Facing Fearful Odds: The Siege of Wake Island

By Gregory J. W. Urwin | Go to book overview
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XXV
"WE KNEW WE WAS IN FOR IT"

The Japanese Close In, 21-23 December 1941

"Like Giant Footsteps Coming Through"

Less than three hours after Admiral Yamaguchi's carrier squadrons attacked Wake Island, the Chitose Air Group conducted its ninth and final raid on the American garrison. At about 12:30 P.M., 21 December, Contractor Oscar Claude Lent beheld "a large wave of bombers" approaching "from the south and east" at eighteen thousand feet. Major Devereux and Captain Godbold gave the enemy's strength as eighteen G3M2S, but that figure seems too small in light of all the damage the Japanese would cause. Perhaps the best estimate came from the usually accurate Oscar Lent, whose diary disclosed: "There were about 27 planes in the group."1

Whatever their quantity, the Nell pilots finally displayed some of the tactical imagination that had been lacking since their first appearance over the atoll. Before the formation closed to within range of Batteries E and D, it split in two. At least nine Mitsubishis droned up Wake's northern leg toward the position on Peale Island that Battery D had vacated ten days earlier. The rest of the bombers headed out to sea. Baffled at first by the enemy's behavior, the American sky gunners were slow to react. After only a few seconds of hesitation, however, Battery D's height finder and director began tracking the Nells menacing Peale, and Captain Godbold's four three-inchers got off a total of thirty-five rounds. Battery E fired roughly the same number of shells at the nine bandits. Godbold happily noted a plume of smoke sprouting from one G3M2 as the Japanese V passed over his strongpoint. But the captain's satisfaction would be short-lived.

-431-

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