76 years ago today – Wake Island

The first landing attempt by the Japanese on 11DEC was driven off by the Marines manning the coastal batteries (6 – 5″/51 cal naval rifles removed from the USS Texas during a refit in the mid-1920s) and the F4F-3 Wildcats of VMF-211 and cost the IJN 2 destroyers.

The Hayate was hit in the magazine by 1 or 2 shells from Battery L on Peale Islet at a range of approximately 4,000 yds.  She broke in two and sank within 2 minutes with only 1 survivor being picked up.

The Kisaragi was hit during the withdrawal by the Wildcats of VMF-211.  She caught a bomb which took out most of the bridge and possibly set off the depth charges.  She went down with all hands in about 5 minutes.

After what could be qualified as a disaster, the IJN was in no mood to play around on the second landing attempt.  They detached Sōryū and Hiryū from the returning Pearl Harbor force and upped the number SNLF troops from 450 to almost 2,000.

The second landing attempt started around 0235 following a pre-landing bombardment with fighting continuing into the mid-afternoon before the garrison surrendered.

Per Wikipedia:

The US Marines lost 49 killed, two MIA, and 49 wounded during the entire 15-day siege, while three US Navy personnel and at least 70 US civilians were killed, including 10 Chamorros, and 12 civilians wounded. 433 US personnel were captured. USMC History estimates that 125 Japanese were killed in ground combat with another 125 wounded. It also estimates 92 killed and 195 wounded from damaged ships.[13] At least 28 land-based and carrier aircraft were also either shot down or damaged. The Japanese captured all men remaining on the island, the majority of whom were civilian contractors employed by the Morrison-Knudsen Company.[14]

Of those captured, 98 American civilian workers were kept on the island as forced labor.  On 07OCT43 the Japanese garrison commander, fearing an attempt by the US to re-take the island, ordered them executed.  97 were executed by machine gun with 1 unknown worker escaping and carving “98 US PW 5-10-43” into a large coral rock near the mass grave of the executed.  This unknown American was recaptured and personally executed by the garrison commander.  After the war the garrison commander was tried and hanged for war crimes.

Wake Island was surrendered by the Japanese to a detachment of US Marines 04SEP45.


The 98 rock


The Wake Island exhibit at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Quantico, Virginia, United States, 15 Jan 2007 ww2dbase
Bryan Hiatt


A destroyed Japanese patrol boat (#33) on Wake.


5″/51 caliber gun on Texas 1914.


KAMIKAZE-class profile (IJN Hayate) via http://www.combinedfleet.com/hayate_t.htm


MUTSUKI-class profile (IJN Kisaragi) via http://www.combinedfleet.com/kisara_t.htm



149 years ago today – General John A. Logan’s Memorial Day Order

Today is about the members of our military who gave their lives for our country, not saving on household goods.

General Order
No. 11

Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic
Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude,–the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III. Department commanders will use every effort to make this order effective.

By command of:


The long walk back from Chihuahua

100 years ago today, the end of the Punitive Expedition:

In the image above, a column of 6th and 16th Infantry regiments, are shown en route back to the States, between Corralitos Rancho and Ojo Federico, Jan 29th, 1917. Co. A, 16th Inf. in the foreground. Note the “Montana” campaign hats and Springfield 1903s.

Read the rest here: The long walk back from Chihuahua

The Same Places, 70+ Years Apart—Six More WWII Bases Then and Now

Rabaul, New Britain

Located on the coast of a natural harbor on the eastern coast of New Britain, an island in the Southwest Pacific, Rabaul was a German colony in the 1900s that was captured by the Australians in World War I. Two nearby volcanoes, Vulcan and Tavurvur, erupted violently in 1937, destroying most of the city. After World War II started, it was captured by the Japanese in January 1942, after which it was transformed into a major stronghold with approximately 97,000 troops that would easily fend off Allied attacks until October and November 1943. While the Allies continued to advance towards Japan, they cut off Japanese supply routes to Rabaul and continued to bomb the city and surrounding area. It was officially surrendered at the end of the war. After the war was over, the city became a trading hub until Tavurvur erupted in 1994, once again destroying a large part of the city. Developments closest to the volcano were never rebuilt.

