Friday, August 31, 2012

A Wake Island Helmet - Part One, "Dodging Hell in Small Parcels"

Authors Note: My October 2000 article "Massacre on Wake Island" (Navy History Magazine) was the first detailed account of the murder of 98 American civilians by the Japanese in 1943.  It has subsequently been used as a reference in several World War II books and articles.  In the years since, I have been contacted by scores of people who were related to victims, or are acquainted with family members of the murdered 98.  One family member never knew the details of his father's death until he found my article. We were both in tears before that phone call concluded.

 In 2011, a descendant of a man who survived the battle and three years as a POW contacted me.  I felt privileged that he chose me to tell about his grandfather.  Glen Binge's story is remarkable, but the souvenir helmet that returned home with him is even more extraordinary, for it is a memorial to the lives of twenty-seven other men who did not come home.

 I wrote about that man and the autographed helmet that he brought home in an article entitled "A Memento of Terror," published by World War II History Magazine in March 2012.  This will be an enlarged version of that article.  Because of its length, I'll present it in five installments. 

Glen R. Binge was the first to sign his helmet.  His is one of the few signatures on the inside. Courtesy Glen Binge Family

"Dodging Hell in Small Parcels"

 Glen Binge brought his helmet home at the end of World War II.  The helmet bears the names and addresses of over fifty of his comrades.  This was not an unusual thing.  Many soldiers kept their helmets as souvenirs.  But Glen Binge was not a soldier, or a marine.  He was an American civilian who had beaten the odds to survive one of the most famous battles of World War II and three and a half years as a POW in Japan’s most infamous prisoner of war camp.  The cloth covered fiber sun helmet that survived and came home with him is a puzzle.  How could such a fragile item survive the rigors of combat and a brutal captivity, especially when over half the men who signed it died at the hands of the Japanese?  This is the story of the Wake Island men who signed Glen Binge’s helmet.

The Morrison-Knudsen Company issued this sun helmet to Glen Binge when he arrive at Wake Island in 1941.
It has the signatures of fifty of his comrades.  Twenty-seven of them died at the hands of the Japanese.
Courtesy Glen Binge Family

At fifty-one, Logan Kay was too old to be scrambling through coral gravel dodging Japanese bombs.  That is where he found himself on the morning of December 8th, 1941.  A force of twenty-seven Japanese bombers struck Wake Atoll within a few hours of the attack against American military installations in the Hawaiian Islands.  Wake is 2,300 miles west of Honolulu and across the International Date Line.  It was the 8th of December where Logan Kay of Clearlake Park, California and his friend Fred Stevens of Sioux City, Iowa struggled to find shelter.  Stevens had a bad case of food poisoning contracted the day before.  "Scotty" as his friends called Kay, helped Stevens to a large steel dredge pipe where they would shelter for the next few days.

Logan Kay and Fred Stevens signed together in a box that separates them from other signers.  Notice the "77." 
That is number of days that Kay and Steven eluded the Japanese and avoided capture on Wake Island.
Courtesy Glen Binge Family

The Pan American Airways hotel on Peale Island was in shambles. (Wake Atoll is made up three islands: Wake, Peale and Wilkes.  The "V" shaped atoll is nine miles long from tip to tip.)  Japanese bombs put it out of business and killed ten of its Guamanian staff.  The Philippine Clipper floating at the hotel dock, survived the bombing.  Soon, all the Caucasian Pan Am employees and five passengers were in the air, fleeing to Hawaii.  Jesus "Seuese" Garcia of Agana, Guam acted as spokesman for the surviving thirty-five Guamanian hotel employees who were left behind.  They could only stand and watch as the big seaplane winged away.  Garcia marched his Chamorros to the island commander to offer their services to defend the atoll.

For the following fifteen days, the Marine garrison on Wake held out against repeated Japanese air and naval attacks.  Many of the civilians on the island assisted the Marines in both logistics and combat roles, Logan Kay and Fred Stevens along with them.  They were among 1,150 civilian contractors employed by the Morrison-Knudsen Company, part of a cooperative of eight construction companies called the Contractors Pacific Naval Air Bases (CPNAB).  The CPNAB was contracted to build an airfield, seaplane base, and submarine base and to dredge a channel into the lagoon to allow access for submarines.  

