Why was Sgt. Hack on Wake Island?


Sgt. Hack prior to his service in the United States Army was a seaman in the United States Coast Guard.  He is shown above, holding the E Flag.  He was stationed on Wake Island for 16 months from 1958 to 1959.
Wake Island, prior to the invention of GPS, was a very important LORAN navigation station for ocean going ships. LORAN was the means that ocean going ships used to navigate and determine their position at sea. The United States Coast Guard maintained the LORAN station on Wake.


Wake Island (also known as Wake Atoll) is an unorganizedunincorporated territory of the United States, located in the western Pacific Ocean in th, 2,416 km (1501 mi) east of Guam, 3,698 km (2,298 mi) west of Honolulu and 3,205 km (1,992 mi) southeast of Tokyo. Wake Island is one of the most isolated islands in the world and the nearest inhabited island is Utirik Atoll in the Marshall Islands, 952 km (592 mi) miles to the southeast. The island is a coral atoll administered by the United States Air Force, under agreement with the Department of the Interior. The center of activity on the atoll is at Wake Island Airfield  which is primarily used as a mid-Pacific refueling stop for military aircraft and as an emergency landing area. The 9,800-foot (3,000 m) runway is the longest strategic runway in the Pacific islands. Located south of the runway is a missile launch facility operated by the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Missile Defense Agency. There are about 94 people living on Wake Island and access to the island is restricted.
On December 8th 1941 the Japanese attacked Wake Island.  The isolated U.S. garrison was overwhelmed by a reinforced and greatly superior Japanese invasion force on December 23.[43] American casualties numbered 52 military personnel (Navy and Marine) and approximately 70 civilians killed. Japanese losses exceeded 700 dead, with some estimates ranging as high as 1,000. Wake’s defenders sank two Japanese destroyers and one submarine, and shot down 24 Japanese aircraft. The relief fleet, en route, on hearing of the island’s loss, turned back.

In the aftermath of the battle, most of the captured civilians and military personnel were sent to POW camps in Asia, though some of the civilian laborers were enslaved by the Japanese and tasked with improving the island’s defenses. After a successful American air raid on October 5, 1943, the Japanese commander ordered the execution of all of the 98 captured Americans who remained on the island. They were taken to the northern end of the island, blindfolded, and machine-gunned. One prisoner escaped, carving the message “98 US PW 5-10-43” on a large coral rock near where the victims had been hastily buried in a mass grave. This unknown American was soon recaptured and beheaded.

In 1986, in the first printing of The Life of a Warrior, based upon the life of Sgt Hack, he describes his time on Wake Island:

After disembarking from his ship, the young Coast Guard sailor David Hack found himself on Wake Island among the skeletal remains of those who had died there.  The Japanese who had occupied the island for the length of the war had never buried the American dead, and America never used it again as a major outpost.  So, while on Wake Island, Hack took the time to put some of America’s bravest men into their final resting place…… Unknown to Hack at the time, this was a pivotal point in his life.  He began a relationship of love and respect for those who had fought and died for their country, his country.  This respect would permeate his life for the rest of his days.”

Wake Island is a Coral Atoll.  Although there is a layer of sand, it is very shallow and covers the Coral foundation on which it is formed.  Typhoons and huge waves played havoc in the fifties.  Shortly after his arrival on Wake in 1958, Sgt. Hack discovered many bones, uniforms, ammunition and other remnants from the war that had been uncovered by nature.   Digging through the shifting sand, Sgt. Hack sent letters, and remnants of uniforms to the University of Hawaii for preserving.  He buried scattered bones and made a memorial to those who had fought for our country.

Sgt Hack’s military service record for his time spent on Wake can be  viewed at : Sgt Hack Wake Island. Check out Sgt. Hack’s new blog here!