Signed by 31 Wake Island Defenders
Signed by VMF-211 Wildcat Pilots who defended Wake Island: John F. Kinney, David F. Kliewer & Robert O. Arthur
ABOUT The Magnificent Fight
Personally signed by over 30 Defenders of Wake Island, the “Pacific Alamo”, during America’s tumultuous opening days of World War II.
The Desperate siege of Wake Island took place December 8 through 23, 1941. With only several hundred Marines, Naval personnel and civilian American contractors to defend against this concentrated onslaught with marginal weaponry, the spirit of heroism within this group has never been surpassed. Shown here are F4F Wildcats of VMF-211 preparing for battle. In the cockpit of one of the only four flyable aircraft available, Capt. Hank Elrod confers with fellow pilots John Kinney and Frank Tharin, before embarking on a mission December 11, in which he inflicted damage sufficient to sink the enemy destroyer Kisaragi. On this same date the gallant defenders of Wake repulsed a Japanese amphibious landing, the only time such an attempt was thwarted during World War II. Inevitably, the defenders of Wake Island, isolated, out of ammo, and on the brink of starvation, became prisoners-of-war of the Japanese, but only after one of history’s most truly magnificent stands.
The painting The Magnificent Fight: The Battle for Wake Island was created in 1999. It was the first of several of John Shaw’s aviation scenes to be commissioned by Eugene Eisenberg, a well-known collector of military, aviation and maritime oil paintings. Owner of the largest number of original oils by the famous British aviation artist Robert Taylor, Mr. Eisenberg’s collection is one of the finest of its type in the world. With a special interest in the opening days of WWII, Eisenberg had special individuals, aircraft and elements in mind when he commissioned the large 4’ x 8’ oil, and many of the individuals whose faces are depicted are based on wartime photos. A special thanks for help on specific details goes to the remarkable Wake Island pilot, Gen. John F. Kinney (shown over cockpit in t-shirt). Not only was he possibly responsible for Wake’s tiny ‘air force’ lasting as long as it did, due to his engineering ingenuity, but also was able to supply the artist with drawings from memory and based on his diary entries of those weeks at Wake, supplying details such as locations of water towers, positions of wrecked aircraft, tractors, revetments (and even the fuselage numbers to put on the aircraft in them!) It’s no wonder he was one of the few to escape the Japanese during his imprisonment, and make his way back to freedom across war-torn China, go on to become a Marine Corps General, and then nearly 60 years later be able to recall such details with amazing clarity. Such was the stuff of which these amazing defenders of Wake Island were made.