Wake Island is 2,300 miles west of Hawaii.  Map from USMC History of the Battle of Wake Island

The garrison endured daily air attacks and on December 11th repelled a naval and amphibious assault with its heavy seacoast guns.  A larger, more determined invasion force arrived two days before Christmas and the well-trained force of Japanese Special Landing Force troops finally overwhelmed the garrison after heavy fighting.  In the dawning hours of 23 December 1941, the Japanese captured 1,621 Americans with the fall of the atoll.

"Come out and give up.  The Island was surrendered at seven-twenty this morning."  Twenty three year old carpenter, Rodney Kephart heard the call from his hiding place.  Kephart, from Boise Idaho, assisted in defense of the island during the long siege by tending the wounded and digging trenches.  He admitted after the war, "It certainly was a relief to be free from the suspense of it all, and to be through dodging hell in small parcels."

Rodney Kephart circa 1999.  His story can be found here:

“The Emperor has gracefully presented you with your lives”

 As resistance ceased on Wake, the U.S. Marines, sailors, and contractors were marched to the runway and seated in rows facing a line of Japanese machine guns.  Logan Kay and Fred Stevens were the only men who avoided capture.  They hid in the bush certain that those surrendering were to be murdered.  Indeed, this was the plan of the Japanese troops who held them.  Only the intervention of Rear Admiral Sadamichi Kajioka, who commanded the invasion force, prevented the slaughter.  After Kajioka arrived, an interpreter read a proclamation to the prisoners that said, in part: "The Emperor has gracefully presented you with your lives."  An unknown voice bellowed from the crowd of Americans: "Well, thank the son-of-a-bitch."

Go to Part Two -

Go to this page to see letters from family members who responded to this blog article -

You can see a complete listing of all the names of Glen Binge's Sun Helmet at this link:

Monday, August 27, 2012

They Gave Their Lives for Tourism: The Hatfields and McCoys

The recent History Channer mini-series, The Hatfields & McCoys, has sparked new interest in that long ago Kentucky-West Virginia feud.  My intent here is not to tell that story, but to illustrate how some communities can capitalize on past events to fuel the history tourism business.  The folks at the Pikeville/Pike County Kentucky Tourism Commision have done just that with the recent publication of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud Driving Tour.  I think it is a brilliant idea, and may just bring a few dollars into an otherwise obscure part of Kentucky.

Link to the driving tour

               A page from the Hatfield - McCoy Driving Tour

Kevin Costner plays William Anderson Hatfield, (or "Devil Anse" Hatfield as he was known then) in the mini-series.  I think Costner is physically a much bigger man, but I suspect his personality could never stand up to that of the original Devil Anse.

You can read more about William Anderson Hatfield here:

William "Devil Anse" Hatfield in 1910

When I was a young company commander at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri back in the 80s, there was a retired Sgt Major there named Glen Dye.  We became good friends.  Glen was also a "gun guy," a sniper from the Korean War era (He used the M1-D and the 1903A4 rifles), and a great storyteller.  Most importantly, he was the great-grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield.  Glen really didn't know what to do with him self after retirement, so he often gravitated down to his old battalion so he could be near soldiers.  Although retired, he was still a soldier through and through. 

Glenn could describe every fight that occurred between the Hatfields and McCoys in detail down to what gun each participant was carrying at the time and what bullets holes were created in each person.  He said the Hatfield men were generally small fellows and all preferred S&W revolvers because of the smaller grips.  The McCoys were Colt men.  I wonder if the film picked up on that difference.

Glenn gave me his sterling silver double star Combat Infantryman's Badge as a going away present.  He earned if for participation in WWII, Korea and the Vietnam War.  I still have Glen's CIB and will always remember the stories he told while sitting in my company orderly room.
Double Star Combat Infantryman's Badge

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bosworth Field and the Demise of the Plantagenents

August 22 marks the anniversary of one of those pivotal days in British History (or "American History - Part One" as I like to call it.)  The year of 1485 does not stand out like other important years in British history such as 1066, but it was very important just the same.  On this day, 427 years ago, the War of the Roses ended in the strategic battle of Bosworth Field. The war between two rival houses of the Plantagenet dynasty, had raged off and on for thirty years. It is ironic that when it was over, neither the house of York or the House of Lancaster would hold the crown. Instead, a new family would rule the country. The reign of the Plantagenet kings ended with the death of Richard III on Bosworth field.  Henry Tudor, only remotely related to the Plantagenets, established a new dynasty when he left the battlefield as the victor. 

