- 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
Most accounts of the defense of Wake are, like the action itself, scrappy, incomplete, fragmentary, and contradictory. Both American commanders, Devereux and Cunningham, published memoirs (Cunningham: Wake Island Command; Devereux: The Story of Wake Island), and while they are interesting as personal documents, neither settles the controversy between the two officers.
Lt. Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr., USMC, published a useful post-action monograph for the Department of Defense entitled The Defense of Wake. Not surprisingly, it comes down heavily on Devereux’s side. The only book-length treatment of the action,Wake Island: The Heroic, Gallant Fight by Duane Schultz (St. Martin’s Press, 1978), contains a good deal of useful information, although it suffers from an almost total acceptance of Cunningham’s position. Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison’s account of the battle in The Rising Sun in the Pacific: 1931-April 1942, volume three in his History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, may be somewhat dated, but it remains the standard.