Bonita (Bonnie) Gilbert teaches history at North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene and is the author of Building for War: The Epic Saga of the Civilian Contractors and Marines of Wake Island in World War II (Casemate Publishers, 2012). Gilbert has an MA in history from the University of Oregon, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and taught at colleges in the Denver-Boulder, CO area for a decade before moving to North Idaho. She is actively aiding the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command in its Wake mission and was honored to be invitied to Wake Island in the fall of 2011 where she provided a historical tour for visiting USAF generals of the Pacific Command. Gilbert provides more information including regular blog posts at www.bonitagilbert.com.
The presentation opens with an overview of the story of civilian contractors, many from the Inland Northwest, who came to Wake Island to build a navy base in 1941, and Bonnie's reasons and methods for researching and writing a book about them. She discusses Wake's location, Pan American role, Wake's strategic importance, buildup, the shocking descent into war, and the fate of the Wake men. This saga offers a new perspective on WWII and why the U.S. was caught by surprise in December, 1941. A running slide show includes photos from her 2011 Wake trip, and she includes a reading from the book and information on the current JPAC mission before opening to discussion.