Chapter 3: Wake Under Siege1

Scarcely had the VMF-211 planes returned to me field before it was time for Lieutenants Davidson and Kinney to fly the only two serviceable fighters on the early midday combat patrol. It was then nearly 1000, almost time for the Japanese bombers to arrive, and the Marines soon spotted 30 of these enemy planes coming out of the northwest at 18,000 feet. Davidson downed two of these aircraft, and Kinney turned a third homeward with smoke trailing behind it. Then the fliers pulled away as the enemy formation entered the range of the Wake guns.

This antiaircraft fire splashed on bomber in the water off Wilkes and damaged three others. Bombs hit close to Battery D on Peale, and others exploded on Wake. There were no Marine casualties, and damage was slight, but the pattern of the attack convinced Devereux that the Japanese has spotted the position of Battery D. As soon as the attack ended he ordered this unit to displace from the neck of Toki Point to the southeastern end of Peale.2 Marines and civilians began this displacement after dark. Sandbags at the old position could not be reclaimed, and cement bags and empty ammunition boxes had to serve this purpose at the new location. The work was finished by 0445, and Battery D again was ready to fire.

On 12 December the Japanese came to work early. Two four-engine Kawanishi patrol bombers arrived from Majuro at about 0500 and bombed and strafed Wake and Peale Islands. Bombs hit the airstrip but caused little damage. Captain Tharin, who had just taken off on the morning reconnaissance patrol, intercepted one of the big flying boats and shot it down. After this raid the Wake defenders went on with their work. Beach defenses were improved on Wilkes, and the ordnance officer, Gunner Harold C. Borth, serviced Battery L's battered 5-inch guns. At the airfield Lieutenant Kinney managed to patch up one of VMF-221's cripples, and this brought the strength of the Wake air force up to three planes. Such work continued for the remainder of the day. To the surprise of everyone on the atoll, the


enemy did not arrive for the usual noon raid.3

This freedom from attack was a welcome and profitable interlude for the garrison. Captain Freuler, who had been attempting since the opening of the war to devise some means of employing welder's oxygen to augment the dwindling supply for the fighter pilots, finally managed, at great personal hazard, to transfer the gas from commercial cylinders to the fliers' oxygen bottles. Without this new supply the pilots could not have flown many more high altitude missions.

Another important experiment failed. Marine tried to fashion a workable aircraft sound locator out of lumber. It was "a crude pyramidal box with four uncurved plywood sides," by Major Devereux's description. It was too crude to be of any value; it served only to magnify the roar of the surf.

That evening Lieutenants Kinney and Kliewer and Technical Sergeant Hamilton readied Wake's three planes for the final patrol of the day. Kliewer draw a plane that was always difficult to start,4 and his takeoff was delayed for nearly fifteen minutes. While he was climbing to overtake the other fliers he spotted an enemy submarine on the surface some 25 miles southwest of the atoll. He climbed to 10,000 feet and maneuvered to attack the sun behind him. He strafed the Japanese boat with his .50 caliber guns, and then dropped his two bombs as he pulled out of his glide. Neither bomb hit, but Kliewer estimated that they exploded within fifteen feet of the target. Bomb fragments punctured his wings and tail as he made his low pull-out, and while he climbed to cruising altitude he saw the enemy craft submerge in the midst of a large oil slick.5

After their various activities of 12 December, the atoll defenders ended the day with a solemn ceremony. A large grave had been dug approximately 100 yards southwest of the Marine aid station, and in this the dead received a common burial while a lay preacher from the contractor's crew read simple prayers.

