Morison, in volume 3 of his HIstory of U.S. Naval Opertions in WWII, was highly critcal of Fletcher's abortive attemp to relieve Wake, going so far as to suggest that Fletcher should have made a 20-knot run in without his destroyers (which needed to be refuelded). As I wrote in Gray Steel and Black Oil:
"Although the round-trip voyage from Pearl Harbor to Wake Island was well within the cruising range of the destroyers, they would have had vertually no reserves for battle. They would need to take on oil en route to insure sufficient fuel for engaging the enemy. . . By the evening of 21 December, [Fletcher's] task force was . . . close enough to the battle zone to begin topping off the accompanying destroyers on the next day. Unfortuntely for Fletcher's reputation, the ensuing operation was hampered by moderate winds and a long cross-swell that made fueling extremely difficult. 'Several towlines parted, seven oil hoses were ruptured, and only four destroyers were filled during a ten-hour period.' The fource was still 425 miles from Wake on the morning of 23 December, yet four of the destroyers still had to be fueled. By then it was too late to save the island and Fletcher's force was recalled." [Fletcher's advance was also hampered by the slow steaming speed ot the oiler Neches, which could make no more than 12 3/4 knots.]
Morisons ignored both Fletcher's orders "to fuel at his discretion," and the prevailing doctrine on the operational use of carriers. If an action had materialized around Wake, Fletcher would have been in dire need of his destroyers and would not have left them behind under any circusmstanes.
[ED NOTE: This comes as a follow up to this discussion thread]