I hope you can shed some light on my father's request for information about 3 civilians on Wake Island at the time of the Japanese invasion in 1941.

In late August or early September 1941, my father (Cecil James) and three other men, all originally from Louisville, Kentucky, were working at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Vale, Oregon.
From Vale, Oregon they went to Boise, Idaho to sign up for overseas employment with the Morrison and Knudsen Construction Company, whose main office was in New Orleans, LA.

These men were to build bunkers and airstrips on some of the Pacific islands.

My father was sent to Midway Island and survived two Japanese attacks before being returned to Pearl Harbor in late December 1941.

The other three men, only known by their last names (Gossman, Greene and Grimm) were sent to Wake Island and were on the island when it fell to the Japanese.

Reports received on Midway, indicated the civilian contractor personnel on Wake Island were on the beaches with pick handles waiting for the Japanese to come in.

Nothing was ever heard about these men after their apparent capture.

My father eventually made it back to the States, was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and finished the war in the China, Burma and India theatre.

To this day that question haunts my 76 year-old father..... What happened to Gossman, Green and Grimm on Wake Island.

Surely there must be a record of the fate of these three men.

Please provide any information you may have or any points of contact for information regarding these men as it will bring closure on this subject for my father. Sincerely, Michael James e-mail:

The following came from a wesite called the Dogberry Patch August 28, 2005:

We were in Boise for the 84th birthday party for my father, Oscar Paulson. The people there were either family or co-workers from his years with Morrison-Knudsen (M-K). I listened in to an interesting conversations about the capture of Wake Island by the Japanese and the M-K construction workers who were taken prisoner.

I did some Google searching and the story is quite amazing. First some background on M-K. According to the Idaho State Historical Society Harry W. Morrison and Morris H. Knudsen:

became partners in March 1912, with six teams of horses, some equipment, and $100 in cash. Their first major job was the Three-Mile Falls Dam in Oregon in 1914.

… In 1926 they built Guernsey Dam in Wyoming, where Morrison pioneered the concept of the joint-venture — several firms joining to bid and complete a single project. In 1929 they built Deadwood Dam in Central Idaho, using for the first time bulldozers and diesel trucks instead of horses. In 1931 Morrison formed the Six Companies, Inc. to construct the mammoth Hoover Dam (wiki). The joint venture concept was also used when M-K worked on the San Francisco side of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

… The company began work on foreign construction with projects for the U.S. military — M-K employees were among the Americans killed or captured on Wake Island during World War II. In 1943 the company began projects in Mexico and Canada and quickly spread worldwide. Later M-K projects included Grand Coulee Dam, the St. Lawrence Seaway, railroads in Peru and Brazil, and Karadj Dam in Iran.

According to an Associated Press story about the company:

The projects were big and made a difference in the way people lived. In 1954, Time magazine called Harry Morrison the one builder in history who had done the most to change the face of the earth.

My family has always been an M-K family. Both of my parents have worked for the company, 4 out of the 5 of us kids have worked for M-K, and even 2 of our spouses worked for M-K when we met them. My younger brother and myself were in Viet-Nam (3/1966-1/1969) with my folks during the war on an M-K job and my brother was with my parents in Iran as a high school senior when the Shah was deposed. The school graduated his whole senior class mid-term and the company strongly suggested all family members leave the country.

So, back to Wake Island. Harry Morrison was devastated to have over 1,000 employees of his small Boise, Idaho company captured and/or killed while working for him on Wake Island. The best account of the story I have found is by Major Mark E. Hubbs. It is hard to comprehend the worldview of the Japanese soldiers whose barbaric treatment of the prisoners was based on the fact that they could not understand why these men would surrender unless they were cowards who were unfit to live. All but 98 of the men were shipped to labor camps in Japan and China. Over 200 of these men either died on the ships or in the labor camps. The 98 men who were left on Wake Island were mostly experienced construction hands who could operate the machinery. All 98 of these men were killed before the island was liberated. It is a gruesome tale.