See more about Bosworth Field here:

So ended over three hundred years of Plantagenet rule. From 1154 to 1485 fifteen monarchs of this dynasty held the crown.  Among those fifteen were some of the best and worst kings in English history.  See more here:

Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII when he came to the crown after Bosworth Field, established a short, but dynamic dynasty.  Some of the most tumultuous events of English history would occur under his son Henry VIII and Granddaughter Elizabeth I, including the reformation, discovery of the new world and the emergence of England as a true European power.

Henry Tudor (Henry VII) founder of the Tudor dynasty

I had two distant cousins who fought for Henry at Bosworth Field, Sir Edward Courtnenay of Powderham and Piers Courtenay the Bishop of Exeter.  But I am also a Plantagenet descendant.  I guess I should mourn for my other distant cousin, Richard III, and the end of the Plantagenet dynasty.

See my update on this subject at this later blog entry:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou back from the editor!

I', proud to say that The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou is back from the first round of editing! 

The head editor send this to my publisher at Blue Water Publications, "The Wattensaw book is excellent. Great story, and I am in love with Ep!"

It is gratifying, yet humbling, to have a truly impartial and unsolicited comment like this.

I've only reviewed the first chapter or so, but the corrections/suggestions are mild ones and mainly grammatical in nature.  The editor has not clobbered me on the dialect, for she understands that those peculiar spellings are important to the story.  I'll have a chance to agree or disagree with each comment and then send it back for another round.  From what I see so far, the second round may not be necessary.

A very good friend has volunteered to help with the cover art and possibly some simple illustrations for the inside.  I can't wait to see the finished product!

Also, this blog reached a milestone today with its 1,000th visitor!

The traffic analysis that provides me shows visitors from the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Russia, Japan, Argentina and Angola.  My thanks to everyone who has shared links to this site and recommended it to friends.   Please officially "Follow" the blog.  See the link at the top right.


M.E. Hubbs

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Old Ironsides" Sets Sail Again!

On August 19, 2012 a historic event occurred that was in itself a commemoration of a historic event.  The USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned vessel in the US Navy, set sail in Boston harbor under her own power.  The 215-year-old ship is now a floating museum stationed in Charlestown Massachusetts, across the harbor from Boston.  This was the first time that she had left the pier under her own power since 1997.

She sailed only 1,110 yards to mark the 200th anniversary of her victory over the British ship, HMS Guerriere.  That close range, violent battle on August 19, 1812 earned the USS Constitution the nick name "Old Ironsides." 

The USS Constitution sailing during the 200th anniversery of her defeat of the HMS Guerriere

You can learn more about the USS Constitution here:

I've had the privilege of seeing historic ships from two other countries.  The first is a contemporary of Old Ironsides.  Although it was built a generation earlier than the Constitution, they plied the seas at the same time.

The HMS Victory is the flagship of Britain's most lauded sailor, Lord Nelson.  Nelson was killed aboard the Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  Trafalgar is arguably Britain's and Nelson's most famous victory at sea.

The HMS Victory in its dry dock at the Historic Portsmouth Dock Yards

The Victory does not share the Constitutions distinction of being afloat.  She is birthed dry in a even older 17th Century dry dock in Historic Portsmouth Dock Yards in the south of England.   The ship is in amazing condition, but time and hundreds of thousands of visitors over the years have taken their toll.  The ships is scheduled for a multi-million dollar renovation in the coming years.

The timber decks can't take much weight, so heavy original guns are displayed outdoors and very convincing fiberglass replicas inhabit the crowded gun decks. Alas, they allowed no photos inside the ship.  Rest assured that every detail, down to the men's trenchers and spoons were replicated and displayed in their proper place.

You can learn more about the HMS Victory here:

Also at Portsmouth is the HMS Warrior.  This ship has the distinction of being Britain's first iron hulled ship.  She was launched in 1860 and was active in the anti-slaving patrols off the west coast of Africa.  In her day she was the fastest, most powerful ship afloat.  She ended her career as a stripped down fuel storage hulk.  Some far-seeing preservationist saved her from the scrap heap just after WWII and she went through an amazing restoration.  Like the HMS Victory, every detail is included above and below decks (where photos are allowed!)  I think I enjoyed the HMS Warrior more than the HMS Victory.  The Warrior is afloat at her dock, but she will never get underway again with her own power. 

