History of Wake Island

Controversy revolves around the tropical paradise of Wake Island, part of Eneen-Kio Atoll, the collection of three islands also known as Wake Atoll, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The island is claimed by both the United States and the Marshall Islands. It is further claimed as an independent sovereignty in the name of the Kingdom of EnenKio.

Wake Island

The World Factbook, published by the CIA, states that the 2.5-square-mile Wake Island has no arable land, no crops, no forests or woodland, no indigenous inhabitants.

The population consists (as of the latest record from January 2001) of only one US Army civilian and 123 civilian contractor personnel. The island is economically insignificant, as all food and manufactured goods must be imported.

There is no domestic or international telephone system, no radio service, no television broadcasting. There isn’t even a harbor. However, despite its lack of agriculture or an economy, the island is rich in historical significance, warranting a lengthy and subsequently fascinating lesson on the history of Wake Atoll.

Discovered by Spain

According to Theodore Leverett’s history of the island on the Flags of the World website, “Wake Island was first discovered by the Spaniard Álvaro de Mendana in 1586, who named it San Francisco and claimed it in the name of the King of Spain. This claim was internationally recognized, the atoll being viewed as worthless…

In 1796 the Englishman Captain Samuel Wake of the merchant vessel Prince William Henry rediscovered it. He gave the atoll its present name, also carried by its largest island… On December 20, 1840, the USS Vincennes brought the explorer Charles Wilkes and the naturalist Titian Peale to the island where they conducted a series of surveys and eventually lent their names to the other two islands of the atoll…

The Treaties of Paris and Washington

During the Spanish-American War, an American troop convoy bound for the Philippines (then owned by Spain) stopped off at Wake. Major General Francis V. Greene hoisted the Stars and Stripes, then with 45 stars, there on July 4, 1898… The subsequent peace treaty [signed with Spain in December 1898 and approved by the US Senate in February 1899] which ended the war transferred Wake to the United States.”

The Treaty of Paris, signed by officials from the United States of America and the Spanish Empire on December 10, 1898, relinquished all Spanish claim of sovereignty over and title to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the island of Guam in the Marianas, all islands in the West Indies under Spanish sovereignty, and all islands within approximately 116 degrees and 127 degrees longitude east near and including the Philippine Island archipelago.

Concept and Diagram © Richard D. LeCour
Satellite Imagery © TerraMetrics

An amendment three years later (the Treaty of Washington) added several additional islands located southwest of the island chain of Palawan that had been omitted from the original treaty. No other specific islands or locations of any kind were mentioned.

Wake Island did not fall within the boundaries of either the Treaty of Paris of 1898 or the Treaty of Washington of 1900 as the atoll is located at approximately 166 degrees of longitude east of Greenwich.

This directly contradicts the common misconception that Wake Island was included in the spoils of war between the United States and Spain, as insisted upon by such historians as Stanley K. Schultz, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, but the language of both treaties is indisputable — neither of them include the tiny atoll 1,300 nautical miles east of Guam.

Wake as a US Military Base

However the island was acquired, the US Navy recognized the potential of Wake as a military base and contributed both materially and financially to the construction of Pan American facilities.

John Godfrey Borger
Photo © The Borger Family

The historical recollections of the original Pan American World Airways and the newsletter of The Pan Am Historical Foundation quote the then 21-year-old Junior Assistant Engineer for the S.S. North Haven, regarding the initial construction of the airbase.

“On March 27, 1935, the S.S. North Haven embarked from San Francisco for Honolulu, Midway, Wake, Guam, and Manila, to prepare bases for Pan Am’s flying boats to cross the Pacific. Wake was totally uninhabited; all we had on it were a hydrographic chart with no detail, and an article in National Geographic magazine…

We loaded into the ship 12 prefabricated buildings for Midway, and 12 for Wake. We loaded for each base two diesel engines to generate electricity, two windmills to pump water up and get water pressure, a Caterpillar tractor with interchangeable bulldozer blade and crane, and 4,000-gallon tanks for both aviation gas and water… On the deck we loaded two 38-foot power launches, one for Midway and one for Wake, and a 26-foot launch for Guam, intended for air-sea rescue…

Wake is made up of three islands. It’s true it was uninhabited except for birds; we had to wear hats. We’d planned to put the station on Wilkes Island, which is open to the sea, but the survey team found it was too low in the water. So was Wake Island. But Peale Island, on the far side of the lagoon, was okay. We unloaded the cargo into a storage yard on Wilkes Island, then built a 50-yard railroad (somebody by inspiration had brought light-gauge railroad track) to the lagoon. We put the small launch on a barge and, with the help of the tractor, we shoved it across the knee-deep channel between Wake and Wilkes. The launch towed the barges of cargo across the lagoon to Peale Island. Wake depended on rainfall for water, so we rigged canvases on the roofs, drained them into underground tanks, then pumped the water up to the windmills.

