sit on the beaches and watch the flashes from the naval battles going on. When they stopped they never knew who won and what tomorrow would bring as a result.

Payback99  [Team Member]
3/27/2009 3:29:31 PM EST
As the great grandson, grandson, son, nephew, older brother, older cousin of Marines, and Officer of Marines myself, I quote my grandfather.... "The fuckin' Navy, first Guadalcanal, and now THIS!!!"

My grandfather was with 2/7 on Guadalcanal and remembered well watching the good ol' US Navy heave to, and head over the horizon leaving the 1st Marine Division "The Old Breed" high and dry and half way through their disembarkation. Now, I know well the stories of the Battle of Iron Bottom Sound, and I am not ashamed to say that I get tears in my eyes reading the story of "The Fighting Sullivans" and the USS Juneau. But, there are also tales to be told of "The Alamo of the Pacific" and "The Defense of Henderson Field".

As Winston Churchill said of Guadalcanal,... "Long may the story be told, in the history of The Great Republic."

I wear the Eagle, Globe, and fouled Anchor proudly, both on my uniform and in my skin in homage to the Legionnaires of America. Wake Island stands as an everlasting example to all Marines, to do our duty. As General Robert E. Lee said,.... "Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your Duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less." Marines embody "DUTY."

For the Marines who wrote the name of The Great Republic so high in the annals of history with their courage, sweat, iron, and blood on a coral reef called Wake Island, I ask you gentlemen and ladies to remember the words of the Last Lion and ensure that.... "Long may the story be told...." in this, OUR GREAT REPUBLIC.

My beautiful America, under God's wide sky....
JRBL1A1  [Member]
4/10/2009 8:45:12 PM EST
I have a personal connection with Wake Island.

Earl Hannum was my grandfather's cousin. He was beheaded by the Japs on a prisoner ship after Wake fell. G'pa said Earl was of smaller build, but scrappy as Hell and took no shit off of no one.
code99  [Team Member]
4/15/2009 8:07:40 AM EST
Excellent book
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