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Naval History and Heritage Command

National Museum of the U.S. Navy

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1941:  December 11:   Attack on Wake Island

The Japanese attacked Wake Island on December 11, 1941.   The Wake Island Garrison, under Commander Winfield Cunningham, USN, replused the Japanese invasion with shore battery fire, which sank Japanese destroyer Hayate while USMC F4F's sank destroyer Kisaragi.  Numerous other Japanese vessels damaged.   Under the command of Rear Admiral Frank J. Fletcher, USN, the Wake Relief Expedition departed Pearl Harbor.  The U.S. Navy ships: USS Saratoga (CV-3), USS Tangier (AV-8), USS Astoria (CA-34), USS San Francisco (CA-38), USS Minneapolis (CA-36), Destroyer Squadron Four, and USS Neches (AO-5).  Due to Saratoga's fueling problems, the expedition was late arriving and departing.   After the island fell to the Japanese on December 23, the force turned back to Pearl Harbor following a series of conflicting orders.  The island would be held by the enemy until lthe end of World War II.  

Image:  80-G-413519:   Wake Island.  Wreckage of a U.S. Marine Corps, F4F-3 following the capture by the Japanese on December 23, 1941.   Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.