HELL WOULDN'T STOP:
An Oral History of the Battle of Wake Island
NEW copy. Hardcover with dust jacket. (NY: Carroll & Graf, 2002).
First Edition. Map, photographs, roster, bibliography, index, 283 pages.
In this gritty, poignant, often disturbing oral chronicle of one of the first and most tragic
military engagements in World War II, Chet Cunningham gives the gallant U.S. defenders
of Wake Island—among them his older brother, Kenneth, then a private in the Marines—
their long-overlooked due.
For Kenneth Cunningham, a serviceman in the defense battalion stationed on Wake Island,
World War II began on December 8, 1941, just five hours after the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor. It ended on December 23. That day the Marines on Wake Island—their
twelve Wildcat fighter planes lost, their forces diminished—faced an overwhelming
enemy invasion, with the Japanese arriving in so many ships that, as one eyewitness
put it, they could have walked from one to the other on the open sea.
Private Cunningham and his fellow Marines fought intrepidly, until their commanding
officers ordered them to surrender. Their term in hell, though, had just begun. When
the Marines laid down their arms they were stripped naked. With their hands bound,
they sat naked in the hot sun all day; at night they shivered in the cold. They suffered
endless days at sea jammed in the holds of ships that took them to prison camps in
China and Japan.
Forty-four months later, liberated at last, they would return home unheralded and largely
forgotten. Their often horrific, frequently heroic story now stands recorded, for the most
part in the words of the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and civilian personnel who were there,
as well as of their wives and widows, in startling, unforgettable detail.
Eight pages of
black-and-white photographs add to this gripping reconstruction of the sixteen-day battle
for Wake Island and its aftermath.