Thursday, December 23, 2004

On this day in military 1941 and 1948

On this day in military 1941. The defenders of Wake Island surrender to the Japanese. While the Japanese were running in rampant thru the Pacific after Pearl Harbor, one of the island that they invaded was Wake Island. Like most of the US military, it was caught napping when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and a subsequent Japanese bomber attack destroyed 8 of 12 Marine fighters based on the island. Japanese amphibious forces then showed up a few days later, thinking that the invasion would be a push-over. Unfortunately for them, it was not and the Marine defenders were able to repulse the initial invasion (the only time during World War II that and an amphibious invasion was unsuccessful). The Japanese then returned with more men, ships and planes and were able to invade and capture the island, but not after the loss of 4 ships with 8 other ships sustaining damage, 21 aircraft with 11 others damaged and about 1000 men. The defenders never numbered more than 550 with about 1100 civilian worker on the island.

The US Navy tried to relieve the Wake garrison, but due to the distance from Hawaii, the task force turned back before arriving at Wake when it was deemed to be a lost cause. In fact, due to the distance that Wake Island was from Japanese forces, the US never retook the island and were instead able to easily cut it off from all Japanese forces for most of the war. Carrier task forces would pass by the island from time to time to give it's aircrews a target to use for practice bombing. In September, 1945, the Japanese surrendered to a detachment of Marines. The Japanese commander was tried, convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death for the mass murder of 98 civilians that were left on the island as workers after the US surrender.

The Battle of Wake Island always had a fascination for me due to the stories that my Sainted Father told me about the battle and also a school library book that I read and re-read many times during my youth about the battle. The story of Wake Island was a great moral booster for the American public in the face of non-stop Japanese victories during those dark days after Pearl Harbor.

On this day in military 1948. Japanese Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo and six others are hanged for war crimes. Fast forward to now and imagine that one of the best headlines of 2005 will be when we learn that Saddam Hussein and six others have been hanged for crimes against humanity. Just gives you a warm fuzzy thinking about it, n'est-ce pas?


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