We had to clear the coral heads to provide a six-foot deep open landing area in the Wake lagoon for the M-130 to land. So we hung a length of a light-gauge railroad track six feet deep under a barge, and a launch towed the barge back and forth across the lagoon. When the track hit coral, it shook the barge, wakened the guy sleeping on it, and he threw a cork buoy with an anchor to mark the spot. Then Bill Mullahey and I, in a rowboat, rowed out to the buoys. Bill put on goggles he’d made out of bamboo, took a bamboo spear, and dove down and inspected the coral head… Bill surfaced and said, give me six, or eight, sticks of dynamite, dove back down and tied them to the coral. He resurfaced, I rowed us upwind as far as we could, and he pressed a magneto button and blew up the coral. We rowed back, picked up the fish the blast had killed, and brought them back for dinner. We did this [until] we cleared a pie-shaped landing area [where we] built a 400-foot dock.”

— John G. Borger

After the completion of the airbase and a 48-room hotel, Wake Island became one of the stopping points on regular Pan American flights for servicing and refueling of the famous “Pan Am Clippers”, four-engined flying boats. Pan American published a 24-page brochure in 1937 to promote the transpacific China Clipper service from San Francisco to Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island, Guam, Manila, and its final destination of Hong Kong.

“A tiny pinpoint on the vast Pacific’s map — five thousand miles from America’s mainland. A land unheard of until a few years ago — uninhabited, until the coming of the airway pioneers — became the scene of one of the most dramatic struggles in the history of American transportation. Here hardship, toil and thrilling courage overcame tremendous odds to set in final place four thousand tons of materials. Scarcely eight hours from Midway — another change in time — you are ashore in the early afternoon and the island is yours to explore… Down paths lined with magnolia are living quarters for the base staff, the power plant, the big refrigerators, a little hospital, a pergola where you will find an unusual collection of the little atoll’s lore – bits from ancient sailing craft that came to grief on the treacherous reefs that so effectively shelter the lagoon’s water for the flying clipper ships; heaps of coral in fantastic designs; sea shells of every form. Along the arcs of glistening beach you can find all these for yourself — and perhaps a dozen little hollow balls of glass — floats from Japanese fishing nets that have drifted half way across the Pacific…

Wake Island, so newly added to the world’s travel map, is already becoming a favorite vacation spot for travel-wise voyageurs. A beautiful, unspoiled land a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. A land reserved to those who fly, where every comfort and convenience, excellent food and expert attention are as much a part of your stay as the breath-taking sunsets, the soft thundering of the sea and its magnificent thirty-foot surf. Not soon can one forget these rainbow waters, soft deep sands, the friendly sun, the cool sweet trade winds blown from across the broadest sea.”

James W. Wensyel, in his article titled Odyssey Of The Wake Island Prisoners, states that the US Navy never lost sight of Wake Island’s military potential and turned the commercial airfield into a full-fledged defensive fortification, complete with 449 Marines, 71 Naval personnel, 5 Army radio operators, and 12 fixed-wing Grumman F4F-3 Wildcats fighter planes, all under the overall command of Commander Winfield S. Cunningham.

Japan Seizes Wake in World War II

“War with Japan was imminent, and an airstrip on Wake, about 2,000 miles west of Hawaii, would allow American heavy bombers to strike the Japanese-controlled Marshall Islands. And, if Guam were lost to the Japanese, Wake would be one of the closest American outposts to the Japanese mainland… [Early on the morning of December 8, 1941,] at 8:50 the Marines raised the American flag on its staff, something Marines did every morning all over the world… Not long after the flag raising, 36 Japanese Mitsubishi G3M2 Nell bombers crossed Wake in three V-formations. Soon their fragmentation bombs, accompanied by a steady drumming of machine-gun fire, tore the island to pieces… Japanese land-based aircraft from Roi in the Marshalls, later joined by aircraft from approaching Japanese carriers, pounded the atoll day after day. Before each attack, a dwindling number of American Wildcat fighters rose to meet them.

At 3 a.m. on December 11, a Japanese invasion task force commanded by Rear Adm. Sadamichi Kajioka, consisting of a light cruiser, six destroyers, two troop carriers and two armed merchantmen, confidently approached Wake’s beaches. Marine gunners let them close to 4,500 yards before their 5-inch naval guns opened fire. Their patience was rewarded with the sinking of one Japanese destroyer and damaging of the cruiser and three additional destroyers.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy National Archives

Kajioka retreated, now knowing that Wake would not be taken without a fight. By the 21st, the last of the Wildcats had been destroyed in dogfights over the atoll… Japanese airplanes now roamed over the island at will, pounding American positions in preparation for a renewed attempt to seize the atoll.

