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.



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

Map references



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

Area - comparative

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

Land boundaries

0 km


19.3 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm




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


mean elevation: NA
elevation extremes: lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 6 m

Natural resources


Land use

agricultural land: 0%
arable land 0%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 0%
forest: 0%
other: 100% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

0 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards

occasional typhoons

Environment - current issues


Geography - note

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

People and Society


no indigenous inhabitants
note: approximately 150 military personnel and civilian contractors maintain and operate the airfield and communications facilities (2009)


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

unorganized, unincorporated territory of the US; administered from Washington, DC, by the Department of the Interior; activities in the atoll are currently conducted by the US Air Force

Legal system

US common law


see United States

Flag description

the flag of the US is used


Economy - 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.



Telephone system

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

Broadcast media

American Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) provides satellite radio/TV broadcasts (2009)



1 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2013)

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 - 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