WAKE ISLAND HISTORY
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.
1796 - Captain Samuel Wake of the British trading schooner "Prince William Henry" visited Wake. His name was associated with it thereafter.
20 Dec. 1840 - Commodore Wilkes aboard the U.S.S. Vincennes visited Wake Island on a brief scientific survey. A naturalist, Titan Peale conducted the survey- Wilkes Islet and Peale Islet were named after these gentlemen.
4 Mar 1866 - The German Bark, "Libelle" was wrecked on the east shore of Wake Island during a storm while enroute from Honolulu to Hong Kong. The survivors spent three weeks on the island. Two lifeboats were launched to Guam. One boat with 22 people aboard, including opera singer Anna Bishop, reached Guam. The other boat with Captain Tobias aboard was lost at sea. The "Libelle's" treasure of $93,943-08 in coins and silver bars buried on Wake by Captain Tobias was recovered by Captain J.H.G. Johnson and his schooner "Ana" based in Guam by the end of June 1866.
4 Jul 1898 - Major General Francis Greene from the "Thomas" (part of the Philippine Expeditionary Force) raised the American flag on Wake Island.
17 Jan. 1899 - Commander Edward D. Taussig, U.S.N., from the U.S.S. "Bennington" took formal possession of Wake Island for the United States under the authority provided him from Washington DC.
Dec. 1906 - General J.J. Pershing raised the American flag on Wake Island and left a cache of emergency supplies for possible future shipwreck survivors. Japanese sailors collecting birds feathers usually took what they wanted from such supplies left on Wake Island.
23 July 1923-5 Aug 1923 - The U.S.S. "Tanager" visited Wake for two weeks with a joint scientific expedition sponsored by Yale University and Bishop Museum in Honolulu. Wilkes and Peale Islets were formally recognized as separate islands.
29 Dec. 1934 - Wake Island was placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy Department by Executive Order No- 6935.
5 May 1935-29 May 1935 - The "North Haven" arrives at Wake Island to begin off loading construction materials for the Pan American Airlines seaplane base to be built on Wake Island.
1935 - The first Pan American Airlines Clipper inaugurating "China Clipper" service landed on the lagoon.
3 Sep 1935 - Wake surveyed by the crew of U.S.S. "Nitro" losing two long boats in the surf in the process. The "Nitro's" survey was to include Pan American's sea plane base for its military value and for developing areas of cooperation with Pan American Airlines and the Navy.
Dec. 1937 - A hydroponics garden was started by Pan American Airlines to grow food to be consumed by hotel guests on Wake Island.
19 Oct. 1940 A typhoon struck the island; winds reached 140 mph.
9 Jan. 1941 The first Navy and navy contractor personnel arrived aboard the U.S.S. "William Ward Burrows" to begin fortifying the island and establishing a naval air base.
4 Dec. 1941 - Twelve Grumman F4F Wildcats of Marine Fighting Squadron 211 flew into Wake from the U.S.S. Enterprise.
8 Dec. 141 - Feverish attempts to reinforce the island militarily were interrupted by an air raid by the Japanese.
9 Dec.-23 Dec. 1941 - All aircraft, communications, large guns, and above ground structures are destroyed in sixteen air raids by Japanese planes. Numerous personnel are killed or injured.
23 Dec. 1941 - A Japanese land invasion overwhelmed the island forces after 12 hours of brutal, continuous combat.
The rescue task force that was on its way to Wake Island is recalled to Pearl Harbor. It took 16 days for the island to fall after the first air raid on 8 Dec. 1941. The Japanese renamed the three islets of Wake Island. Wake Islet became Otori-shima. Wilkes Islet became Ashi-shima. Peale Islet became Hani-shima. Peacock Point became Kubi-saki.
12 Jan. 1942 - Approximately 1221 Wake Island POW's left Wake on the converted Japanese luxury liner, "Nita Maru", a troop transport ship. Five of them were beheaded aboard the vessel enroute to Japan.
24 Feb. 1942 - The First of several US. aircraft carrier strikes against the Japanese on Wake Island is undertaken.
May 1942 - Twenty hospitalized Wake Island POW's left Wake aboard the "Asama Marts", one of Japan's finest luxury liners, for Japan.
8 July 1943 - A strike by 8 army B24's based at Midway Island hit Wake Island. This is the first attack against the Japanese on Wake Island by land-based aircraft. Others strikes were launched from Kwajalein as well at Midway Island.