In the dark, rain-swept early morning hours of December 23rd, Kajioka returned, his fleet bolstered by four heavy cruisers and various other warships, including landing craft, to assault Wake’s beaches with more than 900 well-trained infantrymen of the Special Naval Landing Force. At 2:35 a.m., the first Japanese landing barge ground ashore.

Soon a desperate battle was being fought across the atoll between groups of men fighting with rifles, bayonets, grenades and fists. The Americans fought hard, but more Japanese landed and pushed them toward the island’s center… Reports from the three islands were discouraging; there were simply too many Japanese and too few Americans… Cunningham, as the ranking officer, made the inevitable decision to surrender… Stunned defenders threw away rifle bolts, destroyed delicate range-finding instruments, drained hydraulic fluid from recoil cylinders and then surrendered. Eighty-one Marines, eight sailors and 82 civilian construction workers had been killed or wounded. The Japanese, however, paid a heavy price for their victory. The fight for Wake Island had cost them two destroyers and one submarine sunk, seven additional ships damaged, 21 aircraft shot down and almost 1,000 men killed.

Enraged by their losses, the Japanese treated their prisoners — military and civilian — brutally. Some were stripped naked, others to their underwear. Most had their hands tied behind their backs with telephone wire, with a second wire looped tightly from their necks to their wrists so that if they lowered their arms they would strangle themselves… The prisoners were then jammed into two suffocating concrete ammunition bunkers. Later they were herded to the airstrip and made to sit, naked, on the blistering hot concrete. When the Japanese set up machine guns nearby, most of the prisoners expected to be executed. That night, bone-chilling winds replaced the heat. The prisoners sat there, still waiting for food, water or medical treatment. The unfortunate prisoners remained sitting on the airstrip for two days. Finally, they were given food, much of it spoiled by the heat, and water, contaminated from being placed in unclean gasoline drums. Piles of assorted clothing seized earlier were placed before them… After returning his prisoners’ clothes, Kajioka, resplendent in white dress uniform and gleaming samurai sword, read a proclamation to the assembled prisoners. When he concluded, a Japanese interpreter informed the Americans that ‘the Emperor has graciously presented you with your lives.'”

After World War II

The defense of Wake was testimony to the valor and professionalism of the Marine garrison and its officers, December 11th being the only successful thwarting of an attempted amphibious landing by enemy forces in the Pacific throughout the war. The tale of the heroic battle for Wake Island inspired American soldiers worldwide. Almost four long years later, World War II ended, the prisoners were released, and control of the island was returned to the United States by the Japanese.

After a 7000-foot runway was paved over the existing coral runway in 1949, the island base also played a key role as a refueling stop for aircraft during the Korean War. And, as a result of the foresighted runway lengthening in 1959 to 9800 feet, the island was able to participate in Desert Storm in 1991, once again as a fueling station. Today, the former commercial airbase is used primarily by the US Army Space and Strategic Defense Command and for emergency landings of trans-Pacific flights. There are over 700 landings a year on the island.

An understanding of the history of Wake Island is fundamental for understanding the claims made by the Marshall Islands and the Kingdom of EnenKio.

229 Responses to “History of Wake Island”

  1. Joe O'Brien


    This entry is directed towards Mike Harris, previous entry #172 from October of last year. I was doing a little research on Wake Island and found this post.

    How nice of you to recall (and mention) Kerry O’Brien whom you said was a good friend while you were on Wake. Kerry was my older brother. I’m sad to say he passed away about 7 years ago. He was only 67. But if he were still alive I know he would leave an entry here, since he had so many fond memories of Wake Island. Luckily, I can share some of them since I also spent some time on Wake during 1968.

    Kerry was on Wake for 10 years and often said it was the best 10 years of his life. He was a Senior Controller for most of that time and worked in Air Operations for FMC. FAA and FMC were the largest employers on the island. He encouraged me to hire on since I had an aircraft control background, and worked for Qantas Airlines in Honolulu as a dispatcher as well. Kerry worked for Aloha Airlines in Honolulu just prior to Wake Island.

    Here is a link to my favorite picture of him, probably walking from the chow hall, or maybe the Drifters Reef.


    At the time I was there, Dryer and Skates were running the show. I also recall a fellow named Ben Long who was in management as well. The name Lovelace also rings a bell, but I don’t remember the title. All were upper management. I remember Senior Controllers Dìçk Adams, John Rivera (from Guam), and Terry Reyher. Dispatchers Doc Hubert and Jim Gerstel, flight planners Ellis Villalobos, Frank Gradillias, and Claude Bell. There are folks I also recall, but not from Flight Operations. Long time Island resident Tom Watkins, Tom (or Ted) Wright, Bill and Eddie Freeman, and the Bingham family. It’s hard remembering back so many years.

