Facing Fearful Odds: The Siege of Wake Island

By Gregory J. W. Urwin | Go to book overview

XXIII
"WE LIVED AND SLEPT ON THE GUNS"

The Garrison's Hopes Raised and Dashed, 20-21 December 1941

"One Day Ran into the Next"

Whenever Wake's defenders tried to relive their combat experiences in the years following the war, they tended to remember the middle of the siege as one big blur. Pfc. Leonard Mettscher summed up the general sentiment among his fellow Marines: "One day ran into the next, just about." Unremitting fatigue caused most of the gaps in the Wake Islanders' recollections. "As the days passed & the siege continued," asserted Sgt. Donald Malleck, "I am certain most of us were mostly numb--we had things to do--we did them mechanically--and thought mostly of rest, sleep, and a forlorn wish that this bad dream would just go away. We were all so worn out that any time for thinking was used for sleep."1

According to Cpl. Bernard Richardson of Battery L, opportunities for slumber were infrequent and all too brief. "You couldn't sleep in the daytime," he complained, "and sleeping at night was constantly interrupted by both worry and watches." Pfc. Erwin Pistole, a machine gunner posted near Battery L, knew exactly what Richardson was experiencing. "There was always something waking you up if you got a little sleep," he testified. "And you were about half scared to go asleep. You only slept when you were exhausted anyway."2

Enemy flying boats scourged peale island so often that the Leathernecks of Battery B found it increasingly difficult to relax at night. Pvt. Edward Sturgeon could not sleep for more than two hours at a time no matter how quiet it was. He knew of no one in the battery who got as much as four

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