“The courageous conduct of the officers and men who defended Wake Island will not be forgotten so long as gallantry and heroism are respected and honored.” Citation of the President
“Excellent” The New York Times
On 8th December 1941, just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, thirty-six Japanese bombers attacked Wake Island and destroyed eight of its twelve aircraft.
Two more raid shortly followed, further reducing the defensive possibilities for the men who were left to defend this small area of American soil in the center of the Pacific Ocean.
Major James P. S. Devereux was the Commanding Officer of the 1st Marine Defense Battalion who faced Japanese onslaught.
The first Japanese landing attempt on the morning of 11th December was repelled by a ferocious defense put forward by Devereux and his men.
Yet although the Japanese had withdrawn without landing, they continued to bombard the island by air and sea, and there was little hope of resupply for the Americans.
For fifteen days the American troops suffered endless bombardments until the second major Japanese offensive was launched on 23rd December.
Against overwhelming forces the Marines and other troops that were stationed on the island fought valiantly, but after forty-nine men had lost their lives in the fight, the remaining American men and civilians were captured by the Japanese.
James P. S. Deveraux’s remarkable book The Story of Wake Island takes the reader to the heart of the action from the point of view of the commanding officer. It is a brilliant account of this tragic event that demonstrated the fighting spirit of the American soldier even in the face of unbeatable odds.
“His special vantage point enriches his commentary not only on the ill-fated military operation but also on the state (and spirit) of the prewar preparations to defend the island.” John J. Sbrega, The War Against Japan, 1941-1945
James P. S. Devereaux was a United States Marine Corps general, Navy Cross recipient, and Republican congressman. After the ferocious fifteen-day battle of Wake Island Devereux was interned for nearly four years in Japanese prison camps. His book The Story of Wake Island was first published in 1947 and he passed away in 1988.