Before There Were SeaBees There Were...

The Civilian Construction Men of Wake Island

These are the men that history almost forgot.

In 1941, more than 1,100 civilian men ventured 4,000 miles across the Pacific to desolate Wake Island to build a U.S. Navy base.  Just hours after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Wake Island was attacked and these men were thrust into the forefront of the war in the Pacific.

Japanese flyers celebrate raid on Wake
Marine Corps Artwork of the Defense of Wake
Despite their civilian status, the construction workers pitched in to help the under strength Marine contingent hold off the Japanese attackers.  For 16 days, the defenders of Wake Island provided inspiration and hope for an America shocked by the devastation at Pearl Harbor.

Japanese Combat Art depicting Wake personnel surrendering
Graveyard of Wake's air force
This is the story of the civilians of Wake Island. Barely a footnote in the annals of the battle for Wake, their contribution on the guns and on the bulldozers during the battle could not have been more significant. This is the story of why these men were sent there, who they were, what life was like on Wake prior to the war and then when war came what were their experiences.

Japanese photo of Contractors walking to their prison ship after Wake's fall
Wake POW artwork of survivors held at the airfield
This film accomplishes this through the use of Marine Corps and civilian survivor interviews, still photos and motion pictures. The photography is from U.S. military archives, rarely seen captured Japanese military film and combat art and even Pan American Airways historical footage. Pan American Airways had a flying boat base on Wake before the war.
Wrecked Marine F4F fighter
Wake civilian quarters, just prior to the war
At the request of the Wake survivors the film does not go into the time these men spent as POWs. At the time of filming there was a pending lawsuit against the Japanese manufacturers, similar to the ones filed against German corporations
USS Regulus, contractor resupply ship Wake as seen from the air, Dec 3, 1941

Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Husband Kimmel (center)

USS Saratoga, part of the Wake relief force


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