In November 1941, Major Caton takes command of the small Marine garrison on Wake Island. His tendency toward spit and polish upsets the men's tropical lassitude, but Pearl Harbor changes everything. Soon the island is attacked and the Marines pull together day by day; but how long can they hold out?Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
I have actually been to Wake Island and was able to explore the history that took place there in December, 1941. A sign stating "Where America's Day Really Begins" greets you on the airstrip as you disembark, reflecting the fact that they are on the other side of the date line. Inside the terminal, a small museum containing relics of the war tells the story of the Marines and civilian contractors stationed there.
I began viewing the relics with no knowledge of what had occurred, and was originally only interested in them as an antique novelty. It was after I began reading the stories that accompanied the items, put together by survivor's, as I stood there on no more than a couple hundred yards of sand, that the magnitude of what they must have faced hit me. On each subsequent visit I would try to learn more about the battle, exploring the dunes and eventually reading a few books containing survivor's reports. With that said, the viewing of the film was a bit spoiled.
I have a difficult time seeing the film as little more than propaganda designed to feed an already salivating audience looking for revenge in post-Pearl Harbor America. The true story of Wake Island is not one of a Marine Battalion's last stand, it is one of a reeling Pacific Fleet following the Pearl Harbor attacks that called off a rescue effort. It is a story of civilian contractors that were forced into labor, then executed. It is a story of Marines that would spend years as POWs enduring treatment unimaginable to most people reading these comments. It is the story of the families that would wait with uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones.
Wake Island is a good war drama, but other than location and date it offers little in the way of historical accuracy. To treat it as realistic does an injustice to the brave Americans who fought there.
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