22 when they spotted a large formation of
33 B5N Type 97 level bombers escorted
by six Zeros, from Sōryū and Hiryū. Freuler shot down one B5N, then a second in
a fight so close that fragments from the
exploded bomber damaged his controls.
As he headed toward Wake a Zero closed on his tail and he saw Davidson for
the last time, chasing a Zero with a second on his tail . A second Zero closed
on Freuler and opened fire. Shot through
the shoulder, he managed to crash land
on the runway. Davidson was never seen
again. Petty Officer 3/c Isao Tahara was
credited with shooting down both Wildcats. The bomb aimer of the second B5N
Freuler shot down was Petty Officer 1/c
Noburo Kanai, who had dropped the bomb
that blew up USS Arizona (BB-39) at Pearl Harbor.
of Wake without air cover, or that the
Japanese fleet that arrived at dusk was
disposed around the atoll with no security measures against surface attack. The
outcome could have been different.
On Wake, the night of December 22-23
was stormy, with rain squalls and high
seas. The Marines were alerted to the
presence of the enemy at 0200 hours on
December 23 when Tenryū, and Tatsuta,
which had missed the atoll in the stormy
darkness, opened fire. At 0245 hours, Patrol Boats 32 and 33 ran through the reef
and grounded on Wake. Marine machine
guns opened up when flares fired from
Peale illuminated the enemy. Lt Robert
Hanna fired the last gun of Battery D, hitting Patrol Boat 33 14 times and breaking
its back while killing seven and wounding
25. He then took Patrol Boat 32 under fire,
Wake was now without air defense. The lit by the explosion of Patrol Boat 33, but
20 survivors of VMF-211 were issued ri- the 1,000 men of the Maizuru 2nd SN LF
fles and ammunition. They were now “mud were already ashore. The VMF-211 survivors, led by Major Putnam and Captain
Elrod, defended Battery D, which fell after
At Pearl Harbor, the report of the raid 20 minutes of hard fighting, during which
by carrier-based aircraft confirmed the 62 Japanese were killed as well as 14 of
presence of Japanese carriers; a carri- the 20 defending fliers. “Hammerin’ Henry”
er battle was now considered imminent. Elrod was killed by a SNLF trooper hiding
Admiral Pye could not risk two-thirds of beneath a pile of casualties as he rose to
his carriers and a majority of the Pacific throw a grenade at the advancing enemy.
Fleet’s remaining capital ships.
Dive bombers from the carriers and gunSaratoga was 427 miles from Wake at fire from the cruisers provided support to
0800 hours on December 22, when orders the invaders, who took 125 casualties bewere received to return. Fletcher’s staff fore Commander Cunningham, seeing the
officers called for him to ignore the orde- American situation was hopeless, orders; he went below so he would not officia- red Major Devereaux to surrender at 0700
lly hear such “mutinous talk.” Pilots in re- hours. Fighting continued throughout the
ady rooms aboard Saratoga broke down morning on Wilkes and Peale, where the
in tears and the Marine pilots begged to gunners of Battery L made a final stand.
be launched to fly in to Wake. Aboard Tan- Major Devereaux reached Wilkes at 1330
gier, senior officers intervened to prevent hours to find 25 Marines alive. They had
the Marines from taking over the ship and killed all four Japanese officers and their
sailing it to Wake in spite of orders. Ad- 90 troops who had landed that morning.
miral Halsey, who was aboard Enterprise,
providing cover from the northeast with The Marines lost 49 killed, two missing,
Task Force 8, later wrote he could not and 49 wounded during the 16-day siege
understand why the plan to send Tangier of Wake. Three Navy personnel and at
into Wake with the reinforcements was least 70 US civilians were killed, including
not carried out. No one knew that at the the 10 Chamorro employees left behind by
time the order was received, four Japa- Pan American, with 12 civilians wounded;
nese heavy cruisers were patrolling east 433 Americans became Prisoners of War.
Japanese losses were 140 SNLF troops
and four sailors aboard ships. Three Japanese destroyers were sunk by artillery
and aerial bombing along with both invasion vessels; 28 Japanese aircraft were
shot down or damaged.
The next day, Christmas Eve of 1941, Saratoga was 180 miles south of Midway
Island. Captain Marion Carl and the other
pilots of VMF-221 were launched to fly to
the atoll, where they provided air defense
for the next American Pacific possession
in the line of fire after Wake.
Enterprise Takes the Offensive
On New Year’s Day 1942, Admiral Chester Nimitz became Commander in Chief,
Pacific Fleet. CNO Admiral King’s first order to Nimitz was to protect US shipping
between the United States and Australia, as far south as Samoa. At their first
meeting on January 2, Nimitz‘s staff recommended strikes against the Japanese air bases in the Gilberts and Marshall
Islands to delay attacks against Samoa.
A convoy carrying 5,000 Marines to garrison Samoa was forming, which would be
covered by Admiral Fletcher’s Task Force 17 with the newly-arrived USS Yorktown. Admiral Halsey returned to Pearl
Harbor aboard Enterprise on January 7
and immediately volunteered to lead the
operation. On January 9, Nimitz ordered
Halsey to support Task Force 17; the two
carriers would strike the Gilberts and
Marshalls while Admiral Wilson Brown
aboard Lexington with Task Force 11 would strike Wake as a diversion. Saratoga’s
Task Force 14 would guard Hawaii.
The plan changed drastically at noon on
January 10 when Saratoga, 480 miles
southwest of Oahu, was torpedoed by the
submarine I-6. Three boiler rooms were
flooded, six crewmen were killed, and her
speed was reduced to 16 knots. Listing to
port, Saratoga limped toward Pearl Harbor. The overall plan of attack now changed, with Lexington remaining off Hawaii.
Task Force 8 arrived at Samoa on January 18 and took up a defensive station to
the north. The convoy arrived on January 23. On January 25, the Enterprise and
Yorktown task forces set course to the
northwest. Yorktown would strike Makin
in the Gilberts, and Jaluit and Mili atolls in
the southern Marshalls. Enterprise would
hit Wotje and Taroa in Maloelap Atoll in
the northern Marshalls.
At dusk on January 29, the task forces
parted company to conduct their strikes;
at dawn they crossed the International
Date Line into January 31. While Enterprise steamed on to her combat debut, the
men of Air Group Six worked feverishly to
install boiler plate armor in their aircraft.
USS Enterprise (CV-6) underway in summer
of 1942. Note TBF-1 Avengers of VT-10 on the