Next day the Japanese did not bother Wake at all, and Marine officers thought it possible that Kliewer's attack on the enemy submarine had brought them this day of freedom. The tiny atoll, frequently concealed by clouds, was a difficult


place to find, and the Marines reasoned that the Japanese were using submarine radios as navigational homing aids. Accurate celestial navigation would have been possible at night, but the bombers had been making daylight runs of from 500 to 600 miles over water with no landmarks. By dead reckoning alone this would have been most difficult, yet the bombers hit at about the same time each day. This convinced some of the Marines, including Lieutenant Kinney, that the submarine had been leading them in.6

But even this quiet day7 did not pass without loss. While taking off for the evening patrol, Captain Freuler's plane swerved toward a group of workmen and a large crane beside the runway. To avoid hitting the men or this crane, Freuler made a steep bank to the left. The plane lost lift and settled into the brush, a permanent wash-out. It was set up in the bone yard with other wrecks which were parked to draw bombs.

December 14 started explosively at 0330 when three four-engine Kawanishi 97 flying boats droned over from Wotje8 and dropped bombs near the airstrip. They caused no damage, and the garrison made no attempt to return fire. But later that day the pilots of the Twenty-Fourth Air Flotilla resumed their bombing schedule. Thirty shore-based bombers arrived from Roi at 1100, and struck Camp One, the lagoon off Peale, and the west end of the airstrip. Two marines from VMF-211 were killed and one wounded, and a direct bomb hit in an airplane revetment finished off another fighter plane, leaving the atoll's aviation unit only one plane that could fly.9 Lieutenant Kinney, VMF-211's engineering officer, sprinted for the revetment where he was joined by Technical Sergeant Hamilton and Aviation Machinist's Mate First Class James F. Hesson, USN,10 his two assistants. Despite the fire which engulfed the rear end of the plane, these men accomplished the unbelievable feat of removing the undamaged engine from the fuselage and dragging it clear.

During his morning patrol flight of 15 December, Major Putnam sighted another submarine southwest of Wake. But it appeared to have orange markings, and Putnam did not attack. He thought it might be a Netherlands boat because he had observed markings of that color on Dutch airplanes in Hawaii in late 1941. Putnam's examination of the craft caused it to submerge, however, and Marines later took significant notice of this when the regular bombing raid did not arrive that day. This seemed to add credence to the theory that submarines were providing navigational "beams" for the bombers.

But the Kawanishi flying boats kept the day from being completely free of Japanese harassment. Four to six of these four-motored planes came over at about 1800, and one civilian was killed when the planes made a strafing run along the atoll.


Their bombing was less effective. They apparently tried to hit Battery D on Peale Island, but most of the bombs fell harmlessly into the lagoon and the others caused no damage.

Meanwhile defensive work continued during every daylight hour not interrupted by such bombing raids. Another aircraft was patched up, personnel shelters for all hands had been completed in the VMF-211 area, and at Peacock point Battery A now had two deep underground shelters with rock cover three feet thick.11 And before nightfall on 15 December the garrison completed its destruction of classified documents. This security work began on 8 December when the Commandant of the 14th Naval district ordered Commander Cunningham to destroy reserve codes and ciphers at the Naval Air Station,12 but codes remained intact in the VMF-211 area. Now Major Bayler and Captain Tharin shredded these classified papers into an oil drum and burned them in a gasoline fire.13

On the 16th the Japanese made another daylight raid. Twenty-three bombers from Roi came out of the east at 18,000 feet in an attempt to bomb Peale Island and Camp Two. Lieutenants Kinney and Kliewer, up on air patrol, warned the garrison of this approach, but the Marine fliers had no luck attacking the enemy planes. They did radio altitude information for the antiaircraft gunners, however, and the 3-inch batteries knocked down one bomber and damaged four others. The Japanese spilled their bombs into the waters of the lagoon and turned for home.

But experience had taught the atoll defenders not to expect a rest after this daylight raid was over. The flying boats had become almost as persistent as the shore-based bombers, and at 1745 that afternoon one of the Kawanishis came down through a low ceiling to strafe Battery D on Peale Island. Poor visibility prevented the Marines from returning fire, but the attack caused little damage. The plane dropped four heavy bombs, but these fell harmlessly into the lagoon. Marines who were keeping score--and most of them were--marked this down as Wake's 10th air raid.

