By this time Wake was thoroughly alerted, and all units were at general quarters. To Second Lieutenant Poindexter, commanding the scanty mobile reserve at Camp 1, it seemed that immediate action was needed to counter the reported Toki Point landing. He reported to the command post that he was moving out with the reserve for Peale Island, and set his little force in motion. Major Devereux, by now realizing that whatever enemy action might be in progress, Peale was not immediately threatened, ordered that the truck be intercepted en route as the reserve passed the command post.
A few minutes later this was done, and Major Devereux held Poindexter with him pending clarification of the situation.
THE ENEMY APPROACH ON WAKE
After completing the revised plans, rehearsals and preparations described earlier, Rear Admiral Kajioka had, at 0900, 221 December, set sail from Roi with the Wake occupation force, composed of four heavy cruisers, two old light cruisers, six destroyers, one auxiliary float-plane tender, the two patrol boats, and three medium transports. Virtually all of this force, except the aircraft tender and two new destroyers which replaced Asanagi and Hayate, had seen action against Wake on 11 December, and several ships still bore scars from that day.
Already operating to the north of Wake was the Soryu-Hiryu task force composed of carriers, heavy cruisers and escorts fresh from the recent success at Pearl Harbor. This was the force, carrier planes from which had hammered Wake on 21 and 22 December.
As before, the approach was screened by submarines advanced well forward as a scouting force in accordance with Japanese doctrine. These ships (RO-60, 61, and 62) were able, on 22 December, to allay some of Admiral Kajioka's apprehensions by reporting that no motor torpedo boats (much feared by the Japanese during this and the previous attempt appeared to be in the vicinity of Wake.
The approach disposition and he distribution of the troops aboard ships are not entirely clear. The total strength of the landing forces, which was composed of approximately 1,000 Special naval Landing Force personnel for the assault, plus the reserve to be assembled if needed from ships' landing parties, numbered some 1,500. Of these, approximately 800 SNLF, were distributed between the two destroyer-transports. Some 200 more, to be landed in four or more medium landing craft (somewhat similar to the American LCM) were embarked elsewhere, presumably aboard one or another of the transports, Kongo Maru, Tenyo Maru, or Konryu Maru. So far as is know, the 500-man provisional reserve of landing parties remain distributed aboard parent ships.
The Maizuru Second Special Naval Landing Force, now brought to full strength by reinforcements from Saipan, was essentially a Japanese version of the battalion landing team (BLT). Its three rifle companies all possessed numerical designations but were more commonly called by the names of the respective company commanders. Thus the First Company, commanded by Lieutenant Uchida, Kinichi, IJN, would be referred to as "the Uchida unit." Similarly, the Second and Third Companies were styled "the Takano unit" and "the Itaya unit."
The Uchida and Itaya companies were to execute the assault landings on Wake Island. One hundred "picked men" of the Takano unit were to seize Wilkes, and the balance of that company presumably would be employed on Wake Island to back up Uchida and Itaya.
Except for one submarine scare, the final approach to Wake was uneventful. Beginning on 22 December, however, the weather, which had handicapped the previous attempt, was again unfavorable. At about 2200, when Admiral Kajioka's flagship was within approximately 30 miles of Wake, an observer aboard reported:
The storm came down upon the ship * * * and the terrific wind whistled over the mast. The angry waves tossed the ships around as if they were toys.
At about 8 knots the force advanced cautiously under cover of the weather. If it was bad for their projects, it would nevertheless blind the defenders. Lookouts strained for the landfall, more difficult than usual on such a night, "Now, the ship became all eyes * * *"
Suddenly a blinking light was seen. It was a light signal, "Island is sighted," from a destroyer which had increased its speed and was in the advance guard. We had finally located the island for which we had set out * * * The course was changed and the speed was gradually reduced. The sight of the island appeared faintly in the darkness. Really faintly. "Break off and land the naval landing part.: The honorable first order of "CHARGE" was given, and the daring officers and men, with white sashes, bravely went down to the surface of the sea.
The time was close to 0200, and men of the Special Naval Landing Force clambered down into the medium landing craft, two bound for Wilkes bearing the Takano personnel and others for the south shore of Wake Island. Aboard Patrol Craft 32 and 33, now close aboard Peacock Point, on a northwesterly course, the SNLF rigged out their Jacob's' ladders and ropes while the ships' captains rang up beaching speed (12 knots) on bridge telegraphs.
The hardships encountered in lowering the landing barges were too severe even to imagine. Now, we, the Naval Landing Force, on the barges which we were in, must charge into enemy territory and carry out the final step of securing a landing point after touching the shore.
Just south of the airstrip, the destroyer-transports turned hard astarboard, commencing the final run onto the reef, and the landing barges butted through the darkness toward the ominous low-lying bulk of Wake. With a reverberating crunch, Patrol Craft 32-33 mounted the reef in a smother of breakers and foam. They were aground off the west end of the strip. Two barges scraped bottom as they approached the reef near Camp 1, with still no sign that the Marines were awake.
Suddenly a pink tracer-stream penciled from the beach of Wilkes, and .50 caliber slugs ripped through the gunwales of one barge. A moment later, also from Wilkes, a searchlight flared on, silhouetting offshore the picked men of the Takano unit and sending a blue bank of light parallel to the south shore of Wake. This time was 0245, and battle was joined.
THE DEFENSE OF WAKE ISLAND
By 0215 it was evident to the Marines on Wake that a landing attempt was in progress. Lights could be seen offshore, not only north of Peale, whence had come the first alarm, but all along the south coast of Wake Island and Wilkes. At about 0230, men on Peacock Point thought that they could discern two barge-like shapes offshore, heading west toward the air field. Though the did not then realize it, these were the destroyer-transports swinging into their final run for the reef. Reports of seaward activity deluged the command post, where Majors Devereux and Potter, aided only by one enlisted talker and a switchboard operator, attempted to keep up with the situation, relaying the most important information to Commander Cunningham in his dugout to the north.
Certain by now that the south shore was most threatened, Major Devereux ordered Lieutenant Poindexter to move the Mobile Reserve to the area between Camp 1 and the western end of the airstrip. Since the whole reserve (eight Marines and four .30 caliber machine guns) had remained entrucked, less than a quarter of an hour elapsed before both machine-gun sections were in position just west of the road-junction which was in turn west of the airstrip, commanding not only the south shore road but the critical section of beach south of the field. Although Poindexter states that some naval gunfire from enemy ships offshore was already being received, no signs of enemy ashore, or of actual landings, could yet be discerned.
By 0235 however, word had been received from Wilkes that barge engines could be heard above the surf, and Marine Gunner McKinstry had opened fire with a .50 caliber antiaircraft machine-gun on a dark shape close offshore of his provisional 3-inch battery. A few moments later, about 0245, Captain Platt requested permission to illuminate the beach with his 60-inch searchlight, and the landing was discovered, not only on Wilkes, where two barges were spotted on the beach, but on Wake, where the destroyer transports had just grounded.
Neither of the 5-inch batteries which commanded the south approaches to Wake and had done such yeoman service on 11 December, could bear, and it appears that the enemy approach, whereby Patrol Craft 32 and 33 got right inshore as soon as possible, might well have been predicated on the hope of getting inside the batteries' arcs of fire. In fact the only weapon larger than a machine-gun capable of attacking the all-important destroyer-transports, already beginning to spew out their cargo, was the unmanned 3-inch antiboat gun emplaced on the rise between the beach road and VMF-211's hardstand parking area. Second Lieutenant Robert M. Hanna, then in command of the antiaircraft machine-guns about the field, sensed the situation, gathered a scratch crew consisting of one Marine, Corp. Ralph J. Holewinski, and three civilians, and set out at the double for the gun. Within a few moments Major Devereux, realizing the critical importance of holding this area and of supporting Hanna, had ordered Major Putnam to take what was left of VMF-211, some 20 men in all, and form an infantry support between the 3-inch gun and the enemy landing.
With all units now at general quarters, dispositions to meet the Japanese landing on Wake Island were as follows: The mobile reserve (lieutenant Poindexter's four machine-guns) was in position and already firing eastward along the beach at a dimly discerned destroyer-transport (Patrol Boat 32). Enemy troops landing from this ship had disclosed themselves by injudicious use of pyrotechnic signals and came under rifle and machine-gun fire which was to continue during most of the night.
At Camp 1, four .30 caliber machine-guns set up for beach-defense were manned by Battery I's gunshed crew and the 1st Defense Battalion's sailor boat crews who had been acting as lookouts on the watertank OP.
