December 24th 1941 Wake Island surrenders

Wake Island 1941


Wake Island was used as a refueling site for the Pan American Pacific Clipper. With tensions between the United States and Japan growing the US decided to create a base on the island in January 1941. 450 Marines were sent to defend the island together with six 5” naval guns and 12 marine fighter aircraft.

Hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese launched an air attack against Wake Island and managed to destroy eight of the 12 planes on the ground. The others were in the air. The Japanese staged two more air raids against the island. On December 11th the Japanese attempted to land on the island. The Marines successfully fought off the landing, sinking the Japanese destroyer Yubari with the shore based guns and sinking the destroyer Hayate from the air.

After the unsuccessful landing the US tried to resupply the island but the mission was called off when it was learned that there were Japanese Attack carriers in the neighborhood. The carriers Sōryū and Hiryū which had taken part in the Pearl Harbor attack joined the earlier invasion force and on December 23rd the new larger invasion force began to land on the island. The 450 marines were outnumbered and the four fighter planes were quickly overwhelmed. On the 24th the islands garrison surrendered. The Japanese occupied the island until 1945. During their occupation they massacred 84 American civilian workers who had been on the island. The Japanese commander was tried for war crimes after the war for act and hung.