Source: The Same Places, 70+ Years Apart—Six More WWII Bases Then and Now

Sherman Engineers’ Tanks

The M32 tank recovery vehicle was the only Sherman engineer tank variant to be produced in volume. Changes from the standard gun tank specification included the addition of a large, fixed superstructure in place of the turret, and an 81mm smoke-laying mortar fitted to the top of the hull. There was a 60,000lb winch in the fighting compartment, and a pivoting A-frame jib on the hull. The photograph shows the M32B1 variant using the cast M4A1 chassis.

The flame-thrower is a very effective weapon against entrenched infantry. This Sherman M4A3E8, photographed in Korea, has been equipped with a flame projector – possibly the US Marine Corps POA-CWS 75 H1 device – operating through the barrel of the main gun.

The origins of what are generally called ‘engineers’ tanks’ date back to the earliest days of tank warfare, when in 1917 the British Army modified a number of their Mk IV heavy tanks to facilitate the crossing of deep ditches or trenches. The tanks were adapted to carry fascine bundles or hollow timber cylinders that could be dropped into the ditch in such a way that the tank could drive across it. Mk IV and Mk V tanks were also equipped as bridging tanks by being fitted with hinged ramps to provide a means of crossing other obstacles. Others had their armaments removed and were adapted for use as supply vehicles or gun carriers, while the armoured recovery vehicle was developed by the simple expedient of attaching a jib and pulley block, or a powered crane, to the front of an older or obsolete tank. After the Armistice was signed in 1918 development of the machines generally came to a halt, with few special tanks produced during the interwar years. The outbreak of the Second World War brought a resurgence of interest in using what were essentially modified tanks for specialised roles, particularly for recovering disabled armoured vehicles, a task that was often beyond the capabilities of existing wheeled heavy tractors.

Engineers’ tanks really came into their own during the D-Day landings. In the months preceding the invasion a range of so-called ‘funnies’ was developed, each tasked with overcoming a particular problem, and these vehicles made an enormous contribution to the success of the landings. The fact that the Sherman was plentiful, simple in construction and above all reliable made it the ideal choice for producing a whole range of these specialised vehicles, for example flail tanks, mine-clearing devices, rocket-launchers and flame-throwers. Most of the conversions were ‘official’, but others, including the mounting of a double-track assault bridge on the Sherman nose, were field modifications made in response to the changing situation on the ground … and the US authorities did not necessarily always agree with what the British were doing to ‘their’ tanks.

The US Army’s M32 tank recovery vehicle was the only Sherman engineer tank variant to be produced in significant volume, and the pilot model, built by Lima Locomotive in 1943, was constructed on the hull of a standard M4 from which the gun and turret had been removed. It was originally designated TRV (tank recovery vehicle) T5, and changes from the standard gun tank specification included the addition of a large, fixed superstructure mounted in place of the turret, and an 81mm smoke-laying mortar fitted to the top of the hull. A 60,000lb winch was installed in the fighting compartment, and there was a pivoting A-frame jib on the hull, mounted in such a way that it could be used in conjunction with the winch. Additional tow points and equipment stowage facilities were also provided. The design was standardised as the M32 in September 1943. Later variants included the M32B1, based on the hull of the M4A1; the M32B2, which used the M4A2 hull; the M32B3, using the hull of the M4A3, including some examples with HVSS suspension; and the M32B4, which used the M4A4 hull, but never made it into production. As well as Lima Locomotive, M32 recovery vehicles were constructed by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, Federal Machine & Welder, International Harvester and Pressed Steel Car.

More here: Sherman Engineers’ Tanks