WORLD WAR II
IN THE ALEUTIANS

A Brief History



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Japanese A6M2N "Rufe"
on WWII Attu. (G.Smith)
Military Funeral on an unknown Alaskan Island. Uniforms appear to be early WWII. Notes. (G.Smith)
Etta Jones and 43 Aleuts taken prisoner by the Japanese on Attu. (J. Holmgren) Ten of these 12 men would be captured on Kiska by the Japanese. Caption. (J. Holmgren)
War in Alaska, Life Magazine, 6 Jul 1942 (Lynne Ranieri) War in Alaska, Life Magazine, 6 Jul 1942 (Lynne Ranieri)
War in Alaska, Life Magazine, 6 Jul 1942 (Lynne Ranieri) War in Alaska, Life Magazine, 6 Jul 1942 (Lynne Ranieri)
"You served where?"
Newspaper Articles

The Islands

There are approximately 120 islands comprising the Aleutian chain that stretches from the tip of the Alaskan peninsula to within 90 miles of Kamchatka, Russia. The easternmost island, Unimak, is also the largest, measuring 65 by 22 miles. To the southwest is Unalaska, on the north coast of which is located Dutch Harbor. Unalaska is about 2,000 miles from both San Francisco and Honolulu. Continuing westward, in order, lie Umnak, Atka, and Adak. Kiska is 610 miles west of Dutch Harbor. Further west you will find Shemya, a small island located about 35 miles east of Attu. The Shemya landmass is only two by four miles, with the highest point being about 240 feet. Attu, the westernmost American island, is nearly 1,100 miles from the Alaskan mainland and 750 miles northeast of the northernmost of the Japanese Kurile Islands. Attu is about 20 by 35 miles, and has some fairly high mountainous terrain beginning just a short distance from its shore line, rising abruptly to altitudes of 3000 feet, and stretching through to the interior of the island. One writer of the time wrote, "Attu is the lonesomest spot this side of hell."

All the Aleutians are volcanic in origin. They are uniformly rocky and barren, with precipitous mountains (usually covered with snow) and scant vegetation. There are no trees on the islands, with the exception of a few stunted spruces at Dutch Harbor, and no brush. The lowlands are covered with a spongy tundra or muskeg as much as three feet thick, making walking very difficult. Below the tundra is volcanic ash, finely ground and water soaked to the consistency of slime. In many places water is trapped in ponds under the tundra. A man on foot may readily break through the tundra, sinking in watery mud up to his knees. Men have fallen into these bogs and have been lost. Motor vehicles, even those with caterpillar treads, quickly churn the tundra into a muddy mass in which sunken wheels and treads spin uselessly.

The Aleutians, being unsuitable for agriculture, lacking in mineral resources, and with little possibility of commercial exploitation, received only slight attention after their acquisition from Russia in 1867. A chart of the coast lines were prepared by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey office. The Aleutian island's shorelines are jagged with submerged rock formations rendering  navigation hazardous. The better anchorages, such as Dutch Harbor, are located in the easternmost islands, while the worst are located in the westernmost islands. Attu has four relatively unguarded bays...Holtz, Chichagof (the best), and Sarana on the northeast side, with Massacre Bay on the southeast side.

The Weather

Aleutian weather becomes progressively worse as you travel from the easternmost islands to the west. Attu weather is typified by cold, damp fog, often accompanied by snow or icy rain. The winds often reach velocities of more than 100 miles an hour. There are many days during the year where working outside is impossible. On Attu, five or six days a week are likely to be rainy, with hardly more than eight or ten clear days a year. The rest of the time, even if rain is not falling, fog of varying density is the rule rather than the exception. Shemya, located a short distance from Attu, suffers the same fate, but to not as great an extent due to the lack of mountainous terrain. This weather is highly localized, however, and areas of high visibility can be found within 20 miles of fog concentration! The average rainfall is around 40 to 50 inches throughout the islands, with the heaviest rains in fall and early winter.

Squalls, known as "williwaws," sweep down from the island's mountainous areas with great force, sometimes reaching gale proportions within 30 minutes. The mountains are concentrated on the north sides of the islands, which results in strong off-shore winds that in turn make it difficult to find a lee along the north coasts. The columns of spray and mist resulting from the williwaws frequently resemble huge waterfalls. In the winter, the williwaws can cause snow to be blown right up your pant legs, with many having observed the phenomenon of snow blowing from the ground up!

The Aleutian weather turned out to be a constant impediment to the military operations of the United States and Japan alike. Japan, however, enjoyed one advantage: the weather in this theater moves from west to east, resulting in Japan always knowing in advance the conditions which were likely to prevail in the islands.

Background

While the exact objectives of Japan's attack on the Aleutian Islands in 1942 isn't known, there are two main  possibilities to ponder. One possibility is that Japan wanted to conquer the Aleutians to obtain access to Canada and America's northwestern states by way of Alaska. Many of Japan's military leaders considered these poorly defended outposts to be the logical route for an invasion of North America. Why Japan clung to its positions in the Aleutians after the battle of Midway is not known, but it is probable that Attu and Kiska were either going to provide the jumping-off places for future invasions of the North American continent, or merely provide advanced eastern observation posts and defenses for the Empire. General Simon Buckner had proposed to attack Japan via a northern route, through the Aleutians, thus giving some credence to Japan's concerns about protecting their northern flank, which formulates the second reason for Japan's wanting to hold on to Kiska and Attu. A line drawn from Kiska through Attu and down to Midway Island would define Japan's eastern line of homeland defense.

It was clear to the Allied Forces that the Japanese occupation in the Aleutians provided a continuing threat to America's (and possibly Canada's) security. Any plans for Allied Forces  to seize the offensive in the Central Pacific would be difficult to execute while Japan maintained flanking positions in the Aleutians. One should also consider that every day Japan's troops remained on American soil was beneficial to Japanese morale (especially after the losses incurred at the Battle of Midway), while it was deleterious to that of the American's. Perhaps this was the primary reason for what became the total blackout of news relating to events in the Aleutians...to keep the American public from becoming too overly concerned about events in Alaska that were perceived by some higher military and government authorities to be of not much importance considering the scope of WWII. Would the American public panic if they knew that Japan had actually occupied American soil at this time? Because of America's commitments elsewhere, the means of quickly resolving these issues were far from adequate.

The War In The Aleutians

Lieutenant General Hideichiro Higuda, commander of the Japanese Northern Army, said they wanted to break up any offensive action the Americans might contemplate against Japan by way of the Aleutians, to set up a barrier between the United States and Russia in the event Russia joined with the United States in its war against Japan (Russia at this time was neutral in terms of the Japanese conflict with America), and to make preparations through the construction of advanced airbases for future offensive actions.

Japan's intent was brought to light on June 3, 1942, when Japanese carrier-borne aircraft flew out of the Aleutian fog and bombed the American installations at Dutch Harbor on the island of Unalaska. There were few casualties incurred with only minor damage to the Dutch Harbor facilities. Nevertheless, WWII now became more personal to those who lived in Alaska. News of this event took an inordinate amount of time to reach Americans living on the mainland's "lower 48."

On the 6th of June, 1942 at 22:27 hrs, the Japanese No. 3 Special Landing Party and 500 Marines went ashore at Kiska. The Japanese captured a small American Naval Weather Detachment consisting of ten men, including a Lieutenant along with their dog. One member of the detachment escaped for 50 days. Starving, thin, and extremely cold he finally surrendered to the Japanese.

At nearly the same time, 03:00hrs on the 7th of June 1942, Admiral Omori's Attu invasion force, the Japanese 301st Independent Infantry Battalion, landed on Attu via Holtz Bay, ending up eventually at Massacre Bay and Chichagof Harbor. At this time Attu's population consisted of several Blue Fox, forty-five native Aleuts, and two Americans: Charles Foster Jones, a sixty year old ham radio operator and weather observer, and his 62 year old wife Etta Jones, a teacher and trained nurse. They lived in the little village of Chicagoff, Attu, consisting of frame houses around Chichagof Harbor. They maintained a precarious existence by fishing, trapping the foxes, and weaving baskets. Missionaries, as well as government patrol boats and small fishing craft, provided the inhabitants with their only direct link with the outside world...except for the small radio operated by Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones was killed soon after that day after being interrogated by the Japanese, while Mrs. Jones along with the remaining Aleut population were held prisoners.

[FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION REGARDING THE JONES, CLICK HERE. Also, be sure to read Mary Breu's book "Last Letters from Attu"]

For a short time, the Japanese occupational forces maintained the services of the Aleut fishermen to supply them with food. Around the 21st of June as the Japanese forces became more entrenched on Attu, Mrs. Jones and the entire Aleut population of the little village of Chichagof was transported in the hold of a freighter to Japan for internment. Additional information indicates that Mrs. Jones was separated from the native Aleuts and interred at Yokohama (along with U.S. Navy personnel captured by the Japanese on Kiska), while the Aleuts were interred at Otaru, Hokkaido. The Japanese garrison now had the island of Attu entirely to themselves, and began setting up defensive positions.

[For an account of the Aleut captivity, please click HERE]

By the 11th of June 1942 it was evident that Japan had landed substantial forces on both Kiska and Attu. The U.S. Navy's PatWing 4 (Patrol Wing 4) consisting of PBY Catalina's flying out of Atka, bombed the Japanese held positions on Kiska that same day.

On the 12th of June, 1942, the U.S. Army's 11th Air Force heavy bombers made their first run over Kiska at 1200 feet, claiming hits on two Japanese cruisers and one destroyer. One B-24 Liberator was lost to the intense anti-aircraft fire originating chiefly from the Japanese ships in the harbor.

On the 20th of June a Japanese submarine, I-26, torpedoed a Canadian lumber ship off Cape Flattery and shelled a telegraph station on Vancouver Island. The next day it bombarded the naval base at Astoria, Oregon...three days later, Fort Stevens was shelled. (B. Garfield, "Thousand Mile War.")

On the 30th of August, 1942, the allied forces captured Adak during a raging storm that prevented air cover during the assault. The first plane to land on the new Adak runway on 10 September 1942 was piloted by Col. Eareckson. This brought the Aleutian war uncomfortably closer to the Japanese occupying the islands of Kiska and Attu.

Kiska came to be regarded as the primary objective for re-conquest by American Forces. Not only was Kiska the most advanced Japanese threat to those Aleutian Islands remaining in America's possession and to the Alaskan/Canadian mainland, but it provided better potential air facilities from which to launch attacks against Japan, a more satisfactory harbor, and terrain more suitable for a base. In December, 1942 Rear Admiral F. W. Rockwell, Commander Amphibious Force Pacific Fleet was directed by CINCPAC to submit an estimate of the situation along with a plan for the reduction and occupation of Kiska. On 24 January 1943 Admiral Rockwell reported to CINCPAC that the earliest date of troop readiness would be about 1 May, 1943.

Due to a severe shortage of equipment and transport, Admiral Kinkaid recommended on 3 March 1943 that the Kiska operation be tabled for the time being, and that an attack on Attu be substituted. The Commanding General, Alaska Defense Command, Maj. Gen. Simon Buckner agreed and CINCPAC directed Admiral Rockwell to plan an operation against Attu.

The plan as it evolved was to land the 7th Division on Attu in two forces. One would land north and the other south of the enemy positions. They would then converge at the top of a peninsula which would isolate the enemy.

January 11th, 1943 saw the beginning of events that would place Amchitka Island in the hands of the allied forces.

On January 26th, 1943, Japan's aircraft strafed Amchitka's Constantine Harbor.

January 28th, 1943 brought Jack Chennault and his squadron of P-40s to Amchitka's new airfield, with P-38s joining soon after. The 36th Bombardment Squadron also moved to Amchitka.

On January 30th, 1943, a B-17 crew attacked an unidentified submerged object in Alaskan waters. They dropped four depth charges and one bomb. It turns out the target was a very disgruntled whale.

February 4, 1943 saw American P-40's strafing Japanese installations on Kiska, while five of Japan's bombers attacked American positions on Amchitka.

On 11 March, 1943, CINCPAC made available three battleships, three heavy cruisers, three over-aged light cruisers, one escort carrier, nineteen destroyers, plus tenders, oilers, mine-sweepers, etc., and four attack transports. The Army commander was Commanding General 7th Division. The forces assigned Navy were Task Forces KING and ROGER. Army forces, assault, reserve, and initial occupation troops were as follows: Assault on Attu, 7th Division Combat Team, consisting of the 17th Infantry, one battalion field artillery, one battalion engineers for shore parties, one battery AA automatic weapons, three detachments 75th Special Signal Company, one company 7th Division Organic Combat Engineers, one medical collecting company, 7th Division. One Platoon 7th Division Medical Clearing Company, Detachment HQ 7th Division Battalion, detachment 7th Division Quartermaster Battalion, detachment 7th Division Organic Signal Company. For the initial occupation of the selected site in the Near Islands, 18th Combat Engineers from Adak, 4th Infantry Composite Regiment from Adak. The floating reserve was one regimental combat team consisting of the 32nd Infantry with reinforcements similar to those for the 17th Infantry indicated above. The garrisons for Attu and the selected site in the Near Islands are to be designated by the Commanding General Western Defense Command, and are to include 17th Infantry Combat Team, 32nd Infantry Combat Team, 78th CAAA and 2nd Battalion 51st CAAA. The target date is May 7th, 1943.

In early February of 1943 it was realized that since Japan knew of America's occupation of Amchitka, Japan would be taking countermeasures. There appeared to be an increase in Japanese forces and installations located at Holtz Bay and Chichagof Harbor areas of Attu. With a desire to remove the Japanese from the Aleutians, Rear Admiral McMorris's Task Group Mike was directed to isolate Attu and Kiska from Japan with a blockade formed by his seemingly inadequate fleet of old, incapable, and far too few ships, and to proceed with direct naval bombardment of these islands. Knowing he didn't have the resources to intimidate both Kiska and Attu at the same time, Adm. McMorris decided to concentrate on Attu. This way he could also blockade Japan's re-supply efforts of both Attu and Kiska. On the 18th of February the shelling of Attu began without opposition.

On a social/political note: a headline read, "on March 25, 1943, Mme. Chaing Kai-shek was welcomed by members of the Chinese Six Companies in Chinatown, San Francisco."

On March 26, 1943 Rear Admiral McMorris's Task Group Mike engaged the Japanese Northern Pacific Fleet which was attempting to re-supply the Japanese garrisons located on Attu and Kiska. This engagement, 150 miles west of Attu's Cape Wrangle, was to become known as the Battle of the Komandorskies. The defeat of the Japanese Northern Fleet by Task Group Mike ended Japan's attempts to gain a greater foothold in the Aleutians, and seemingly left the Japanese garrisons on Attu and Kiska to fend for themselves. U.S. airpower wasn't able to engage the Japanese during this skirmish as U.S. aircraft had been loaded with bombs with which to bomb Kiska. By the time the aircraft had changed-out their arsenal with weapons more suitable for naval engagements, the battle  of the Komandorskies was over. This was the last pure navy fleet Vs. navy fleet battle to occur during WWII. Subsequent WWII naval engagements made heavy use of air power assisting the naval fleets to overcome the enemy. U.S. Bombers and fighters continued to bomb and strafe the islands of Kiska and Attu as the weather permitted. During March of 1943, 39 raids were made against Kiska.

On the 1st of April, 1943, a joint directive from CINCPAC and Commanding General Western Defense Command orders preparations for Operation LANDGRAB, the invasion of Attu Island. 

In early April a spell of stormy weather with winds up to 108 m.p.h. grounded all planes for five days. Sixteen B-24, five B-25, and twelve P-38 sorties were ultimately flown against Kiska Island from Adak and Amchitka Islands. Antiaircraft fire damaged two bombers. During the month of April, the 73rd bombardment Squadron (Medium), 28th Composite Group with B-25s transferred from Elmendorf field, Anchorage, Alaska to Umnak Island.

On the 12th of April, 1943, 3 B-25's, 24 P-40's, and 13 P-38's flew 7 missions to Kiska. The fighters also strafe Little Kiska. AA fire damaged 1 P-40 and 1 P-38. The P-38 force-lands safely.

On the 13th of April, 1943, 15 B-24's 15 B-25's, 28 P-38's and 20 P-40's flew 11 attacks to Kiska; 43 tons of bombs were dropped. Fighters attacked the Main Camp causing large fires, and also strafed aircraft on the beach. Heavy AA fire damaged 2 P-38's, 1 of which later crashed into the sea, and 1 B-25.

The 14th of April, 1943 saw 30 P-40's 17 P-38's, 9 B-24's and 6 B-25's fly 10 missions to Kiska, bombing and strafing the runway, North Head area, installations, parked seaplanes, and facilities on Little Kiska.

The 16th of April, 1943 saw Kiska bombed and strafed 13 more times. A total of 13 B-24's, 12 B-25's, 32 P-40's, 29 P-38's, and 2 F-5A's cover targets which include installations in the Holtz Bay area and gun positions on North Head.

April 17th saw 7 B-24's bomb and score 8 direct hits on the runway and gun emplacements at Attu. One B-24 and 2 F-5A's abort due to weather. Four B-25's, 31 P-38's, and 14 P-40's hit Kiska 9 times, bombing installations and strafing gun emplacements and 3 parked airplanes.

On Sunday, April 18th, 1943 22 P-38's (some flown by Royal Canadian Air Force pilots) and 37 P-40's hit Kiska 9 times. The submarine base and gun emplacements on North Head were bombed and gun emplacements near the submarine base were silenced.

On Monday, April 19th, 1943 9 missions involving 14 B-24's, 12 B-25's, 32 P-40's, and 23 P-38's were flown to Kiska. The first mission was weathered out of the primary target, Attu, and directed to Kiska. Bombing and strafing concentrated on 4 grounded ships and the submarine base area where fires were started. One ship, believed to serve as a power station, was set on fire.

The 20th of April 1943 included 10 bombing and strafing missions by 15 B-24's, 16 B-25's, 10 P-38's, and 32 P-40's. They hit shipping in the harbor at Kiska and gun positions in North Head. Other targets included buildings in the Main Camp area and the runway.

By the 21st of April Kiska had been attacked 83 times. 

The 24th of April 1943 saw 2 P-38's bomb Kiska and strafe personnel near Mutton Cove. Weather canceled other missions.

Strong Naval reinforcements began to reach the Aleutians for the eventual assault on Attu. On Sunday, the 25th of April 1943, another naval bombardment was conducted against Attu. There were no signs of personnel or activity ashore. A number of small buildings and huts testified to the continuing presence of the Japanese. Fifteen B-24's, 12 B-25's, 32 P-40's, 23 P-38's, and 1 F-5A fly 12 missions to Kiska and Attu. Targets included Holtz Bay, North Head, South Head, the beach areas, the runway, shipping and the submarine base.

On the 27th of April, 1943 an American B-25 unsuccessfully investigated a reported submarine 4 miles west of Bay Island. Four P-38's bombed the Main Camp, then scouted Buldir.

The 30th of April, 1943 saw 4 B-25's, 17 P-38's, and 7 P-40's fly four missions to Kiska. Only the P-38's got through and blasted Gertrude Cove, Main Camp, the Submarine base, and a ship.

By the end of April, 1943, Adak, now the center of Army, Air Force, and Navy operations in the Aleutians, was maintaining a garrison of 19,067 Army personnel and 7,811 Navy. At Amchitka, where there were 10,260 Army and 903 Navy personnel, a 5,000-foot bomber strip had been completed during the month. This enabled America's air power to finally begin a significant presence in the war. Many of the buildings in the Main Camp area on Kiska, as well as part of the submarine base, had been destroyed, but despite the 1,000 sorties made by American planes during April, new construction on Kiska and Attu rapidly replaced damaged structures. By the end of the April 640 tons of bombs had been dropped.

In May of 1943 American Forces completed 35 strikes in 22 days with 17 of them against Kiska, 17 against Attu, and one directed at the Rat Islands. American Forces dropped 470 tons of bombs on the two major islands with a loss of 28 planes, only three of which were known to have been destroyed by enemy action, the remainder succumbed to the weather or other mishaps.

The Invasion of Attu

The battle of Attu was essentially an infantry battle. The climate greatly limited the use of air power as the island was shrouded in fog more often than not, and experienced high winds almost every day. The terrain...steep jagged crags, knifelike ridges covered with snow, boggy tundra...made the use of mechanized equipment and of all motorized vehicles impractical. The American GI, thus reduced to moving only on foot, had to blast his way to victory with only the weapons he could carry with him. The American troops, some trained and equipped for fighting in desert climates, some totally inexperienced in combat, had found a most formidable enemy in the Japanese who were fully equipped, thoroughly acclimated, and fanatically determined to hold their strong, well chosen, defensive positions.

The allied Attu attack force was originally scheduled to leave Cold Bay on May 3rd, but bad weather postponed sailing until the 4th of May, 1943. D-day was re-designated to be 8 May, 1943, then, again as a result of bad weather, D-day was postponed to 9 May, 1943, then to Tuesday, 11 May, 1943.

There were numerous "firsts" experienced by the U.S. Forces in the Aleutians. The American 7th Division had embarked on the first Allied sea-borne invasion of enemy-held territory. The 7th had trained in the Mojave Desert expecting eventually to fight the Germans in North Africa. Soon after the defeat of the German Army in North Africa, the 7th began to practice amphibious landings on San Clemente Island. With their training completed and plans in place, the 7th eventually shipped out of San Francisco, destination unknown. As the ships later set a northerly bearing, heading for the Aleutians once out to sea, the GIs were finally informed of their real destination. Cold weather uniforms were then issued to the men, including leather boots that would prove useless in the wet snow and mud soon to be encountered on Attu.

The arrival of American forces off Attu was uneventful. A dense fog obscured the Island and surrounding area. The 7th Scout Co. had safely landed at Beach Scarlet, located on the northern shore of Attu, from their submarine transport. The Northern Force landing took place at 14:50 hrs on Beach Red. The Southern Force landings at Massacre Bay proved difficult to the extreme. Some landing craft snagged on outcroppings of rock, sank, and dragged their crews to the bottom. A few landing craft collided with each other in the fog.

The northern force followed the island's coast-line, accompanied by a small flanking scout battalion to their right. The southern force finally pushed upwards from Massacre Bay through what was named Massacre Valley.  The first wave of Americans found snow running all the way down the beach. The first artillery pieces promptly sank into the tundra after being fired. Air support from the nearby CVE Nassau was eliminated by 90% cloud cover over the island. Those fighters that were able to find their way to the island more often than not strafed friendly units. A flight of F4F Wildcats attempted an attack against the Japanese defenders. As they flew through what was to become known as Jarmin Pass, a williwaw blew two of the planes against the mountain. A thick ground fog persisted to a considerable altitude that, while preventing the American invaders from seeing the Japanese defenders, provided protection for the Japanese (invisible in their white clothing) who could clearly see American troop movements below them.

The beaches quickly jammed up with supplies and bogged-down vehicles. The 7th soon realized they wouldn't be able to get their artillery or tracked vehicles across the muskeg. It was apparent the battle would have to be fought by the foot soldiers themselves. Troops in the front lines began to suffer greatly from the effects of the bitter cold. Hundreds of GIs would eventually have their feet amputated as a result of frostbite and trench foot (roughly a quarter of all casualties would be traced to frostbite). American troops, lost in the fog, walked into enemy cross-fires and would be pinned down for hours with no reasonable shelter from the cold.

The American's continued to slug it out for eight days of nearly perpetual combat as the Japanese forged a bloody withdrawal. Finally, on the 18th of May, 1943, with the added help of the "Fighting Fourth," the American northern and southern forces linked up as per the original plan objective.

Badly outnumbered and sensing possible defeat, the Japanese now killed their own wounded by injecting them with morphine. To make sure the job was completed, they then threw hand grenades into their own medical tent.

On the 28th of May, 1943, Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki, commander of the Japanese forces on Attu, formed a plan that could possibly turn the tide of battle in favor of the Japanese. In the middle of the night he would lead his remaining force of 800 men (of an initial 2600) through a weak point in the American lines, capture an American Howitzer emplacement, then use it to pin down the Americans long enough to evacuate his surviving forces (click HERE to view more of this story in detail).

On the 29th of May, 1943 at 3:15a.m., Yamasaki's remaining troops took advantage of the lingering fog and managed to break through the American lines. Ten minutes later, with the artillery battery located on Engineer Hill in sight, the Japanese commander ordered a Banzai attack. They killed several American patients in their field hospital and exploded a propane stove in the mess. The sleeping Americans quickly rallied their forces and threw the Japanese back into the fog after intense close combat. The failure to carry out their plan effectively destroyed the Japanese morale. Five hundred of the remaining Japanese committed mass suicide (gyokusai) with grenades held close to their stomachs, chests, and foreheads. Yamasaki attempted a final but fruitless charge later in the day with what remained of his force. During this charge he lost his own life to a .30-caliber bullet. The battle for Attu was over.

The casualties incurred during the invasion of Attu were appalling. The Americans suffered 3,829 casualties, roughly 25% of the invading force, second only in proportion to Iwo Jima. Of these, 549 were killed; 1,148 injured; 1,200 with severe cold injuries; 614 with disease; and a remaining 318 to miscellaneous causes. On the Japanese side 2,351 men were counted by American burial parties, and hundreds more were presumed already buried. Total prisoners taken: 28 (none of whom were officers). The Japanese fought to virtually the last man.

By May 30th, 1943, unknown to the allied forces at the time, all organized Japanese Army resistance ended in the Aleutians.

On August 15th, 1943 the allied invasion of Kiska finally began. There was no opposition to the invasion of Kiska by the US and Canadian forces as there were no Japanese troops left on the island. The Japanese had been secretly removed from Kiska by I-class submarines and surface vessels prior to the allied attack. Allied casualties during the invasion nevertheless numbered close to 200, all from friendly fire, booby traps set out by the Japanese to inflict damage on the invading allied forces, or disease. There were seventeen Americans and four Canadians killed from either friendly fire or booby traps, fifty more were wounded as a result of friendly fire or booby traps, and an additional 130 men came down with trench foot.

The Japanese were finally ejected from the Aleutians only after 15 months of arduous operations hampered by shortages afloat, ashore, and in the air...not to mention the almost insuperable obstacles of weather and terrain.


Newspaper Articles

Click HERE to view "The Attu Morning Sun," dated August 10, 1945, regarding the surrender of Japan. This is a PDF file, and will require you to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed. (Contributed by George Villasenor)

Click HERE to view additional articles pertaining to WWII in the Aleutians!

 
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My thanks to Michael P. Nagel "Attu Island: Hell Frozen Over," to Patrick Clancey, "USN Combat Narrative: The Aleutians Campaign," to the "Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces," to those who compiled the stories of the "Capture of Attu" as told by the men who fought there (by Infantry Journal, Inc., 1944), to the Museum of the City of San Francisco "Chronology of San Francisco W.W.II Events," and to Jill in Fairbanks for providing great reference material. Please don't neglect to read Brian Garfield's "The Thousand Mile War" for a more detailed accounting of WWII in the Aleutians.

Click Here to go to NBC Dateline's Web Site
for the text and pictures of their 29 Dec 2000 production
"The Winds of War."

Click HERE to get in touch with Shane Bishop,
NBC Dateline Producer of
"The Winds of War"

 



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Last Updated: 08 February 2014 14:44