The battle of Wake Island was notable for seeing the first Japanese setback of the Second World War, when their first amphibious assault on the island was repulsed with heavy losses (making it the only amphibious invasion to fail during the war). The Japanese persisted, and a second attack was successful, taking place while a US relief force was too far away to intervene. The battle became the focus of two controversies - one over which officer was actually in command during the battle and the second over the failure of the relief expedition.
This account of the battle follows the standard Osprey Campaign format, with chapters on the commanders, the opposing forces and their plans. This section makes it clear how much the balance of power shifted between the two landings. The first attack was made with fewer than 500 men, the second with 2,000. The Americans began the battle with nearly 400 marines, sixty men from the Wildcat squadron VMF-211 (most of whom acted as infantry after their aircraft were knocked out), 68 naval personnel and six from the Army Air Corps, as well as around 300 volunteers from the civilian construction workers on the island. The Japanese were thus slightly outnumbered during the first assault, but dominant during the second.
The tone of entries in the Campaign series tends to depend on the size of the battle or campaign being covered. Here the entire campaign falls into a two week period, and involved a relatively small number of people, so the account here is more detailed than is normal. The text is clear and well written, and is supported by some excellent maps that show the defences of Wake and the progress of the two attacks. It is written almost entirely from the American point of view, so we don't really get an idea of how the Japanese saw the assault, but that might be due to a lack of survivors from the assault force after four years of costly fighting. Other than that this is an excellent account of this early sign that that the Japanese weren't unbeatable.
Origins of the Campaign
The Battle of Wake Island
The Battlefield Today
Author: Jim Moran