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Building for War (Hardback)

The Epic Saga of the Civilian Contractors and Marines of Wake Island in World War II


By Bonita L. Gilbert
Imprint: Casemate Publishers
Pages: 312
Illustrations: 16 pages of photos
ISBN: 9781612001296
Published: 19th December 2012



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This intimately researched work tells the story of the thousand-plus Depression-era civilian contractors who came to Wake Island, a remote Pacific atoll, in 1941 to build an air station for the U.S. Navy. Author Gilbert charts the contractors’ hard-won progress as they scramble to build the naval base as well as runways for the U.S. Army Air Corps’s B-17 Flying Fortresses while war clouds gathered over the Pacific. Five hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese struck Wake Island, which was now isolated from assistance. The undermanned Marine Corps garrison, augmented by hundreds of the civilian-contractor volunteers, fought back, ultimately repelling several Japanese landing attempts as the enemy laid siege to the atoll for two weeks. Finally succumbing to an overwhelming amphibious attack, the surviving Americans, military and civilian, were taken prisoner. Used as slave labourers by the Japanese, and subject to a brutal massacre toward the end of the war as U.S. forces finally closed in, the civilian contractors who had risked distance and danger for well-paying jobs ended up paying a steep price: their freedom and, for many, their lives.Written by the daughter and granddaughter of civilians who served on Wake Island, Building for War sheds new light on why the United States was taken by surprise in December 1941 and shines a spotlight on the little-known, virtually forgotten story of a group of civilian workers and their families whose lives were forever changed by the events on the tiny atoll that is Wake.

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About Bonita L. Gilbert

Bonita Gilbert has an MA in history from the University of Oregon and teaches history at North Idaho College. Bonnie and her husband live in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

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