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Hallowed Ground

Yuma-based Avengers’ history reawakened on trip to Wake Island

WAKE ISLAND — More than 67 years ago, the forbearers of one Yuma-based squadron faced impossible odds on this remote Pacific atoll as swells of Japanese troops dashed against the jagged coral beach.

he return of Marine Attack Squadron 211 to Wake Island marks the first time since May 1993 the bulk of the squadron, nicknamed the “Wake Island Avengers,” has returned to its symbolic birthplace

The return of Marine Attack Squadron 211 to Wake Island marks the first time since May 1993 the bulk of the squadron, nicknamed the “Wake Island Avengers,” has returned to its symbolic birthplace where a handful of the unit’s Marines helped defend the island from an overwhelming Japanese invasion force from Dec. 8-23, 1941, before its surrender.

While the battle – a 20th century Thermopylae – ended in defeat, its gains included highly decorated heroes and a legacy few military units can reflect upon.

Even for Marines with the squadron today, few get to revisit its symbolic birthplace and walk the ground once stained with the blood of its inaugural ranks.

Approximately 60 men and women from Marine Attack Squadron 211 “retook” the island Jan. 8–10 during a stop en route to Iwakuni, Japan, and a deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“This place is hallowed ground to this squadron,” said Lt. Col. Vance L. Cryer, the squadron’s
commanding officer.

The island’s current inhabitants, a trio of Air Force personnel and more than two dozen U.S. civilian caretakers from the Chugach Support Services, Inc., welcomed the Wake Island Avengers as honored guests.

Marines were treated to a tour of the island that ended near the site of Marine Fighter Squadron 211’s last stand on Dec. 23, 1941.

“I could almost visualize Japanese storming the beaches,” said Cpl. Anthony Burton, flight equipment technician. “It’s really motivating to see the history. A new lance corporal that puts on the patch doesn’t
see the history of one that takes a trip here.”

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