James Devereux – Wake Island Hero & Civil Rights Proponent


Wake Island’s commander, James Devereux was a twenty-year veteran of the Marine Corps who had served in China, Nicaragua and  aboard the USS Utah before the War. He received the Navy Cross in recognition of his leadership in Wake’s defense. After the War, he served as a Congressman from Maryland, notably opposing racism and pushing for school desegregation.

After the Japanese conquered Wake, Devereux was kept as a prisoner of war in Shanghai and in Japan for the next four years. He resumed his Marine Corps career after the War, receiving the Navy Cross for his leadership at Wake.

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Major James Devereux, USMC

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to

MAJOR JAMES PATRICK SINNOTT DEVEREUX

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

for distinguished and heroic conduct in the line of his profession,

as Commanding Officer of the First Marine Defense Battalion, Naval Air Station, Wake Island. Major Devereux was responsible for directing defenses of that post during the Japanese siege from 7 through December 22, 1941, against impossible odds. Major Devereux's inspiring leadership and the valiant devotion to duty of his command contributed in large measure to the outstanding success of these vital missions and reflect great credit upon the United States Naval Service.


THE NAVY CROSS

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In 1947, Devereux retired from the Marine Corps and returned to Maryland, his home state. He ran for Congress in 1950, serving four terms before running for Governor in 1958. He lost that election, due partly to his stance against school segregation and against racial discrimination in hiring.