The HMS Warrior at her dock

Main Gun Deck

Attention to detail.  lanyard, percussion firing device and rear sight on 42 pounder gun

Officers Quarters

You can read more about the HMS Warrior here:
The Mary Rose was Henry VIII's favorite flag ship.  She was caught in a freak wind and capsized and sank outside of Portsmouth in 1545.  Most of her crew went down with her. The wreck was lost for centuries, but was rediscovered in 1971 and finally raised in the 1980s.  About half of the ship's timbers survived in the silty bottom.  The artifacts recovered on the wreck are what make the discovery so important.  It is a time capsule of English Tudor history.  Cannon, personal items, long bows, arrows and human remain were preserved in the mud.  Thousands of artifacts, and the remains of the ship, are housed in a museum at the Portsmouth Historic Dock Yards.

Remains of the Mary Rose

Some of the remarkably preserved artifacts from the 1545 wreck of the Mary Rose

You can read more about the Mary Rose here:
The Vasa was Sweden's largest and most powerful war ship.  Much to every one's embarrassment, she sank on her first trial voyage in Stockholm harbor in 1628.  She lay forgotten for over 300 years.  Rediscovered, she was raised in 1961.  Since then she has endured an intensive preservation process to stabilize the wood and other artifacts.  Like the Mary Rose, mud and silt kept her oxygen free and slowed decay.  Wood, bone, cloth and other organic artifact have survived with the more durable iron and bronze items.  Over 29 million people have visited the Vasa since she was raised.  She was placed in her current museum in 1987.  I can fully understand why this remarkable ship and museum is Sweden's most popular tourist destination.

It is hard to describe the scale of this vessel. Over 200 feet long, all indoors with several circular galleries around it so it can be viewed from different levels

This was an extremely ornate ship, with extensive figural carvings

The remains of 25 people were found in the wreck. This is one of the facial reconstructions displayed in the museum

You can read more about the Vasa here:
Of all these historic ships we can be proud that the USS Constitution is the only one that can still pull away from the dock, unfurl her sails and move about gracefully under her own power.  She is 215 year old.  I hope she can sail again on the 300th anniversary of her defeat of the HMS Guerriere on August 19, 2112!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Victualling the Army

I had the honor of speaking to the Huntsville, AL chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution this week.  We had a good crowd of about 50+ folks there.  I was asked to speak on Camp Life of the Revolutionary War soldier.  That would be daunting subject to cover in such a short speech, so I limited my talk to army rations.  The presentation was well received, and I think I brought some new information to the group.  I also brought some samples of ship's biscuit (hardtack) and corn pone.  The samples were not as well received as I was!

Speaking to the Huntsville, Alabama Sons of the American Revolution on Army Rations

The title of this blog entry, and of my presentation came from an excellent article by the same title by my good friend Todd Post.  That article covers all aspects of rations and cookery in the Revolutionary War armies.

Here are some simple recipes if you would like to try some ship's biscuits or pone yourself:

Ship’s Biscuits, Sea Biscuits and Hard Bread
Recipe for One Days Ration (1 lb)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup pastry flour or all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

Mix the ingredients completely and work the dough into a ball.  Let is set up for a few minutes.  Roll the dough out until it is about 3/8 inch thick, use a large biscuit cutter to cut out the rounds, then punch them with 8 - 12 holes to let the moisture escape during baking.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 - 40 minutes.  Set aside to cool and let air dry for a day or two before packaging for storage.  Any additions to the recipe such as salt, sugar or shortening will shorten the shelf life considerably.

Fire Cake:  (aka hoe-cake, corn pone, corn dodger, ash-cake etc)

1 1/3 cup boiling water
2 cups yellow corn meal (not cornmeal mix!)
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Crisco, lard, bacon grease etc
Add salt and grease to boiling water, then pour into the corn meal.  Mix thoroughly to make a thick, heavy glutinous dough.  Let it set up for about 30 minutes.  pat into 1/2 inch thick patties, using about 1/2 cup of dough. Can be cooked by baking or frying in pork fat.   The soldiers cooked them in the ashes, on flat rocks or on the blades of shovels and hoes.