Hanna, with his scratch gun-crew covered by VMF-211, a squadron now smaller than a platoon, was south of the air strip.
Squarely in the track of the enemy's initial rush toward the west end of the strip, was Second Lieutenant Kliewer, with three aviation Marines, guarding one of the generators wired to supply power for detonation of the mines under the air strip.
Perhaps 75 yards northwest of Kliewer was a section of two .50 caliber antiaircraft machine-guns.
These guns, together with the section similarly posted at the east end of the strip, commanded the length of the field, a perfect field of fire for a machine gunner, and to some extent interdicted northward movement across the strip. Other machine-gun sections, both .50 and .30 caliber, were emplaced in the Peacock Point area, with the primary mission of protecting Peacock strongpoint against landing or air attack. All of these guns participated according to terrain and situation in the subsequent action south of the air strip. For exact disposition of these weapons, see Map 1. At all battery positions, including, in the threatened area, A (Peacock Point) and E (inside the elbow of Wake Island), gun crews stood by their weapons and manned such perimeter defenses as their meager strength permitted.
Shortly before 0300, as the action was just developing, the defense detachment commander was suddenly thrown out of wire communication with Camp 1, VMF-211, Lieutenant Hanna's .50 caliber battery CP near the air strip, and Battery A. Although normal switchboard communication via the tactical line to Wilkes also went out at this time, it was still possible to raise Captain Platt via the J-line, which followed a route entirely north of the air strip (the tactical line paralleled the south side of the field).
The exact cause and time of this major casualty cannot be fixed with entire certainty. The almost simultaneous nature of the failure suggests that it might have been caused by a single agency, and that the location of the major break, if there was one, must have been near the command post, where lines were close together. On the other hand, all survivors of Wake agree in opinion that the Japanese cut these lines, and point out that the Wilkes J-line (laid north of the air strip) did not go out until some time after that south of the field, a circumstance which would indicate that the lines were being cut as the enemy attack progressed inland.
This should have been an occasion for use of the interisland radio net, but this had never been reliable, and on the morning of 23 December the sets failed to function. The limited--in fact, the non-existent--command post communication personnel were unable to "trouble-shoot" lines, and, from this time on, Major Devereux was compelled, both figuratively and literally, to conduct his defense of Wake in the dark.
While Major Devereux was receiving has last complete reports at the command post, the situation south of the air strip, to Hanna's right where the destroyers were beached, was developing rapidly. Hanna and his crew had reached the gun, fumbled in the dark for a moment to break out ammunition, and, after Hanna had laid the 3-inch gun by "Kentucky" methods on the nearest (easternmost) destroyer transport (Patrol Craft 33), the first round cracked out. Since the target, which had just grounded, was stationary, and the range less than 500 yards, the high-velocity 3-inch guns scored a hit on the bridge structure, seriously wounding both captain and navigator, killing two seamen and wounding five more. As Japanese of the Uchida and Itaya units swarmed down the sides into the water, Lieutenant Hanna and his crew put 14 more 3-inch rounds into the superstructure and hull of Patrol Craft 33, which burst into flame and illuminated the landing area. "The scene was too beautiful to be a battlefield," reported a Japanese observer aboard the Yubari.
By the light of the burning ship, Hanna shifted his fire onto the other beached vessel, Patrol Craft 32, which was also holed, although reports are not clear as to whether she was set afire. The crews of both vessels mingled with the SNLF and added their combined strength of possibly 100 more to he Japanese forces working toward the air strip.
Major Putnam had meantime posted VMF-211's handful in what originally was a line facing westward between the gun emplacement and Patrol Craft 33. As the Uchida unit commenced working eastward to silence the gun which had already proved so costly an obstacle, what had begun as a line was gradually bent back around the position into what Colonel Devereux described as "a box-shaped thing" which nevertheless continued to hold despite the alternate creeping infiltration and screaming rushes of the enemy.
Now that action was evidently in progress all along the south leg of Wake Island, Major Devereux realized that his sole reserve for infantry action must come from Peale. Obviously the 5-inch unit (Battery B) should be maintained intact for possible seacoast missions against ships inshore or any secondary landing, whereas the 3-inch battery (D, under Captain Godbold) was by now reduced to practical ineffectiveness for antiaircraft missions, having no remaining fire-control equipment and but two guns. Lieutenant Lewis's 3-inch battery (Battery E) in the interior elbow of Wake Island, although a nearer source of reinforcements, was untouchable because it now represented the only completely equipped, up-to-strength antiaircraft battery on Wake, and was thus, quite literally, the entire effective antiaircraft defense of the atoll. By elimination, as by the fact that his unit was stationed in the least threatened area, Captain Godbold's battery, numbering after various deductions, two officers and less than 50 enlisted, became the island reserve.
At 0300, while Hanna continued his fire into the beached hulks, Major Devereux, aware of the composition of the antiboat gun's "crew," ordered Godbold to send one 3-inch gun section (some nine men) by truck to the battalion command post to be further despatched to man the gun. This section, led by Corp. Leon Graves, promptly entrucked in a contractor's vehicle with civilian driver, and within less than 15 minutes had reported at the command post.
Major Devereux's orders to Corporal Graves were to continue southward down the shore road, which ran the length of the east leg of Wake Island, to the vicinity of a road junction about 500 yards south of the air strip and there disembark; then to advance generally westward through the brush until contact could be made with Lieutenant Hann. The squad then moved out and this was the last which was heard of them for more than an hour.
Meanwhile, the fighting west of the beached destroyer-transports was in stubborn progress.
The light of Patrol Craft 33, whose magazine seemed to have been touched off, had revealed to the machine gunners of the mobile reserve that enemy troops were working their way across the south shore road and past the west end of the airstrip where they would then disappear into the thick brush. Lieutenant Poindexter tried to interdict the edge of the brush with the fire of one machine-gun section, if only to protect the dense approaches to his own left (north) flank.
A few minutes later, the sound of machine-gun firing could be heard from the Camp 1 area, where emergency crews had remained to man four beach-defense guns. Leaving Gunnery Sergeant T.Q. Wade to continue the fire fight, Lieutenant Poindexter returned to Camp 1 to discover that two large landing craft had grounded on the reef about 30 yards offshore at a point 1,200 yards east of Wilkes Channel entrance. Although all four machine-guns were firing at the barges, tracer ricochets made it apparent that the .30-caliber bullets were not penetrating. A moment later, both barges backed off and attempted to nose in again, as if seeking a break in the reef. Not meeting with success, and still being peppered by machine-gun fire, the Japanese made still another attempt to reach shore, but at no time--probably because of the Marines' fire--did they commence debarkation.
Taking advantage of this momentary stalemate, Lieutenant Poindexter formed two teams of grenadiers to move down to the water's edge and lob hand grenades at or into the barges. One team consisted of himself and Boatswain's Mate First Class James E. Barnes, USN, while the other consisted of Mess Sgt. Gerald Carr, and a civilian, R.R. Rutledge, who had served as an Army officer in France during the previous war. While the machine guns suspended fire, the grenadiers attacked, meeting with partial success when Boatswain's Mate Barnes was able to place at least one grenade inside a barge just as the enemy debarkation commenced, inflicting heavy casualties.
Despite this counterattack, however, the remainder of the enemy, numbering from 75 to 100, managed to overrun the water's edge and were soon infiltrating the brushy area east of Camp 1. This heavy growth north of the shore road thus soon became a sort of no-man's land in which the Japanese continued to infiltrate and expand their beachhead.
Poindexter managed to convey fragmentary reports of this back to Major Devereux in a final telephonic message from Camp 1 before wire communication was lost. Shortly afterward, however, a panicky civilian who had managed to pick his way, through the brush from Camp 1 to the defense detachment command post, brought in reports--totally untrue--that Camp 1 was being overrun and that he had seen Japanese troops bayoneting the machine gunners of the mobile reserve.
Although enemy records contain no reference to any such tactics, it seems likely that at 0300 or soon thereafter interior landings were executed from rubber boats within the lagoon, probably along the north (interior) shore of the south leg of Wake Island. Entrance to the lagoon by these small units was not effected through the channel between Wilkes and Wake Island, which, at its widest, is only 52 yards across and was covered throughout the action by sections of .30-caliber machine-guns at either side of the entrance. Colonel Devereux surmises that the boats found their way into the lagoon through the open end between Kuku and Toki Points, where there is little if any surf and waist-deep water over the reef.
