"THE MOST ISOLATED PLACE IN THE WORLD"
At 8:10 P.M. on 18 October 1941, the USSCastor backed away from Berth M-4 at Merry's Point in Pearl Harbor. Though named for a figure in Greek mythology and the brightest star in the Gemini group, there was nothing heavenly about the Castor. It was an ordinary Navy workhorse, a squat, graceless cargo vessel with a standard speed of fifteen knots. Long booms for loading and unloading freight sprouted from the top deck, and as it sailed along, the ship resembled an overweight water spider.
The Castor left Pearl Harbor that Saturday evening a crowded ship. Earlier in the day, it had taken on 321 Marines for delivery to Johnston and Wake Islands, two distant outposts in the Hawaiian Naval Coastal Frontier. When the Castor glided by Honolulu around 10:30, dozens of Leathernecks must have congregated along the port side, leaning over the rail to watch the bright lights beckoning to them from the receding shore. They could picture their luckier comrades enjoying liberty in that exotic town's honky-tonk district, a mile-long strip of bars, brothels, and other clip joints known as Hotel Street.1
First Lt. Woodrow Milton Kessler was one of the nine officers assigned to the Marine detachment the Castor carried to Wake Island. A happily married man, he did not pine for the fleshpots of Honolulu. His thoughts focused on the job that lay ahead. He knew Wake was unfortified, and that meant backaches and blisters for the 194 enlisted men in his party. They would spend their days filling sandbags and piling them around gun emplacements.2