More from Charles Leroy Myers: Isaac J. (Ike) Wardle, Statement in Defense of Civilians on Wake Island.
At this time I would like to make a firm statement in defense of the civilian workers during the defense of Wake Island. Less than a month before, the men had been told by their “Boss” that in case of war they would be evacuated. Now the Japanese had double-crossed all of us and there we were in war whether we liked it or not. Probably 25% of the workers were just out of high school and 75% of us were of military age, 25 or 30% were family men and older than military age. So the consensus of conversations that I heard was “why should we go back to the states and sign up when we can fight the (enemy)right here”. Not one of us wanted to have the Japanese capture the Island. And we, as Americans felt just as strongly as the Marines, that if the Japanese did take us we wanted to make them pay for us. Had the command been a little more organized and had not told us to get food, supplies and hide out, they would have had better support from the start. Then maybe when we that did come home would not have had to be outraged and embarrassed as we watched the movie, “Wake Island” by being depicted as “hard drinking, hard fighting cowards.” Also, we were, with a few exceptions, described the same way in Major Devereaux’s book. The facts are: Dan Teeters sent out the word the second day for all men to meet at the BOQ Building at dusk---Probably not over 200 men showed up that night, but the foremen were instructed to make contact with our men and take assignments from the Marines, himself, Bill Ray or Pete Russell. “He had been unable to contact Pearl Harbor so we were on our own and would have to continue to help the Marines defend the Island until help came.” As far as I know, with almost 200 men sleeping in the Agg.(aggregate) tunnel vicinity and we who had buried the large asphalt tank close by, established the real civilian headquarters at that point. Whenever anyone, including the flyers and the Marines, wanted a detail day or night we got the first call. A real “Field Kitchen” was set up under the Agg. Plant and several men who could and would cook were excused from other duties. During the time that Bud Kimes and I were detailed to get men out for gun-moving and other duties, we found many men who did not know of these nightly duties, a week after the first bombing. Most of these men turned out after that. During the 16 days of defense I had occasion to be on almost every part of Wake and Peal islands and wherever we went we saw civilians with the Marines including Elmo Robnets “civilian Gun Crew” just west of the Peal Island Bridge. I believe there were closer to 100 men directly working and or fighting with the Marines. Further, I believe that of the 1,200 civilians over 90% of them went out on details intermittently.
(to be continued)
Many of those names above are unknown to me, let’s just say the Heroes of Wake. Under the guidance of Bob Hewitt, we are almost finished with the plans for our annual Veterans’’ day Parade. Seems we’ve done it here in Oroville along time. I forgot what number this one is, I think 10 or 12. But remember before we brought it back the Parade was done way back in the 1940’s and 50’s. Sadly we didn’t bring back the speeches and get togethers they used to have, however the restaurants are all full with veterans and their friends and family. We will put up the Flags at the Cemetery as was done in the past, weather permitting. After the day we have to put away the flags until Memorial Day and try to put hundreds of big flags and thousands of small ones away if wet. Many of the flags we put up have been donated by the loved ones of a Veteran that has passed on. Believe me we do take good care of them. As when brand new they covered the Coffin of another American that served his Country in peace and war. I say we, I’m just a small part of what it takes to put Veterans Day on in Oroville. Please mark your calendar for November 11th a very special day/