The siege of Wake Island, 8-23 December 1941, was a relatively small affair, but it had a powerful effect on this nation's morale. The fight for Wake did not greatly alter the course of the Pacific war, but it took on a symbolic importance that outweighed its strategic consequences. The stubborn defense of the atoll lifted the spirits of the American people and affirmed their desire to avenge Pearl Harbor. Thanks to government propaganda and a cooperative media, the Wake Island campaign assumed a mythic quality before it even ended. Continuing press attention and a popular Hollywood film about the atoll's defense stirred American pride, increasing both Marine Corps recruiting and war-bond sales. Today, the last-stand quality of the Wake battle still attracts widespread interest.
Facing Fearful Odds is based on interviews and correspondence gathered from more than seventy of Wake's American defenders and on research in archival and printed sources. This study attempts to correct the myths that shroud what happened on the atoll.
On one level, this is a conventional campaign history. It explains how America's ambitions in the Pacific Ocean and the rise of airpower endowed a barren coral strip with strategic value. The book covers the planning and political struggles that began Wake Island's transformation into a naval air station and submarine base, the U.S. Navy's eleventh-hour efforts to garrison and fortify Wake, and the various air, sea, and land attacks that resulted in the atoll's capture by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
I have parted with convention, however, in how I reconstruct the battle for Wake. Most military history is told from the top down, resting on