Seeing the flares previously mentioned, Captain Godbold, in command of Peale, ordered Battery B (the 5-inch battery on Toki Point) to work a two-man patrol eastward along the lagoon shore of Peale, and himself despatched a similar three-man patrol westward to the NAB area. Both patrols made contact at about 0330, having found no enemy. At 0400, Godbold nevertheless established a three-man outpost with a BAR to hold the bridge connecting Peale with Wake Island.
At 0330, while Japanese cruisers shelled Wake Island, the situation in and about the airfield was clarifying--unpleasantly so from the defenders' standpoint. Despite prearranged 3-inch air-burst concentrations fired by Battery E within the enemy beachhead, VMF-211, still grouped about the antiboat gun, was receiving steady and continuing Japanese attacks. As a result, the defensive formation in this area, astride a slight rise in ground, was being compressed more and more into a rough circle about the gun position.
The combat of these Marines was thus more and more that of personal preservation, simply to defend the gun and emplacement, which had been located on a slight rise a few yards inshore of the main road. From this time on, although VMF-211 would hold its final position with unshakable tenacity, Major Putnam could not prevent eastward movement of the Japanese into the rough triangle bounded by opposite shore lines of Peacock Point and the south side of the field. And it was access to this triangle which the Japanese most desired in order to mount their attack northward up the east leg of Wake Island.
The detached gun squad from Battery D, commanded by Corporal Graves, had been sent southward by truck from the battalion command post shortly after 0300, with the initial objective of reaching the road junction some 600 yards below the end of the strip. Due to the darkness, however, or possibly the truck driver's anxiety to return northward, the squad debarked considerably north of their intended destination, probably less than 200 yards below the strip. Under Grave's leadership, they struck out through the brush to the west, in the general direction of VMF-211's area in and about the hard stand parking strip. Before they had penetrated far, however, they came under enemy machine-gun and small-arms fire which killed one Marine, were pinned down for a time and withdrew northward toward the command post, where the squad subsequently participated under Major Potter in the fighting thereabouts.
The rapid build-up of enemy strength which turned back Grave's patrol presents the question: how did they get into the Peacock triangle so soon?
From a logical point of view, the most satisfactory explanation would be that an enemy landing had actually taken place between Peacock Point and the beached destroyer-transports. Colonel Devereux is strongly of that opinion, although without tangible supporting evidence, since no beached landing craft now remain to confirm or deny this hypothesis. Some Japanese accounts, including Captain Koyama's interrogation and one correspondent's report, speak of a landing "near the southeast tip of Wake" with the mission of overrunning Battery A which, especially aboard the Yubari, was well remembered from the action of 11 December. This would ordinarily clinch the matter except that Koyama's interrogation refers categorically only to two barge landings, each of two barges; and two such landings are definitely accounted for: one on Wilkes, and the other near Camp 1, where Poindexter actually met the landing at the water's edge. The only possible resolution of this conflict is to surmise that, as in the case of possible rubber-boat landings within the lagoon, Japanese reports may have omitted a third boat group's landing midway between Patrol Craft 33 and Peacock Point.
The repulse of the patrol within Peacock triangle indicated clearly, and for the first time, that the enemy in force had overrun or bypassed not only Lieutenant Kliewer and the .50-caliber positions off the west end of the strip, but VMF-211 and Hanna, and if it had not been certain earlier, it was now sure that there would be little possibility of pushing the Japanese off the island.
There were in addition other disturbing indications of enemy strength below the airstrip.
Battery E, in the elbow, began at the time to receive light mortar and long-range machine-gun fire while Battery A, down on the tip of Peacock, received continual mortar and small-arms fire, much of the last probably being "overs" from the struggle to the west. Battery A's commander therefore, armed his range section with two .30-caliber machine-guns and formed an infantry outpost line facing northwest across the high ground in rear of the 5-inch gun emplacements.
Enemy mortar and automatic-weapons fire into Battery E's position seemed to come from the thick brush to the southwest of the battery, across an intervening arm of the lagoon. One Japanese automatic weapon was located in this area and silenced by direct 3-inch fire, but this did not seem to ease the enemy pressure to any extent, so Lieutenant Lewis, the battery commander, pushed out one gun section (approximately 10 men under Sgt. Raymon Gragg) to the west along the east-west road which runs north of the airstrip. As Gragg advanced astride this road, his squad came under heavy fire which forced them to ground about 50 yards beyond the battery perimeter. From this position, however, the Marines took up a fire fight which checked any further Japanese advance and continued until the subsequent surrender.
About 0430, in confirmation of all evidence that the Japanese were massing forces in the Peacock triangle for a decisive thrust, an alarming report came in to Major Devereux from one of the few forward positions with which the command post retained wire communication, that of the .50-caliber machine-gun section posted at the east end of the airstrip, commanding not only the field, but the southward length of the shore road. This position, manned by Corp. Winford J. McAnally, six other Marines, and some three civilian volunteers, included two adjacent antiaircraft machine guns, with a very small support of riflemen.
McAnally reported that Japanese in force were attacking northward up the shore road, and that his section was in action trying to hold them short of the airstrip.
What confronted Corporal McAnally at this time was at least a reinforced company, possibly the Itaya unit of the Special Naval Landing Force. Leaving the Uchida unit to deal with VMF-211 and the 3-inch antiboat gun, the Itaya unit, which landed on the left, appears to have moved north of Hanna and Putnam into the Peacock triangle, and prepared to launch their main effort northward up the east leg of Wake Island.
Although it was still dark, the Japanese, trained in night operations, were attempting by individual and small-unit infiltration to secure all the ground they could and it was in course of this effort that enemy leading elements made contact with McAnally, who immediately opened fire down the road, halting the advance. Moreover, McAnally in turn retained lateral wire communication with the .50-caliber machine-gun section on the east shore some 400 yards south of his position. By this means, he exchanged information and commenced to coordinate the fires of both sections, telling the marines to the south when he would be firing in their direction, and directing their fires when possible into the right flank of the attackers.
Enemy reaction to this obstacle was at first confused, and it does not appear that they were able initially to locate the exact source of the fire which had arrested them. In some instances before daylight, McAnally reported, Japanese were actually all about his position, but either killed by the riflemen or stopped by bursts of fire. Throughout this period, the little combat group not only carried on a resolute, well-coordinated defense but also acted as a front-line observation post for Major Devereux, whose picture of the developments within the Peacock triangle were largely dependent on McAnally's reports and upon what he himself could see and hear of firing to the south.
By 0500, a half hour before first dawn, the outstanding development was that the Japanese, in force which could overwhelm the defenders at any point, had at length secured a firm beachhead and were in steady exploitation of initial gains.
In this connection, it should be understood that the total of less than 500 defenders, small as it is by comparison against 1,000-odd Japanese already ashore on Wake Island at this time, is itself misleading as a yardstick of defensive power. "Little Wake" has a vulnerable shore line about 21 miles in length, and the 1st Defense Battalion Detachment included insufficient personnel even to man existing antiaircraft and seacoast batteries, which key weapons dispersed though they were, had to remain operational to the last.
Considering Wake Island alone, where some 201 Marines were stationed, approximately half of this number were immobilized at Batteries A and E (5-inch and 3-inch batteries which had to remain ready for immediate action against hostile air or surface targets, especially after daybreak). Some 15 more Marines manned the machine guns and searchlight at Heel point, beyond the contested area. This means, then, that at no time prior to 0600 were there more than 85 Marines on the whole of Wake Island who could oppose the enemy landing force, which finally exceeded 1,000 in strength. Of those 85, fully half were machine-gun crewmen, so that the number of bona fide riflemen on Wake Island who could oppose the enemy as infantry became almost microscopic--probably not more than 40 in all.
Despite stubborn resistance at all points of contact, the Japanese therefore had, within the area east of Camp 1 and south of the airstrip, virtual freedom to maneuver and deploy at will.
VMF-211 still held its position, but was by now surrounded. Earlier attempts to relieve this situation, either by ground reinforcements or by the air-burst concentrations of Battery E, had proven futile. Although the mobile reserve was holding its ground in and west of Camp 1, this was of course not known by the defense commander because communications south of the defense battalion command post or with Wilkes were now nonexistent. It was no wonder therefore that, at 0500, Commander Cunningham drafted and released his message:
ENEMY ON ISLAND--ISSUE IN DOUBT
At this time the situation of the defenders of Camp 1, however, was actually as follows:
After making certain that the defense of Camp 1 was tied in and organized to he best possible advantage, employing the spare machine-guns fortunately stored there, Lieutenant Poindexter made his way back through the now lightening darkness to the two mobile reserve machine-gun sections still in position just west of the airstrip.
