Under Four Flags: The U.S.S. Wake and the First American POWs of World War II

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While most people are aware that on December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, few realize that it was just one of several simultaneously launched offensives. The Japanese also attempted invasions of the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and northern China.On 8 December, 1941, the gunboat U.S.S. Wake - based on the Yangtze River - was attacked and boarded by a group of Japanese marines, and the captain and crew taken prisoner. When the Wake was commissioned into the Japanese Navy, it became the only American vessel to be captured in World War II and its crew the first American POWs of the war. Although the captain was able to make a daring escape, the rest of the crew - and the Wake herself - were only returned to America at the end of the war.