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Friday, June 12, 2015

American WWII Propaganda Versus Japan: Wakde Island

Before any one gets on me for a typo, in this case it's NOT Wake Island, it's Wakde Island.

Part of Indonesia, Wakde Island is actually two islands, Isnumua/Insoemoar (the larger) and Insumanai/Insoemanai (smaller) (Japanese/English names) - it's part of the province of West Papua. Older documents refer to it being off the coast of Dutch New Guinea.

It's pretty damn tiny - both of them... as you can see from the map of the islands above... note the measurements of the island in yards.

Like the better known Wake Island, Wakde Island was also taken over by Japanese forces, this time in April of 1942, and used by the invaders as an airbase - I'd imagine mostly for refueling and some accommodations as Japan continued its subjugation of everything in Asia. You know Australia and New Zealand and even India were on the list.

Wakde remained under Japanese control after intense Allied bombing and raids through April and May of 1944, the United States won the Battle of Wakde (aka Operation Straight Line), and set it up as their airfield.

The Battle of Wakde was a short one, lasting officially between May 15-18, 1944.

At the conclusion of the three-day battle, it was captured by the U.S. at a cost of 40 Americans killed, 107 wounded, and 759 Japanese killed and four captured - though some reports suggest higher slightly numbers for the Japanese.

Of course… not every Japanese soldier was captured or killed by May 18 - with plenty more hiding out.

To combat that problem, the U.S. sent out various propaganda leaflets - dropped over the Island by planes… with messages in both English and Japanese, and I believe in the local language of  - I think it's Tok Pisin, which, and I hope no one finds it offensive, but seems to be a form of pigeon English.

These documents have been shared by my friend V.G., who recently picked them up at an ephemera sale.

Clicking on the images should make them larger, and thus more readable.

Image 1:
Front of leaflet dropped on Japanese troops - in Japanese.

Image 2:
Back of leaflet dropped on Japanese troops - in Tok Pisin.

Image 3:
Envelope front holding leaflet

Image 4:
Rear of envelope holding leaflet

Image 5:
Front of a second leaflet dropped on Japanese troops - in Japanese.

Image 6:
This shows TWO leaflets in English that came with the second envelope…

Neither V.G., the dealer or myself are sure if the envelope above housed leaflet #1 or #2.

Trying to find information on Wakde Island is difficult. How many natives live there? What do they eat besides coconuts? Fish - sure, but what kind? Is there an economy? Is there still an air strip?    

 photo B-25_Wakde-Island-Papua.jpg
From this image, you can see how small Wakde Island is. Click on image to see where I pulled it from.
If you are interested in a virtual step-by-step history of the battles leading up to and including the recapture of Wakde Island, here's your suggested reading:

Be warned that even I found it too wordy. But I bet it's damn accurate. You just have to read it slowly…

Thanks to V.G. for allowing me to share the documents here.

If ANYONE has more information on these propaganda documents, I'd love to hear from you.

Andrew Joseph


  1. Nice find and thanks to you and your friend for sharing. Is the English an reasonable paraphrase of the Japanese?

    1. Hi Pat - I have no idea re: English/Japanese translation - however... the U.S. had plenty of Americans of Japanese descent working with them helping with translations of documents and transmissions... I would assume this is a very good paraphrasing.