From the brush to their left (north) flank came not only some enemy fire, but shouting and pyrotechnic signals. As dawn began to break, the Marines were taken under quite accurate fire by light mortars, and one gun was put out of action. The increased enemy pressure and the threat that the little group would be outflanked indicated that it would be wise to withdraw on Camp 1 and consolidate all defending personnel in a single location. Poindexter therefore ordered a withdrawal by section on that place, the disabled section moving first under cover of fire from the two guns of other section. Displacing by 150-yard bounds in this manner, the mobile reserve reached Camp 1 after daylight and tied in the additional machine-guns and personnel to form a north-south defensive line east of the Camp 1 water tank.
Meanwhile during the hour before dawn, the Japanese movement northward up the east shore road gained momentum, with a corresponding increase of pressure against McAnally's combat group east of the airstrip. Major Devereux, who had been following this development with understandable concern, sent a two-man reconnaissance patrol south from the command post with orders to report on the enemy situation. Meanwhile, McAnally's reports indicated that he had been definitely located and was under small-arm and grenade attack. By detecting the approaching Japanese and holding fire until the last possible moment, several rushes were broken up, but with daylight coming, this group, 10 against a company, could hardly expect to hold much longer. As for VMF-211, which had by now sustained numerous casualties, including the gallant Captain Elrod, killed by a Japanese who feigned death among the welter of casualties below the 3-inch gun, the end could only be a matter of time.
If the Japanese were to be confined to the general extent of the ground they now held, plainly Corporal McAnally was not equal to the task and, at 0530, Major Devereux directed his executive officer, Major Potter, who had until now assisted in the command post, to assemble every headquarters, service, supply, or casual Marine in the command-post area (including the detached squad from Battery D, these finally totaled about 40), and to commence forming a final defensive line approximately 100 yards south of the command post astride the threatened north-south main road. After issuing these orders, Major Devereux then called Captain Godbold (commanding Battery D on Peale) and directed him to move his entire battery, plus the few .50-caliber gunners on Peale, by truck to the battalion command post for immediate employment as infantry. With these orders, the final reserve on Wake Island, totaling approximately 30 officers and men, was committed to action.
As day broke, shortly before 0600, enemy activity increased.
Second Lieutenant Kliewer and his three Marines had survived the night at their post beside the minefield generator, despite a determined attack just before dawn, which was broken up by in-fighting with submachine guns and grenades. At dawn, the Japanese launched a shouting bayonet charge against the group, but, with the aid of the .50-caliber machine-guns just north of his position west of the strip, Kliewer was again able to hold his own.
At the other end of the field, the combat group under Corporal McAnally, which had now stemmed the enemy for an hour and a half, was at length almost surrounded, and under continual infantry attack. Unless he was to lose the personnel, who could ill be spared, major Devereux had no alternative but to pull them back. This he did shortly after 0600, when McAnally was ordered to withdraw northward and join Major Potter's line.
Although it was not known at the command post, Second Lieutenant Poindexter at Camp 1 had been able to stiffen his resistance appreciably, and by including Marine supply and administrative personnel, sailors, and civilians, Poindexter was now organizing a support of approximately 40 riflemen in all. With this backing the total of 10 machine-guns now defending Camp 1, the strength at that place was sufficient to discourage anything but a sporadic fire-fight which the Japanese continued without attacking.
After Captain Godbold's truck, bearing the last half of Battery D toward the command post, had cleared Peale, First Lieutenant Kessler became the de facto strong-point commander inasmuch as Battery B (5-inch) was all that remained on the island. As the horizon to the south lightened, Kessler scanned Wilkes and the lower leg of Wake Island. What he saw on Wilkes was disheartening: a line of Japanese flags across the center of the island, and a large enemy flag or standard waving from the approximate position of Marine Gunner McKinstry's provisional Battery F (3-inch). All this he reported to Major Devereux, who could only conclude that Wilkes, which had been silent since about 0300, had shared the fate which appeared shortly imminent for the men on Wake Island.
Above the brush and slight rise of ground which topped the south leg of Wake Island, Kessler could also see the superstructure of a destroyer aground. This was Patrol Craft 32, the western of the two beached destroyer-transports. Observing that the ship appeared intact, Kessler at 0600 requested major Devereux's permission to fire on it. Although the line of fire and intervening partial mask rendered this at least hazardous, the request was approved, and, on the first salvo, Battery B shot away the mainmast. As a result of subsequent adjustment, the ship was hit about the superstructure and upper hull, and finally caught fire, with what, if any, resulting infliction of enemy casualties, is not known. At 0625, fire was ordered ceased.
The first of Battery D's two trucks, with some 20 men commanded by Second Lt. Robert W. Greeley, had meanwhile reached the command post, where Major Potter, trying to piece out and extend his sparse line to the right (west), directed that the reinforcements be placed on that flank around the edge of the clearing originally dozed out to prepare for the north-south leg of the airstrip. Captain Godbold followed a few minutes later, arriving, as nearly as can be ascertained, about 0700. His orders were much the same as those given to Greeley, a few minutes before, to extend the line around to the right (northwest), more or less following the edge of the clearing.
At this point, it might be well to speak of the trace of Major Potter's line, regarding which some confusion has arisen. As might appear logical at first glance, this line is frequently reconstructed to have extended along an east-west axis right across the east leg of Wake Island. Two factors, however, prevented any such disposition. These were: first, the existing fields of fire to the south and the character of vegetation, which had only been partly cleared for future airfield construction; second, the fact that this so-called "line" amounted in strength to abut the size of a rifle platoon, and, therefore could not contemplate covering anything like the entire cross-island frontage (at this point approximately 850 yards), a respectable defensive sector for a battalion. Even with Battery E as a possible anchor for the right (west) flank, a gap of more than 450 yards would--and did--exist, despite efforts to cover this by fire. The line of clearing and vegetation as they actually were, are shown in Map 5.
In the light of day, the defenders could not only realize the extent of their opposition on Wake Island itself, but could see offshore a formidable naval attack force. The island was now ringed with ships, and the defenders counted anywhere from 16 to 27 at various points about the horizon. Actually, there were at first 13, and subsequently, when Cruiser Division 6, the four heavy cruisers originally stationed east of Wake, closed, 17. With one exception, which will be described shortly, all these ships kept prudent distance from the redoubtable 5-inch shore batteries which had earned their respect on the 11th. As a senior Japanese officer put it later, "Due to the previous experience with the American shore batteries, we did not want to come within range."
That this caution was well founded was soon to be learned aboard the aging 1,400-ton destroyer Mutsuki which, at 0645, was leading the other two ships of Destroyer Division 30 in column toward Wilkes. As the formation closed the island--perhaps to render gun-fire support, Battery B (5-inch) on Peale opened fire. Hits were observed prior to the fourth salvo, and after that, she turned sharply and was thought by observers on Wilkes to have sunk (Japanese records do not confirm this, merely admitting that she sustained damage). Fire was then shifted to the next ship in column (probably Yayoi or Mochizuki,) and was continued until they passed out of range on a retiring track.
Farther out to sea, northwest of Wake, ever since dawn the two Japanese carriers, Soryu and Hiryu had been warming up the same aircraft which, a fortnight before, had shrieked down on battleship row in Pearl Harbor. Launching all planes for a maximum air effort, the two ships headed upwind with their cruiser and destroyer escort, and, at 0700, "the gallant Eagles of the Navy," as the Japanese Naval Information Service styled them, approached Wake at 5,000-foot altitude. As the formation wheeled over Peacock Point, Battery E (3-inch) opened fire in what was the last antiaircraft action of the battle. The formation split into component groups according to mission, and commenced a methodical but unceasing series of air strikes in close support of the Special Landing Force. Wilkes, Peale, and Wake Island were hit and hit again, whenever a United States installation or position showed from the air.
Now no longer a support line, Major Potter's position began receiving rifle- and machine-gun fire, with aggressive Japanese skirmishing north from the airstrip, while, at the same time (0715) carrier dive bombers hammered Battery B's gun positions on Peale.
With his command post itself thus under attack, with seemingly unimpeachable evidence of the fall of silent Wilkes, with enemy aircraft slashing the handful of Marine defenders at will, Major Devereux, in his 0700 periodic report, notified Commander Cunningham of the seriousness of the situation and asked whether any friendly forces were at hand to relieve them. With Commander Cunningham's negative reply, all hopes were dashed, and, at 0800, in accordance with Commander Cunningham's decision, Major Devereux, bearing a white flag, moved southward down the shore road to deliver Wake to the Japanese enemy.
