Facing Fearful Odds: The Siege of Wake Island

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

XXVI
"THIS REMINDS ME OF A WILD WEST SHOW"

Wilkes Stands Firm, 23 December 1941

"The Orders Were to Seize Wake Island at All Costs"

Less than forty hours after leaving Ruotta Anchorage, Admiral Kajioka's reconstituted Wake Invasion Force found itself close to its objective. At 9:30 P.M., 22 December, a signals specialist on the flagship Yubari cheered the rest of the flotilla by flashing: "Only 30 nautical miles to WAKE." The Japanese needed the encouragement because they had just run into the belt of rough weather that swept over Wake Island that night. "The terrific wind whistled over the mast," related Kiyoshi Ibushi, a reporter with the invasion force. "The angry waves tossed the ships around as if they were toys."1

Kajioka's second plan for capturing Wake Island was as cautious as his first had been foolhardy. Special Naval Landing Force units would aim their primary thrust against the southern shore of the main islet, where the barrier reef lay closest to the beach. The thwarted invasion attempt on 11 December had taught Kajioka a lesson about Marine gunnery. The admiral had no intention of repeating his mistakes. His career could not survive another failure. Therefore, Kajioka gave up any idea of bulling his way ashore in broad daylight. Nor did he desire to slug it out at close quarters with the Marines' seacoast batteries. In fact, Kajioka preferred to avoid exchanging salvos with Wake's artillery at any range. He decided to conduct landing operations in the dead of night, with only the roar of the surf and the darkness to shield his SNLF troops. To preserve the element of surprise, Kajioka ordered the Yubari and his destroyers to hang back and refrain from using their radios except when absolutely necessary.

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