    Kerry made quite an impression on those who knew him. He left Wake after 10 years in 1975 (I think), worked for 18 months on Kwajalain, then worked in the US for a few years. Then he worked for Aramco in Saudi Arabia for about 10 years and retired with them about 1992. Back to work as a consultant for Universal Weather & Aviation, based in Houston, but lived and worked in Saudi still. When he did retire, he chose the small southwestern town of Masilla, New Mexico. If he could have, he’d have moved back to Wake Island for retirement. He loved Wake Island.

    Joe O’Brien

  2. Stacey A. Keliihoomalu

    Hi I was told in my childhood that my mother(Evelyn)was raised in Wakeisland with my grandparents you might of heard of Them…Henry Keliihoomalu & Dorothy Nani Aki Keliihoomalu…I heard that he had a secret name called “Big Duke”. I was really small back then when he was still present, god rest his soul. That he had build lights for the whole island and that I had followed in his foot steps working on the island of Maui, Hawaiian Commercial Sugar Co. As a power plant operator & mechanic. If any of you who do has pictures or any details back when they were staying there I would appreciate that you could share that info with me. I would like to share back with my mother once again before she moves on to join the rest of the family with god…

    • Clem Monge

      I was on Wake Island during the last phase prior to closing the Island. I was there from early 1971 to 1973. I was one of the last six FAA employees with the task of shutting down FAA Ops. My wife and I had many friends on the Island from the Hawaiian Islands. I vaguely remember there was someone who went by “Big Duke” or simply “Duke.” I don’t know where Duke was from. Another note of interest was I ran the “Windy Palace” until the end. The Windy Palace was an open air movie theater. I you think Big Duke was still on Wake Island during my stay, I will be happy to search for photos and send them to you.
      Clem Monge

  3. Mike Harris

    This is for Joe O’Brien (Response #176/7 February 2009). Thanks for posting the picture of Kerry on Wake. It captures his personality perfectly and reminded me of the good times had by a bunch of friends on that little patch of land in the Pacific. I was sorry to hear of his death at such a young age – such a gentleman. Two other names I remember are the Freemans and Jim Gerstel. Bill Freeman gave me the opportunity of calling my family in England on the day that I heard I wasn’t going home for a mid-tour break. This was typical of the great people on Wake. Kerry and Jim Lovelace visited me in England about 1972 and I introduced them to my family. Needless to say both those men made quite an impression.

    Just recently I was looking at Google Earth with my grandaughter Megan (9 years old). I showed her Wake Island and zoomed in on Drifters Reef, the chow hall and the place where I used to park my jeep. “It looks fantastic” she said. It was.

  4. Richard and Virginia White

    I lived on Wake Island from Mid 1968 until Mid 1971. I was an Air Traffic Controller at the IFSS and worked for Al Tara. My wife, Virginia, was a teacher at the Wake Island School. My son, Ricky, started kindergarten on Wake and his teacher was Ruth Whitty. He also attended the 1st and 2nd grade there before we left. Mr Calvin Snodgrass was principal. Wake was the place to be!! Wonderful!! I suppose it was the roughly 2000 people of all different races that really made the island. We had to work hard during the height of the Viet Nam War but we all had so much fun. The Windy Palace Theater, finally, the new FAA Club and then the beautiful patio that was built on that would seat 700 people. It was covered and had a large stage for plays, variety shows, fashion shows, etc. We had more to do than we could handle. So many great patio parties at different peoples house, the tennis with Bennie Marcello, Al Tara, Daryl Kahn, Paul Coniglio, Leroy Skaug,etc. Virginia and I sang a lot at various functions with Virginia being the Uke player, and a mighty good one if I may say. I played fast pitch softball with some really good players. The talent was as good as you would find in most middle sized towns. Teams were The Gift Shop, The FAA Comets, FMC, The Fireman, The Kincaid Kaydets and another team. We played two or three leagues a year.I had to face three pictures that are as good as any I ever faced anywhere in the states. They were Ray Caudle, Jack Larue, and Art Moses. Man, could they bring it. I was also a member of the FAA Club Board and eventually the Board chairman just after Ray Pratt, Coast Guard Commander. What a great three years for all three of us. Wake Island was the absolute best 3 years of my 35 year plus years with the FAA. You had to live there to really know the beauty of Wake Island. I would welcome hearing from anyone that ever worked or lived on Wake including the military, Air Force and Coast Guard. My E-mail address is: richardjwht2519@hotmail.com.

    We are always looking for new people to join the Wake Island Spirit Group and our reunion. Anyone that ever worked there or lived there is eligible to join. We would love to have you.

    God bless you all.

  5. Richard and Virginia White

    Carl Purpura, This is in answer to an inquiry you had on this Wake Island site. I tried to use the e-mail address you gave: purpurac@bowater.com but when I sent the message it was returned to me as not a good address. If you still check the comments on this site then I am the one you want to talk to about the crash of the KC 135 on Wake island in August or Sept., 1968. I was working as an Air Traffic Controller at the time and actually saw the wreckage a few minutes after it happened plus I knew the controller that was working the aircraft at the time and saw the records. If you read this send me an e-mail to: richardjwht2519@hotmail.com and I will give you the entire story.