THE FIGHT ON WILKES
"At this time," states a Japanese report, "Wilkes Island was the scene of a fierce and desperate battle."
It will be recalled that at about 0245 .50-caliber machine gun 10 on Wilkes had fired the opening shots of the battle into a Japanese medium landing craft heard offshore through the darkness, and that, during its minute of successful illumination, the Wilkes searchlight near the new channel had disclosed an enemy landing in progress virtually under the muzzles of Battery F's two remaining 3-inch guns.
As the 100 picked men of the Takano Unit scrambled ashore under fire from two .50-caliber machine-guns (Guns 9 and 10) located along the shore just west of the landing area, they found the Marines on Wilkes, numbering just 70, at battle stations and completely disposed to repel a landing. For this high condition of readiness, they had mainly to thank the erroneous report of landings on Peale. Upon receipt of this word, Captain Platt had immediately ordered Battery L to send two 5-inch gun sections (each roughly equivalent to a rifle squad) to the lagoon shore, west from the new channel toward Kuku Point, while the remainder of the battery, consisting of fire controlmen and headquarters personnel led by Lieutenant McAlister, took up previously prepared positions along the seaward beach between the new channel and Battery F. McAlister established his command post with the searchlight section nearby. During the lull after the false alarm, extra ammunition and grenades had been issued, and Major Devereux, concerned as to possibilities of a lagoon landing, had warned Platt to reinforce his two-man, two-gun .30-caliber machine-gun section located on the north bulge of Kuku Point. Battery F, composed of a mixture of Marine searchlight operators, sailors, and civilians, had in turn been instructed--if a landing should materialize--to fire antiboat missions over the steeply inclined beach until masked, and then to fall off to the left (east) and protect the flank of Lieutenant McAlister's section beside the new channel. For the defenders' dispositions on Wilkes at the time of actual landing, see Map 6.
As the searchlight flickered out, Marine Gunner McKinstry opened fire on the one barge in sight. with Battery F's 3-inch high-explosive shells cut for muzzle burst, and McAlister, about 150 yards to the east, threw out a two-man party armed with hand grenades to pelt the barge as the Japanese swarmed ashore. Hardly had the first grenades begun to burst when accurate Japanese return file killed one Marine and wounded the other.
Despite, or perhaps because of the 3-inch air bursts, the full weight of the initial Japanese thrust was directly to the front against Battery F, the guns of which were soon unable to depress sufficiently as the enemy climbed forward under cover of the embankment between the beach and battery position. Within a matter of minutes, the gun emplacements were in process of being overrun by an enemy attack through the darkness. As the Japanese expanded their beachhead they also commenced movement to the west, toward the 5-inch battery which had cost them so dear during the first landing attempt on 11 December.
As the Japanese closed on the 3-inch emplacements, a sharp hand-to-hand struggle ensued in the darkness with the enemy hurling grenades into the gun pits from all sides. In a few moments it was apparent to Gunner McKinstry that the position could not be held at such close quarters against the weight of enemy numbers, and, first stripping off the 3-inch firing locks, he directed a withdrawal toward McAlister's positions to me eastward. Japanese riflemen tried to pursue them in that direction, but the Marines' return fire halted these with casualties, and the remainder pulled back to the 3-inch position, now in enemy hands. Shortly after, the battery F personnel made contact with Lieutenant McAlister's group, and the combined forces commenced a fire fight which successfully confined the Japanese (who returned the exchange vigorously with rifles and light machine-guns), to their newly won position.
To the westward the only obstacle impeding rapid enemy exploitation of the landing was .50-caliber antiaircraft machine-gun 9, along the beach less than a hundred yards away from McKinstry's former position.
To the consternation of the Takano unit, this gun, manned by two Marines, had commenced a deadly flanking fire down the beach soon after the landing, after Battery F's men had been forced to retire. Fortunately for these men, their gun, together with the other .50-caliber machine-guns along this stretch of beach, had been carefully camouflaged. In aggressive reaction to this fire, the enemy attempted to locate the position exactly and rush it; and, moving about in the dark, the Japanese were soon on three sides of the position, often within 40 or 40 yards of the gunners, who nevertheless maintained their fire and broke up the first of a series of attacks which would continue until dawn.
From the communications viewpoint, the initial landing could hardly have struck at a worse place. Communication with Wake Island had already been cut as a byproduct of the enemy landing on the latter, and the single wire line connecting Captain Platt's command post not only with the rest of the atoll but with the areas on Wilkes where the fighting was in progress, lay, at the point of landing, within less than a hundred yards of the shore line. This was overrun and severed by about 0300, and, form this time on, Platt's ability to keep himself informed as to, or to control the situation by telephone was limited to his remaining wire communication into machine-gun 9's beleaguered gun pit.
By 0400, the situation on Wilkes seemed for the time being to have stabilized. The Japanese were in firm possession of Battery F's 3-inch position. By means of McAlister's and McKinstry's rifle fire from the brush, they were prevented from any eastward expansion of the beachhead. To the west, as long as Gun 9 continued its redoubtable stand, their westward push towards Battery L's 5-inch guns was halted. In this direction, however, they were maintaining continued pressure.
Shortly after this time, Captain Platt, realizing that he could not hope to control the course of the action from his command post, which was now not only out of communication with Major Devereux but with his own positions on Wilkes, moved to Gun 11, and, at 0430, set out through the darkness from that point to find out for himself what was going on.
After a half hour of crawling through the thick brush and around or over the jagged coral of Wilkes' inhospitable beach, he reached a vantage point east of Gun 10, from which he could observe that the bulk of the Japanese were massed in and about the 3-inch position.
Within 10 minutes, at 0510, he had made his way back to Gun 10 and issued orders that Platoon Sgt. Raymond L. Coulson (in command of the .50-caliber machine-gun platoon on Wilkes) collect the two .30-caliber machine-guns and gunners from Kuku Point, plus the searchlight crew at that place and anyone else he could lay hold of, and join the strong-point commander at Gun 10, where Captain Platt remained.
It was twenty-five minutes before Coulson returned, leading a tiny force composed of the two machine-guns and crews, and eight riflemen. In the darkness, under cover of the noise of the surf and the firing which was sputtering and crackling all along the south shore of Wake and Wilkes Islands, Platt briefed his Marines, little more than a squad.
He would lead them forward as close to the enemy-held 3-inch position as possible. Then, if still undiscovered, the two .30-caliber machine-guns would be set up, one on each flank, just as it said in the field manuals, to provide a base of fire for the riflemen's assault. On order, after the guns were posted, the attack would jump off. Machine-gunners were to fire short bursts, well aimed and low, to prevent their fire doing hurt to McAlister and McKinstry, presumably on the other side of the enemy beachhead.
Darkness had begun to wane by the time Platt's column had reached its line of departure. Platt personally sited both machine-guns and then took station with the right, or seaward gun. By careful maneuvering and painstaking crawling, the Marines had gotten within less than 50 yards of the enemy pocket. On signal from Platt, the machine-guns ripped out their opening bursts, and the eight Marine riflemen swept forward as skirmishers against a position held by some 10 times their number of Japanese.
At almost this moment, from his position in a finger of brush to the east of the Japanese, Lieutenant McAlister, who had collected all his available men during the night, saw, by first dawn, a six-man Japanese patrol working eastward along the beach, almost under the muzzles of his rifles. Promptly he opened fire, killing on enemy and forcing the others to cover behind a huge coral chunk on the beach. Battery L Marines fanned out around the flanks of this position and maintained continuous rifle fire to keep the Japanese pinned in position while Marine Gunnery McKinstry and Pfc. William C. Halstead worked on top of the rock and killed the remaining Japanese.
While this melee was in progress, the Japanese were well occupied in attempting to fight off Platt's bold assault, which had taken them on a front from which little if any opposition had apparently been expected their light machine-guns being sited for fires toward McAlister's position to their east. Within a matter of minutes after the jump-off, Platt's men were engaging the Japanese within the 3-inch position, and McAlister, after mopping up the patrol, had formed a skirmish line from his 25 men. The two Marine combat groups joined forces on their immediate objective, and proceeded to sweep the entire position.
