Wake Island

Flag of Wake Island

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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 was developed as a stopover and refuelling site for military and commercial aircraft transiting the Pacific. Since 1974, the island's airstrip has been used by the US military and some commercial cargo planes, as well as for emergency landings. There are over 700 landings a year on the island.


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 36 E


total: 6.5 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 6.5 sq km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm




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

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 6 m

Natural hazards:

occasional typhoons

Geography - note:

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


no indigenous inhabitants
note: US military personnel have left the island, but contractor personnel remain; as of October 2001, 200 contractor personnel were present (July 2004 est.)

Dependency status:

unincorporated territory of the US; administered from Washington, DC, by the Department of the Interior; activities on the island are managed by the US Air Force

Legal system:

the laws of the US, where applicable, apply

Economy - overview:

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

Telephone system:

general assessment: satellite communications; 1 DSN circuit off the Overseas Telephone System (OTS)
domestic: NA
international: NA

Ports and harbors:

none; two offshore anchorages for large ships


1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Transportation - note:

formerly an important commercial aviation base, now used by US military, some commercial cargo planes, and for emergency landings