    Richard White 7/22/2009.

  6. Richard and Virginia White

    Richard White, July 22, 2009

    This is in response to Byran Dyba, son of Fred Dyba, who was working on Wake island from 1968 to 1970 or 1971. I knew your dad and mom very well. My wife Virginia taught you in the Wake Island School. Before our families were allowed to come to Wake your dad and I lived together in one of the old beach houses just across from Pacific Avenue. If you read this comment contact me via e-mail at: richardjwht2519@hotmail.com. We would also like to have your and your family become members of the Wake Island Spirit and attend on of our reunions. That would be awfully nice because you could see lots of your old school mates, a few of your teachers and others that you knew.

    Richard and Virginia White – Wake Island June 1968-June 1971

  7. Richard and Virginia White

    Virginia and I were on Wake from 1968-1971. I was an Air Traffic Controller and worked for Al Tara at the IFSS. Virginia was a teacher at the Wake Island School. Of the 35 years plus that I spent with the FAA the 3 years on Wake were by far the best. Our son, Ricky, started kindergarten there and Mrs. Ruth Whitty was his teacher. He also finished 1st and 2nd grade at the school.

    It sounds like about all of you on this site are eligible to join The Wake Island Spirit. Anyone that every worked there or their family, including all military, and anyone who ever stayed on Wake for any period of time are eligible to join. We put out a newsletter about every quarter with all kinds of information about Wake and the people of Wake and we also have national reunions at different places in the 50 states. It is a great outfit to belong to. We now have members, about 400, that run from the 40’s to the 70’s. If you are interested in becoming a member please e-mail me and I will try and get your information to the right person. My e-mail address is: richardjwht2519@hotmail.com.


  8. Richard and Virginia White

    I have made about 3 post to this site and none are showing up. I take it the site is no longer being maintained. If it is, my wife and I served on Wake Island from 1968-1971 and loved every minute of it. We have an orginization called The Wake Island Spirit. We try to keep the spirit of Wake Island alive for anyone that ever worked there or was stationed there with the military, and all of the family members. If you care to join this originization please e-mail me and I will get the information to the right person. We try to send out a newsletter quarterly and hold reunions every two to three years. We have lots of scrapbooks, videos, etc. that are on display or shown at the reunions. Others are more that welcome. If you would like to become a member please e-mail me, Richard White, at: richardjwht2519@hotmail.com. Dues are only $15.00 per year to cover expenses of the newsletter and to help cover the expenses of the reunions. I worked in the IFSS with Al Tara and my wife, Virginia, taught at the Wake Island School. There was not a better place to be than Wake Island.

    Richard White

  9. Laurel Coffey

    I was on Wake from 1970-1972.I am interested in info about reunions, newletters, the Bailey brothers,Grover Brothers and friends Teresa Henley, brother Skip and sister Darline, and Lori Fujiyama, Conrad (last name unknown) and Cliff Sutton. I now live in Sterling Alaska. Wake was the best of times.

    • Clem Monge

      This message is intended for Paul Tipton –
      Your Dad and I worked at the Transmitter Site for a while. We spent many shifts together. Always liked Forest and for many years tried to find him. How is your Dad doing? Does he have e-mail?
      Clem Monge
      Former ET at FAA Transmitter Site, Wake Island

  10. Paul Tipton

    It’s amazing to encounter all these familiar names and memories after the many years since my stay on Wake in 1971 as a teenager.

    My father, Forrest Tipton worked for the FAA; my mother Martha Tipton taught at the school, and I had one of those not-too-demanding jobs that let all my pals and me go SCUBA diving each day at 4pm.

    Mike Harris, you may remember me as the skinny 18 year old red headed kid, usually with a camera hanging around his neck, frequently hanging out with Kerry O’Brien. I have some fun pictures of you and your RAF jeep and the rusty old truck that your mechanic Geoff drove and of the Vulcan aircraft that came through the island, as I recall, about once a month. If you contact me I’ll try to dig them out and send them to you.

    Joe O’Brien, I knew your brother Kerry very well, and I’m very sorry he is no longer with us. We spent many late afternoons working together at the community greenhouse, and late evenings drinking coffee and talking. We swam at the bridge near the Drifter’s Reef, and cooked hot dogs at the beach. He was a very memorable influence, was nice to spend time with me and I still think of him. I was delighted to open your link to his photo–it was very familiar to me. I may be able to find the negative if you’d like it. ptipton@tiptonjoneslaw.com.

    I’ll shout out to my daily diving buddies of that wonderful season of ’71–Frank Halas and Steve Henley. I wonder what you guys have been up to for the last 38 years.