The enemy reaction to this sudden reversal of the situation demonstrated how the Japanese mind often fails to adjust itself to rapid changes. Instead of conducting the grim and tenacious defense which would later be thought the trade-mark of Japanese troops, these "picked men" of the Takano unit panicked and sought what individual safety they could. Some 30 of them eventually attempted to hide or take shelter under and about a single Marine searchlight truck, and were killed where they crouched. None volunteered to surrender.
Without wasting a moment, Platt reorganized the marines after their successful assault, assigned to McAlister with 10 men the duty of mopping up the 3-inch position, and himself led the remaining handful on a sweep of the island. With the exception of one dead officer, who had been killed while on reconnaissance during the night by Marines on the lagoon side, no other Japanese were found.
In the course of his mop-up, which was uneventful except for discovery and capture of two wounded Japanese who had been playing dead, McAlister made a count of the enemy dead, and removed--too late as events would prove--the Japanese flags with which the position had been ringed. The latter, presumably intended as crude front-line markers for coordination of air support and naval gunfire, were profusely stuck into the ground, and a single large flag had been erected in the 3-inch position, where it could be seen from Peale by first light, almost at the moment when the Marines on Wilkes were exterminating their unwelcome guests. On the bodies of the Japanese were found a profusion of small maps of Wake with quite accurately located notations as to the American defensive installations.
By actual count of dead, Japanese had expended four officers and 90 enlisted men in the attempt to take Wilkes. The four remaining unaccounted from the picked hundred may have perished in the initial landing or fallen unseen in the brush about Gun 9.
In return, nine Marines and two civilians had been killed, while four Marines and one civilian had been wounded--defending casualties amount to more than 16 percent.
Shortly after 0700, while Platt set about reorganizing forces on Wilkes in anticipation of possible further enemy attacks, carrier dive-bombers shrieked down onto the island, concentrating their attacks, both bombing and strafing, on Kuku Point's 4-inch battery. From then on, intermittent strafing attacks were delivered against positions on Wilkes whenever Marine activity showed from the air. Enemy aircraft were fired on to the last by the .50-caliber antiaircraft machine guns.
Reorganization was nevertheless completed by 0800, and, taking stock of the general situation, Platt again attempted to reestablish communication with the battalion command post of Wake Island. This time he was able to raise a reply from the Camp 1 motor pool, which Lieutenant Poindexter's reserve had successfully defended during the night, but no word could be gotten through to or from Major Devereux. The radio, not reliable at best and much battered by the great dynamite explosion of 10 December, was no more successful, and of the events on Wake Island the Marines on Wilkes remained unaware.
Offshore to the southwest of Wilkes, enemy ships--probably destroyers--could be seen. Platt ordered that Battery L be reformed as artillery and engage these targets, but immediate inspection revealed to McAlister that the ships were well out of range and showed no inclination to close. Having already come under Battery B's fire from Peale, and being under orders to keep beyond effective gun range, the enemy ships stayed well out on the horizon.
As the morning wore on, in the absence of any more enemy to kill Platt put finishing touches on his mop-up and reorganization. He reestablished telephonic contact with the two detached .30-caliber machine-guns covering the channel mouth at the east end of the island, and found that they were unhurt and ready for action. The two wounded Japanese prisoners received first aid and were crudely interrogated in sign language. They were able to convey the idea that no further Japanese landings had been planned for Wilkes.
About noon, with still no word from Wake Island, while Japanese air attacks continued against Wilkes, the report came in to Platt's command post that Japanese landing boats were in sight, heading for Wake Island, seemingly with some intention of entering the Wilkes channel mouth. Three transports, plus several combatant types, destroyers, and cruisers, had likewise closed Wake to a position about 4,0900 yards off the entrance to Wilkes channel. Here were targets for Battery L, and McAlister was ordered to man his battery and engage them.
But the seacoast battery on Wilkes had finally been silenced. On manning the guns, the Marines discovered that the training mechanism of Gun 1 was inoperative so that it could not even track a target, while on Gun 2 the recoil cylinder had been riddled by bomb fragments.
Platt personally inspected the 5-inch guns. A few minutes later, as quickly as he could, he likewise checked the 3-inch guns in Battery F's position still surrounded by enemy dead. None would shoot. The reserve rifle ammunition and the machine guns remained, however, and, in the words of Platt's report,
Ordered McAlister, McKinstry, and Coulson get together all possible men, carry the two .30-caliber guns, start for old channel. Engage enemy as soon as possible.
While his Marines again marched to the sound of the guns, Platt made his way forward to join them. An enemy destroyer, sensing perhaps that the defenders of Wilkes now had only their individual weapons, closed to within 2,000 yards of the shore and commenced shelling the island. The incessant dive-bombers, seeing the advanced column, lashed down again, and one more Marine, Pfc Robert L. Stevens, was killed by a direct bomb hit. He was the last battle casualty sustained during the defense of Wake.
Inexplicably--for the time being at any rate--the destroyer ceased firing. The column had passed the new channel and was deployed in an irregular, open formation, rifles ready and Marines alert.
At about 1330, three men were sighted advancing in the opposite direction. Two, by their rumpled khaki, were Marines. Behind them was a shorter figure clad in dirty green and armed with a large sword. One of the Marines carried a white flag, and, a moment later, Captain Platt unbelievingly heard Major Devereux informing him that the island had been surrendered. It was just after 1330.
In the words of Captain Koyama, of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who later discussed the fight for Wilkes, "In general, that part of the operation was not successful."
THE SURRENDER AND AFTER
Prior to moving down the road toward the Japanese, who were still receiving determined small arms fire from the few Marines south of the command post, Major Devereux passed word of the surrender to all units still in communication with his command post. These were Batteries A and E on Wake Island, and B on Peale, together with a few small detachments, such as that at Heel Point, and some of the .50-caliber positions on Wake Island. All units were ordered to destroy their matériel as best they could prior to actual surrender.
These instructions were carried out with all possible thoroughness. At Battery E, the 3-inch antiaircraft guns (firing-locks of which had already been removed and smashed) were further damaged by stuffing blankets into the muzzles and then firing one round. Since this did not seem entirely successful, grenades were rolled down the muzzles to explode inside. All electrical fire control data receivers were smashed, electric cables chopped up, and the battery commander personally fired 20 rounds of .45-caliber ammunition through the delicate optics and electromechanical computing parts of the height finder and director. After completing these measures, Lieutenant Lewis fell in Battery E and marched them as a unit, even though under a white flag, to the battalion command post.
At Battery A, the 5-inch firing locks were broken and buried, and all gun telescopes smashed. The range keeper was damaged beyond repair. After that, a white flag was run up, and, wisely, in light of what was in store, Lieutenant Barninger ordered all hands to eat as much as they could hold. After that, he held his men on the position awaiting arrival of the Japanese.
As word of the surrender was received with incredulity even by the hard-pressed riflemen, some of these stripped the bolts from their rifles and flung them into the brush.
It was after 0800 before all this had been attended to, and the rifle-fire of Potter's line was still covering the final operations of the command post. Major Devereux (as he thought), in communication with the Marine aid station located some 300 yards south in one of the underground magazines, attempted to telephone the battalion surgeon, to instruct him to make contact with the Japanese, whose advance must be almost up to that place. There was no answer, and it became apparent that a party must go forward into the enemy lines. Major Devereux, accompanied by Sgt. Donald Malleck, carrying a white rag tied to a swab handle, made his way down the road, despite enemy and American rifle fire still going on. As they passed Marines in action, he ordered them to cease firing.
Shortly before reaching the hospital, the party was halted by a Japanese rifleman who emerged from the brush and covered them with his weapon while they laid down their arms and helmets on the road. Then he motioned them on toward the hospital, which they found to be already in enemy hands, with all patients outside, trussed with telephone wire which bound their hands behind their backs to nooses about their necks. On taking over the hospital, the Japanese had fired among the patients, killing one and wounding another.
While Major Devereux was explaining his mission to a Japanese officer at the hospital who could speak some English, and American truck arrived bearing Commander Cunningham, who had shifted into his blue uniform for the occasion. Leaving the latter to arrange details of the surrender, Major Devereux and Sergeant Malleck, under escort of a Japanese officer armed with a large sword, set out to establish contact with the various isolated pockets of resistance on Wake Island and Wilkes, where Marines were still holding out.
Their first destination was the VMF-211 area, where, despite continuous enemy fire and grenade-throwing, the remnant of the fighter squadron and Lieutenant Hanna's men still held their position. Unable to advance over an area now strewn with their own casualties, the Japanese had taken positions behind nearby plane revetments, from which they could partially pin down the Marines by machine-gun fire and grenades.
