Marines in World War II Commemorative Series
Humbled by Sizeable Casualties
Still No Help
All Hands Have Behaved Splendidly
This Is As Far As We Go
A Difficult Thing To Do
Major James P. S. Devereux
Commander Winfield S. Cunningham
Major Paul A. Putnam
Captain Henry T. Elrod
Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher
Special Subjects
Defensive Mainstay: The M3 Antiaircraft Gun
The Nells, Bettys, and Claudes of Japan
The Defense Battalion's 5-Inch Guns

A MAGNIFICENT FIGHT: Marines in the Battle for Wake Island
by Robert J. Cressman


The author consulted primary materials in the Marine Corps Historical Center Archives Section (including the source material gathered for Col Robert D. Heinl, Jr.'s 1947 monograph The Defense of Wake); Reference Section (November/December 1941 muster rolls); biographical material on many of the individuals involved in the defense of Wake, and Subject Files on Wake; Personal Papers Collection (Claude A. Larkin, Henry T. Elrod, and John F. Kinney Collections), and Oral History Collection (James PS. Devereux and Omar T. Pfeiffer Interviews) as well as in the Naval Historical Center Operational Archives Branch.

Charles L. Updegraph, Jr.'s U.S. Marine Corps Special Units of World War II (Washington: HQMC, 1972) proved useful for background on defense battalions, while Woodrow M. Kessler, To Wake and Beyond: Reminiscences (Washington: MCHC, 1988) and James B. Darden III, Guests of the Emperor: The Story of Dick Darden (Clinton, North Carolina: The Greenhouse Press, 1990) provided illuminating insights.

Older, but still useful, general works concerning Wake Island include Winfield S. Cunningham (with Lydel Sims), Wake Island Command (Boston: Little, Brown and CO., 1961), James P.S. Devereux, The Story of Wake Island (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1947) (by the author's own admission, a ghost-written "romance"); and Robert D. Heinl, Jr., The Defense of Wake. On general Pacific strategy (including the attempt at relief of Wake), see John B. Lundstrom, The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway (Annapolis: Naval Institute, 1984).

Articles and periodicals consulted: from the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings: Ross A. Dierdorff, "Pioneer Party—Wake Island" (April 1943) and Homer C. Votaw, "Wake Island" (January 1941). See also John R. Burroughs, "The Siege of Wake Island: An Eyewitness Account," American Heritage (June 1959) and Robert D. Heinl, Jr., "We're Headed for Wake," Marine Corps Gazette (June 1946).

Robert J. Cressman

About the Author

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, and 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.

insignias from 50th Anniversary

THIS PAMPHLET HISTORY, one in a series devoted to U.S. Marines in the World War II era, is published for the education and training of Marines by the History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., as a part of the U.S. Department of Defense observance of the 50th anniversary of victory in that war.

Editorial costs of preparing this pamphlet have been defrayed in part by a bequest from the estate of Emilie H. Watts, in memory of her late husband, Thomas M. Watts, who served as a Marine and was the recipient of a Purple Heart.


Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC (Ret)


Benis M. Frank

George C. MacGillivray

Robert E. Struder, Senior Editor; W. Stephen Hill, Visual Information Specialist;
Catherine A. Kerns, Composition Services Technician, R.D. Payne, Volunteer—Web Edition, and Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation—Web Edition.

Marine Corps Historical Center
Building 58, Washington Navy Yard
Washington, D.C. 20374-5040


PCN 190 003119 00

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Commemorative Series produced by the Marine Corps History and Museums Division