Original U.S. WWII 48 Star American Flag Signed by USMC Photographer R. O. Kepler On Sept. 4, 1945 at the Wake Island Surrender - Photographed Surrender and First American Flag Being Raised Over The Island Since Japanese Capture - 15” x 30”

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The Battle of Wake Island was a battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II, fought on Wake Island. The assault began simultaneously with the attack on Pearl Harbor naval and air bases in Hawaii on the morning of 8 December 1941 (7 December in Hawaii), and ended on 23 December, with the surrender of American forces to the Empire of Japan. It was fought on and around the atoll formed by Wake Island and its minor islets of Peale and Wilkes Islands by the air, land, and naval forces of the Japanese Empire against those of the United States, with Marines playing a prominent role on both sides.

The island was held by the Japanese for the duration of the Pacific War theater of World War II; the remaining Japanese garrison on the island surrendered to a detachment of United States Marines on 4 September 1945, after the earlier surrender on 2 September 1945 on the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay to General Douglas MacArthur.

The flag itself is worn and small enough to have possibly been used on a Landing Craft, though its origins are unknown. What we do know is that this is a WW2 era produced 48 star American flag with zinc grommets on the hoist side. The flag is torn almost halfway the length of the hoist side, so the canvas strip is hanging freely.

The flag was signed and dated by famous USMC photographer R.O. Keppler. He is known for his picture (see photograph section) of the raising of the U.S. flag over Wake Island on 4 September 1945, as a U.S. Marine Corps bugler plays Colors. This was the first time the Stars and Stripes had flown over Wake since its capture by the Japanese on 23 December 1941. The officer saluting in the right foreground is Rear Admiral Shigematsu Sakaibara, Japanese commander on Wake. Colors carried by the U.S. party, right background, include the U.S. Marine Corps flag.

Another picture of his which is in the photo section is of a damaged Japanese Navy Type 89 5/40 twin dual-purpose gun mount on Mili, at the time of the island's surrender in late August 1945. Mili, target of eighteen months of ceaseless bombing by U.S. Marine Corps aircraft, was the first Japanese Pacific island to surrender at the end of World War II.

These photos are shown for illustrative purposes only, and are not included.

The flag reads as:

SEPT. 4, 1945

This is a fantastic piece of Marine Corps history that comes more than ready for further research and display!

In January 1941, the United States Navy constructed a military base on the atoll. On 19 August, the first permanent military garrison, elements of the 1st Marine Defense Battalion deployed to Wake Island under the command of Major P.S. Devereux, USMC with a force of 450 officers and men. Despite the relatively small size of the atoll, the Marines could not man all their defensive positions nor did they arrive with all their equipment, notably their air search radar units. The Marine Detachment was supplemented by Marine Corps Fighter Squadron VMF-211, consisting of 12 F4F-3 Wildcat fighters, commanded by Marine aviator Major Paul A. Putnam, USMC. Also, present on the island were 68 U.S. Navy personnel and about 1,221 civilian workers for the Morrison-Knudsen Civil Engineering Company. The workers were to carry out the company's construction plans for the island. Most of these men were veterans of previous construction programs for the Boulder Dam, Bonneville Dam, or Grand Coulee Dam projects. Others were men who were in desperate situations and great need for money. Forty-five Chamorro men (native Micronesians from the Mariana Islands and Guam) were employed by Pan American Airways at the company's facilities on Wake Island, one of the stops on the Pan Am Clipper trans-Pacific amphibious air service initiated in 1935.

The Marines were armed with six 5-inch (127 mm)/51 cal pieces, originating from the old battleship USS Texas; twelve 3 in (76 mm)/50 cal anti-aircraft guns (with only a single working anti-aircraft director among them); eighteen .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning heavy machine guns; and thirty .30 in (7.62 mm) heavy, medium and light water- and air-cooled machine guns.

On 28 November, naval aviator Commander Winfield S. Cunningham, USN reported to Wake to assume overall command of U.S. forces on the island. He had 10 days to examine the defenses and assess his men before war broke out.

On 6 December, Japanese Submarine Division 27 (Ro-65, Ro-66, Ro-67) was dispatched from Kwajalein Atoll to patrol and blockade the pending operation.

December 7 was a clear and bright day on Wake Island. Just the previous day, Major Devereux did a practice drill for his Marines, which happened to be the first one done because of the great need to focus on the island's defenses. The drill went well enough that Major Devereux commanded the men to rest on the Sabbath and take their time relaxing, doing laundry, writing letters, thinking, cleaning, or doing whatever they wished.

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