Captain Tharin, the sole unwounded officer among the survivors, was still directing the defense at 0930, when Major Devereux ordered him to cease firing. Of 10 survivors, nine had been wounded, but all who remained alive were still fighting and VMF-211's final positions, taken up six hours earlier, were still held.
At 1015, the sad procession reached Lieutenant Kliewer and his three-man detail who had been trying ever since 0900 to coax their temperamental gasoline generator into operation so that the mines under the air strip could be set off. The night's rain had drowned out the motor, and, despite continued fire from enemy who had located the group, they were still tinkering with the generator when the fire ceased and Major Devereux called out that the island had been surrendered. One of the Marines attempted to dissuade Kliewer, saying, "Don't surrender, lieutenant. Marines never surrender. It's a hoax." As the lieutenant summed it up,
It was a difficult thing to do, but we tore down our guns and turned ourselves over.
Shortly before 1115, the surrender party, now west of the air strip, came upon the rear of a Japanese skirmish line facing westward, evidently engaged in a fire fight against Marines in the brush about the road junction west of the strip. After some confusion, during which the Japanese fired on the surrender group, Major Devereux passed through the lines and made contact with Second Lieutenant Poindexter, whose mobile reserve, in ignorance of the surrender, had retaken the ground between Camp 1 and the road junction west of the strip during the morning's fighting.
At the time Major Devereux came upon Poindexter, the 30-odd Marines in his force had just completed a steady eastward advance from Camp 1, fighting their way forward along the beach and the edge of the brush to their left (north) flank. Special Naval Landing Force troops were in the thick brush to the north, but did little more than impose additional measures for security of Poindexter's flank. Divided into three 10-man squads, the improvised platoon had advanced with two squads in assault (one on the seaward side of the road, and the other north of the road) working forward through the brush; the support squad protected the exposed left flank by advancing in rear of the left assault squad. During the advance, particularly as he neared the air field and retraced by daylight the scenes of his night's fighting, Lieutenant Poindexter had counted approximately 80 enemy dead.
After assuring the surrender of the mobile reserve, Major Devereux led the Japanese toward Camp 1, still held by machine-gun sections of Poindexter's group. At this place, under the eyes of the Marine prisoners, a Japanese souvenir-hunter clambered up the water tank and cut down the Colors which had been flying there through the battle.
Proceeding from Camp 1 across Wilkes channel by launch, followed by a detail of approximately 30 Japanese, the surrender group landed on Wilkes at approximately 1300. No Marines were to be seen, and, as the party began walking cautiously westward, an enemy destroyer close aboard commenced firing on the island, presumably at them. This fire was soon checked by a Japanese signalman who contacted the ship visually and directed that she cease fire.
At 1330, almost midway between the new and old channels on Wilkes, Major Devereux saw "a few grubby, dirty men who came out of the brush with their rifles ready * * *." These were the Marines who had, only a few hours before, annihilated the enemy landing party on Wilkes, and were now advancing eastward to repel what they thought was still another landing.
The defense of Wake was the first wartime operation ever conducted the Marine Corps in defense of an advanced naval base. It was also the first combat test of the Marine defense battalion, far reduced in strength though the Wake defense detachment was.
The main reason for the fall of Wake seemed obvious at the time, and remains so: the enemy in greatly superior strength, supported by ample surface and air forces, was able to effect a lodgment on Wake and then to apply his ground superiority so as to overwhelm the defenders at any and virtually all given points. Had it been possible at any time for United States surface forces to intervene, or for substantial reinforcements to reach Wake, the results might have been entirely different.
Even after we accept the foregoing broad reason for the eventual inevitability of Wake's loss, military lessons of some value may be drawn as we survey certain immediate reasons why the defense was handicapped. It should be remembered, however, that all these factors were interacting. No single one can be clearly isolated as responsible for the end product, which in this case was military defeat.
Japanese procedure for the reduction and seizure of Wake, if not executed with the skill or standards which the Marine Corps would demand in an amphibious operation, was nevertheless orthodox in that it consisted essentially of two phases: the first, of preliminary bombardment, or "softening"; the second, of the actual assault landing. As we have seen, the enemy considerably underestimated the amount of preparation required, and consequently paid for his miscalculation in the defeat of 11 December. Following this, he resumed and intensified his preliminary operations and mustered considerably greater means for the second try, which succeeded.
During the first phase, that of preliminary aerial bombardment, the defenders of Wake were severely handicapped from the outset by the lack of radar for early warning. It would be difficult to overstate the effects of this lack, for it was this which also enabled the initial Japanese raid to destroyer over half of VMF-211's fighters on the ground, and it was the lack of early warning which reduced greatly the effectiveness of fighter interception against the daily raids.
Despite the magnificent skill and courage of VMF-211 on the ground and in the air, the lack of fighter interception, early and in force during each raid, permitted the Japanese to proceed quite methodically with their program for the aerial softening of Wake. In fact, the possible effectiveness of an entire squadron or stronger force during the defense of Wake can be readily measured by the yardstick of VMF-211's achievements, never employing more than four airplanes.
Both of the two foregoing handicaps under which the defense was conducted can be lumped together as matters of what is termed air defense. Air defense, just what its name implies, is the coordinated employment of fighter aircraft, antiaircraft artillery, and the essential warning systems, all for the defense of an objective against air attack. Successful air defense depends equally upon all three elements. Of those three, however, on Wake only the antiaircraft artillery--undermanned and partially operational though it was--could be considered fully and consistently effective. Air warning was nonexistent, and fighter interception so weak-in numbers at least--that it could not prevent the enemy bombers from carrying out their missions.
In the first phase of the Japanese siege of Wake, a phase essentially of air defense, the defense force was almost hopelessly handicapped from the start, and the determination and stubbornness which marked the air defense of Wake, could not avert the final outcome nor do more than exact from the enemy the maximum cost for every bomb dropped. This was resolutely done until the last Grumman had been destroyed by massed enemy fighters on 22 December. After that, landing operations against Wake could proceed.
Once ground combat had commenced on Wake itself, the results could be foreseen. By the desperate expedient of grounding his transports, the enemy insured that a maximum force, well over twice that of the entire defense garrison, could be gotten ashore within the first half hour of the landing. The ultimate size of the landing force, approximately 1,200, was just three times the number of surviving Marines on the atoll. In addition, as we have seen, the defenders were necessarily so tied to their weapons and battery-positions during most of the action that defeat in detail was inevitable.
Had the Wake defense force included but one company of Marine infantry and a platoon of light tanks (such as was eventually added to the defense battalion table of organization), such a reserve might well have been able to dislodge the Japanese by counterattack. The lack of such an element to act as general reserve for the defense permitted the enemy to expand and organize his beachhead at will, and this necessity for a strong mobile reserve, including armor, could be considered one of the major tactical lessons of Wake.
A second major lesson to be derived from this phase of the operation was a reemphasis of Admiral Mahan's famous dictum that "Communications dominate war."
The complete failure of communications, which occurred shortly after the Japanese landing, operated to isolate the defense detachment commander from most of his subordinate units then in action. As a result, he not only lost control over much of the battle, but also--and perhaps more important in this case--he became unavoidably deceived as to the progress of the situation, so that, in ignorance of what had happened on Wilkes or Camp 1, he surmised that all was lost in those areas.
Had it been possible to have buried telephone lines and reliable field radios, this failure of communication, which largely influenced the surrender decision at that particular stage of the action, would not have occurred.
All things taken into account, however, the decision to surrender Wake was reasonable, especially when considered in light of the civilian situation and the fact that relief was no longer in prospect. Marines who fought through the Pacific campaigns could later see many examples of a totally unreasoning enemy who never surrendered but was always defeated. At the same time, insensibly, some might come to believe that unyielding refusal to surrender was the proper role of a defender. Of course, this was neither true nor logical. Wake had not only exacted a full and more than honorable toll from the Japanese, but, more important in a military sense, its defensive resource, never large, had been to a great extent sapped.
No fighter aircraft remained. Only one antiaircraft battery was effectively operational. Enemy dive-bombers on 23 December had completely disabled one 5-inch battery (Wilkes), and fire-control instruments for the remaining two were largely destroyed. Without more airplanes, fire-control instruments, radar, spare parts, and personnel to bring the defense to full strength (all of which and more had been embarked with Task Force 14)--without these Wake could not have carried on. The only answer was surrender.
This took place 15 days after the initial attack, and it was 11 hours after the fighting commenced on shore before the last strongpoint, Wilkes, surrendered in accordance with orders.