After this attack Wake had an uneasy night. It was black with a heavy drizzle, and maybe this put sentinels on edge just enough to cause them to "see things"--although no one could blame them for this. At any rate lookouts on Wilkes passed an alarm at 0200 that they had sighted 12 ships, and everybody fell out for general quarters. Nothing came of this alarm and postwar Japanese and U.S. records indicate that there were no ships at all around Wake that night.

At 0600 on 17 December Lieutenant Kinney reported proudly that his engineering crew had patched up two more airplanes. This still left the atoll with a four-plane air force, but fliers and other aviation personnel could hardly have been more amazed if two new fighter squadrons had just arrived. Major Putnam called the work of Kinney, Hamilton, and Hesson "magical."14

…With almost no tools and a complete lack of normal equipment, they performed all types of repair and replacement work. They changed engines and propellers from one airplane to another, and even completely built up new


engines and propellers from scrap parts salvaged from wrecks…all this in spite of the fact that they were working with new types [of aircraft] with which they had no previous experience and were without instruction manuals of any kind…Their performance was the outstanding event of the whole campaign.15

"Engines have to be traded from plane to plane, have been junked, stripped, rebuilt, and all but created," another report said of Kinney's engineering work.16

At 1317 that afternoon 27 Japanese bombers from Roi came out of the southwest at 19,000 feet. Their bombs ignited a diesel oil tank of Wilkes and destroyed the defense battalion messhall as well as much tentage and quartermaster gear at Camp One. A bomb explosion also damaged one of the evaporator units upon which Wake depended for its water supply. The 3-inch guns brought down one of these planes.

Later that day one of the Kinney-patched fighter planes washed out during take-off, and it had to be sent back to the boneyard. Then at 1750 came the heaviest raid the Kawanishi flying boats ever put into the air against Wake.17 Eight of these planes bombed and strafed the atoll but inflicted little damage.

As if the Wake defenders did not already have their hands full, construction authorities in Pearl Harbor wanted to know how things were going with the lagoon dredging. They also asked for a specific date on which the atoll would have certain other improvements completed. The island commander preface his preliminary reply to this query with an account of the latest air raid, and followed this with a damage report which summarized his battle losses since the beginning of the war. he pointed out that half of his trucks and engineering equipment had been destroyed, that most of his diesel fuel and dynamite were gone, and that his garage, blacksmith shop, machine shop, and building supplies warehouse either had been blasted or burned to he ground.

In a supplementary report sent later, Commander Cunningham told the Pearl Harbor authorities that everybody on Wake had been busy defending the atoll and keeping themselves alive. The could not do construction work at night, he pointed out, and if they used too much heavy equipment during the day they could not hear the bombers approaching. Besides, he reiterated, much of his equipment had been destroyed by the bombing raids, and most of his repair facilities had met the same fate. On top of all this, he added, civilian morale was bad. Cunningham said he could not promise a completion date on anything unless the Japanese let up the pressure.18 The originator of this Pearl Harbor query might have found a pointed hint in this reference to a let-up of pressure. But at any rate Cunningham never again was asked how his construction work was coming along.

The 18th of December was quiet.19 One enemy plane was sighted in the vicinity of


Wake, however, and the defenders considered its activity ominous. It was almost directly overhead at about 25,000 feet when first sighted. Well beyond antiaircraft or fighter range, it flew northwest along the axis of the atoll, and then turned south, presumably returning to Roi. Defenders believed this to be a photo-reconnaissance flight.

Next morning the defenders continued their routine work, trying to add to their defensive installations before the bombers were due. This was a routine now familiar to them. After being cleared from morning general quarters, the men went about their work until the midday raid sent them to gun positions or to cover. After that raid was over, the men cleaned up after the bombs or went ahead with their other duties. Then late in the afternoon they had to take time out to deal with the flying boats. At night they could usually sleep when they were not on sentry duty, or standing some other type of watch. Following this pattern, crew members of the various batteries had completed their sturdy emplacements, and everybody had contributed to the construction of primary and alternate positions for beach defense. They had built more beach positions than they could possibly man, but many of these were to be manned only under certain conditions.20 The shortage of trained fighting men was so critical that a well-coordinated attack would require them to be everywhere at once.