Corn pone plays a significant part in a chapter of my book, The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou.  I can attest, as can my characters, that corn pone with a bit of sorghum molasses on it tastes might good!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"She Washed and Ironed Till She Died" Amanda Hulett, Former Slave

My novel, The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou relies a great deal on attitudes, experiences and dialog of former slaves taken from the Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves. These are transcribed interviews with ex-slaves that were done by the Federal Government in the early 1930s. 2,194 such interviews were conducted. My home state of Arkansas had the largest number of interviews at 677.  The slave girl Mandy, who appears in Chapter Twenty of The Secret of Wattensaw Bayou, is based on Amanda Hulett mentioned in the Slave Narratives.   She was owned by Dr. Williams C. Hazen, also a character in my book. 

 (You can read about another character based on a real slave and my chance discovery of his grave site in an earlier entry here:

 Amanda was one of 25+ slaves who were brought to Prairie County Arkansas from Tennessee by Dr. Hazen in the early 1850s.  When the Union Army approached in August 1863, Hazen took his slaves and refugeed to Texas.  Hazen burned everything he could not carry with him, including his entire cotton crop.  He returned to Prairie County in 1865, but left his young wife Mary in a lonely Texas grave.  Many of Hazen's slaves continued to work for him and his sons after freedom came.  An interview with Amanda's daughter for the Arkansas Slave Narratives indicates that the Hazens treated their former slaves well and provided fair wages, homes, and land for a church and school.  The town of Hazen, Arkansas, founded in 1872, encompasses much of the area of Dr. Hazen's farm. 

 Here is the complete transcription of the interview of Emma Smith, Amanda's daughter:

 Interviewer: Miss Irene Robertson
Person interviewed: Emma Hulett Smith; Hazen, Arkansas
Age: 66

 "I was the first colored baby born here or very near here. There was only three houses in this town (Hazen). I think they muster been log houses.

 My folks belong to Dr. Hazen. He brought families from Tennessee.  When the war broke out he took em to Texas.  Then he brought em back here.  When they was freed I heard my mother say they worked on for him and his boys (Alex and Jim Hazen) and they paid them. He was good to them.  They had er plenty always. After the war they lived in good log houses and he give em land and lumber for the church. Same church we got cept a storm tore it down and this one built in place of it. He let em have a school. Same place it stands now.  My mother (Mandy Hulett) got a Union pension till she died. She cooked at the first hotel in Hazen for John Lane.  She washed and ironed till she died. We girls helped and we wash and iron all we can get now.  None of us not on relief (Fannie nor Emma).  I can't wash no more.  My hands and arms swell up with rheumatism. I still iron all I can get.

 The present conditions seems awful unsettled; wages low, prices high and work scarce at times.  Men can get work in the hay two months and bout two months work in the rice or pickin cotton, either one.  Then the work has played clean out till hay time next year.

"How do they live? Some of their wifes cooks for white people and they eat all they make up soon as they get paid. Only way they live."

Census records indicate that Mandy married Jesse Hulett, another former Hazen slave, after the war.  Her daughter mentions a "Union Pension," however I have not been able to determine if this was a Federal Government pension or one provided by the Knights and Daughters of Tabor (see more on this below.)  There is no record of her husband, Jesse Hulett, serving in the Army during the Civil War. (There was another black man named Jesse Hulett who did receive a pension, but it proved to be a different Jesse.)  Mandy Hulett is buried in an African American cemetery on the former Hazen farm. 

Just like Israel Thomas, I found Mandy's grave after discovering her in the Slave Narratives and writing her into my novel.  It seemed that she and Thomas were waiting for me to find them in this lonely graveyard not far from Wattensaw Bayou.

 If you look closely at Mandy's headstone you will see a curious inscription.  This is the symbol for the International Order of Knights and Daughters of Tabor.  It is often found on the headstones of African Americans who passed in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. 

Knights and Daughters of Tabor Pin. Courtesy of Pris Weathers at

Rev. Moses Dickson founded the International Order of the Knights and Daughters of Tabor in 1872 as a fraternal order based on benevolence and financial programs. It also encouraged education and some chapters held literary and social entertainment.  It was organized similar to Freemasonry and Woodmen of the World, except that it accepted men and women on equal terms.  The order offered a burial policy and weekly cash payments for the sick and infirm.  Mandy's headstone was probably provided by the Order, and the "Union pension" that Emma mentions may have been Order benefits.

