Short of Guam, Wake Island was our easternmost military base in the central Pacific when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Wake is an atoll with three small islets and has no indigenous population other than some queer humpback rats and hermit crabs. To the nearly 600 Marines defending it for the 16 days it held out against enemy attack, it was also distinguished by its scrub trees (many islands had none). But to history its distinction is that its defense became our sole inspiration from the Pacific where, as President Roosevelt put it, ""So far, the news has all been bad."" Indeed, the Japanese had bowled a 300 game, knocking out every ship in sight and, in the process, destroying the possibility that the defenders of Wake might be relieved. A makeshift force that was sent to aid them was diverted at the last moment, to its chagrin. On their first raid, Japanese bombers destroyed all but four of the island's fighter planes and killed or wounded 60 per cent of the Marine flight squadron personnel. Nonetheless, the enemy's first invasion force was repulsed by heavy fire, much of it from outmoded guns. The State Department then invented the magnificent flippancy ""Send more Japs!"" and attributed it to the Wake defenders in a triumph of propaganda. Later, the Japanese declared themselves humiliated and dumbstruck by the Marine opposition to their overwhelming forces. Straightforward, professional history midway between popular and scholarly.