At 1050, 27 bombers from Roi came in from the northwest at about 18,000 feet. They worked over the VMF-211 area south of the airstrip, finished off the Marines' messhall and tentage at Camp One, and struck the PanAir area. Batteries D and E hit four of these bombers, and observers on the atoll saw one of them splash after its crew bailed out over the water. Bomb damage at Camp One was serious, but elsewhere it was slight, and there were no casualties.

December 20 dawned gloomily with heavy rain, and ceilings were low and visibility poor all day. This wide weather front apparently dissuaded the Japanese from attempting their usual noon visit, but it did not stop a U.S. Navy PBY which arrived that day and provided Wake with its first physical contact with the friendly outer world since the start of the war. This plane landed in the lagoon at 1530 to deliver detailed information about the planned relief and reinforcement of the atoll. These reports contained good news for nearly everyone. All civilians except high-priority workers were to be evacuated. A Marine fighter squadron (VMF-221) would fly in to reinforce VMF-211, which was again down to a single plane. And the units from the 4th Defense Battalion would arrive on the Tangier to reinforce the weakened detachment of the 1st Defense Battalion. The PBY fliers had a copy of the Tangier's loading plan,21 and this list made the ship seem like some fabulous floating Christmas package that was headed for the atoll.

That night Commander Cunningham, Majors Devereux and Putnam, and Lieutenant


Commander Greey prepared reports to send back to Pearl Harbor. Major Bayler, his mission long since completed, would carry the papers back as he complied with his orders directing him to return from Wake "by first available Government air transportation." Mr. Hevenor, the Bureau of the Budget official who had missed the Philippine Clipper on 8 December, also planned to leave on the PBY, but someone pointed out that he could not travel in a Naval aircraft without parachute and Mae West, neither of which was available. So Mr. Hevenor missed another plane.

At 0700 next morning, 21 December, the PBY departed. Within less than two hours, at 0850, 29 Japanese Navy attack bombers, covered by 18 fighters, lashed down at Wake through the overcast and bombed and strafed all battery positions. These were planes from Carrier Division 2 (Soryu and Hiryu), called in by the Japanese to help soften Wake's unexpected toughness.22 Due to the low ceiling, the attack was consummated before the 3-inch batteries could get into action, but the .50 caliber antiaircraft machine guns engaged the enemy. The attack caused little damage, but its implications were ominous.

Only three hours later, 33 of the shore-based Japanese bombers arrived from Roi, and again they concentrated on Peale Island and Camp Two. They approached from the east at 18,000 feet in two main formations, and the bombs from the second group plastered Battery D's position on Peale, This unit had fired 35 rounds in half a minute and had hit one bomber when a bomb fell squarely inside the director emplacement of the battery. This explosion killed the firing battery executive, Platoon Sergeant Johnalson E. Wright, and wounded the range officer and three other Marines.

Now there was only one firing director mechanism left on the atoll, and it belonged to Battery E located in the crotch of Wake Island. But Battery E had no height finder, although Battery D still had one of these. Thus the two 3-inch batteries had only enough fire control equipment for one battery. Because of Battery E's more desirable location, and because it had escaped damage since its move to this spot, Major Devereux decided to maintain it as his primary antiaircraft defense of the atoll. Thus by taking over Battery D's height finder, certain other fire control gear, one gun, and the necessary personnel, Battery E became a full manned and fully equipped four-gun battery. Two other Battery D guns were shifted to a new position on Peale Island where they could assume beach-defense missions, and the fourth gun remained at the original battery position. Dummy guns also were mounted there to create the impression that the battery was still intact. As a further measure of deception, Battery F on Wilkes, also reduced to two guns, would open fire by local control methods whenever air raids occurred. Battery D was parceled out that night, and by next morning the garrison on Peale had been reduced to less than 100 Marines and a small group of civilians who had been trained by Marine noncommissioned officers to man one of Battery D's guns.23


