The atoll of Wake Island is located in the central Pacific Ocean, approximately 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) to the west-southwest of Hawaii and 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) to the northwest of Guam. In addition to Wake Island, the atoll includes the smaller Peale Island and Wilkes Island, for a total land surface area of 6.5 square kilometers (2.5 square miles). Like many atolls in the Pacific, the islands and associated reefs formed around a submerged volcano. The lagoon in the center of the islands marks the approximate location of the summit crater.
Wake Island was annexed by the United States of America in 1899, and it became an important military and commercial airfield by 1935. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the mutual declaration of war between the U.S. and the Empire of Japan in 1941, the atoll was occupied by Japanese forces until the end of World War II in the Pacific (1945). Today, the civil administration of the atoll is the responsibility of the U.S. Department of the Interior, while the U.S. Air Force and Army maintain military facilities and operations (including an airfield and large ship anchorages). With the exception of direct support to missions—and potentially, emergency airplane landings—there are no commercial or civilian flights to Wake Island.
In 2006, Wake Island was in the path of Super Typhoon Ioke. Given the danger, the entire civilian and military population was evacuated. While some damage to buildings and facilities occurred as a result of the storm, a U.S. Air Force repair team subsequently restored full capabilities for strategic use of the atoll.