Under cover of night, Kajioka's force had approached close to the island, and before daybreak on the 23rd commenced landing the 1000-strong Maizuru 2nd Special Naval Landing Force. On Wilkes island, 70 Marines, armed with little more than vintage 1903 Springfield bolt-action rifles and hand grenades, set one transport on fire, and trapped the landing Japanese on the beach. Four hours later, that landing had been defeated, but on Wake island, two hundred Marines faced hundreds of Imperial Marines.
The atoll commander, Commander Winfield Scott Cunningham, radioed his superiors in Hawaii: "ENEMY ON ISLAND ISSUE IN DOUBT". (Not quite two years later, the last three words would return to chill Nimitz and his command, when they were radioed from the beaches of Tarawa.)
The Pacific command's response left Cunningham and Marine commander, Major James Devereux, with few options. The nearest American carrier, Fletcher's Saratoga, was still a day away. Tangier, the relief ship, was even further off. A half hour later, Wake surrendered. At nearly the same time, Pye, reasoning that "Wake is a liability" ordered the relief forces to turn back.
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