Morning glory vine creeps over several concrete bunkers built by the civilian contractors in 1941 as explosives magazines. Standing inside this one, I could almost hear the groans of the wounded men who filled this makeshift hospital during the two-week siege in December 1941.
Three of the concrete magazines built by the contractors for the U.S. Marine detachment’s ammunition and explosives still stand across the road from the base operations building on Wake Island. As we entered them I touched the arched walls and was struck by how sturdy they were, well built and well preserved.
During the two-week siege of Wake in December 1941, two of the four magazines originally in this row became command posts and the other two were speedily converted to hospitals after the Japanese bombed the main hospital in Camp 2.
Used for storage and other purposes in the decades after the war, the bunkers are empty and clean now; only thin tendrils of vine snake across the interior surfaces. Light falls in the open end but the far wall is cool and dark. Here and in the other structures and ruins of World War II on Wake Island, silence is heavy with meaning.