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Battle of Wake Island
Wake Island, Pacific Ocean

Wake IslandCampaign: Pacific War Campaign (December 7, 1941 September 2, 1945)

Date(s): December 8 - 23, 1941

Principal Commanders: Winfield S. Cunningham (POW), James P.S. Devereux (POW) [US]; Shigeyoshi Inoue, Sadamichi Kajioka, Shigematsu Sakaibara, Eiji Gotō, Tamon Yamaguchi [Japan]

Forces Engaged: 449 USMC personnel consisting of: 399 infantry of the 1st Marine Defense Battalion55 det. VMF-211,68 US Navy5 U.S. Army personnel [US]; First Attempt (11 December 11): 3 light cruisers, 6 destroyers, 2 patrol boats, 2 troop transports, Reinforcements arriving for Second Attempt (December 23): 2 aircraft carriers, 2 heavy cruisers, 2 destroyers, 2,500 infantry [Japan]

Estimated Casualties: 120 killed,49 wounded, 2 MIA, 12 aircraft, 433 Military and 1,104 Civilian POWS of whom 5 military (killed Jan 1942) and 98 Civilian POWS (killed Oct 1943) were killed in captivity. In addition, 15 military and 82 civilians died as POWS [US]; 820 killed, 333 wounded, 1 light cruiser heavily damaged, 2 destroyers sunk, 2 transports sunk, 1 submarine sunk, 78 aircraft shot down, 20 aircraft damaged.

Description: The Battle of Wake Island began simultaneously with the Attack on Pearl Harbor and ended on December 23, 1941, with the surrender of the American forces to the Empire of Japan. It was fought on and around the atoll formed by Wake Island and its islets of Peale and Wilkes Islands by the air, land and naval forces of the Empire of Japan against those of the U.S., with Marines playing a prominent role on both sides.

The island was held by the Japanese for the duration of the Pacific War; the remaining Japanese garrison on the island surrendered to a detachment of United States Marines on September 4, 1945.

Early on the morning of December 11, the garrison, with the support of the four remaining Wildcats, repelled the first Japanese landing attempt by the South Seas Force, which included the light cruisers Yubari, Tenryū, and Tatsuta; the destroyers Yayoi, Mutsuki, Kisaragi, Hayate, Oite, and Asanagi; two Momi-class destroyers converted to patrol boats (Patrol Boat No. 32 and Patrol Boat No. 33), and two troop transport ships containing 450 Special Naval Landing Force troops.

The second Japanese invasion force came on December 23, composed mostly of the same ships from the first attempt with the major reinforcements of the carriers Hiryū and Sōryū, plus 1,500 Japanese marines. The landings began at 02:35 where, after a preliminary bombardment, the ex-destroyers Patrol Boat No. 32 and Patrol Boat No. 33 were beached and burned in their attempts to land the invasion force. After a full night and morning of fighting, the Wake garrison surrendered to the Japanese by mid-afternoon.

Result(s): Japanese victory

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