Pan Am employees become Wake Island Defenders

Before the outbreak of World War II, 45 Chamorro men were employed by Pan American Airways at the company’s facilities in Wake Island, one of the stops on the Pan Am Clipper transPacific air service initiated in 1935. Guam was also a stop. The men worked as kitchen helpers, hotel service attendants, and laborers. But the peaceful life on Wake was shattered 8 December 1941, when Japanese aircraft bombed the island, killing five men from Guam and wounding five others.

A day later, those wounded died when a bomb destroyed the hospital. The remaining Chamorros joined the island’s garrison, asked by Wake’s American military commander to help fortify and defend the island.

On 11 December the defenders repulsed the initial landing force of the Japanese, and for twelve more days the defenders held out but then the inevitable happened. Supported by the arrival of additional ships and aircraft, some of which participated in the 7 December attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese troops stormed ashore and on 23 December and Wake fell to Japanese control.

Garrison members, including the 35 surviving Chamorros, were taken as prisoners of war, tortured and then incarcerated in a camp in Shanghai, China, where two men from Guam were later killed.

The remaining 33 Chamorros were eventually transferred to a POW camp in Osaka, Kobe, Japan where they were imprisoned for the duration of the war’s.

On 22 January 1982, under Public Law 95-202, Congress granted the Guamanian Wake Island Defenders veteran status under the Navy. On POW-MIA Day in 1988, the surviving Wake Island defenders from Guam were officially awarded their POW medals.

By Tina D. Aguon

Wake Island Defenders from Guam

  • Pedro F. Aguon, Survivor
  • Antonio T. Aquiningoc, Survivor
  • Jesus C. Baleto, Survivor
  • Francisco M. Blanco, Killed in action
  • Emeterio Q. Blas, Survivor
  • Jose P. Blas, Killed in action
  • Juan M. Cabrera, Killed in action
  • Alfonso Meno Camacho, Survivor
  • Jesus P. Camacho, Died in POW camp
  • Francisco Chaco Carbullido, Survivor
  • Jose M. Concepcion, Survivor
  • Felix R. Cruz, Survivor
  • James William Flores, Killed in action
  • Joseph C. Flores, Survivor
  • Jesus A. Garcia, Survivor
  • Enrique S. Garrido, Survivor
  • Vicente A. Garrido, Survivor
  • Felipe C. Guerrero, Killed in action
  • Manuel C. Guerrero, Survivor
  • Tomas D. Iriarte, Survivor
  • Balvino D. Leon Guerrero, Survivor
  • Jose Q. Lizama, Survivor
  • Jose C. Mafnas, Killed in action
  • Francisco T. Manalisay, Killed in action
  • Vicente C. Manibusan, Killed in action
  • Edward B. Marion, Survivor
  • Pedro P. Mendiola, Survivor
  • Sergio Maanao Mendiola, Survivor
  • Vicente C. Mesa, Survivor
  • Antonio E. Namauleg, Survivor
  • Jesus B. Naputi, Survivor
  • Serafin A. Pablo, Survivor
  • Antonio Mendiola Peredo, Survivor
  • Gregorio C. Quan, Killed in action
  • Juan R. Quidachay, Survivor
  • Francisco B. Quinata, Survivor
  • Ignacio C. Reyes, Survivor
  • Juan U. Rivera, Survivor
  • Silvestre A. Sablan, Killed in action
  • Joaquin C. Salas, Survivor
  • Jose T. San Nicolas, Survivor
  • Roque T. Santos, Survivor
  • Geronimo S. Taijeron, Died in POW camp
  • Vicente Taijeron, Survivor
  • Francisco P. Villagomez, Survivor

For further reading

Rogers, Robert. Destiny’s Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 1995.