By 22 December VMF-211 again had two airplanes capable of flight, and Captain Freuler and Lieutenant Davidson took them up for morning patrol. Davidson had been out almost an hour and was covering the northern approaches to Wake at 12,000 feet when he spotted enemy planes coming in. He called Captain Freuler, who was then south of the atoll, and the Marines began independent approaches to close with the enemy. The Japanese flight consisted of 33 carrier attack planes (dive bombers) escorted by six fighters, all from the Soryu-Hiryu carrier division. The fighters were at 12,000 feet and the dive bombers at 18,000. The fighters were of a sleek new type, the first Zeros to be encountered over Wake.

Captain Freuler dived his patched-up F4F-3 into a division of six fighters, downing one and scattering the others. Coming around quickly in a difficult opposite approach, Freuler attacked another of the Zeros and saw it explode only 50 feet below. This explosion temporarily engulfed the Grumman in a cloud of flames and flying fragments. The Marine plane was badly scorched, its manifold-pressure dropped, and the controls reacted sluggishly. As the captain turned to look for the atoll, he saw Lieutenant Davidson attacking the dive bombers. The lieutenant was diving at a retreating bomber, but a Zero was behind him closing on the Marine Grumman. This enemy fighter probably downed Davidson, because the lieutenant did not return to he atoll.

Meanwhile a Zero got on Freuler's tail while he took in Davison's plight, and fire from the Japanese plane wounded the Marine pilot in the back and shoulder. Freuler pushed his plane over into a steep dive, managed to shake off his pursuer, and dragged the shattered, scorched F4F into the field for a crash landing. In the words of Lieutenant Kinney, whose shoestring maintenance had kept VMF-211 flying for fifteen days: "This left us with no airplanes." In spite of the Marine squadron's last blaze of heroism, the enemy dive bombers came on in to strike at all battery positions. But the atoll pilots were not much impressed by the work of the Japanese naval aviators. "We who have been used to seeing only the propeller hub are a bit taken aback by their shallow dives and their inaccuracies," Lieutenant Barninger said. The Japanese bombs did not cause much damage, and there were no casualties on the ground.

But now that carrier air was being brought to bear against them, the Wake defenders concluded that it would not be long before the Japanese came back with a bigger task force and a better amphibious plan. Ground defense preparations intensified that afternoon. VMF-211's effectives--less than 20 officers and men--were added to the defense battalion as infantry, Peale Island completed its beach defense emplacements, and Captain Platt drew up final detailed orders for his defense of Wilkes. Platt ordered Marine Gunner McKinstry, who commanded Battery F, to fire on enemy landing boats as long as his guns could depress sufficiently, and then to fall back to designated positions from which his men would fight as riflemen. There these men from the 3-inch battery would be joined by the personnel from Battery L. After that it would be an infantry fight. "All that can be done


is being done," noted one of the Wake officers, "but there is so little to do with."24

Enemy Plans and Actions, 11-21 December25

Wake defenders were correct is assuming that the Japanese soon would be back with a stronger effort than the one which had failed for Rear Admiral Kajioka. The admiral began to mull a few plans for his next attack while he withdrew toward Kwajalein on 11 December, and he had his staff in conference on 13 December while his battered fleet still was anchoring in that Marshall atoll. Rear Admiral Kuniori Marushige, who had commanded Cruiser Division 18 (including the light cruisers Tatsuta and Tenryu as well as the flagship Yubari ), analyzed the causes of failure as follows: The landing attempt had failed, he said, because of the vigorous seacoast artillery defense, fighter opposition, adverse, weather, and because of insufficient Japanese forces and means.

