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Wake Island 1941 (Campaign) [Paperback]

Jim Moran
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Sep 2011 Campaign (Book 144)
"Wake Island 1941: A Battle to Make the Gods Weep".

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey (20 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849086036
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849086035
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 18.3 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 699,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A battle to make the gods weep 9 Nov 2011
By Dave History Student TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
In the introduction Wake Island, a V shaped island, and its neighbors Peale and Wilkes Islands are topographically described as well as its history of the last two hundred years. It also describes the USN's involvement on the atoll since the 1930s. These early pages will set the stage for the US defensive preparation for the expected war with Japan, the invasion, occupation and the eventual Japanese surrender in September 1945. A further preliminary discussion is made of the pros and cons of keeping Wake Island as a forward military outpost in the central Pacific as well as the growing utility as a commercial / military stopover for air traffic going to China and the Philippines.
Following this introduction, a three page chronology allows the reader to study the key events before actually reading the battle campaign.

The next three chapters - Opposing Commanders, Forces and Plans- consume 20 pages. It may not sound like a lot but it was adequate to cover this desperate but relatively small battle (compared to Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Peleliu).
The Japanese commanders were Adm Shigeyoshi Inoue and Rear Adm Sadamichi Kajioka. The career profiles of these two officers was quite good. On the American side Adm Kimmel, Vice Adm Pye, Cdr Cunningham, Maj Devereux and Maj Putnam. In the campaign section the bravery and deeds of other men will be discussed as well. The command controversy between Cunningham and Devereux will also be covered. FDR is mentioned later in the book. Throughout the book a lot of information is given about the men.

Opposing Forces details the American garrison of around 400 men and the larger Japanese inter-service invasion forces. It also describes the small arsenal the Americans had to repulse the land, sea and air contingents.
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By Maciej TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The campaign of Wake Island, which took place between 8 and 23 December 1941, was not a very large battle, but definitely an extremely dramatic one - and American defenders of this little atoll deserve every single word of respectful praise they ever received. Any book about this battle should be - and always will be - measured to the highest standards. In the case of this book, as frequently in case of Osprey Campaign titles when they describe smaller engagements, the test is passed with flying colors, because this is an EXCELLENT, COMPREHENSIVE and WELL WRITTEN thing!

The description of events is well done and I believe that the space allowed by the limits of Osprey Campaign titles was used optimaly. There is no filler, no useless digressions, no redundant descriptions of distant events - every available place was used to place there something useful. Maps are VERY GOOD, illustrations are EXCELLENT and the three colour tables by Peter Dennis are GORGEOUS - they show "Hammering Hank" Elrod's F4 Wildcat downing a Japanese bomber, American coastal battery in action with sinking destroyer "Hayate" visible on the horizon and finally Japanese SNLF (marines) landing at night on 23 December 1941, under heavy American fire.

Contested points like Devereux-Cunningham controversy and Admiral Pye's decision to recall the relief force are well described - even if in my personal opinion author goes a little bit easy on American commander in this latter point...

Bottom line, this is a GREAT Osprey Campaign title, which I recommend enthusiastically! Enjoy!
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A battle to make the gods weep 27 Sep 2011
By Dave Schranck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In the introduction Wake Island, a V shaped island due west of Pearl, and its neighbors Peale and Wilkes Islands are topographically described as well as its history of the last two hundred years. It also describes the USN's involvement on the atoll since the 1930s. These early pages will set the stage for the US defensive preparation for the expected war with Japan, the invasion, occupation and the eventual Japanese surrender in September 1945. A further preliminary discussion is made of the pros and cons of keeping Wake Island as a forward military outpost in the central Pacific as well as the growing utility as a commercial / military stopover for air traffic going to China and the Philippines.
Following this introduction, a three page chronology allows the reader to study the key events before actually reading the battle campaign.

The next three chapters - Opposing Commanders, Forces and Plans- consume 20 pages. It may not sound like a lot but it was adequate to cover this desperate but relatively small battle (compared to Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Peleliu).
The Japanese commanders were Adm Shigeyoshi Inoue and Rear Adm Sadamichi Kajioka. The career profiles of these two officers was quite good. On the American side Adm Kimmel, Vice Adm Pye, Cdr Cunningham, Maj Devereux and Maj Putnam. In the campaign section the bravery and deeds of other men will be discussed as well. The command controversy between Cunningham and Devereux will also be covered. FDR is mentioned later in the book. Throughout the book a lot of information is given about the men.

Opposing Forces details the American garrison of around 400 men and the larger Japanese inter-service invasion forces. It also describes the small arsenal the Americans had to repulse the land, sea and air contingents. It also covers the build up of the garrison and the island defenses. An Order of Battle is included for both sides that includes all services.