Some books I would like to read:

Remember Wake by Teresa R. Funke
Pacific Alamo: The Battle for Wake Island by John Wukovits
Hell Wouldnt Stop: An Oral History of the Battle of Wake Island by Chet Cunningham
Jims Journey: A Wake Island Civilian POWs Story by Leilani A. Magnino
Here is a list of the articles I found online:

Massacre on Wake Island by Major Mark E. Hubbs
Wikipedia article on Wake Island
The Peter Hansen Story by Gerard Moran -The Testimony of Claude Davis Howes a diary account
44 Months of Strict Hell By Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald staff writer
Nampan Recalls 16 Days Under Fire by J.O. Young, Idaho Press-Tribune. (Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7)
Farm Bureau Fall 2006 Magazine pages 36,37,41

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I just read your posting of August 28, 2005, of the Morrison-Knudsen contractors on Wake Island. A cousin of mine was one of those men; he died in a camp in Japan. I heard that M-K had published a “blue book” or yearbook listing information and photos of most of those workers. Do you know anything about that book - its title or how I might find a copy to look at?

Comment by Jim Bair — August 12, 2006 @ 3:45 pm


looking for info on my dad thomas bailey lee captured on wake island…what is out there?

Comment by robert bailey lee carmody — February 23, 2007 @ 8:05 pm


My uncle, Frank Lemkin, was captured on Wake island and spent the war in a Jap POW Camp. He survived and returned to the states where he lived until his death in the 1970’s. I doubt if anyone still alive remembers him. Frank would have been 106 this year. he worked for Morrison Knudsen on the Boulder Dam project and again on Wake. I remember seeing uncle Frank for the first time in 1946 after he had been released from the Army hospital in San Francisco. We were living in Los Angeles at the time. He had some pretty bad stories about the japs but I was so young, he didn’t tell the worst to me.If anyone has any details about his capture and imprisonment I would appreciate hearing about it.Too many people have forgotten the brutality of the Japs and when I pass on, no one in my family will know or perhaps care.

Comment by James Ingram — March 17, 2007 @ 6:46 pm


I too am interested in finding the Morrison-Knudsen ‘blue book’. My dad, Richard S. Crenshaw, was a civilian worker on Wake and spent the war in Jap prison camps. He survived and, while he didn’t much like talking about the experience, he did tell me some of what they endoured. He died at 70 but was in pretty good health until the end, unlike some of the men which suffered health problems.

Comment by Gary Crenshaw — April 3, 2007 @ 10:35 am


My father, Wilbur Pearson, of Lewiston, Idaho, was on an M/K construction crew waiting in San Francisco to go to Wake Island, when the Japanese bombed Pearl harbor. Their two cargoe ships were immediately sent to rebuild Pearl Harbor, instead. Our family didn’t know where he was until a week or so after they arrived. It was the first time dad had missed Christmas with his family.

Comment by Will Pearson — May 30, 2007 @ 9:15 am


My Uncle Jacob Leonard Betts (Dutch) was one of the Morrison Knutsen Crew that were captured. I am Interested in the history.

Comment by Janet E Birrer — July 14, 2007 @ 8:35 am


My Uncle Lacy Franklin Tart was one of the 98 that was killed Oct.7 1943.He worked for Morrison Knutsen.I have been searching all the web sights trying to find any information.Family never heard anything.They had his name & address wrong.Uncle Lacy is from Knightdale, N.C.The War records listed him from Portland,Oregan. Did any one ON Wake Island know him.He is our hero. Were there military decorations & how can I find out.He has 2 sisters living.All these years thy have wanted to find out something & I think it is because no one knew how to contact the family.Lacy had 2 brothers in the Army & one served in the Navy during WWII.Can any one help me?The defenders of Wake Island were all hero and fought heroic for their country. God bless all. If Uncle Lacy is in the blue book ,plese email it to me. JoAnn

Comment by JoAnn Parrish — August 1, 2007 @ 7:50 pm


My great-uncle, Glen Vent, was also one of the 98 murdered on Wake (Maj Mark E. Hubb’s article fails to list him- but see

I have been investigating too but information is hard to come by. I have written twice to MK and they ignored both letters.

My rant: Congress has failed to pass endless legislation to provide reparations to just even survivors or widows of Wake and other areas in the SP. Ironically, the UK, Canada, Austraila and New Zealand are all paying their POWs since Japan will not.

