Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review and History Lesson

I have finished a great historical non-fiction book called: Given Up for Dead: America's Heroic Stand at Wake Island. This book was incredibly interesting and informative, as I had never even heard of Wake Island prior to reading the book.

Geographically speaking, Wake Island is actually a coral atoll comprised of 3 islands that cover only 12 miles of coastline. It is located in the Pacific Ocean, roughly between Honolulu and Guam, and close to Japan. In January 1941, the U.S. Military got the idea to occupy the island to be able to keep an eye on Japan. Mostly Marines, but also a few Naval forces occupied the island and started making-ready to defend against any suspicious activity. This was a monumental task, considering that there was minimal civilization on the island. A construction company out of Idaho had just sent 1,100 workers to "build-up" the island, but they literally had to start from scratch with everything (even water filtration/sanitation).

The Americans were quite suspicious of Japan, for good reason it turns out. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese sent bombers on an air raid over Wake Island. The date was actually December 8, 1941, because Wake is on the opposite side of the international date line from us. The Marines lost 8 of their 12 planes in the air raid, but they fought anyway. They used the 4 planes they had left and the artillery they had on the island to fight the Japanese. This battle lasted a grueling 19 days, until December 23rd, when there was a controversial surrender by the U.S. Marines. Unfortunately, communication was poor and the commander did not have an accurate picture that his Marines were actually winning the battle!

Every American on the island was taken as a prisoner of war: Marine, Navy, and civilian. They were held in various camps for 44 months! For some unknown reason, when they came back to the states, they had to sign a contract saying that they would not speak to the media or give interviews regarding the battle or their imprisonment. ??? What? In the chaos of an ending war in 1945, the economy starting to boom again, and the Cold War beginning, the Wake Island story got lost in the shuffle and has been largely untold.

I highly encourage you to read this book! It was great, and the author did tons of research to tell the story fully and accurately! Sara, you would love this one!


Sara Graham said...

AWESOME!! I will totally look for it! I had a thought about why the Marines couldn't talk about it: the military didn't want the truth of their winning the battle only to surrender to leak out. Don't put that past our government.

Also, I can't remember if this is right or not, but I think my mom's family flew into and out of Wake Island when they were moving to Thailand. I'll have to check on that, but I know Wake Island from some of their military family history.

Lissa Michelle said...

very cool. i'm normally not into non fiction so much, except for spiritual books, but this one sounds cool.