One Hero’s Face

Posted by on July 1, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on One Hero’s Face

One Hero’s Face

Here is a photograph of young Lawton Shank, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism on Wake Island in World War II. The doctor worked steadily and at great risk to care for casualties during the siege and battle in December, 1941, and volunteered to remain on the island with the last 98 American POWs, only to be cut down with them in a blaze of Japanese bullets on October 7, 1943. I wrote about Dr. Shank a couple of years ago in Wake 98 Hero, but was unable to find a photograph to go with the post at the time. While the...

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Dead Wake

Posted by on May 27, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Dead Wake

Dead Wake

No, Wake Island isn’t dead. I know I make a connection to Wake Island in just about every blog post (it turns out that there are generally six or fewer degrees of separation), but this post is about the recent book by Seattle’s Erik Larson: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Broadway Books, 2015). The skilled narrative non-fiction author of In the Garden of the Beasts and The Devil in the White City turns here to the well-known but still gripping story of the massive luxury ocean liner, sailing from New York to Liverpool in...

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The Other Palmyra

Posted by on April 14, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on The Other Palmyra

The Other Palmyra

There are two Palmyras, worlds apart. The ancient city of Palmyra in war-torn Syria has become a target for the systematic destruction of irreplaceable pre-Islamic antiquities by Islamic State militants – a pressing topic for sure; but this post is about the other Palmyra: a tiny tropical atoll in the mid-Pacific. I learned about the atoll while researching and writing Building for War, and it recently came to my attention again when I heard that amateur radio operators made a “DXpedition” to Palmyra a couple of months ago. This is the...

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Red Hill

Posted by on March 15, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Red Hill

Red Hill

In January 2014 the massive World War II-era underground fuel tank facility near Pearl Harbor was found to have sprung a leak, which immediately raised environmental concerns for spillage and contamination of drinking water. The leak, or “release” as the Navy reported it, of 27,000 gallons of jet fuel, didn’t visibly spill out like the devastating oil slicks in recent memory. It didn’t coat birds or choke fish; it didn’t blacken beaches, requiring hundreds of volunteers to help clean up. Navy officials initially weren’t sure it...

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Wake 98 Update

Posted by on February 10, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Wake 98 Update

Wake 98 Update

In September 2015 when I last wrote about the JPAC/DPAA mission in Not Forgotten, we were still fielding some recent and resubmitted family DNA reference samples to help identify remains found on Wake Island in 2011. The remains were linked to the October 7, 1943, massacre of American POWs on Wake Island, and I have helped to locate qualified DNA donors from the families of the 98 victims. Working with the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory at Dover AFB, we found a few more donors this winter. To date, 71 families have submitted DNA...

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Coincidence . . . or not

Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off on Coincidence . . . or not

Coincidence . . . or not

A few weeks ago I received a link to a story about a midair collision of fighter jets over the Pacific, about 250 miles west of Wake. Gregory Roberts of the Voice Observer reported that two F-18 Hornets had collided and fallen into the Pacific on Thursday, December 17. One pilot was rescued quickly and returned to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, but the other pilot was still missing. Multiple ships and helicopter crews were engaged in the effort to locate the missing pilot. I searched the internet over the coming days, hopeful of a...

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Perpetual Threat

Posted by on December 8, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Perpetual Threat

Perpetual Threat

Yesterday the nation observed the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor: December 7, a date that has lived in infamy for seventy-four years now. Flags flew at half-staff, news media featured recollections of elderly survivors, groups with common bonds to WWII gathered to commemorate the day, schools held assemblies, and thousands attended the ceremonies on Oahu. I understand the significance of the day and honor those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, as well as the victims of the coordinated Japanese attacks across the Pacific that...

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Ready, Aim, Fire

Posted by on November 10, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Ready, Aim, Fire

Ready, Aim, Fire

Wake Island was the center of action last week when it anchored a test of the U.S. military’s multi-layered, integrated ballistic missile defense system. The irony is inescapable. Wake Island, where the absence of even the most rudimentary radar in 1941 doomed hundreds of Americans to devastating surprise attacks by undetected Japanese bombers, became the base of operations seven decades later for state-of-the-art missile detection and interception technology. The U. S. military confirmed the successful $230 million test on Sunday, November...

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One Got Away

Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on One Got Away

One Got Away

Recently Doug Miller, webmaster at the excellent Pan Am Historical Foundation website, shared a very interesting story with me. Miller was contacted by the son of a Wake Island civilian contractor who had in fact escaped the island aboard the Philippine Clipper following the initial attack by the Japanese on December 8, 1941. In all my research I had never come across any mention of a contractor seizing the opportunity for a ride out that fateful day. But young Tom Cleary did. Mike Cleary shared his recollections of the family story, as well...

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Not Forgotten

Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Blog | Comments Off on Not Forgotten

Not Forgotten

Last week President Barak Obama proclaimed September 18, 2015, National POW-MIA Recognition day, reinforcing our national commitment to those defenders who never came home. “We rededicate ourselves to our ironclad commitment to never leaving one of our own behind,” the proclamation reads, “and we pay tribute to those patriots known to God and never forgotten.” The quest to locate, identify, and return the remains of our nation’s war dead remains daunting even with the recent reorganization of the agencies responsible for the task...

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