Summer 1943 - The Japanese merchant ship, "Suwa Maru", tried to run the American blockade of Wake Island and took two torpedoes from an American Submarine. The ship's captain grounded the ship on the south shore before it could sink.
7 Oct. 1943 - Ninety-eight American-POW's who remained behind on Wake Island were executed by order of Japanese Admiral Sakaibara. The executions came at the same time as a particularly heavy raid against the island that was launched from an aircraft carrier.
Jan. 1944-Aug. 1945 - Wake Island is repeatedly bombarded by aerial sorties and naval guns. No land assault against Wake Island is ever conducted by American forces.
14 Aug. 1945 - Emperor Hirohito of Japan broadcast his unconditional surrender message to the world.
2 Sep 1945 - Japan officially surrenders and W.W.II ends.
4 Sep 1945 - Brigadier General Lawson H. M. Sanderson, USMC, accepts the surrender of Japanese forces on Wake Island from Rear Admiral Sakaibara.
20 Oct. 1945-15 July 1946 - 400 Seabees from the 85th N.C-B- came to Wake Island to clear the island of the affects of the war and to rebuild the basic facilities of the island.
1946 - Pan American Airlines returned to Wake Island to resume its operation here.
18 June 1947 - Rear Admiral Sakaibara was hanged on Guam for his part in the deaths of the 98 Wake Island POWs on 7 Oct. 1943.
1 July 1947 - The U-S. Navy Department delegates the administration of Wake Island to the CAA although it still was owned" by the Navy Department.
1949 - The CAA (forerunner of the FAA) built a 7,000' paved runway over the old coral runway-
June 1950 - The Korean war broke out and Wake Island served as a major refueling stop for aircraft going to that conflict. Aircraft involved in the airlift landed every 20 minutes.
15 Oct. 1950 - President Harry S Truman met General Douglas McArthur on Wake Island.
16 Sep 1952 - Typhoon Olive struck Wake Island. Fully 85% of the structures on the island were destroyed. Winds reached 180mph. Reconstruction of the facilities on the island were completed in 1953.
26 Aug. 1953 - Homer Willis, a CAA employee, imported one hive of honey bees from California to Wake Island. This was the first bee hive to be brought to Wake Island.
30 Sep 1957 - The Japanese Shinto Shrine (Japanese Memorial) was blessed and dedicated in a ceremony overseen by the Japan Wake Island Friendship Committee. The carved stone from the original Japanese graveyard on the island was mounted on the top of the shrine. This same stone had been relocated to the Terminal area 29 Dec. 1966 by the CAA. The construction of the shrine was completed on 1 Feb. 1958. Letters written by Japanese soldiers on Wake Island to their loved ones during the war were buried under the shrine. Funds for the shrine were provided by Japan Air Lines Co. Ltd., the Wake Island War Monument Reconstruction Association, and Trans Ocean Air Lines which had a major operation on the island at that time.
1957 - Canisters of Chloropicrin (W.W.II vomiting gas) in the water just off shore from the 8" gun on the ocean side of Peale Islet begin leaking. Several personnel are treated at the dispensary. An Army Chemical Warfare team confirms the type of gas. The base of Flipper Point is cut with a bulldozer to make a channel across the foot of Flipper Point to allow the water current in the lagoon to carry water contaminated with the gas out of the nearby recreation area.
1959 - The FAA extended the runway to 9,800 feet in length.
1960 - Then President Eisenhower stopped at Wake Island.
1961 - There was a burst of construction activity on the island in which the "Downtown" area was improved. Some of the facilities that were built were the Bowling Alley, Transient quarters, Dining Hall and laundry.
1962 - The FAA finished construction of the new passenger terminal building. The jurisdiction of the island was transferred from the US. Navy Department to the Department of Interior. The actual administration of the island, however, would be carried out by the current caretaker, the FAA. Then Vice President Johnson stopped at Wake Island. The Wake Island Code (Federal Aviation Regulations, Part 165) was issued.
1963 - A Japanese salvage team came to the island and collected most of the W.W.II remnants of airplanes, guns, tanks, and landing craft. This "scrap" was shipped to Japan.
1964 - Cable telephone service is inaugurated by AT & T after finishing the laying of a transpacific undersea cable to the island.
11 Jan. 1965 - A USAF C133 crashed about a half mile off shore after taking off from runway 10.
1966 The Marine war memorial is completed.
16 Sep 1967 - Typhoon SARAH struck Wake Island- Ninety-five percent of the structures on the island were damaged. All of the dependents that were on the island were evacuated to Hawaii. Winds reached 104 mph.
