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In November 1941, Major Caton takes command of the small Marine garrison on Wake Island. His tendency toward spit and polish upsets the men's tropical lassitude, but Pearl Harbor changes everything. Soon the island is attacked and the Marines pull together day by day; but how long can they hold out? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The island was discovered by Spanish explorers in 1568 and ironically named San Francisco. It was renamed for William Wake, captain of a British trading schooner, who visited the atoll in 1796. It was claimed by the United States in 1899. See more »
During one of the scenes showing the bombardment of the island, the Marine CO has ordered the observation tower evacuated. Later scenes show two men still in the tower when it is destroyed. See more »
The battle for Wake Island concluded just before Christmas of 1941 and news from the place was pretty sketchy. It would not be known until after the war ended exactly what happened on the place.
In many ways it was worse than what's shown here. With no help coming at all from the mainland USA or from Pearl Harbor which was licking its own wounds, there was an unconditional surrender declared. The construction workers who were building a base on the island when war broke out were all summarily executed as spies. The few Marines who did survive, survived in horrible captivity, probably made worse by the fact that America never tried to take the island back. When they had the overwhelming naval superiority, the Japanese were starved out, but so were the prisoners they had.
So with an incomplete story at best, the writers at Paramount had free reign to do an Alamo like story and proceeded to do just that. Brian Donlevy is a stalwart Marine Colonel who clashes repeatedly with Albert Dekker the head of the construction workers. Comic relief is provided by Robert Preston and William Bendix as a pair of tough marines who joke about Bendix's impending discharge which occurs right on the day of Pearl Harbor.
Bendix was nominated for Best Supporting Actor and while he's pretty funny in the part, when you consider he did a highly effective dramatic role in The Glass Key that same year, I'm wondering if the Academy put him up for the wrong film. He lost that year to Van Heflin for Johnny Eager.
Wake Island is a dated story, dated but entertaining. Maybe someone will do a film of the real story there, the horrible captivity of our prisoners, just like what they endured in the Phillipines.
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