Although the US has recently contributed millions of dollars to Americans imprisoned by Germany, our government has no interest in providing just compensation to those who suffered in the Pacific Theatre.

The families of the 98 men murdered on Wake would have been eligible to receive $1 a day for missed meals, $60 a month for civilian status, and I think $7500 for their death. However, I am curious whether any family member of the 98 ever filed a claim since the information was withheld for so many years.


Glen Vent was hired as a contractor. He was denied military service due to flat feet. My family guesses that he was kept because he had heavy machine operating experience from his work on the Shasta Dam. He lived in Idaho but was living in Modesto, CA when he left for Honolulu on route to Wake. He took the job so that he could buy a farm.

Comment by Kelly Vent — August 20, 2007 @ 11:58 pm


Regarding any military decorations, I believe there was a “Wake Island Device” - see An uncle in my wife’s family was also an MK contractor. He died in a camp in February 1844 at age 24.

FYI: I live near Boise and Morrison-Knudson is now Washington Group International. It’s still based in Boise. My best to everyone trying to find more information.

Comment by Todd Christensen — January 27, 2008 @ 6:43 pm


My grandfather and uncle were on Wake with M-K at the start of the war. Grandfather Frank was killed in the first few days and Uncle Harry was taked POW and died in 1955. Would be interested in anything to read about M-K guys. We have some letters from them, but that is all. Also interested in anything about the “blue book” and where we can see it.

Comment by Dan Cerny — March 16, 2008 @ 3:49 pm


Hello, My name is John W. Hansen, son of Peter W. Hansen who was a Wake Island POW. My sister, Mary-Anne Stickney and I want to visit Wake Island next year. Mary-Anne has just returned from a trip to Japan where she visited the Soto Dam that our POW’s built near Sasebo and the Pine Tree Camp, Fukuoka Camp #1 where they stayed while working on the airport. This is where Dad died 21 March 1945. If anyone has any information about visiting Wake Island please email me
Thank You. John W. Hansen

Comment by John W. Hansen — April 7, 2008 @ 11:16 am


Hello Again, just found out a little about visiting Wake Island. The Air Force Base Commander said that currently the base is in need of repair because of Typhoon Ioke. But if you are interested in visiting the Island email him at Nicholas, with your story and he will notify us if and when the Island is able to accommodate us. John W. Hansen

Comment by John W. Hansen — April 16, 2008 @ 1:32 pm


1) Morrison-Knudson published the Blue Book for those Wake Is civilian men returning from Japan. Only the men returning received them. There have been two sold on ebay in the last year. I know of no other way to get my hands on one

2) Even though the official organization of Wake Survivors has ended. They still have a reunion each Sept in Boise ID. you can contact Alice Ingham, and asked to be on the list to notify.

A regular group meets monthly at one the Boise restruants for coffee.

3) Hope you who are looking for your loved ones have Googled Wake Island and found your answers. There are many websites that tell the story and much more. If you haven’t found the info you are looking for about your WAKE ISLAND man, maybe I can help.

Mary-Anne Stickney

Comment by Mary-Anne Stickney — April 29, 2008 @ 11:05 am


I am interested in any information on Leo Aloys Dressler, JR. He was my grandmother’s younger brother. He too was working as a contractor on Wake Island when he was taken POW. He lived through the ordeal but died shortly after he returned home. Doctor’s list cause of death as Post War Illness. He was only 28-years-old.

Comment by Penni Campbell — May 4, 2008 @ 9:45 pm


My Grand Father John Hickenbottom who worked at the Grand Coulee Dam also worked on Wake and was captured and survied the (Clearance Des Calmps) tourtue, he met my future unckle a Marine on the island. They fought side by side on Peacock point and were moved to Japan on the Nita Maru, they ended up in Mukden China after a stay in Japan after the war ended. I am looking for the blue book from MK also along with a copy of the book written by the Marine ground commander. Any information out there would be greatly appreciated.

Gary Hickenbotttom

Comment by Gary Hickenbottom — June 20, 2008 @ 10:12 pm


My grandfather Archie Hayes Pratt was killed on Wake. Our family has a copy of the “blue book”, one of the last ones given. We also have his POW medal from the government. I doubt reparations will ever come.

Comment by Frank Towler — July 1, 2008 @ 10:37 am


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