In the 54 page battle section, the author delivers a daily chronicle of the 16 day siege that includes the repeated Japanese naval and aerial bombardment, followed by the landings. The bravery of the small American garrison including the 12 pilots in defending the island against the larger enemy force as it finally sweeps across the atoll is told well. It also includes the American counter-attacks and the sinking and or damaging of a number of Japanese ships. The relief task force, TF 14, is also described but it was too late to help, arriving after the island surrendered and was ordered back to Pearl. Sub activity is also included.

There were eight maps: five 2-D and three 3-D. The maps are colorful and helpful in following the battle action. The first map shows the Western Pacific followed by the Wake Island sector where you can study tracks of the Japanese ships as well as the American relief task forces. The rest of the maps drill down to the atoll and segments of the island. The two page 3-D maps include comments to describe the action on the map. Mr Dennis also did a nice job on the three action scenes.

There are many good photos of key people, the island, the guns, ships and planes. There were also two simple but interesting photos of Japanese pistols and rifles that will interest some.

There is a small Bibliography and Index as well. Mr Moran covers a lot of ground in this small book and as such would be a great place to start to learn about this battle. If you decide further reading is desired a book from the Bibliography or perhaps the full length book by Bill Sloan would be helpful.

Mr Moran does a nice job in delivering both operational and personal details in this sub 100 page book, providing concise but adequate background info of the island, its history, the importance of the air field and its central Pacific location. The tactical plans are given for each side as well as how the island fits in with the larger strategic plans of the Japanese conquest of the Pacific. On the American side, an explaination of the steps that were taken to fortify and defend the island and how the attack on Pearl Harbor degraded the plans to relieve the island. This attack along with the attack on Pearl Harbor the day before galvanized the will of the American people. A number of examples of American bravery is also presented.
If you have an interest in the events of Wake Island, this would be a well rounded primer to consider.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Combat Narrative 18 Oct 2011
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Japanese efforts to subdue the tiny American garrison on Wake Island in the central Pacific in December 1941 is generally regarded as one of the few bright spots on the Allied ledger for the opening months of the Pacific War. American propagandists, desperate for any bit of good news after the Pearl Harbor disaster and bad news from the Philippines, were quick to focus on the U.S. Marine defenders on Wake who repulsed the initial Japanese attempt to seize the island. In Osprey's Wake Island 1941, author Jim Moran shows that the reality was a bit different. The siege of Wake lasted barely two weeks and other than the successful defense against the first invasion attempt on 11 December, most of the rest of the siege was pretty bleak for the defenders. Furthermore, Moran details that the island was actually under US Navy command and that there was a small US Army presence on the island as well. While Moran relies primarily on official US records for his narrative, the real selling point of this volume is the numerous current color photos of Wake taken by the author during a visit to the island in 2009. These photos, ranging from old bunkers and artillery pieces to the invasion area and monuments, add an interesting `After the Battle' feel to the volume. Overall, the author provides a dramatic, first-person kind of narrative that many readers should appreciate, although it is a bit weak on analysis.

In the standard introductory sections, the author lays out the strategic setting that led to the Wake Island campaign, the opposing leaders, forces and plans. Even though the US Hepburn Board had provided $7.5 million in 1938 to build an airbase on Wake, the US military did not actually take action to deploy U.S. Marines to the island until August 1941. However, the Marine garrison was still under 400 men by December 1941 and the first fighter squadron (VMF-211) did not arrive until four days before the war began. Despite the fact that Wake Island had been identified as a critical facility in event of war in the Pacific, the U.S. military was very slow to put plans or forces in place to defend it. In essence, Wake Island was lost before the war even began and no amount of heroism was guying to buy back squandered time or failure to provide adequate resources (like barbed wire - not exactly an expensive or scarce resource). Meanwhile, the Japanese were massing air and naval forces in the central Pacific, with the intent of seizing Wake at the outset of the war (the author doesn't mention whether the U.S. cracking of the JN-25b code provided any early warning about Wake).