But Admiral Kajioka was more interested in the success of the next operation, and so was Fourth Fleet Commander Inouye at Truk. While the ships remaining in Kajioka's task force were getting patched up at Kwajalein, Admiral Inouye sent destroyers Asanagi and Yunagi over to replace the destroyers lost in the Wake action. He also added the Oboro, a much more powerful and new ship of destroyer-leader characteristic which was armed with six 5-inch guns.26 The mine layer Tsugaru came over from Saipan with the Maizaru Special Landing Force Number Two; and the transport Tenyo Maru and the float-plane tender Kiyokawa also joined the force. Troop rehearsals began on 15 December, but Admiral Inouye still was not convinced that his force was large enough, and he asked the Commander in Chief of the Combined Fleet to send him more ships.

Inouye's superior officer, now apparently convinced that Wake would be hard to crack, sent to the Fourth Fleet admiral the fleet carriers, Soryu and Hiryu of Carrier Division 2, heavy cruisers Aoba, Furutaka, Kako, and Kinugasa of Cruiser Division 6, heavy cruisers Tone and Chikuma of Cruiser Division 8, and a task force screen of six destroyers.27 The commander of the Combined Fleet assigned over-all command of this Wake task force to Rear Admiral Koki Abe, commander of Cruiser Division 8. Rear Admiral Kajioka retained his command of the amphibious force.

Plans for the second attack against the American atoll called for more softening up than Wake had received previous to Kajioka's first attempt to land troops there. On 21 December, two days prior to the proposed landing, the aircraft of Carrier Division 2 would work over the atoll's defenses to destroy first the U.S. air capability and then the shore batteries and the antiaircraft weapons. Then the amphibious force would move up for the landing, and in order that the atoll might be surprised28 there would be no preliminary naval bombardment on 23 December.

To make sure that troops got ashore, the two destroyer-transports (Patrol Craft


32 and 33 ) would run aground on the south shore of the atoll near the airstrip, and the approximately 1,000 men of the special naval landing force29 would then be carried to he beach in four to six landing barges. Two of these would land on Wilkes Island, two on Wake Island between the airstrip and Camp One, and the other two probably provided for would put their troops ashore just west of Peacock point.30 If these special landing force troops ran into serious trouble on the atoll, the naval force would send in 500 men organized from ships' landing forces. And if this combined force failed to subdue the atoll defenders, more help would be sent by means of an ultimate and desperate expedient. The destroyers of the task force would be beached, and their crews would swarm ashore. Admiral Inouye was determined that this second attack should not fail.

The possibility of U.S. naval surface intervention was taken into consideration. This possibility had been dismissed during planning for the attack of 11 December because the Japanese reasoned that the shock of Pearl Harbor would immobilize American surface operations for some time. But now the Japanese assumed that U.S. surface opposition was probable. To guard against such threat, the four heavy cruisers of Cruisers Division 6 would act as a covering force east of Wake. If a major surface action developed, Rear Admiral Abe would enter the fight with Cruiser Division 8 and conduct the battle. As on the first attempt, submarines would precede the invasion force to reconnoiter the island and to look out for U.S. surface forces.

With these final plans issued, the invasion force well rehearsed, and carriers Soryu and Hiryu on their way down from north of Midway, the operation against Wake was ready to go. At 0900 on 21 December Admiral Kajioka cleared Roi with the ships of his amphibious force and headed back up toward the American-held atoll.

The Relief Attempt, 15-23 December31

Now the U.S. commanders taking help to Wake were in a race with Admiral Kajioka, even if they did not know it. Admiral Fletcher's Task Force 14 sortied from Pearl Harbor in two task groups on 15 and 16 December,32 rendezvoused southwest of Oahu during the afternoon of this second day, and sailed westward toward Wake. Fletcher's force was to arrive at the atoll on 23 December (east longitude time). There the pilots of Major Verne J. McCaul's VMF-221 would fly in from the carrier Saratoga while the Tangier anchored off Wilkes channel to unload supplies, equipment, and the Marines from the 4th Defense Battalion.33 After taking wounded men


and certain civilians on board, these ships then would return to Pearl Harbor.

