Still reeling from the loss of Coyote only a few months into the OCE project, the team was sullen and unenthusiastic we they came upon Wake Island during the early evening of August 18th. The island had a low-lying, rather nondescript silhouette. Of all the atolls the team had visited over the past few months, Wake was probably the least typical of what one might consider a South Seas island. There were no palm trees, but rather a lot of low scrub, thorny bushes and a very pebbly surface that made for unremarkable beaches. Officially, there were no indigenous people on the island. Those who occupied the place were mostly American contract workers whom tended to the missile testing facility there. The lack of people and development wasn't necessarily a bad thing. In many ways, the island was supposed to be identical to how it appeared in the 1940s, the period that the investigative team was most interested in.
The island was actually comprised of three atolls – Wake, Peale and Wilkes – all of which were connected by paved roads. Overall, there were only about 20 km of coastline, so compared to some of the other OCE ports of call it was a speck on the water. Despite the very symbolic role that Wake Island played at the beginning of World War II, the team knew very little about the details of the island's defense and fall. However, Wake proved to be one of the best places the team had visited in terms of communicating with the outside world. The military set up some impressive communications gear here, and the staff allowed the team to use their phone lines for email and uploads to the website. This was much preferable to having to use the satellite equipment onboard ship. The close contact between the team and the OCE webmasters allowed for a very detailed investigation despite their short time on the island. The investigation process consisted of three phases: 1) the OCE webmasters pointed the team in a certain direction, 2) the team conducted their visit and logged their impressions which they shared back with the webmasters, and then 3) the webmasters confirmed or denied the impressions and gave further instructions for investigation.
The webmasters directed the members to the south end of Wake. This was where two of the large American batteries (shore guns) were supposed to have been located prior to the Japanese attack on the island in 1941. Their first stop was Battery A (otherwise known as the Barninger Battery) which was on the point of Wake Island itself. This was called Peacock Point and it was littered with an impressive number of World War II-era structures. A lot of what the team saw was described as being foundations for other structures including concrete bunkers, Quonset huts and fortifications built by the Japanese after they seized the facility. None of the team members came up with anything noteworthy while touring through this area, although Trespass had a profound experience further up the beach where he claimed to see a World War II-era warship speeding along offshore while on fire!
Trespass, in his typical laconic manner, described his experience:
“I did sense something on our first day on the island that I brought to [Rune's] attention and Polaris and Anvil. It wasn’t at Point Peacock, but further up the shore at the site of one of the other American gun emplacements. I don’t really consider myself very psychic, but I did get the impression of a ship burning out on the water. I don’t know what kind of ship it was, but I remember thinking that it was trailing a lot of black smoke and heading away from the island.”
Curiously, Trespass did not claim to be psychic at all and he later seemed to recant his observation. “To be clear, I did not SEE the ship,” he wrote, “unless you consider seeing it in your head the same as seeing it with your eyes. I guess maybe that I was excited and not clear at the time. This was more of an impression… not an apparition of a ship. I guess I wanted to have Polaris take a photo of the area just in case something came out on the image… which it did not.”
Despite this, Trespass's experience was so compelling and emotional that the other team members began to pursue it diligently. Meridian and Anvil went to speak with some of the island employees and no one had any knowledge of a ship being off of Battery L on the day in question.
“If we assume... that the ship was close enough to shore to be seen / sensed by Trespass, then we might also assume that it was somehow involved in the attacks on or defense of Wake during World War II?” asked Polaris. “With all the coastal guns still here, it is obvious that the defenders of the island, be they American or Japanese, considered a sea-borne attack to be a very real threat. I would imagine that an attacking ship, especially from [a] time period before satellite guidance and "smart bomb" technology, would have to get very close to shore to hit their targets. This naturally would open them up to being pounded by the shore guns… or attacked by defending planes or ships.”
Further investigation by the OCE webmasters found that there were two burning ships off of Battery L during the Japanese attack in December 1941. Following their attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. (This actually occurred on the same date, but because Wake is on the other side of the International Date Line, it is recorded as happening on December 8th.) The first Japanese attacks were repulsed, although they did manage to destroy most of the American aircraft on the island. On December 11th, the Japanese attempted an amphibious landing but this too was repulsed thanks to the shore guns. On that day, three Japanese warships were hit, damaged or destroyed by American fire. Two of them, the Hayate and Kisaragi, were sunk within approximately half an hour of each other near Battery L. From the historic descriptions, the team was able to deduce that the "burning ship" Trespass described was most likely the Hayate because it was closest to shore. The Kisaragi was further out to sea and was apparently bombed by some of the remaining U.S. airplanes. The guns from Battery L apparently penetrated the Hayate’s hull and detonated her powder magazines. The explosion was immense and all hands were lost. This "burning ship" was probably less than 5,000 yards away and could have been clearly seen from the shore as Trespass described.
Information found online seemed to confirm all of this:
"Hayate was a Kamikaze-class destroyer, one of nine built between 1921 and 1925 for the Imperial Japanese Navy. Hayate displaced 1,270 tons and carried three 4.7-inch guns, ten 25-mm anti-aircraft guns, and four 21-inch torpedo tubes. She could carry 16 naval mines for tactical minelaying and had a crew of over 160 officers and men.
Hayate had the misfortune of being the very first major Japanese warship sunk during the opening days of World War II in the Pacific Ocean. Commanded by Lieutenant Commander Takatsuka Minoru, Hayate was one of six escorting destroyers of destroyer division 29 assigned to escort a small invasion force to land on Wake Island on December 11, 1941. Hayate was hit amidships by at least two 5 inch shells from US Marine coastal defense guns which pierced her internal magazines, causing her to blow up and sink in two minutes with all hands, totaling 168 men, in full view of the marines on shore."
The big question then became how did Trespass, a person who claimed not to have any psychic ability or prior knowledge about the island's history, know about the destruction of a obscure warship in the exact area where it happened over sixty years earlier? And why did he seem to deny the experience after the fact? Trespass became even less interested in pursuing his vision once news reached him that Hurricane Katrina had slammed into his home state of Louisiana and had devastated New Orleans and the surrounding communities [SEE Trespass's Return to the Bayou for related information.] His surly attitude resurfaced and the discontent about him that started in Tahiti escalated on Wake.
Despite these personnel issues, the team continued to investigate the atolls which they described as “a labyrinth of weird stuff.” Anvil, Rune and Ash went crawling around in the old Japanese bunkers, some of which were in amazingly good repair. When the Japanese finally took over Wake, they captured hundreds of American civilians who were there primarily to help with construction efforts. The Japanese kept them on the island because they knew how to work all the equipment. These poor souls were used as slaves for the next four years. On the lagoon side of the island they also found a big chunk of coral that had been carved by Americans. It read "98 US PW 5-10-43." Although the team noted and photographed this unusual find, they did not bother to research the coral chunk at the time. It would later play an interesting role at binding together a series of unexplained incidents related to the Wake investigation, including the portrait of the “Japanese officer” sketched by Polaris and based on Ash's recurring dream. At the time, this “officer's” identity remained unknown.
Polaris was still intent on solving the Hayate mystery and on September 4th he sailed with Ash, Anvil and Meridian out into the choppy surf off of Battery L. Trespass was not invited and Rune stayed behind. Polaris had kept a lot of the details about Trespass's "burning ship" vision from Ash, in the hopes that the boy would be able to tap into it and confirm the reading. No one on the team or at the OCE “base” in Arizona was able to find any information that the wreck of the Hayate had ever been mapped or explored, so Polaris had no real idea where the ship went down except what was recorded by the American marines who sunk her. He knew it was "in full view of the marines on the beach" and probably within 500 yards of the guns of Battery L, but that was it. So the team simply crisscrossed the area for an hour or so until Ash peeked over the side of the Zodiac and said, "There's a ship down there."
Naturally, it was impossible for anyone to see the wreck, but the child appeared to sense it and described it as "big and in three pieces." When asked how long the ship had been there, Ash said "a really long time." He also identified the ship as being metal and said it had smokestacks. He didn’t mention anything about guns or it being a warship, and Polaris was careful not to ask any leading questions. Stymied by their mutual inability to scuba dive and lacking any kind of underwater photographic equipment, the team finally had to let the Hayate rest in peace on the ocean bottom and return to shore.
The team left Wake Island on September 6th and returned to Majuro Atoll in the Marshall Island Chain.