  11. Linda (Fitzgerald) Frederick

    Hi all,

    I am also a past resident of Wake. I was there as a child (5-10 yrs old) in 1955-1960. I remember some of the names Leonard mentioned above. I also had Mii Panui as a teacher. My Mom and Dad were Marion and George Fitzgerald. My dad went mostly by Bud or Fitz. He was assistant Island Manager under Mr Munson? I think was his name. My dad was killed there in Sept 1960 at the PX when he went to answer a call for a bar fight. I have a picture of a plaque that was placed at the flagpole the following Memorial Day and a copy of the speech given that day. As I was kind of young at the time I only remember a few names and most have been previously mentioned. My best friend there was BeBe. My brothers also were there Lee and Pat Fitzgerald who were younger than me. I have noticed a few older post talking about a reunion type thing or maybe finding out if we could all return for a visit. I have had a life long dream of returning there before I die as my time there was the best of my life. It was a simpler time and way of life. I also have a few pics from there

  12. sandra (haanio) manuel

    Hello Wake Islanders. circa 1960-1966. My dad Samuel Haanio was stationed with FAA crash firefighting crew while on Wake Island. My brother Sam Jr. and myself attended school till the 9th grade. Only a few years we were there we developed a life time of memories we’ll never forget. The early morning hours before sunrise to look for glass balls. Who was it that jumped off the bridge to get to that huge glass floater floating under it? at Peale island. Water skiing in the lagoon – Ben Junker driver of the boat. The holidays were so much fun. Remember when the Air force would hold a huge Christmas Xtravaganza at the CLUB HOUSE. Every child on that island had a toy! The christmas train put together by the military. Rides around Windy Palace and pass the terminal and commissary.

    CLASSMATES many of which mentioned, so wonderful to see their names again. LINDA CLARK (annmarie and dannys sister)was there the first moring we woke from our long 12 hour journey (sigh). LEONARD KUBO, EDWIN KOKUBUN, CLAYTON NAKAMITSU, HENRY TANOUYE, RUSSELL BAILEY, BILLY JACKSON, WILLIAM VALENTINE, DENNIS STRETCH (gave me my first box chocolates-cherry cordials), BILLY EULITT, MIKE SAMUELS, DOUGLAS NAKAGAWA, RICHARD WHITE, MICHAEL GREEN. The girls JAN WEILER, PATTI MACMINN, LYNN YAMANE, KAREN PUALOA, SANDRA NUESCA, EVELYN KELIIHOOMALU, WANDA HOPP, PRIMA ESCALONA, TONNIE CASEY and myself SANDRA HAANIO. My apologies for those i’ve forgotten to mention. We were the ‘FANTASTICS’. I’m recalling all of this now and LOL. Teachers MR. GREEN (principal)Ms. Panui, Mr. Hendrickson, Mr.Furman, Mrs. Whittington, Mrs. Casey, Mr. Coe, Mr.Fujikawa. Those Christmas plays and rehearsals at the Windy Palace. I recall being a reindeer one year and a flute another. I’m still LOL. We can’t forget the USO shows put on for our service men by MR. BOB HOPE and his entourage! We were out in the middle of the Pacific on a small atoll, but we knew how to have fun and make memories. We didn’t have any Jack-in-the-box, Mcdonald’s, Taco bell to earn extra monies. We all had our own babysitting business. My kids were the ICE’s (sam, carol and eddie) and ALLEN’s (dawn, tammy and brick)there were other’s, but these families contributed to my summer splurges to shop till i drop in Honolulu.

    We lived closest to the PX.the housing fronting the beach. The families I remember correctly starting at the farthest end were PAULOS, COOKS, HAANIOS, THOMPSONS, PUNESTIS, ICES, MAKOLOS, PEREZS, KAANANAS, KANAES, GIANAKOPOLOS to name a few. CHA-CHA was that who gave dance lessons at the club house? ROSA GUZZO and her fun parties! I would get in trouble, too. Today, i still love to dance.


  13. Sterling Hays

    I was with the Coast Guard when we started TAD’s out of Barber’s Point in Honolulu. Being in the first crew, we arrived on Wake 30 September 1952 in a borrowed PB4Y-2 Privateer from the Navy. Duty was search & rescue and intercept of acft with problems. We set up 3 tents along side the road across from acft parking area. Officers, enlisted, supply. Our first tour lasted 37 days…..due to water shortage we could not wash acft and corrosion was setting in. This changed the length of duty on the island to 2 weeks each. USCG later had barracks for the crew.

    ADC Sterling Hays, USCG (ret)

  14. Raymond E. Drozd

    To All:

    I’m a 62 year old Vietnam Veteran and military retiree who has never been to Wake Atoll. However, I have spent the last five years researching five USMC and two USN KIA/BNR from the 1941-45 time period I have been in contact with JPAC in Hawaii regarding this and have forwarded circumstantial evidence that these men were not exhumed post war.

