Today In History: Americans Retake Wake Island

Today In History |

September 4, 1945


Today in 1945, a garrison of Japanese soldiers finally surrendered Wake Island to American troops, days after the Japanese government had officially surrendered to the Allies.

Japan invaded Wake Island in December of 1941, as part of the same campaign as the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Japanese saw significantly more casualties in the taking of the Island than the United States saw in defending it. In total, Japan suffered 820 deaths, and 120 Americans died. Instead of waging a potentially bloody campaign to reclaim the island, the United States decided to cut the occupying Japanese troops off from reinforcement and supplies. The ultimate goal was to starve them to death.

In response, Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara decided to execute 96 American POWs who had been captured in the invasion. Sakaibara offered an alibi that the men had been attempting to signal American forces via radio.


The Japanese garrison remained on the island for two years. American ships occasionally tried to kill them via bombing, but never staged a land invasion. Around 1,900 Japanese soldiers died during the siege. The majority of them died of starvation, while 600 were killed in air raids.

The Japanese government officially surrendered to the United States aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. Sakaibara did not surrender to the Americans for another two days. Admiral Sakaibara was executed for war crimes in 1947.

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Matt lives in Southern California. He is interested in politics, history, literature and the natural world.