It is Monday, 8 December 1941. On Wake Island, a tiny sprung paper-clip in the Pacific between Hawaii and Guam, Marines of the 1st Defense Battalion are starting another day of the backbreaking war preparations that have gone on for weeks. Out in the triangular lagoon formed by the islets of Peale, Wake, and Wilkes, the huge silver Pan American Airways Philippine Clipper flying boat roars off the water bound for Guam. The trans-Pacific flight will not be completed. Word of war comes around 0700. Captain Henry S. Wilson, Army Signal Corps, on the island to support the flight ferry of B-17 Flying Fortresses from Hawaii to the Philippines, half runs, half walks toward the tent of Major James P. S. Devereux, commander of the battalion’s Wake Detachment. Captain Wilson reports that Hickam Field in Hawaii has been raided. Devereux immediately orders a “Call to Arms.” He quickly assembles his officers, tells them that war has come, that the Japanese have attacked Oahu, and that Wake “could expect the same thing in a very short time.”
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Robert J. Cressman, currently a member of the Naval Historical Center’s Contemporary History Branch, earned both a bachelor of arts in history, in 1972, and a masters of arts in history, in 1978, at the University of Maryland. Formerly also a historian in the Marine Corps Historical Center’s Reference Section, from 1979–1981, he has published articles in such publications as the Naval Institute Proceedings, Marine Corps Gazette, and The Hook. He is the author of That Gallant Ship: USS Yorktown (CV-5) (1985), and editor and principal contributor of A Glorious Page in Our History: The Battle of Midway, 4–6 June 1942 (1990). With J. Michael Wenger, he has co-authored Steady Nerves and Stout Hearts: The USS Enterprise (CV-6) Air Group and Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941 (1990) and Infamous Day: Marines at Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941 (1992), another title in this World War II commemorative series of publications.
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