February 19, 2016

2306 UNITED STATES (Wake Island) - An aerial view of the island

Wake Island, an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States, is a coral atoll located in the western Pacific Ocean, 2,416km east of Guam, 3,698km west of Honolulu and 3,205km southeast of Tokyo. It is one of the most isolated islands in the world, the nearest inhabited island being Utirik Atoll (Marshall Islands), 952km to the southeast. It is administered by the United States Air Force, under agreement with the Department of the Interior.

The atoll, comprising three islands and a reef surrounding a central lagoon, was discovered in 1568 by the Spanish Álvaro de Mendaña de Neyra, who wrote that "there was nothing on it but sea-birds, and sandy places covered with bushes." In 1796, Captain Samuel Wake of the British merchantman Price William Henry rediscovered the island, naming it for himself. In 19th century the island caused several shipwrecks, due to its low elevation (6m), which makes it difficult to detect.

In 1899, the island was taken into possession by the United States. In 1935-1936, Pan American Airways (PAA) built some facilities and since 1937 it became a regular stop for PAA's international trans-Pacific passenger and airmail service. In January 1941, the US Navy began construction of a military base on the atoll, and since August, a military garrison was stationed there. On December 8, the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7 in Hawaii), the Japanese conducted an air raid on the island.

Followed more japanese atacks and finnaly, after heavy fighting, the garrison was overwhelmed by the greatly superior Japanese force on December 23. In next years the Japanese-occupied island was bombed several times by American aircrafts. After a raid in 1943, the Navy Captain Shigematsu Sakaibara ordered the execution of all of the 98 captured Americans. After the war, on trial for war crimes, Sakaibara was sentenced to death and executed in 1947 on Guam.

During the Korean War, the airfield was used for refueling the aircrafts which flew towards the Korean front. In the early 1970s, the new jet aircraft no longer needed of refueling, so the island lost its importance. In 1975 it was used as refugee processing centers where Vietnamese evacuees could be medically screened, interviewed and then transported to the United States or to other resettlement countries (Operation New Life). Between April 26 and August 2, about 15,000 refugees had been processed there.

In nowadays, the center of activity remained the airfield, but was added the Wake Island Launch Center, a Reagan Test Site 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 there and access to the island is restricted. The Republic of the Marshall Islands has claimed Wake Island which is known by the name Enen-kio, and is a site of great importance to the traditional chiefly rituals.

About the stamps
Two of the stamps are part of the Forever series New England Coastal Lighthouses, about which I wrote here.

The third stamp is part of the series American Riverboats, issued on August 22, 1996.  Each of the stamps depict a historic 19th-century steamboat that carried passengers and cargo on the inland waterways of America:
• Robert E. Lee
• Sylvan Dell
• Far West - It's on the postcard 2306
• Rebecca Everingham
• Bailey Gatzert 

Wake Island - Wikipedia

Sender: Denise
Sent from Greenvale (New York / United States), on 15.11.2015

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