Photos of Wake Island

Introduction

Background

The US annexed Wake Island in 1899 for a cable station. An important air and naval base was constructed in 1940-41. In December 1941, the island was captured by the Japanese and held until the end of World War II. In subsequent years, Wake became a stopover and refueling site for military and commercial aircraft transiting the Pacific. Since 1974, the island's airstrip has been used by the US military, as well as for emergency landings. Operations on the island were temporarily suspended and all personnel evacuated in 2006 with the approach of super typhoon IOKE (category 5), but resultant damage was comparatively minor. A US Air Force repair team restored full capability to the airfield and facilities, and the island remains a vital strategic link in the Pacific region.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Oceania, atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to the Northern Mariana Islands

Geographic coordinates

19 17 N, 166 39 E

Area

total: 7 sq km

land: 6.5 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 245

Area - comparative

about 11 times the size of the National Mall in Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

19.3 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical

Terrain

atoll of three low coral islands, Peale, Wake, and Wilkes, built up on an underwater volcano; central lagoon is former crater, islands are part of the rim

Elevation

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: unnamed location 8 m

Land use

agricultural land: 0% (2011 est.)

arable land: 0% (2011 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2011 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2011 est.)

forest: 0% (2011 est.)

other: 100% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

subject to occasional typhoons

Environment - current issues

potable water obtained through a catchment rainwater system and a desalinization plant for brackish ground water; hazardous wastes moved to an accumulation site for storage and eventual transport off site via barge

Geography - note

strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean; emergency landing location for transpacific flights

People and Society

Population

no indigenous inhabitants (2018 est.)

note: approximately 100 military personnel and civilian contractors maintain and operate the airfield and communications facilities

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Wake Island

etymology: although first discovered by British Captain William WAKE in 1792, the island is named after British Captain Samuel WAKE, who rediscovered the island in 1796

Dependency status

unincorporated unorganized territory of the US; administered from Washington, DC, by the Department of the Interior; activities in the atoll are currently conducted by the 11th US Air Force and managed from Pacific Air Force Support Center

Independence

none (territory of the US)

Legal system

US common law

Citizenship

see United States

Flag description

the flag of the US is used

Economy

Economic overview

Economic activity is limited to providing services to military personnel and contractors located on the island. All food and manufactured goods must be imported.

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: satellite communications; 2 Defense Switched Network circuits off the Overseas Telephone System (OTS); located in the Hawaii area code - 808 (2018)

Broadcast media

American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) provides satellite radio/TV broadcasts (2018)

Transportation

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1 (2019)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

Ports and terminals

none; two offshore anchorages for large ships

Transportation - note

there are no commercial or civilian flights to and from Wake Island, except in direct support of island missions; emergency landing is available

Military and Security

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of the US; the US Air Force is responsible for overall administration and operation of the island facilities; the launch support facility is administered by the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

claimed by Marshall Islands