    Do any Wake Island Alumni remember Graves Registration Teams searching Wake, Wilkes, or Peale from 1945 to the present day, and did they ever uncover remains? Sadly, on a Trans Ocean Airways web site there is a photo of a young female (Stewardess?)holding a bleach white human skull, which would indicate to me they did not conduct a thorough search.

    Also, does anyone have photos that can be posted, or emailed to me covering the early 60’s when the war debris was still to be found on the Atoll? If they do, I ask that it be forwarded, not for commercial gain, but for points of reference, if a description location can be remembered and forwarded with them as well.

    Actual areas of concern are any 3 inch antiaircraft gun wreckage on the North side of Peale Islet(One Marine),secondly,the apex of Wake Islet ( the inner “V” )-anyone remember a large (bomb) crater, prior to the runway being redirected and lengthened? ( three Marines), and finally Peacock Point (the old 5 inch coast defense guns) (one Marine buried in the Battery A position). The two Navy aircrew were last seen captured alive and POW’s in the vicinity of old Camp 2 (WWII) which is in close proximity to the modern day housing/living area on the Northwest side of Wake Islet.

    Any information from your memories of Wake and specific wartime debris will be appreciated. JPAC only takes an interest when bones and bone fragments are discovered. Most remains uncovered are Japanese to date.

    Finally, does anyone recall a large bunker that was discovered/uncovered on one of the three Islets, literally a time capsule…….and then reburied? Where was it located-which Islet and where on that Islet?? Can anyone recall? There was also a NAB Wake (Island) Cemetery once. Where, specifically, was it located? Does anyone recall? Photos?

    I realize that this website is, for the most part, a social one. But if anyone can help, they can contribute in a large way by helping bring one or more servicemen finally home.

    Best Regards to All,

    Raymond E. Drozd

    United States Army (Ret)

  15. Rodney Ínëfûkû

    My thoughts returned to Wake Island when my Dad, Ronald Ínëfûkû, told me that Al Ching built a bowling alley on Wake Island. “Was good for the boys… gave them something to do.” My Dad was stationed on Wake Island during the mid-50s working for the FAA. I went to visit him for 2 weeks during the summer of ’55 I believe. There I met David Harrington who eventually went to Punahou School in Honolulu and became a bruising 195 lb fullback football star in 1960.

    The first time I went to Wake Island was in 1951 when my family was on our way to Guam to live… that’s where my Dad first worked with the CAA (before they became FAA). Our DC-4 aircraft called the N-65 which was a CAA supply and test aircraft, flew from Honolulu to Midway. There the plane refueled and we ate lunch there. Then we flew from Midway to Wake Island staying overnight. The next morning, we flew the final leg to Guam. Didn’t get to do anything around Wake Island then, but if I remember correctly, I believe the dependents who traveled stayed with FAA families who lived on the island. Coming back from Guam to Hawaii, the N-65 would again stop off in Wake Island… and we would stay overnight with another FAA family who lived there.

    Enjoyed reading the experiences of others who have been to or lived on Wake Island.

    One more thing… two of my 1961 Kailua Hi School (Hawaii) classmates also spent time as kids on Wake Island. Jean Chadsey and Joe Boyd. Joe was the 1961 440 yard run state champion.


    Rodney Ínëfûkû

    Hawaii Kai

  16. sidney kim

    dear sandra (haanio) manuel,

    It was no nice to read your comments. We lived there from 63-67 and my dad worked for FAA too. I remember all of you guys (think you were 2-3 years ahead of me) but I remember all of you.

    You’re right there were so many wonderful times there and I’ll never forget what a wonderful upbringing there was on Wake. Such wonderful family values that I’ll never forget.

    Thanks again and God Bless,


  17. sidney kim

    Read most of the comments of former Wake kids and it nearly brought tears to my eyes. I remember so many of the names of people who made comments:

    Ronnie Skates

    Kenny Samuels

    Donnie/Larry Hopp


    Tony Burris

    Ronnie Blanton

    Lynn & Cheryl Yamane

    Irvine’s, Lincoln’s, White’s, etc. Sorry if I missed some names because I don’t want to bore you all with all of the names that I remember.

    To all: thank you all for such wonderful memories. Life is just borrowed time, isn’t it. Yesterday I attended a funeral of a dear friend who died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was a pastor and one of my best friends…what a legacy that he left. I pray that most of you had a good life but I’m a realist in that many of us went in ‘not so good’ directions. Well if I can encourage any of you, take advantage of what time we left on this earth. And again, thank you for giving me such wonderful memories of yourself and please forgive me if I was a jerk to any of you. God Bless.



