Wake Island: The Most Important Pacific Island You Never Heard Of

Here’s What You Need to remember: Today, Wake Island remains one of the most remote islands in the world, protected by miles and miles of open ocean. The rocky outpost has been modified extensively since World War II and hosts a nearly ten-thousand-foot-long runway, which can accommodate all aircraft currently in United States service.

Wake Island is not particularly impressive. Made of coral, the atoll is a mere twelve feet or so above sea level at its lowest point. It is remote, too. It is twenty-three hundred miles or about thirty-seven hundred kilometers west of Honolulu, and about two thousand miles, or thirty-two hundred kilometers, southeast of Tokyo. Wake Island’s remote location is what makes the speck of rock so important to the United State’s presence in the Pacific Ocean region.

Wake Island Now

Today, Wake Island remains one of the most remote islands in the world, protected by miles and miles of open ocean. The rocky outpost has been modified extensively since World War II and hosts a nearly ten-thousand-foot-long runway, which can accommodate all aircraft currently in United States service.

In the event of a war in the Pacific, American bases on remote outposts like Guam or Okinawa would likely have a very difficult time fending off hostile missile attacks, partly because of their proximity to Asia. Okinawa in particular is only around five hundred miles or so from the Chinese coast.

The GBMD system is deployed in both Alaska and California and is specifically designed to counter longer-range missile threats against the entire United States and Canada. Wake Island is likely just inside the interceptor’s defense umbrella.

Postscript

In the event of a Pacific war, American bombers would have to carry out a high number of sorties against enemy missile and air defense outposts in the Western Pacific. In that conflict, Wake Island would be the last American outpost in the Pacific able to get bombers into the air and keep fighters alongside them fueled up and ready to go. Bombs away!

Caleb Larson holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics, and culture.

Image: Wikimedia

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