September 4

This Day in History

World War II

Sep 4, 1945:

Japanese surrender on Wake Island

On this day in 1945, 2,200 Japanese soldiers finally lay down their arms-days after their government had already formally capitulated.

Wake Island was one of the islands bombed as part of a wider bombing raid that coincided with the attack on Pearl Harbor. In December of 1941, the Japanese invaded in force, taking the island from American hands, losing 820 men, while the United States lost 120. The United States decided not to retake the island but to cut off the Japanese occupiers from reinforcement, which would mean they would eventually starve. Rear Adm. Shigematsu Sakaibara, commander of the Japanese forces there, ordered the 96 Allied prisoners of war who had been left behind shot dead on trumped-up charges of trying to signal American forces by radio.

And so the Japanese garrison sat on Wake Island for two years, suffering the occasional U.S. bombing raid, but no land invasion. In that time, 1,300 Japanese soldiers died from starvation, and 600 from the American air attacks. Two days after the formal Japanese surrender onboard the USS Missouri, Sakaibara capitulated to American forces, which finally landed on the island. Sakaibara was eventually tried for war crimes and executed in 1947.

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