"Wake- America's Beach of Bayonets" Vintage WWII Marine Corps Recruitment Poster, by Guinness, 1942

This vintage Wake Island Marines recruitment poster was published in January of 1942. A color lithograph, the poster features a painterly depiction of Wake Island’s coast, with large, stark bayonets sticking up from the sandy beaches. The sky is a wash of red and blue with the white clouds shaped to mimic an American flag motif.  Below, the text "WAKE- AMERICA'S BEACH of BAYONETS" is followed by "Quotation from President Roosevelt's Message to the Congress on the State of the Union, Jan. 6, 1942” in black ink.

In a block quote below is Roosevelt’s quote, “There were only some four hundred United States Marines, who, in the heroic defense of Wake Island, inflicted such great losses on the enemy. Some of these men were killed in action and others are now prisoners of war. When the survivors of that great fight are liberators and restored to their homes, they will learn that a hundred and thirty million of their fellow citizens have been inspired to render their own full share of service and sacrifice.” 

Situated 2,000 miles west of Oahu, Wake Island was a small, undermanned outpost defended by a small group of US Marines, sailors, soldiers, and civilians. After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, the Japanese struck Wake Island at noon the next day, with a wave of tactical bombers launched from the Marshall Islands. Although small in size, Japan knew that they atoll could serve as a tactical lauching point for ships and bombers. The atoll was bombed on an almost daily basis for the next two weeks. 

Then on December 11, a Japanese naval task force attempted to land troops on Wake Island’s south shore. The Japanese suffered a rude repulse from the Marines’ light coastal-defense guns and the four remaining fighters. Two Japanese destroyers were sunk, several other ships sustained damage, and the transports were withdrawn. That small engagement, the first tactical defeat experienced by the Japanese navy in World War II, dispelled much of the gloom caused by Pearl Harbor and helped buoy the American sentiment. 

Most of Wake’s defenders were US Marines, and the commandant of their corps, Major General Thomas Holcomb, promptly publicized that fact. “A cheery note comes from Wake,” he informed Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, “and the news is particularly pleasing at a time like this.” 

The Japanese Navy continued to bomb Wake Island and eventually sent a much larger force of nine hundred Japanese to take the atoll on December 23. After hours of intense, close combat, the Japanese finally forced Wake’s defenders to surrender, taking many prisoners of war. Although the fight for Wake ended in a U.S. defeat, the American people continued to view the atoll as a rallying point. 

Posters such as this one used Wake Island as a rallying point to recruit Marines, and encourage Americans to do their part in the war effort. The recruitment station address "949 9th Street, N.W. Washington, D.C." address is printed at the bottom right, to direct those living in the Nation’s capital to their local recruiting office. 

CONDITION:

Very good condition. Color is strong, with very little fading. Paper is healthy, with only a small stain at bottom left in the margin. Printed "MCPB 96803 1-24-42 20M" at bottom left margin. Signed in the lithographic stone at the top right corner. Sold unframed, as-is. 

Unframed Dimensions: 15" H x 11" W.




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