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

flight deck.


INFO Eduard

August 2022