It is Monday, 8 December 1941. On Wake Island, a tiny sprung paper-clip in the Pacific between Hawaii and Guam, Marines of the 1st Defense Battalion are starting another day of the backbreaking war preparations that have gone on for weeks. Out in the triangular lagoon formed by the islets of Peale, Wake, and Wilkes, the huge silver Pan American ...
It is Monday, 8 December 1941. On Wake Island, a tiny sprung paper-clip in the Pacific between Hawaii and Guam, Marines of the 1st Defense Battalion are starting another day of the backbreaking war preparations that have gone on for weeks. Out in the triangular lagoon formed by the islets of Peale, Wake, and Wilkes, the huge silver Pan American Airways Philippines Clipper flying boat roars off the water bound for Guam. The trans-Pacific flight will not be complete. "A Magnificent Fight: Marines in the Battle for Wake Island" recounts the marine battle in the Wake Island and references specific subjects, such as aircraft, personalities, and campaigns.
In "A Magnificent Fight," Robert Cressman has honored many a Wake Island defender whose names have been otherwise lost to history. "A Magnificent Fight" is one of those few Wake Island books that the author has devoted much of the writing to what fictional writers would call "character development." This book is a slow starter and I would not recommend it to casual readers of history as much of it reads like an encyclopedia. Scholastically, this book covers all the main points of the engagements at Wake and reflects a tight compression of data. I particularly appreciate Mr. Cressman's devotion to naming as many individual combatants, Japanese and American alike. I found particular difficulty with Cressman's writing style, "A Magnificent Fight" seemed to lack the flow or syntax that Wake Island stories generally possess. This may not be a problem for some readers, but its just one of those quirks that I noticed right off. I did appreciate the fact that while many scholars will devote numerous chapters to the POW experience, "A Magnificent Fight" does not. The bulk of the context is dedicated to the events leading up to and through the battle for Wake Island. While Cressman's analysis fairly evaluates the Navy's tactical decisions that would forsake the garrison, he is critical of the U.S. Navy commanders of the two submarines assigned to patrol the seas around Wake, whom Cressman supposes may have given the garrison the tactical advantage it certainly needed. Cressman has further contributed to evening the playing field between the slighted garrison commander CDR W. S. Cunningham and the well publicized hero and Marine Artillery commander MAJ James Devereux. The book concludes with a keenly fair analysis of the so called "Cunningham-Devereux Controversy" and a critical review of the wartime motion picture "Wake Island." Additional valuable appendix entries also close the book.
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