The Marine garrison of Wake had sustained almost 20 percent casualties. Although enemy losses will never be accurately known, they must easily have exceeded 1,000 in all.
During the course of the defense, Marines on the ground and in the air had caused the loss of at least four enemy warships, the first major Japanese naval vessels to be sunk during the Pacific war. At least eight more ships sustained appreciable damage. Twenty-one enemy aircraft were shot down by fighters or flak over Wake, and 11 more left the atoll in obviously damaged condition. A total of 51 enemy aircraft had in fact sustained reportable damage from Wake's antiaircraft batteries.
With this record as a basis, Major Putnam's final report, which left the atoll on 21 December, could truthfully state:
All hands have behaved splendidly and held up in a
manner of which the Marine Corps may well tell.
 One enemy source of excellent credibility states that CruDiv 18 (the two old light cruisers) bombarded Peale at 0100, although no shelling was in fact received in that area until well after daylight. Considered in light of the "gunfire" seen to the northward at about this time, it has been conjectured that due to gross navigational error on a dark and stormy night the Japanese, probably firing without visual data, might well have been expending 6-inch bombardment ammunition on the empty ocean.
 This detachment consisted of eight enlisted Marines and four .30 caliber machine-guns, with one truck for transportation. With a few Marine supply and administrative personnel and 15 Navy enlisted men commanded by Boatswain's mate First Class James E. Barnes, USN, it was also responsible for defense of the Camp 1 area.
 For task-organization of the Japanese forces, see Appendix V.
 One account indicates 500. At this time, all SNLF units attached to the Fourth Fleet were concentrated for the seizure of Wake in much the way in which United States Fleet Marine Force units would have been so employed.
 See page 47, this chapter, regarding the possibility that an additional boat-group may have landed near the southeast tip of Wake Island.
 Itaya's name and thus that of this company appears in one Japanese source as "Itatani."
 This was one Ibushi, Kayashi, of the Imperial Japanese Naval Information Section, a sort of combat correspondent, who later stated of himself, "This reporter, as a member of the Naval Information Section, was able to have the honor of taking the first step upon the island as a man of letters." He than added, "* * * the capture of Wake Island * * * was so heroic that even the gods wept."
 0235 is the Japanese official time of landing, and, all things considered, appears to be the most accurate figure available. Statements of Marine officers on Wake are unaccountably divided as to the time of landing, so that approximately half place it in the vicinity of 0130, while the remainder agree almost an hour later. Typical of this confusion are the two accounts of Colonel Devereux. In his official report, he gives the time of landing on Wilkes at 0215, whereas, in his published narrative, it is 0120. He has subsequently stated, after considerable study of all available data, that he regards the Japanese time (0235) as preferable. Curiously enough, the variance between the two groups disappears later in the action and, by dawn, an excellent reference point, general agreement is obtained.
 Battery A (Peacock Point) and Battery L (Wilkes). Both had drawn blood on 11 December.
 One of the advantages of the Navy 5-inch/51 for seacoast defense missions was that it had 360º train, as contrasted to the limited traverse of the 155 mm. field guns favored by the Army for this role. In this instance, however, terrain masks, slight though they were, prevented either A or L from bearing.
 Of these three civilians, two (Paul Gay and Bob Bryan) were subsequently killed in action, and the third, Eric Lehtola, was wounded in action. Hanna states that they fought with "exceptional gallantry."
 The sections at either end of the field had originally been sited, as was common defense battalion proactive, both to provide antiaircraft fires up the long axis of the field and to cover the surface of the strip against airborne landings. Colonel Devereux has subsequently stated in light of hind-sight that he would have moved both sections to positions just south of the ends of the strip, and tied them into a plan of defensive fires to cover the beaches south of the strip.
 The 3-inch Army antiaircraft guns of this type were equipped only for indirect fire at aerial targets, with fire-control data electrically computed and transmitted from a remote point and, since current doctrines of the Coast Artillery Corps, the using Arm, did not encourage use of antiaircraft weapons for alternate missions, no sights, special ammunition, or other fire-control equipment for local control were furnished with such guns. The Marine Corps and Navy (with defense battalion missions in mind) had, prior to March 1940, to some extent made good this deficiency by adapting a Navy 3-inch common projectile for use against surface targets with the Army gun, and some units had devised home-made direct-laying, forward area type sight to be mounted by village blacksmith methods on the gun-tube or mount. Needless to say, such local modifications or ordnance items were officially prohibited, and it appears in any case that 3-inch guns on Wake were not so equipped.
 "Up-to-strength" in this instance should not convey any sense of puissance. The 1941 defense battalion table of organization strength of the Marine 3-inch antiaircraft battery was 2 officers and 75 enlisted, supposed to perform the same missions as a corresponding Army battery with a strength of 5 officers and 125 enlisted. Battery E, at this time, had an actual strength of 2 officers and approximately 50 enlisted.
 The evidence on this point is indirect but generally convincing. After the surrender, Marine working parties saw beached rubber boats along the lagoon shore near the eastern end, and several individual reports speak of red flares rising from within the lagoon at about 0330; one enemy source in turn states that a red rocket was to be used throughout the operation as a signal meaning, "We have succeeded in landing." Finally, interior landings of this character satisfactorily explain without necessarily ruling out infiltration, the early presence of individual Japanese at various points along the lagoon shore.
 Presumably Yubari, Tenryu, and Tatsuta. One report indicates that Peale was shelled, but United States reports make no mention of this.
 It was about this time, or soon after, that Major Putnam, already wounded, forming his defensive line about the gun-emplacement, uttered his final order to the remnant of VMF-211: "This is as far as we go." Six hours later, at the time of surrender, the position was still held.
 Colonel Devereux suggests that some of the machine-gun fire which swept through the Peacock triangle might have come from friendly weapons. He points out the Marines had .30 or .30 caliber machine-gun sections on virtually the entire perimeter of the triangle, as inspection will show.
 Barninger's report speaks of occasional fire from "a small field-piece" as well. This was probably a 70-mm howitzer of the type organic to Japanese infantry formations.
 By an ironic coincidence, at approximately the same time, if we are to believe a Japanese correspondent, Navy Lieutenant Uchida, who was leading the attack against Putnam's position, was shot through the head and killed. His death is described as follows:
"To the continuous calls of 'Unit Commander, Sir, Unit Commander, Sir,' there was now no answer. It was a matter of just a moment. Unit Commander Uchida, who had landed with and stood at the head of his troops, and who laughed while commanding his troops against the enemy was no more."
During the advance on the 3-inch gun, Uchida's company sustained at least 62 casualties.
 Among the Japanese killed before his position at about this time were two flame-thrower operators. Although use of flame is not recorded, this was perhaps one of the earliest tactical employments of this weapon in the Pacific war.
 Kessler had to train his guns, flat-trajectory 5"/51's with the high initial velocity of 3150 foot/seconds, so as to fire across Flipper Point and just clear the crest of Wake Island, with the line of fire passing less than 250 yards to the west of Second Lieutenant Kliewer's position, from which the target itself was less than 400 yards distant. His final adjustments, after securing hits on the upperworks, was to spot down in range so as to lower the trajectory and thus hull the ship, a delicate operation not only from the gunner's standpoint, but undoubtedly that of Kliewer.
 Like so many other questions as to exact times of events during the defense of Wake, this one is subject to conflict of testimony. Major Potter, in his report (Item 37, Appendix I) states that Godbold reached the command post at 0600. Godbold gives 0715 as the time. Other sources, while not giving times, put the arrival of Battery D shortly after daybreak. Balancing all accounts against each other, 0700 or shortly before seems to be the best synthesis that can be made.
 Over and above the two carriers, the task force was composed of the new 12,000-ton heavy cruisers, Chikuma and Tone; and six destroyers, two of which were Tanikaze and Urakaze.
 Throughout the entire operation, although the Marine commander had been generally informed that the civilians (less certain key personnel) would be evacuated, and had been ordered to have the airstrip prepared to receive additional planes, no information was given Major Devereux as to operations of the relief force (Task Force 14), or as to the quantity, nature, and type of reinforcements which he might expect to receive. This information, including a loading plan of the Tangier, had reached Wake on 20 December, in the PBY which took off Major Bayler.
 Although but one barge was seen at this time by the defenders of Wilkes, the Japanese records indicate that two were used. This likewise agrees with the total number of enemy landed.
 Platoon Sgt. Henry A. Bedell, a veteran of 19 years' service
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