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Hi all

I want to share with you an interesting proposal of alternative history (meaning “hypothetical facts that might have happened”). I have just read the book written by American author Bill Sloan, “Given up for Dead” (2003), focused in the battle for the island of Wake in WW II, which is going to celebrate its 70th anniversary this year. This battle is little known in comparison to the more famous events of Midway, Guadalcanal, Okinawa or Iwo-Jima, but it is really amazing for certain reasons.

Sloan makes a very good work of historical reconstruction on the facts, but at the end he includes an epilogue based on the idea of a hypothetical American victory at Wake. In fact, the early attack on december 11th 1941 was pushed away easily, in spite of the continuous air raids and the artillery power of the Japanese fleet. In the second attempt, 12 days later, the Japanese navy attacked at night with a great fleet, with two aircraft carriers and several cruisers. Hundreds of Japanese soldiers could reach the beaches and then attacked the American positions. Although the marines had to retreat in some places, they could resist the invasion and in some cases their counter-attack repeled the invaders. However, the highest ranking officers, Commanders James Devereaux and W. S. Cunningham had no clear information about what was going on and then Cunningham sent a message to the headquarters saying that the Japanese were on the island and the situation was “uncertain”. This message provoked the retreat of a reinforcement American fleet, including the carrier Saratoga, which was approaching the island, because Admirals Pye and Fletcher did’t want to take risks. Finally Cunningham decided to surrender, something which caused suprise and anger in most of his men. Americans lost fewer than a hundred marines and civilians, while the Japanese casualties were around 1500 men at least.

Bill Sloan presents the opinion of the survivors and some historians, who consider that the defense was completely successful in several zones, despite all odds, and they could have resisted for one or two days. Then we have the speculation based on “what ifs”, about the possible attack of the American force. Perhaps the Japanese fleet might have been taken by surprise, and therefore there was a clear possibility of defeating this invading fleet, half a year before Midway. At least, Wake might have been strongly reinforced with soldiers, guns, ammunition and fighter planes, and the history of the Pacific war could have changed. However, the author also shows the contrary vision: there was no hope for Wake, and all the helping efforts might have been uneffective. The Japanese would have conquered the island sooner or later. Moreover, the retreat of the American fleet saved the ships for future battles, as Coral Sea and Midway. What’s your opinion about this feasible scenario?

Best regards,
Titus Livius

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Subject Views Written By Posted
Battle of Wake, 1941: an alternative history episode 927 Titus Livius 02-Apr-11 12:19
Re: Battle of Wake, 1941: an alternative history episode 393 Avatar 02-Apr-11 14:49
Re: Battle of Wake, 1941: an alternative history episode 380 Hoppy 02-Apr-11 15:17
Re: Battle of Wake, 1941: an alternative history episode 273 Titus Livius 02-Apr-11 16:40
Re: Battle of Wake, 1941: an alternative history episode 364 Eddie Larry 02-Apr-11 15:18
Re: Battle of Wake, 1941: an alternative history episode 291 Titus Livius 02-Apr-11 16:22
Re: Japan - missed opportunities 383 Thunderbird 03-Apr-11 04:53
Re: Japan - missed opportunities 318 Titus Livius 03-Apr-11 09:38
Re: Japan - missed opportunities 260 Thunderbird 04-Apr-11 04:32
Re: Japan - missed opportunities 294 Titus Livius 04-Apr-11 08:43
A few final thoughts 289 Titus Livius 05-Apr-11 10:54
Re: Battle of Wake, 1941: an alternative history episode 572 Pete Vanderzwet 05-Apr-11 14:26

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