During the succeeding two centuries, there is no record of Wake save under the title of Lamira (Look Out) or Discierta (Desert Island), both reported in the general vicinity of Wake, on the track of Spanish transpacific treasure ships plying between Mexico and the Philippines. In 1796 Captain Wake arrived, locate the atoll accurately, and gave it is eventual name; shortly after, a British fur ship, Halcyon, made a similar landfall and independently reported the discovery.
The capture of Wake Island was part of the Japanese war strategy, and fell under the jurisdiction of the IJN Fourth Fleet under the command of Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue. Born on December 9, 1889, in Sendai in the Tohoku region of Japan, Inoue attended the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy, graduating in 1909. As a midshipman, Inoue served on several ships, including the "Soya" on its cruise to Manila, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Keelung.
Wake Island's strategic importance was recognized long before hostilities commenced between the United States and Japan. In 1796 Captain Wake located the atoll accurately, landed, and named it after himself. In 1840 Charles Wilkes USN landed with a survey party including the naturalist Titian Peale, and stayed for several weeks, sampling and surveying. Wilkes named the southwest island after himself and the northwest island after Titian Peale.
The atoll consists of three islets, Wake islet, the largest, on the southwest, has the shape of a V, the arms of which are about two and three-quarters land miles long. Each arm is continued as a separate islet, there being a narrow channel between it and the end of the arms of the V. The western ends of the two islets are connected by a sweep of flat reef, which continues as a narrow border around the three islets. Enclosed is a rectangular lagoon with depths up to fifteen feet. This measures about two and a half miles northwest -- southeast by one and a third miles wide. The southeastern portion of the lagoon becomes shallower until it ends in a large expanse of hard white sand which dries at low tide. The entire atoll measures about two and a half by five miles.
And so the Japanese garrison sat on Wake Island for two years, suffering the occasional U.S. bombing raid, but no land invasion. In that time, 1,300 Japanese soldiers died from starvation, and 600 from the American air attacks. Two days after the formal Japanese surrender onboard the USS Missouri, Sakaibara capitulated to American forces, which finally landed on the island. Sakaibara was eventually tried for war crimes and executed in 1947.
Wake Island was one of the islands bombed as part of a wider bombing raid that coincided with the attack on Pearl Harbor. In December of 1941, the Japanese invaded in force, taking the island from American hands, losing 820 men, while the United States lost 120. The United States decided not to retake the island but to cut off the Japanese occupiers from reinforcement, which would mean they would eventually starve. Rear Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, commander of the Japanese forces there, ordered the 96 Allied prisoners of war who had been left behind shot dead on trumped-up charges of trying to signal American forces by radio.
2 Oct. 1568 - Wake Island discovered by Spaniard, Alvaro de Mendana, who named it San Francisco. Two Spanish ships, the "Los Reyes" and "Todos Santos", landed finding neither food nor water.
The island was attacked repeatedly for the duration of the war by the United States. On September 4, 1945, the remaining Japanese garrison surrendered to a detachment of the United States Marine Corps. In a brief ceremony, the handover of Wake was officially conducted.
The US annexed Wake Island in 1899 for a cable station. An important air and naval base was constructed in 1940-41. In December 1941, the island was captured by the Japanese and held until the end of World War II. In subsequent years, Wake was developed as a stopover and refueling site for military and commercial aircraft transiting the Pacific. Since 1974, the island's airstrip has been used by the US military and some commercial cargo planes, as well as for emergency landings. There are over 700 landings a year on the island.
Wake Island, about halfway between Midway and Guam, is an atoll consisting of the three islets of Wilkes, Peale, and Wake. The islets were discovered by the British in 1796 and annexed by the U.S. in 1899. In 1938, Pan American Airways established a seaplane base, and Wake Island was used as a commercial base for several years. On Dec. 8, 1941, it was attacked by the Japanese, who took possession on Dec. 23. It was surrendered by the Japanese on Sept. 4, 1945.