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"Send more Japs"

Wake Island
19°16'N 166°35'E

The name Wake Island was officially changed to Wake Atoll in 1998. Wake Atoll is situated 2004 nautical miles west of Honolulu and thirteen hundred two (1302) nautical miles northeast of Guam; it has an area of about two and one-half square miles. Wishbone-shaped, the atoll lies at 19 degrees, 18 minutes, of latitude north of the Equator and 166 degrees, 35 minutes, of longitude east of Greenwich, England.

On January 17, 1899, the USS Bennington, commanded by Commander Edward D. Taussig, USN, acting on orders from the Federal Government, "took possession of the atoll known as Wake for the United States of America." [This is an extract from the inscription on the brass plate affixed to the base of the first flagpole erected in the atoll by Commander Taussig.] The atoll had been named in 1796 by Captain William Wake, R.N., of the British schooner Prince William Henry. At the time of the United States' taking possession of the atoll, Wake did not have any indigenous population.

After the beginning of hostilities in 1941, the Japanese attacked Wake Island by air for three days before attempting an amphibious assault on 11 December. Miraculously, the defenders repulsed the Japanese. The only time during the Pacific War that an invasion attempt was defeated. CINCPAC's response was a simple "Splendid work." The American press on the other hand had a field day with the news. Editorials and political cartoons ran in every newspaper singing the praises of the Marines. The "Send more Japs" legend began at this time. The Wake Island defenders had given American morale a much-needed boost.

Commander Winfield S. Cunningham, a naval aviator, had overall command of the island. Commander Cunningham claims the phrase "Send more Japs" was inserted as padding in a message to CINCPAC. Cunningham's claim is supported by Corporal Franklin D. Gross. He informed the author that the radio operator related the same story to him. All sources confirm the defenders were not pleased by the publicity the message generated. The last thing any of them wanted was "...more Japs." However, this legend may never die.

American morale was at an all time low after 7 December. The incredible defense of Wake Island on 11 December gave the American people a much-needed boost. Humiliated by the defeat, the Japanese returned on 23 December with a larger force. The defenders, again, put up a stubborn defense but eventually were overwhelmed - 98 American civilian contractors were held as prisoners of war to perform forced labor for the Japanese, and then executed in 1943. The Japanese held it until September 1945, when a Marine detachment regained control for America.

Aside from the occasional government employee or contractor, Wake Island is uninhabited. The atoll has approximately 300 inhabitants. Since October 1, 1994, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (within the Office of the Secretary of Defense) has funded Wake's actual administration, which the U.S. Army Strategic and Missile Defense Command (USASMDC) carries out under a use permit. Additional use is allowed on a case by case basis to support U.S. interests.

The Wake Island target launch facilities include one 50K launcher and a stool launcher for HERA at Wake Island and missile storage and build-up facilities. The Wake Island facilities are being upgraded to support future mandated Multiple Simultaneous Engagement tests of TBM interceptors.

The air terminal at Wake Island is used as a military refueling stop for aircraft. Wake was closed for many years and it is a fascinating place. There is a recently opened nature preserve on Wake Island. It has some very rare birds, and very little has changed since 1941. It's really like going back in time.

In 1935, PanAir requested permission to use Wake Island as a refueling stop for its Pacific Clipper air service. Although construction of a civilian seaplane base started in 1935, military construction was delayed until 1939, when construction of facilities for a US patrol­boat squadron began. The day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the defenders of Wake Island became an important symbol of American resistance. The embattled Marines held Wake Island against a vastly superior Japanese invasion force. The Japanese received their first defeat, and for the only time during the remainder of the war in the Pacific, their amphibious assault was repulsed. But several hours after the landings on 23 December 1941, the atoll was overrun by Japanese invaders. Because air superiority and control of the sea made it possible to bypass Wake, the Americans simply reoccupied the island after the defeat of Japan.

While Eighth Army troops pressed forward into North Korea and X Corps prepared to land at Wonsan, President Truman called General MacArthur to a conference at Wake Island. All conferees arrived on 15 October 1950. Before their 1-day conference ended, President Truman asked MacArthur what chance there was of Chinese interference. The United Nations commander replied, "Very little."

Army forces in the Pacific participated in Operation Marathon Pacific involving Chinese migrants on Wake Island. The operation successfully repatriated the Chinese. The Jung Sheng Number 8, a 160-foot-long vessel interdicted near Hawaii on July 3, 1995. The vessel had left Canton, People's Republic of China, June 2 with 147 passengers, mostly young males, and 12 crewmembers. The immigrants had paid or had promised to pay nearly $30,000 each for passage to the United States. The immigrants were found in a dark fish hold, suffering from stifling 100-degree heat. US authorities took the Jung Sheng Number 8, along with its passengers, to Wake Island, a small atoll about 2,300 miles west of Hawaii. All the migrants were returned to China on August 7, 1995. Under adverse conditions, Operation Prompt Return 95 provided repatriation and humanitarian assistance to 147 Chinese migrants and a crew of 11 off of Wake Island in the mid-Pacific, from July 21 to August 10, 1995.