The Order was most active in the former Slave States, but had chapters in 30 states, England, and the West Indies.  Very little information is available on-line concerning the Order.  It seems to have died out sometime in the 1960s.   The Arkansas headquarters for the Order, Taborian Hall, is still standing in Little Rock and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  More photos and information concerning the building can be found at this website:

Taborian Hall in Little Rock.  Courtesy of Pris Weathers at

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE SLAVE NARRATIVES - This site offers excellent background information on the initiation and conduct of the project as well as transcripts of each of the interviews.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Massacre Site Revealed?

            I have visited Wake Island off and on for almost 20 years.  My most recent trip was in July 2011.  That will unfortunately be my final sojourn to the island.  The US Air Force now operates Wake Island since the Army's mission ended there several years ago.  One of the most gratifying magazine articles that I have written was an account of the murder of 98 American civilians on the island in 1943.  Published in Naval History Magazine in 2000, it was the first thorough treatment of that atrocity.  Since then, I have been contacted by scores of people who were related to victims, or are acquainted with family members of the murdered 98.   One family member never knew the details of his father's death until he found my article.  We were both in tears before that phone call concluded.  You can see a bootlegged web version of the article here:

An anonymous American POW chiseled this message on a large boulder at Wake Atoll.  It has now become the memorial to the 98 American civilians murdered by the Japanese on Wake Island. (photo by author)

            In March of 2011 a spring storm blew into Wake Island from the sea.  Storms like this are not unusual.  However, after this storm Mr. Sakchai Piemvimol, from the Wake Island Environmental Office found something extraordinary while inspecting the shoreline for erosion.  A large segment of a human skull sat in shallow water on the reef flat, only a few feet from the shoreline.  The tide was out, and no waves disturbed it where it lay. A closer examination revealed more bones, over two hundred, on the reef and the corral gravel beach.  Mr. Dominic Leffler, the Wake Island Environmental Coordinator, photographed the site and had all the visible bones collected before the next tide further scattered the remains.

Massacre Beach.  When walking on this peaceful beach it is hard to imagine the cruelty an suffering that occurred here in 1943. (photo by author)

            Finding human remains at Wake is not unusual.  Occasionally, construction or infrastructure improvement projects disturb unmarked graves.  Typically, they are Japanese soldiers who were killed or died of disease during the long bombing campaign against the island from 1942 to 1945.  The location, and quantity of the remains found in 2011, convinced Mr. Leffler that these were not Japanese.  Especially ominous was rusted metal wire still wrapped around one of the leg bones.  He carefully packed them and sent them to the Joint MIA/POW Accounting Command (JPAC) in Honolulu for evaluation.

            The initial examination by forensic anthropologists at JPAC confirmed that the bones are Caucasian.  There were no complete skeletons and several different individuals were represented in the collection.  A JPAC recovery team deployed to Wake in June 2011 and spent thirty days excavating the site for other remains and any associated artifacts that might lead to identification. 

WAKE ISLAND (June 8, 2011) - U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Darnell Kramer, left, and Dr. Denise To, both with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, screen sand recovered from a rocky beach on Wake Island where the team is searching for remains of U.S. personnel that are missing from World War II.
(JPAC photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Adelita C. Mead/Released)

            Was this he site of the infamous Wake Island Massacre that occurred in October 1943?  It is near where the event was thought to have happened, and the jumbled nature of the bones suggests a hasty mass burial.  The Japanese moved the murdered men's remains in 1945 from the anti-tank ditch in which they had been buried to the US cemetery at Peacock Point.  In their haste to prepare for the arrival of American forces and surrender of the island, it would have been very easy for them to overlook some bones.

            Unfortunately, the archaeological record was destroyed when the surf washed the bones from the coral sands.  Any sub-surface statigraphy that may have suggested a trench or ditch, was lost during the storm.   Dr. Greg Berg, the JPAC archaeologist who headed the mission to Wake, is unwilling without further evidence to officially declare this the massacre site.  Dr. Berg is currently working with veterans and survivors groups to find relatives of the Wake Island 98.  DNA samples from family members may help to identify some of the men whose remains were found in 2011.  

            To this author, to Dominic Leffler and others on Wake Island, this spot on the beach has new meaning.  Workers on the island have already erected a make shift memorial there to 98 murdered Americans.

Additional photos of the JPAC operation at Wake Island can be found at: