Wake Atoll Wake Island Airfield, Terminal Building, Wake Island
Wake Atoll is a small tropical coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean consisting of three islands: Peale, Wake, and Wilkes (collectively called Wake Atoll). Wake Atoll is situated 2,458 miles west of Hawaii, 1,591 miles east of Guam, and 691 miles north of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands. The V-shaped atoll consists of approximately 2.73 square miles of total area, with approximately 1,747 acres of dry land mass, 10.0 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, and 6 miles of lagoon shoreline. The atoll is surrounded by a barrier reef, and is approximately 4.5 miles long end to end and 2.0 miles wide. The maximum elevation on Wake Atoll is 21' above mean sea level with an average elevation of 12' above mean sea level. The shallow lagoon averages 3' to 12' in depth.
Wake Atoll comprises three islands forming a wishbone-shaped land mass enclosing a shallow lagoon, which is open to the ocean on the northwestern extremity. Peale Island forms the northwestern portion of the wishbone and was the location of pre-WWII development. The Pan American Skyways Hotel, Clipper Pier, and other support facilities were located on the southwestern portion of Peale, while the Navy seaplane ramp, barracks, and support facilities were located in the south-central portion of the island. After the war, the USCG built a LORAN station in the central portion of Peale Island.
Today, Peale Island is inhabited by birds and rats and an occasional visitor from Wake Island. Vegetation has reclaimed much of the southern two-thirds of the island; Toki Point lost much of its vegetation during Typhoon Ioke. Artifacts that remain from the pre-WWII days are few. Reminders of the war and the Japanese occupation, remnants of Peale Avenue and Pan Am Road, foundations of the U.S. Navy barracks, the structural remains of the USCG LORAN facilities (abandoned in 1971), and the remains of a Thai temple comprise the current built environment on Peale.
Wilkes Island forms the southwestern portion of the wishbone. The southern quarter of Wilkes Island contains the aviation fuel storage facilities, which have been there since 1946, although periodically and recently upgraded. The northern end of the island is in the possession of three-quarters of a million sea birds and an infinite number of rats. The northern portion contains the ruins of a VORTAC that has not been in use during the 2000s. Wilkes Island also has a collection of war defense fortifications and two large coral rocks inscribed by those previously stranded (1935) or held captive (WWII) on the atoll. The causeway that once provided vehicular access between the upper and lower halves of Wilkes Island washed out in the typhoon, so vehicular access is no longer possible to the northern half of the island.
Wake Island, the largest of the three islands that comprise Wake Atoll, forms a "V." The northern extremity of the island turns inward toward the lagoon, while the outer edge of the crook forms Heel Point. The channel between Wilkes Island and Wake Island is currently obstructed by a solid-fill causeway. In the early 2000s, the bridge connecting Wake and Peale Islands burned and has not been rebuilt. Access currently is by boat or by swimming.
Wake Island is the main island and contains the majority of the operations and facilities associated with the military and airfield. The boat basin and marina and marina support facilities are on the southwestern portion of the V formation. On the southern leg of Wake Island is the 9,850' runway and taxiway. The ABMDA operations are on Peacock Point, the southeastern most point of the V. This is a secured and off-limits area except for authorized personnel. The air traffic control tower is along the northern edge of the ABMDA area and southeastern perimeter of the runway.
The leg of Wake Island running from southeast to northwest contains the terminal and taxiways on the southern extremity. To the north of this area and on the lagoon side of the island are the fire station, aviation and base support operations, storage, and maintenance shops. The original post-WWII terminal was also located in this area. This area also once included a theater and commissary. To the north of this area is the water catch basin (not used today) and water supply plant. On the east (ocean) side of the island from just north of the terminal to east of the aviation support area was the location of the bachelors' quarters, jail, restaurant, dispensary, library, and other recreational facilities. Pan Am housing and a school were north of this area. A few of these houses remain, have been extensively remodeled, and are occupied by the Base Commander and BOS contractors. Structural ruins and the foundations of a few other Pan Am and CAA residences also remain.
Along Heel Point bend is the golf course; the golf clubhouse was destroyed by Typhoon Ioke. Heel Point also once contained FAA housing, of which a few structural ruins remain. Beyond this area, the FAA family housing duplexes still exist. The northwestern portion of Wake Island is the area currently known as "Downtown." Downtown contains what were the FAA and military barracks, atoll power plant, MAC transient barracks, bar and barbershop, bowling alley, tennis courts, baseball field, and other recreational facilities.