More Information Regarding Defense of Wake Island

United States Marine Corp Memorial On Wake Island

During the 16-day battle for Wake, the Japanese lost 820 men killed and 333 wounded. American casualties totaled 120 killed, 49 wounded and two missing. A total of the 1,462 allies, both military and civilian, were taken to prisoner of war camps in China and Japan; 1,231 would be repatriated at the close of the war. Ninety eight contractors remained on Wake to complete construction projects. On the orders of atoll Commander Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara, these men were executed in October 1943. Found guilty of war crimes, Sakaibara was hanged after the war.

For the most part, the war was over for Wake Island. The Americans made no attempt to retake the atoll. A constant blockade hampered the Japanese development of this isolated outpost. Except for periodic air raids and target practice by passing ships, Wake was not a factor in the American offensive. Starvation and disease were the worst enemy for the inhabitants. The war officially ended for Wake on Sept. 4, 1945, when the Japanese surrendered the island to Brigadier General Lawson H. M. Sanderson of the U.S. Marines.

Source: Wake Island celebrated 100 years under U.S. possession in July 1998
Via THE EAGLE (August 1998 ed) a Public Affairs publication from United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command (USASMDC)



The defense of Wake goes down in history as testimony to the valor and professionalism of the Marine garrison and its officers.
During the course of the siege, they shot down 21 enemy aircraft, with three more "possibles," and damaged 51 others.

They sank four warships and damaged eight others.

Not counting the lost submarine, the Japanese suffered more than 850 killed or missing.

Japanese CDR Mistake Kumara later wrote: "Considering the power accumulated for the invasion and the meager forces of the defenders, it was the most humiliating defeat the Japanese Navy ever suffered."

Although minor in scale, the Battle of Wake upset the timetable for the Japanese campaign of conquest in the Pacific. It also allowed forces on Midway Island to prepare for an assault and achieve victory.

By providing a small victory, the garrison on Wake bolstered the morale of the nation and the resolve of the American people.

According to Wake Island survivor Lt Arthur A. Poindexter, the action on Wake achieved a number of World War II "firsts":

First enemy surface ships sunk by American forces

First enemy vessel sunk by American aircraft

First Japanese fleet submarine destroyed by American forces

First and only amphibious operation in the Pacific to be stopped by coastal guns

First Medal of Honor awarded to a Marine aviator: Capt Elrod was posthumously cited for gallantry as a fighter pilot and for ground combat, when he was killed on 23 Dec. 1941.

First Presidential Unit Citation awarded by the personal direction of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was also the only one ever signed by him.

There were 46 Marines, three sailors and 34 civilians killed in action in the defense of Wake.
Eight members of lst Defense Bn, two members of VMF-211, three sailors and 100 civilians were killed or died while in captivity. The two VMF-211 Marines and three sailors were beheaded by the Japanese while they were embarked in Nitta Maru.

Wake Island was regained on 4 Sept. 1945. It was discovered that on 7 Oct. 1943, the Japanese lined up nearly 100 civilian prisoners and machine-gunned them on the beach at Wake. For this atrocity the island commander, RADM Shigematsu Sakaibara, was hanged as a war criminal.

Defenders of Wake still alive as of this writing are 98 members of lst Defense Bn, seven men from VMF-211, 16 sailors and two soldiers. The number of surviving civilians is unknown. The Wake Island Survivors Association has not heard from approximately 50 of the defenders since the war ended.


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