The 54-page campaign narrative is the bulk of the volume and provides very tactical coverage of each action. The author also effectively combines Japanese accounts and information with U.S. accounts to produce a fairly seamless narrative. My only concerns with this volume is the lack of analysis and the lack of overall statistics on combat casualties. The Japanese landings on Wake were one of the very few times that SNLF troops conducted serious opposed amphibious assaults in the Second World War and the Japanese did not do very well. Japanese success at Wake was based on numbers and tenacity, not tactical skill. If the Marines had emplaced barbed wire obstacles on the beach and had enough machineguns to provide interlocking fields of fire, both landing attempts would have failed. There is no indication that the SNLF brought ANGLICO-type teams ashore to coordinate air support and naval gunfire and Japanese amphibious tactics appear reminiscent of Gallipoli in 1915. On the other hand, the ridiculous US effort to `relieve' Wake was a half-hearted gesture, since even if the Saratoga task group had succeeded, the delivery of 200 more Marines and a dozen Brewster Buffaloes certainly going to change the fact that the Japanese could plaster the island at will. The volume has a total of five 2-D maps (situation in the Pacific, December 1941; Wake Island defensive positions; naval situation around Wake Island, December 8-23, 1941; situation on Wake and Wilkes Island, 1300-0400 hours 23 December 1941; situation on Wake Island at time of surrender) and three 3-D BEV maps (attempted Japanese landings, 11 December 1941; fighting on Wilkes Island, 23 December 1941; Japanese landings, 23 December 1941) that fully support the narrative. In particular, the small scope of the battle lends itself well to 3-D map visualization. The three battle scenes by Peter Dennis (Captain `Hammering Hank' Elrod bags his second Japanese bomber, 10 December 1941; battery L sinks the Hayate early dawn, 11 December 1941; Maizuru landing force suffers heavy casualties from Hanna's gun, 23 December 1941) are excellent, as usual.

The defense of Wake Island helped to demonstrate American resolve - well sort of, if you don't include the relief attempt - but it was a hopeless action from the start. This volume also helps to frame the issue of what happens when a nation states a defense requirement but then fails to enact timely measures to make it a viable strategy. In 1941, the U.S. wanted air bases in the central Pacific, but made no real effort to defend Guam or Wake until just before the balloon went up - dooming their small garrisons to captivity and handing the Japanese air bases paid for by the U.S. taxpayers.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise but Informative Review of Elusive Subject 29 Dec 2011
By MammaGiulia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book covers an obscure battle at the beginning of the war in the Pacific over a small Atoll in the Central Pacific that itself has become forgotten and nearly abandoned. The author details the geographical background of the location as well as as a short bio of its personalities and a discussion of its order of battle. Then, in chronological order it goes on to describe the events of the engagements, bombardments, conquest and ultimate fate of the combatants.

What is interesting is that writing a book on the topic would be very difficult without a person having visited the island itself, and the island cannot be visited without special permission which is usually only granted to specialized WW-2 tours. Kudos on the photographs that the reader will appreciate to breathe life into his story, using explanations of formations of Japanese bombers like "this is what the ground forces might have seen". Also noteworthy are the author's own photographs of memorials, panoramas, and various buildings or sights on the modern day island (at least as of his trip in 2009 AD). Deserving of praise is the discussion of the chain of command, the complexity of the composition of the islands defenders that spanned Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force as well as many civilians. This spawned controversies after the war of who was involved, and who deserved and eventually won medals, which many of the non Marine Corps combatants were actually overlooked and never go the credit they deserved.

There are other books that are more detailed and exhaustively descriptive of the topic. Any grognard or history buff will have their shelves literally brimming with such tomes. The beauty of the Osprey type books is their simplicity and ease of reading. So while not authoritative, the Wake Island 1941 installment is a pleasure to read, highly informative and deals with subject matter that is not easily available because of the author's own personal insights from his very own visit there. Definitely worth purchasing
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake Island 28 Nov 2011
By K. Schneider - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What can be said about the Battle for Wake Island...that hasnt been said before...There are several great books written about the Wake Island.

Here the authors work with in a limited scope to get alot of information into a small booklet. And I have to say that did an excellent job.

For anyone just starting out reading about WW2 and the US Navys first " gallent hour" this booklet give it to you "ten times over". While it is an easy read it will leave you wanting more and there is plenty of information out there to find it.

Osprey's campaign books and other series are bring information in an easy to read format...Enjoy it....
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Narrative of this Valiant Defensive Battle 5 Feb 2012
By Mike Dillemuth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author, Jim Moran did an excellent job on this book. His narrative is both succinct and well focused. Each part of this campaign is described in just the right amount of detail, not too much and not too little. Given the limited space available in an Osprey book, Mr. Moran's ability to successfully identify and describe the most important parts of the battle is noteworthy.

The book has three 3D birds' eye view maps and five 2D tactical maps. These maps are very well drawn. The 2D maps are uncluttered and provide just the right amount of detail. In combination, these maps and the text give the reader a clear picture of the battle.

One negative point is that the maps are not always co-located with the associated text. The book has a 3D bird's eye view map of the Wilkes Island Battle on pages 50-51. The narrative of this battle, however, is not provided until pages 84-85. All in all, this is a minor criticism. Nevertheless, this map would have been far more helpful had it been placed next to the relevant text.

This book has a wide assortment of black and white photos. Of note is that there are several interesting pictures from the Japanese side. The book also contains several color photos of the island today.

Bottom line: This book is concise, interesting, and very well written. The narrative flows like a novel. The maps and photos are relevant, uncluttered, and informative. As such, they do an excellent job of complementing the narrative. All in all, this is one of the better books in the Osprey Campaign series on the War in the Pacific.
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