Quote of the Day: December 21, 2011
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Liveblogging World War II: December 21, 1941


Wake Island: By December 21, eleven days after the Wake Island Marines had repelled the first assault on the atoll, Fletcher and Saratoga were still 600 miles from Wake. The Japanese were much closer, and in much greater force. A day earlier, Admiral Kajioka had sortied from Kwajalein with a second assault force, this time reinforced with four heavy cruisers. In the north, the carriers Soryu and Hiryu were detached from the Pearl Harbor strike force, their planes pouncing on Wake on December 21. Wake's last two Marine Wildcats scrambled into the air, and though badly outnumbered managed to down a Zero before being forced down themselves. But Wake was now bereft of air defense, and the promised relief mission nowhere in sight: in fact, at the time of the raid, Fletcher's force was refueling and, due to heavy seas, sailing away from Wake.

On receiving word of the carrier-based raid, Pye's resolve began to weaken. Fearing that Saratoga and Lexington were sailing into a trap, and not knowing the disposition of Japan's carriers, he ordered both task forces not to approach closer than 200 miles to Wake. Tangier, instead of landing reinforcements and supplies on Wake, was ordered to evacuate the atoll…