Heroic Guam Wake Island defenders honored with cleanup, rededication of their memorial on the atoll
(U.S. Air Force photos/Master Sgt. John Gordinier)
WAKE ISLAND ATOLL – The newly renovated Guam Memorial on Wake Island was unveiled during a rededication ceremony June 8, 2017. The Guam Memorial on Wake was erected in 1991 to honor 45 Chamorros from Guam who worked for Pan American airlines. On Dec. 8, 1941, just a few hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Japanese forces attacked Wake Island and ten of the 45 Chamorros were killed in the attack. The remaining 35 men were sent to prison camps in Japan and China where two died in captivity.
Due to decades of corrosion, heat and sun, the memorial was degraded to the point where it became unreadable.
During a lengthy process involving many months in 2017, the memorial was renovated, leading to the rededication ceremony.
At least one former Pan American employee was fortunate to miss the Japanese invasion. Milton Champion was on Wake until September 1941 as the Pan Am Airport Manager. Greg Champion, a familiar figure on Guam Cable TV News for many years, said his father saw the war coming and put in for a transfer. "They told him, "Before you leave, fill in that bomb shelter you've been building!" Champion was transferred to Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay.
"My dad said the Japanese were not allowing photography on Saipan or in Japan and,of course,the U.S.military sent all its dependents back to the mainland. It must have been pretty obvious war was coming."
Below,Milton Champion,1941 Wake Island