In early 1941 the United States Navy on Wake Island constructed a base, where the soldiers from the 1st Marine Defense Battalion were stationed, over 449 personnel, both enlisted and officers under the command of Marine Corps Major P.S. Devereux. There was also around 1,300 other personnel both civilian and Navy on the atoll.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 an attack was mounted on Wake Island at the same time. It was attacked by bombers from Japanese bombers from the Marshall Islands and resulted in a series of attacks over the next three weeks. The Japanese eventually gained control over the Island on December 24th, 1941. Throughout the war the Island was periodically attacked by Allied bombers and ships, which resulted in heavy losses for the Japanese troops on the Island. Japanese Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara ordered the massacre of 98 captured civilian personnel. One of the prisoners bravely escaped and crept to the seacoast of the island and inscribed on the rocks “98 US PW 5-10-43,” an inscription, which still remains to this day.
Wake Island was finally recaptured at the end of the war, Air bombing attacks against the Japanese forces on the Island continued throughout the war. Bombing on Wake Island was nearly constant, and in 1943 the Japanese Rear Admiral took the action, which resulted in his prosecution after the war as a war criminal. The civilian contractors and men on Wake Island were some of the bravest of the Second World War, resulting in battlefield casualties in defense of Wake Island. During the battle for the Island, there were 49 killed in action, and a number wounded. The brave Marines and Civilians were largely taken prisoner where they went into POW camps until the end of the war.
No story about Wake Island would be complete without mentioning the bravery in the face of overwhelming enemy numbers. The brave Marines kept to their posts until the very end of the battle. There were many members of the Japanese forces who at the end of the war were prosecuted for war crimes regarding their actions on the taking of Wake Island. At the end of the war the Japanese were pushed off the island by brave action of a detachment of the United States Marines, who retook the island on September 4th, 1945.