Wake Island Airfield

Wake Island Airfield

Infobox Airport
name = Wake Island Airfield
caption = Aerial photo of Wake Island Airfield
type = Private
operator = U.S. Air Force
location = Wake Island
elevation-f = 14
elevation-m = 4.3
coordinates = coord|19|16|48|N|116|38|30|E|type:airport|display=inline
metric-rwy = no
r1-number = 10/28
r1-length-m = 3,000
r1-length-f = 9,843
r1-surface = Asphalt

Wake Island Airfield airport codes|AWK|PWAK is a military airport located on Wake Island, which is known for the Battle of Wake Island. It is owned by the U.S. Air Force and operated by the Thirteenth Air Force servicing practically only to military purposes within the Wake Island region, yet little military presence is currently encountered. It can be used for emergency landings of transpacific airliners.


The first intentions on building an airbase began in 1935, when Pan American Airways selected Wake Island as a useful intermediate base for their routes to the Far East, especially the Philippines. A year before jurisdiction over Wake Island was passed to the Navy Department, which cooperated with PAA with updating topographical surveys due to the potential military value of having a suitable airbase near the USSR eastern border.

Between 5 and 29 May 1935, Pan American's air base construction vessel, North Haven, landed supplies and equipment on Wilkes Island for eventual re handling to Peale Island which, because of its more suitable soil and geology, had been selected as site for the PAA seaplane base. By the time of North Haven's return to Wake, after a month's voyage westward to Manila, the project was well under way, and, 3 months later, on 9 August a Pan American Boeing 314 Clipper made the first aerial landing in the atoll.

From 1935 until 1940, when two typhoons swept Wake with resultant extensive damage to the now elaborate Pan American facilities, development and use of the base were steady but uneventful. A hotel was built, farm animals imported, and hydroponic truck farming commenced. The seaplane base on Peale Island was too petty for any realistic military activity on the atoll, making intentions grow for a full-scale Air Force Base.

On 26 December 1940, in implementation of the Hepburn Board's recommendations, a pioneer party including 80 men and some 2,000 tons of equipment, sailed for Wake Island from Oahu, as the advance detachment to commence establishment of a naval air station on Wake Island, which included in their plans a runway to be used by F4F Wildcat airplanes and commercial airliners of greater size, which couldn't land on water. The burrows made here landfall on 9 January 1941, lay-to off Wilkes Island, and next day commenced landing naval supplies and advance base equipment for development of the base. The company contracted to build the base was Morrison-Knudsen Co. (acquired by Washington Group International), which together with other seven companies built many of the U.S. naval bases around the Pacific Ocean. During the construction several military personnel were already deployed. Nearly a year later the Battle of Wake Island began.On Aug. 31, 2006, the super typhoon Ioke (class 5) struck Wake Island. After the typhoon, great damage was expected on all structures, if not complete devastation, including the runway. Members of the 36th Contingency Response Group at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam were already calculating astronomical costs to repair the Airfield. On Sept. 8, 16 members of the Group arrived at Wake to make the initial assessments and found out that the runway and taxiways were still in conditions for use, just requiring clearing of the debris. Other structures were considerably damaged, but in 5 days of intense work the base was already up and running, allowing for another 53 members to arrive by air and give continuation to the reconstruction.

External Links & Sources

* [http://worldaerodata.com/wad.cgi?id=WQ48810 World Aero Data]
* [http://www.airnav.com/airport/PWAK AirNav.com]
* [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wq.html CIA World Factbook]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2006/09/mil-060914-afpn03.htm GlobalSecurity.org]
* [http://www.pacificwrecks.com/airfields/wake/index.html Pacific Wreck Database]
* [http://www.pacificislandtravel.com/micronesia/about_destin/marshall_wake.html Pacific Island Travel]

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