But the advance was aggravatingly slow. The old fleet oiler Neches, in the train with the Tangier, could not manage more than 12 knots, and the fleet's zig-zag evasive tactics further slowed the rate of advance. To the Marines and seamen in the first westward sally of the war, the waters beyond Oahu seemed very lonely and ominous, and there was no contact, either friendly or enemy, to vary the tense monotony of the run. Each day on the Tangier began with general quarters and then lapsed into normal shipboard routine. Marines received such training and instruction as could be fitted into this schedule, and part of this educational program included lecture by the few radar technicians on board.

The few available maps and charts of Wake received intense study. In anticipation that Wake's 3-inch guns might have to deliver direct fire on ships or ground targets, improvised sight were designed and constructed in the ship's machine shops. The officer commanding the machine-gun detachment contrived with the ship's force to construct special slings with which his .50 caliber antiaircraft machine guns could be hoisted from ship to barges while remaining ready to ward off possible enemy attacks during unloading. The 5-inch seacoast men stayed in practice by standing their share of watches on the after 5-inch gun of the Tangier. All Marine antiaircraft machine guns were set up and manned on the superstructure.

On 18 December CinCPac ordered U.S. submarines which were patrolling in the vicinity of Wake to move south out of the area. These boats of Task Force 7 were to patrol around Rongelap in the Marshalls until the relief expedition reached Wake. CinCPac wanted to avoid any possibility of one U.S. force confusing another for the enemy.34 Three days later, on the 21st, intelligence information which had been arriving at Pearl Harbor indicated that a large force of shore-based Japanese planes was building up in the Marshalls, and that enemy surface forces might be east of Wake where they could detect the approach of Fletcher's Task Force 14. Other reports indicated the presence of Japanese carriers, including possibly the Soryu, northwest of the atoll. Fletcher's mission, now about 650 miles east of Wake, appeared to be growing more hazardous with each hour. CinCPac ordered the carrier Lexington and other ships of Task Force 11 over from the southeast to give Fletcher closer support.35

By 0800 on 22 December, Task Force 14 was within 515 miles of Wake, and Admiral Fletcher in the cruiser Astoria kept up on the news about his race by monitoring the CinCPac radio nets. Ominous reports of Japanese surface operations around the atoll continued to filter in at Pearl Harbor, but conditions at Wake were unchanged. Fletcher decided to refuel. Although his destroyers still had a reasonable supply of oil, it might not be enough if they had to fight. But this very act of fueling, which took most of the day, kept them out of the fight. By the time the U.S. ships moved on toward Wake, Admiral Kajioka was only about 50 miles from the atoll with his amphibious force. Fletcher had lost the race.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (2) * Next Chapter (4)


[1] Unless otherwise noted the material in Chap 3 is derived from Devereux Rept; Putnam Rept; (officer's name) Repts, especially 1stLt J.F. Kinney Rept, Major W.L.J. Bayler Rept, and LtCol B.D. Godbold Rept; Devereux Story.

[2] At 1700, just prior to Battery D's displacement, a smoke bomb and a chain-flare of three red balls was sighted about two miles northeast of Toki Point. This signal was repeated twice in the next 20 minutes. The significance of these signals has not been established. Japanese submarines were operating in the vicinity of Wake, however and it may be that the signals had something to do with rescue operations in which these boats were trying to aid survivors from a bombing raid or from the surface action.

[3] From 12 December until about 20 December, another day on which the enemy did not raid Wake, the recollections of surviving defenders sometimes are confused beyond any possible reconciliation. This condition is acute for the period of 12-14 December inclusive. Sources reconstructing the events of those dates arrive at few compatible accounts. This volume attempt to draw the best possible compromise from these conflicts.

[4] Last Man Off Wake Island, 120.