    I also have some fond memories , i went to wakeisland , in the late 50’s early 60’s i was there when alching built the bowling alley!couple pool tables and pin ball machines that paid off!!i was rebellious at the time being 14- 16yrs old i had brothers kendal ,roddy and sister aloha , My dad was Wendal Bayne , he was a traffic controler for FAA! i got into a lot a m ischief has a young boy there on the island , i hung around with older boys ralph fisher and some men that worked for the standard oil co.wayne kekueva, i got a job there at standard oil i worked at the barrel yard where they stored oil and equipment for the airport, i use to clean the big gas storage tanks next to wilkes isl. they vented it for a couple weeks , then they had us go in them and scrape the rust of the bottom of the tanks , it was jp4,to jp7 fuel, was very scary for me has you scrape it would spark and send chills through your body just thinking what could happen, we had protective clothing on but you could still feel the chemicals eat at your skin, even with resperators on you can still smell the strong vapors, i grew up to fast has a young man!!working with older men and treated has an equal was nice , but when i tried to go back to high school, that created a problem, when youre a man you get treated has an individual has a classmate in shcool , i one person does something wrong the whole class pays for it , so after a while of that i decided to get out and go to work!!there was a little more to it , but i decided that i wanted money the education at the time i was arounfd 15- 16 foggy times lol! Another working experience i had there on wake was that pipe line of seven pipes (6” to 12” in diameters, that run the lent of the airstrip i painted it all by myself my boss at standard oil was cigar man he ateliterally 6 huge cigars a day he would cut them in half and chew and spit all day long !When i was told his name i miss understood it has an oriental name sigaman or something like that, but soon found it out to be cigarman!!, i always had the honor of helping refuel the u2( gary powells jet that got shot at in russia) there was a lot of interesting things going on ,on wake there were some beautiful girls has in the island managers daughter,also sharon ,samantha diane white!!lynda and janet!!hmm very nice memories!! i knew the eullit boys , and kellii and a family from island hawaii mike ralph they had an older brother and sister there also!mrs. Green live across the playground from us, in the first set of faa housing that was built there in the late 50’s early 60’s, so much more to reveal, but aloha for now ! i eventually was asked actually my father was told that i had to leave the island!!was a growing experince ! lots more to tell , but maybe another time!!

  19. Roddy Bayne

    Aloha, Just found this site from My brother Ken by way of Samuels. Part of the “kids” that grew up on Wake back in the days 58′ to 64 Or so. Great memories. Lived 1rst house next to play ground fronting beach. Got into lot’s of trouble… all fun. Just wanted to say HI to all the gang. Those were the days.

  20. Roddy Bayne

    Wake was beautiful, but Also remember flying back & forth to Honolulu for summer & Xmas break. 10hr plane rides(4 prop engines). Stops at Midway to refuel & Sometimes overnite. They had the gooney birds all over. Roller rink, Out door movies & lots of bikes. Remember flying over the Northwest Hawaiian islands. Awsome site. All these little islands, Reefs & sand bars leading the way back to Oahu. Not to many people get to witness these sites. Plus little if any changes to these very isolated highly protected parts of the world. Wake & the gang, Midway & the NW. islands I will alwys remember.MekeAlohapumehana, Rod

  21. Ron Skates

    Well Eugene has been very overwhelmed with personal things, so he has given me and some others the email list (and I found the snailmail list) so in the very near future we will have a new site up for “Citizens” of Wake will be able to share fond memories and info with each other. Barbara Binger, Rick Olson and some others will be carrying on the legacy that Eugene built. SO in a few weeks we will be asking everyone to become a member, and that way we will be able to send out email newsletters.

    Ron Skates

  22. Gary Meyers

    What an incredible read! As a retired Marine Corps officer (but not from the Wake Island battle era), I have always been fascinated by the story of the Wake Island defenders. My first CO at MCAAS Beaufort (SC) was Col Herb Freuler, the Navy Cross hero who flew the last mission on Wake. I–like many others–passed through Wake on a fuel stop enroute to the Orient in the 60’s.

    I note on this site that many have mentioned wanting to return to Wake. While I haven’t read all the comments yet, perhaps my info has already been disseminated and this will be “old hat.” Military Historical Tours (http://www.miltours.com/)and the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor (http://www.pacificaviationmuseum.org/) co-host an annual return to Wake commemoration tour in December as one of their tours. You can check out their site for the details.

    Aloha and Semper Fi –

    Gary Meyers

    LtCol USMC Ret

  23. Colin Jackson

    This is directed at Stuart Samuels, post #175, Febuary 10th, 2009. I would like to introduce myself to you. my name is Colin Jackson. i came across your post while researching my uncle’s name, John Baniago. I wish to no more about My families time on Wake Island.

    My mother is Ann Baniago,her sister is Lisa Baniago, and their brother was John Baniago. There parents were Francis Baniago and Luz Baniago. My mom has read everyone comments and it seems to have jogged a wonderful part of her life.

    Ive wanted to visit Wake island since my mother told me the stories of her childhood, but i have learned that trying to get their is unlickly next to impossible. Pictures dont seem to grasp every essence of the Island that i know it contains. i Wish that there was a way to get to the island.


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