Wake Island Civilian Construction Workers

"Five hours after bombing Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, Japanese forces attacked Wake Island, a tiny island midway between Hawaii and Japan. The United States was constructing a runway essential for planes to refuel on their way through the area. There were 449 Marines, 68 Sailors, 6 Army Air Corps, and 1146 civilians employed by the Boise-based Morrison Knudsen Company on the island. Approximately 250 of the MK workers were from Idaho. For 15 days the military and civilians bravely defended the island from the Japanese forces. Wake Island fell to the Japanese on December 23, 1941.

"Following the battle, 98 civilian construction workers were kept on Wake Island to labor for the Japanese. When their work was complete, they were forced to dig their own graves before being executed. The remaining defenders of the island, both military and civilian, were taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese and held for 44 months. These brave heroes endured exceedingly harsh conditions, serving as slave labor for the Japanese government in Japan and China. Many died in captivity. In 1981 the civilian MK employees were granted Veteran status in recognition of their service in the War of the Pacific . . ." – Memorial in Veteran's Memorial Park, Boise - my grandmother's brother, Marvin Goss, was one of those captured. I am guessing this Christmas card was in a mail bag enroute to the U.S. at the time of the attack.

Clippings saved by Hester Gross MacAskill
Prisoners released     Gross-Morris return; "The Bull" Sentenced

Other known Gem County men on the captured Morrison-Knudsen construction crew include and Gross' uncle Leroy Cramer. Leroy Cramer died on the hospital ship on the way home. He is buried at Ola. Bill Charters was also in that crew. For more information, see Wake Island on historynet.com.

Marvin Gross (1902-1982)
Emmett Newell (1919-1987)
Glen Newell (1921-2014)

American History & Genealogy Project

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