Wake Island (also known as Wake Atoll) is a coral atoll (having a coastline of 12 miles (19.3 kilometers)) in the North Pacific Ocean, located about two-thirds of the way from Honolulu (2,300 statute miles or 3,700 km west) to Guam (1,510 miles or 2,430 km east). It is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States administered by the Office of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior. Wake is located to the west of the International Date Line and is one day ahead of the 50 states. Access to the island is restricted and all current activities on the island are managed by the United States Air Force, the United States Army and by Chugach McKinley, Inc., a civilian base operations and maintenance services company.
Although Wake is officially called an island in the singular form, it is actually an atoll comprised of three islands (Wake, Wilkes, and Peale) surrounding a central lagoon. Referring to the atoll as an island is the result of a pre-World War II desire by the United States Navy to distinguish Wake from other atolls, most of which were Japanese territory. The largest island (also known as Wake Island) is the center of activity on the atoll and is home to a 9,800 foot runway.
Wake Island was annexed by the United States on January 17, 1899. In 1935, Pan American Airways constructed a small village, nicknamed "PAAville," to service flights on its U.S.-China route. The village was the first human settlement on the island, and remained in operation up to the day of the first Japanese air raid.
On December 8, 1941 the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor (Wake being on the opposite side of the International Date Line), 16 Japanese medium bombers flown from bases on the Marshall Islands attacked Wake Island, destroying eight of the twelve F4F Wildcat fighter aircraft belonging to Marine Corps fighter squadron VMF-211 on the ground. All of the Marine garrison's defensive emplacements were left intact by the raid, which primarily targeted the Naval aircraft.