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Wake Atoll is a U.S. Air Force installation under the control of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, 11th Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
For more information regarding the installation contact 11th Air Force Public Affairs at (907)-552-2341.
Wake Atoll is located approximately 2,138 nautical miles west of Honolulu, Hawaii and is a U.S. Territory under administrative control of the Department of the Air Force, and under installation command authority of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, part of 11th Air Force headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
The coral atoll is made up of three islands: Wake, Wilkes and Peale Islands. It is the northernmost atoll in the Marshall Islands geological ridge and may be the oldest living atoll in the world. The atoll was named after British sea captain William Wake, who arrived in 1796.
Wake Atoll was claimed by the United States in 1898, with formal possession established in 1899. The island was placed under administrative control of the Department of the
Navy in 1934. In 1935, Pan American Airways established a seaplane refueling base and 48-room hotel on Peale Island, establishing the atoll’s first permanent residents. Plans were developed in 1938 for an outlying naval base on Wake Atoll; however, construction did not begin until January 1941. On December 8, 1941, the same day as the attack on Pearl Harbor, Wake was bombed by the Japanese. On December 11, 1941, the U.S. Marine garrison and 1,200 civilians, who were completing construction of a major air and submarine base on Wake, were again attacked by the Japanese. The United States held onto Wake until December 23, 1941, when Wake was surrendered to the Japanese. Japan maintained control over the atoll until their surrender in September 1945.
Administrative control, since World War II, has shifted between the Department of the Navy, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Air Force. The Department of the Air Force first assumed administrative control over the island in 1972. Due to the Army's continued use of the atoll for various missile testing programs, administrative control was transferred to the Department of the Army in 1994. Finally, in 2002, the Department of the Air Force resumed administrative control of the island with the 15th Wing at Hickam Air Force Base assuming support responsibilities for Wake. Today, the island serves as a trans-Pacific refueling stop for military aircraft and supports Missile Defense Agency test activities. Wake is currently managed by the Pacific Air Force Support Center located at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska, and falls under 11th Air Force.
MEMORIALS AND HISTORICAL SITES
98 Rock – The 98 Rock was inscribed by an unknown escaped American Prisoner of War (later recaptured). It was inscribed to signify the 98 civilian P.O.Ws that were executed October 7, 1943 by the Japanese.
Nitro Rock – Nitro Rock was inscribed when a U.S. Naval ship was in port at Wake Island in 1939.
Marine Corps Memorial – “Dedicated to the gallant defenders of Wake, 8 Dec-23 Dec 1941. ‘Enemy on island, situation in doubt.’”
“There were only some four hundred United States Marines who, in the heroic and historic defense of Wake Island inflicted such great losses on the enemy. Some of these men were killed in action and others are now prisoners of war. When the survivors of that great fight are liberated and restored to their homes, they will learn that a hundred and thirty million of their fellow citizens have been inspired to render their own full share of service and sacrifice.”
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 6 January 1942
Harry Morrison and Civilian Construction Memorial – This monument is dedicated to the civilian construction men who participated in the defense of Wake Island during the Japanese invasion December 8-23 1941 and placed here by those men still living known as the civilian survivors of Wake Island. The men were under the direction of Harry Morrison.
Japanese Memorial –
"May the souls of the war dead repose in peace."
"May peace prevail on the waters of the Pacific forever."
- Wake Island War Monument Reconstruction Association, September 30, 1957
Command Post Historical Site – Japanese admiralty command post built by American civilian P.O.Ws, completed 1942.
Aircraft Historical Site – Japanese aircraft revetment built by American civilian P.O.Ws, completed 1943.
Peale Island Gun – 8” gun on Peale Island used for coastal defense during WWII.
AROUND THE ISLAND
In addition to coral beach and palm trees, scattered across the atoll one can see ruins and remnants from World War II, Pan American World Airways and evidence of a much larger presence that could once be found on the island. Old bunkers, guns, building remains and even a few shipwrecks off the beaches all showcase the unique history and story of Wake Atoll. Many locations around the atoll are considered historical sites and the waters around the atoll make up part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
Wilkes Island, on the northwest side of the atoll, is home to a bird sanctuary of approximately 12 different species of both sea and shore birds and about 40,000 birds total. The sound of the birds grow louder and louder and one walks from the edge of the island towards the center, where the sound is almost deafening and the sight of the birds flying in all directions is an incredible experience.
Peale Island, on the northeast side of the atoll, was once home to the Pan Am seaplane refueling base and it’s 48-room hotel. At one point connected to Wake Island by a bridge, now people wishing to explore Peale must either swim the short distance between the two islands or kayak. While discovering Peale, one can walk on the remains of paved roads, see the relics of the Pan Am terminal as well as a rusted 8” gun used for coastal defense in WWII.
Wake Island, the main and largest island on the atoll, houses Wake Island Airfield and the approximately 100 Air Force personnel, contractors and
Thai employees live and work. The island includes numerous houses and dorm buildings, churches, a fire station, a dining facility, a small general store and Drifters Reef Bar.
LIFE ON THE ISLAND
Although located in a remote area of the Pacific Ocean, Wake Island has many of the amenities found on any Air Force Base. Residents and transients live in houses and dorms located in various locations around the island but most residing in the “downtown” area. The downtown area of the island features a dining facility, gym, small general store, barber shop, Drifters Reef Bar, the fire department, library and the island clinic. The gym, open 24-hours a day, has two rooms including a cardio and weights room and a CrossFit room. And at the company store, residents and transients can rent snorkeling equipment, kayaks, tennis equipment, basketballs, footballs and bikes among other items. Island residents also try to stay busy with weekly movie nights at the bar, fun runs, and other planned activities on a regular basis.
With its scenery and historical interest points, Wake Atoll provides residents and transients with a unique and generally unseen view of WWII and aviation history.
NEWS ABOUT WAKE ATOLL
Restoring Wake Island's Guam Memorial: 'Honoring those who came before us', June 13, 2017
Air Force members celebrate Thai New Year and Water Festival at Wake Island, April 19, 2017
Air Force partners for environmental conservation on Wake Atoll, April 26, 2017
Happy holidays from Wake Island Atoll, December 22, 2017
Battle of Wake Island 75th anniversary: honoring the sacrifice of the Wake Defenders, December 15, 2017
C-130 taking off from Wake Island Airfield
Drifters Reef Bar
Wake Island Fire Department
Lodging in "downtown" area of Wake Island
Remnants of Pan American Airways infrastructure on Peale Island
Former bridge connecting Wake Island with Peale Island
Looking across the lagoon from Wake Island to Peale Island
Coastline of Wilkes Island
Hermit crabs on Wilkes Island
Bird sanctuary on Wilkes Island
A Masked Booby at the Wilkes Island bird sanctuary
Sunset off Wilkes Island
Rainbow of Wake Island