PMC provided all base operating support services for the U.S. Air Force at this remote, strategic base, and also for the U.S. Army when the base was transferred in October 1994. Located halfway between Honolulu and Guam, Wake served as an aircraft refueling station for the U.S. Air Force Pacific Command. A staff of 200 technicians and managers, including 160 foreign nationals, operated and maintained the facility on-site, providing all base operation functions and services. PMC supported contingency forces, provided test sites for strategic defense systems, and acted as a deployment exercise base for special forces. Upon the base's transfer to the Army, it was renamed the Wake Island Missile Launch Facility, which we operated under a high-level caretaker status until January 1996.

By means of Executive Order No. 11048, Part I (September 5, 1962), the President of the United States made the Secretary of the Interior responsible for the civil administration of the atoll. The order vested in the Secretary all executive and legislative authority necessary for that administration and all judicial authority other than the authority of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii.

The Congress has extended the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii to all civil and criminal cases arising on or within Wake Atoll. All civil acts and deeds consummated and taking place in the atoll or in the waters adjacent to the atoll are deemed to have been consummated or committed on the high seas on board a U.S. merchant vessel oro ther U.S. vessel. According to U.S. maritime law, the court adjudicates or adjudges these acts or deeds and, as appropriate, punishes them. To effect this purpose, U.S. maritime law has been extended over the atoll. U.S. laws relating to juries and jury trials apply to the trial of such cases before the U.S. District Court in Honolulu. Title 48, U.S. Code, section 644a.

Composed of a reef-enclosed lagoon, the atoll consists of three coral islands (Peale, Wake and Wilkes), built upon an underwater volcano. The atoll's central lagoon is the volcano crater; the islands are part of the rim. Wake Island, the main or center section of the "wishbone", is much the largest of the three islands. "V"-shaped and pointed towards the southeast, Wake Islandc omprises the outer perimeter of the eastern half of the atoll. Peale and Wilkes Islands continue the open ends of the prongs of the "wishbone" on the north and south respectively. The northwestern side of the atoll is open, except for the coral reef, which surrounds the atoll and completes the lagoon's enclosure.

The surface of the three islands is a smooth roll of disintegrated coral, interspersed with boulders, which are most numerous on Wilkes and the southern leg of Wake Island, where they range to five or six feet in diameter. Trees, thick tropic shrub growth (often with thorns) and grasses are scattered through the islands and provide much opportunity for natural concealment. Vegetation is densest on the south leg of Wake Island, west and south of the airfield. Trees sometimes reach a height of 20 to 25 feet, but the towering coconut palms found on most atolls are missing.

Maximum elevation on the atoll is 21 feet, with an average height of 12 feet above sea level. The outside, seaward face of Wake Island maintains a fairly uniform elevation of approximately 18 feet with a gradual slant to the center of the island and then to the lagoon side.

There are three high points in the atoll, all above 20 feet: on Wake Island at Heel Point, on Peale Island at the seaward side about 500 yards from Toki Point and on Wilkes Island at thelagoon side some seven hundred 50 yards from Kuku Point.

The atoll's beaches are of white coral sand. At many places along the shore line the beaches are strewn with jagged coral rocks and king-size boulders. Beaches vary in width from 20 to 170 yards but average 100 yards. The narrowest beaches are located on the north coast. Beach slope is quite gradual. Natural terraces or embankments exist only along the north coast, except along the south shore of Wilkes. At the coast line or vegetation line there is frequently a moderate rise in elevation. Exits from the beaches are available at all points.

Although it has an airfield with a runway measuring 9800 feet, the atoll has no ports. Bridges and roads connect the islands, but most development has been on Wake. A U.S. Coast Guard LORAN station stands on Peale, which otherwise serves mostly as a recreation area. Because of its reefs, the atolls has only two offshore anchorages for large ships.

Deep water surrounds the entire atoll. Inside the lagoon the mean tide range is about one and one-half feet. Low tides have a stand of two to three hours. Due to the porous soil, drainage is good, too much so in fact, so that no natural water supply is available. Lack of fresh water probably explains why the atoll had no indigenous inhabitants. Rainwater is caught in huge water catchments and is supplemented by a distillation plant.

Wake is occasionally battered by a typhoon. The climate is tropical. There is no wide variation in temperature. Yearly maximum is 95 degrees Fahrenheit; minimum, 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Mean monthly temperatures run from 76 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit. Rainfall is light, averaging fewer than 40 inches per annum. The wettest season is from July through

The atoll lies in the best of the northeast trade winds, and more than 50 per centum of the wind observations range from east to northeast during all seasons of the year. Average cloud coverage for the year is approximately 50 percent too, being heaviest during the late summer and early fall, with cumulus clouds predominant.

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Page last modified: 19-08-2019 16:36:07 ZULU