- Historic Sites
The Defense Of Wake
Their High Command abandoned them. Their enemy thought they wouldn’t fight. But a few days after Pearl Harbor, a handful of weary Americans gave the world a preview of what the Axis was up against.
July/August 1987 | Volume 38, Issue 5
By May 1945 the war had got too close for the Japanese prison keepers, and they put their charges on a train for Fengtai, near Peking. En route Lts. John McAHster and John Kinney, joined by two Marine officers from the North China Station and a Flying Tiger pilot, worked their way out of a boxcar and jumped free. They groped about in the countryside until they made contact with elements of the Communist Chinese 4th Army, who led them to an airfield where an American C-47 flew them home.
During their imprisonment the remaining Americans received little news from the outside, although a homemade radio built by Lieutenant Kinney brought them tantalizing snatches of information on the progress of the war. It was not until they were shunted from a camp in Pusan to the home islands of Japan that they realized their suffering must soon be over. In the summer of 1945, while being shipped by train across Japan to work scrabbling for coal in a mine in Hakodate, they stopped briefly outside Tokyo. The guards told them anyone caught looking outside the window would be shot, but Pfc. Henry Chapman decided to risk it. He saw a dull-eyed Japanese woman standing by the tracks holding a dead baby in her arms. Behind her Tokyo was a smoldering trash heap.
On September 5 the war was over for both captives and captors as the prison guards at Hakodate were disarmed.
The next day, Major Devereux had the members of the Marine 1st Defense Battalion fall in and led them in closeorder drill.