[5] The fate of this submarine is not know. Enemy records are not clear. But after the fall of Wake, Kinney and other pilots were questioned by a Japanese officer who asked them if they knew anything about a Japanese submarine that had disappeared in the vicinity of the atoll. This led Kliewer to believe that concussion from his bombs had finished off the submarine. The Japanese list two of their submarines (RO-66 and RO-62) sunk 25 miles southwest of Wake on 17Dec41. RO-66 was lost not to enemy action but to disaster, the Japanese said. The cause of the loss of RO-62 is not know, and it therefore may be assumed that there was some confusion as to the date. And since the Wake Marines had trouble remembering exact dates in their postwar reconstruction of specific events, it may be that Kliewer's bombs sank the RO-62. MilHistSec, SS, GHQ, FEC, Japanese Studies in WWII No. 116, The IJN in WWII, February 1952 (located at OCMH).

[6] Kinney Interview, 4.

[7] On this date hot rations cooked in the contractor's galley were delivered to all battery positions by a "chuck wagon." This service continued for as long as possible thereafter. It was one of Mr. Teres' many contributions to the defense.

[8] Enemy Notes, 1.

[9] Wake File.

[10] Hesson was a Navy avaiation instrument repairman sent over to VMF-211 from the Naval Air Station after the first attack had played such havoc among the fighter squadron's ground personnel. He turned out to be an outstanding general aviation maintenance man.

[11] Wake File.

[12] Cunningham Interview, 4.

[13] Last Man Off Wake Island, 112.

[14] Putnam Rept, 15.

[15] Ibid.

[16] CO VMF-211 Rept to CO MAG-21, 20Dec41, 2.

[17] As an example of how memories can grow dim, not a single defender remembered to mention this raid in accounts prepared after the war ended. yet there is no doubt that the raid occurred, because the garrison reported it to Pearl Harbor that same afternoon. Wake File.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Likewise typical of the day-to-day confusion which exists in the Wake records and recollections is the fact that contemporary records--the Wake dispatches and Maj Bayler's official narrative report prepared in December 1941--indicate that the memories of the survivors have almost unanimously transposed the events of 17 and 18 December.

[20] LtCol A.A. Poindexter reply to HistSec, HQMC questionnaire, 8Apr47.

[21] Capt W.S. Cunningham, USN, ltr to Capt S.E. Morison, USNR, 7Feb47; McMorris Interview, 2; CincPac OPlan 39-41, 15Dec41.

[22] Capture of Wake, II, 372.

[23] Of these civilians the Peale Island commander, Capt Godbold, later wrote: "The civilians who served with this battery were of inestimable value ... under the capable leadership of Sergeant Bowsher, they soon were firing their gun in a manner comparable to the Marine-manned guns. Before the surrender of the island, some of these men were slated to be evacuated to Honolulu; however, the entire gun crew offered to stay on the island and serve with the battery." LtCol B.D. Godbold Rept, 14.

[24] LtCol C.A. Barninger Rept.

[25] Unless otherwise noted the material in this section is derived from Capture of Wake; Enemy Notes.

[26] ONI 222-J, "A Statistical Summary of the Japanese Navy," 20Jul44, 56.

[27] Ibid., 47, 49.

[28] Capture of Wake, II, 372.

[29] Wake Attack, 2.

[30] HistSec, HQMC interview with Col J.P.S. Devereux, 12Feb47, 8, hereinafter cited as Devereux Interview.

[31] Principal sources bearing on the Relief Expedition are: CinCPac OPlan 39-41, 15Dec47; McMorris Interview; Saratoga log; LtCol R.D. Heinl, Jr., "We're Headed for Wake," MC Gazette, June 1946.

[32] Dates in this section are either west of east longitude as applicable to the location of events identified by dates. Where confusion is possible the type of date will be indicated.

[33] Troops and equipment would be transported to the atoll on lighters, and if the Tangier were seriously damaged by enemy action she would be run aground so the cargo would not be lost.

[34] Paraphrased file of CinCPac dispatches concerning Wake relief, December 1941.

[35] Ibid.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation