KISKA, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, AK

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Kiska map provided by Alex Bond

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Ten of these 12 Navy men stationed on Kiska would be taken prisoner by the Japanese and sent to Japan at the onset of the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands during WWII. Caption. (Courtesy of Jill Holmgren)

Additional Photos taken on Kiska

 

The St. Louis fires a salvo
at Kiska during the bombardment
of 7 August 1942.

Capt. Takeji Ono of the Japanese Imperial Navy landed on Narukami-shima (Kiska) a little after 1 a.m. on the 7th of June, 1942, with a landing party of 500 Japanese marines. Within a short time they reached the United States Navy weather and radio shack manned by 10 men and a dog name "Explosion." Two of the U.S. Navy sailors were wounded by machine gun fire aimed at their shack, while the remaining eight sailors escaped into the foggy night along with their dog. The two wounded sailors were captured, had their wounds treated, and were declared to be prisoners of war. Seven of the remaining eight sailors were captured when they went to their food caches...which the Japanese riflemen were watching. These nine sailors were then sent to Japan as prisoners of war. The tenth sailor, William House, remained at large hiding in caves, eating whatever he could find...including grass. After hiding out for 50 days in the cold and being dangerously emaciated, he finally surrendered. The Japanese fed him and restored his health, then sent him to Japan as a prisoner of war. Their dog "Explosion" remained on Kiska.

At the same time as the Japanese marines had landed on Kiska, some twenty Japanese ships, including four transports, moved into Kiska Harbor. In September, 1942, the Kiska garrison was reinforced with an approximate 2,000 additional personnel. Kiska was then placed under the command of Rear Admiral Akiyama. Shortly afterwards, an infantry battalion was moved to Kiska from Attu, which was captured on the 6th of June 1942. In December of 1942 and January of 1943, additional anti-aircraft units, engineers and infantry arrived at Kiska. In the Spring of 1943, the tactical command was transferred from the Imperial Navy to Lt. General Higuchi, commanding general of the Japanese Northern Army.
 

An LB-30 (a Consolidated B-24A Bomber transferred to Britain) saw a fleet of ships anchored at Kiska Harbor, but couldn't identify them. By the time the LB-30 returned to Umnak to report their sightings to Navy Intelligence, another reported sighting by a PBY aircraft was radioed in of the presence of a Japanese fleet in Kiska harbor.

The orders came down from the highest level, "Get Kiska Back!"

On June 11th, 1942, a flight of new B-24's were on their way to the Western Aleutians with the LB-30 leading the way. The Kiska Blitz was on. Continuous air raids from Adak and eventually from Amchitka to the east kept the Japanese fairly much under cover for the remainder of their stay on the island.

With the capture of Attu on the 29th of May, 1943, airfields were now available to Allied fighters and bomber aircraft from which to continue additional raids on Kiska from the west. Kiska was now caught in a pincer. To make matters worse, a U.S. Naval blockade was set up to deny supplies and equipment from reaching Kiska by sea.

Realizing how tenuous their occupation of Kiska was becoming, the Japanese secretly brought in I-Class submarines and other ships under the cover of darkness and fog to evacuate their troops from the island. On July 28th, 1943, in less than an hour, the Japanese had evacuated all 5,183 men from Kiska without mishap, then returned to Paramashiro without firing a shot and without having been seen by the U.S. Navy.

The time came for the allied forces to take Kiska back from the Japanese. D-Day was set for the 15th of August, 1943. An armada of U.S. Naval Ships gathered in Adak's harbor, leaving on Friday the 13th to rendezvous with the Japanese at Kiska. Two days later, on the 15th of August 1943, a patrol of Alaska Scouts followed by the Mountain Infantry landed on one side of the island while the main force headed for a beach on the west side.

Colonel Verbeck, Commander of the first Alaska Scouts and first to go ashore, immediately suspected there was "nobody home," that the Japanese had somehow vacated the island. Meanwhile, over on the west beach some 7,300 American and Canadian troops waded ashore eager for a fight. The trigger-happy Americans and Canadians were shooting at each other, mistaking each for the enemy...in part apparently enabled by the fog. This resulted in 313 casualties of which 24 had been shot, four were killed by mines or booby traps, and with over 100 troops suffering from trench foot. The Canadians suffered four dead, four injured, and one case of trench foot. The U.S. Navy also suffered casualties; the Destroyer "Abner Read" hit a mine left

Japanese transport
burning after U.S.
air attack on Kiska
Harbor, 18 June 1942

behind by the Japanese which broke off the ship's stern killing 71. Wounded and missing numbered around 47. Amazingly, one of the few living creatures on Kiska that came to meet the invaders was Explosion, the dog owned by the sailors who had been captured over a year earlier by the invading Japanese forces.

Kiska was now back in the hands of the Allied forces.



Recent photo taken from
C-130 log flight.
Japanese WWII wreck
Kevin Mackey

For a more detailed account of the battle for Kiska, read of the account from any number of books including "The Thousand Mile War," "Aleutian Headache," and "The Aleutian Warriors." See the Bibliography Page for additional resources.


 

This page updated on: 23 Jan 2014 09:29 AM

Online as of 11 July 2005