24 Sep 1968 - A USAF KC135 flying tanker crashed upon making an emergency landing. Eleven persons were killed and 23 injured.
1970 - Four holes of an island golf course were completed. The current Drifters Reef Bar was completed.
July 1972 - The FAA turned the administration of the island over to the US. Air Force (MAC) and began phasing down its operation here.
1 July 1973 - The US. Air Force (MAC) turned the administration of the island over to the USAF 15th Air Base Wing at Hickam AFB in Hawaii.
25 Apr.-2 Aug. 1975 - Operation NEWLIFE, the relocation of almost 100,000 Vietnamese refugees to the Mainland US., came to Wake Island. Some 15,000 refugees passed through Wake Island. At one point 8,700 refugees were on the island.
21 June 1977 - A US. Navy C130 crashed into the ocean about 1 mile off shore after taking off on runway 10; sixteen persons (all crew members) died.
14 Mar 1978 - The ship's bell for the "Dashing Wave" was found on the East Side beach. Dr. Bernd Drechsler of Germany recently researched the history and discovered this ship was built in Hamburg and originally named the "Fetisch". It was later sold to a UK shipping concern and renamed "Dashing Wave". They used it as a Tea Clipper.
22 Feb-8 Mar 1978 - A party of 40 Japanese (including 14 former Wake Island soldiers) exhumed, cremated, and returned to Japan the skeletons of 954 W.W.II Japanese soldiers that were buried in the old Japanese graveyard on Wake Island. The remains of 600 more Japanese soldiers could not be likewise removed as the site of their mass grave on Peale Islet could not be located.
Sep 1979 - A delegation of Kili-Bikini islanders visit wake to look it over as a possible relocation site for the populations of Kili and Bikini Islands.
June 1979 - The original Wake Island fighter squadron, VMF 211, came through Wake Island from Japan on their way to the Mainland US. This time they were flying A4 aircraft.
15 Mar-16 Mar 1981 - Typhoon FREDA hit Wake Island with 75 mph winds. A new $7 million seawall was destroyed in about 30 minutes. Only 2,500 feet of usable runway was available after the storm.
20 Apr.-23 Apr. 1981 - A party of 19 Japanese (including 16 former Japanese soldiers who were here during W.W.II) visited Wake Island to pay their respects at the Japanese Shinto-Shrine for their war dead.
1 June 1981 - The American civilian POW's from Wake Island finally get awarded military service, rank, appropriate medals, and veterans benefits for defending Wake Island in 1941 and for their hardships in the POW camps.
3 Nov.-4 Nov. 1985 - A group of 167 former American POWs and their wives and children visit Wake Island. This was the first such visit by a group of former Wake Island POWs and their families.
24 Nov. 1985 - A Pan American Airlines B747 came through Wake Island to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of Pan American China Clipper Service to the orient. Author James A. Michener and Actor John Travolta were among the dignitaries aboard the aircraft.
1985 - Wake Island was designated a "National Historic Landmark" by the Department of Interior's National Park Service.
12 Mar 1986 - The Governor of Wake Island, General Counsel of the Air Force the Honorable Eugene R. Sullivan, proclaimed March 22nd of each year to be "Wake Island Day" on Wake Island.
8 Dec. 1991 - Commemoration ceremony for the observance of the 50th anniversary of the attack on Wake Island. The Governor of Wake Island, Air Force General Counsel the Honorable Ann C. Peterson, attended. The US. flag on the pole, in front of the Terminal Building hung at half mast for 16 days to commemorate the 16 days that it took for the island to fall.
1991 - Wake Island participated in "Desert Storm" as a fueling station for aircraft headed for that conflict.---Most of the old FAA housing, the FAA school, and a few other dilapidated buildings were demolished in a $10 million contract.
29 Jan. 1992 - A Brilliant Pebbles missile was launched from Wake Island.
12 Feb. 1992 - A Brilliant Pebbles missile was launched from Wake Island but fizzled. Back to the drawing board.
1 Oct. 1994- The US. Air Force hands over the administration of the island to the US. Army and the Air Force leaves the island.
1 Feb. 1996- 4 Amateur Radio Operators from the mainland arrive on Wake to hand out contacts to the deserving. Aren't you glad you read all this interesting stuff?
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Last updated 13 May 2003