Aleutians Campaign file photo

Aleutian Islands Campaign

26 Mar 1943 - 16 Aug 1943

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

Battle of the Komandorski Islands
26 Mar 1943

By Mar 1943, the Americans were planning to reclaim the islands of Attu and Kiska, which had been captured by the Japanese in 1942. The first step the Americans had taken was to deploy a task group in the area to interdict Japanese supply convoys. On 26 Mar 1943, this task group, led by Rear Admiral Charles McMorris, found a convoy of the converted cruiser Akasa Maru and the transport Sakito Maru escorted by eight warships, including two heavy and two light cruisers. McMorris opened fire against one of the armed transports despite being outgunned, and resulted in one of the rare pure long-range naval gunfire engagements of the Pacific War.

McMorris had the heavy cruiser Salt Lake City and light crusier Richmond, his venerable flagship. Admiral Boshiro Hosogaya himself led the escort group, ordering Asaka Maru and Sakito Maru to move behind the escort group. Salt Lake City drew first blood against Nachi, damaging her superstructure and weather decks, killing many topside personnel and knocking out electric circuits. The fire control system was also knocked out, render Nachi's guns silent for several minutes. Destroyer Baily closed in and fired on Nachi as well, causing ammunition explosions. Nevertheless, the concerted firing from the Japanese task force hit Salt Lake City repeatedly, flooding one engine room. The American destroyers laid a smokescreen which allowed Salt Lake City to escape. The Japanese task force fired torpedoes, set at a slow speed and maximum range, but they all missed. Fearing American aerial intervention, Hosogaya disengaged his ships from combat and fell back to rejoin with Asaka Maru and Sakito Maru. His fear was confirmed when Asaka Maru reported two groups of American bombing aircraft were approaching from the direction of Adak; a PB2Y aircraft came close enough to Asaka Maru for positive identification, and the converted cruiser subsequently opened fire. Hosogaya was forced to retire from naval service shortly thereafter as a result of his rather under-aggressive performance.

Colonel Yasuyo Yamazaki, who was supposed arrive at Attu Island to take command of the garrison by means of this Japanese convoy, was subsequently delivered to Attu by submarine in Apr 1943.

Battle of Attu Island
11-29 May 1943

In late Sep 1942, the bulk of the Japanese garrison at Attu was transferred to Kiska, leaving Attu barely defended; distant from friendly bases, the Americans did not attempt to reclaim the island. On 29 Oct 1942, however, 500 Japanese troops returned, establishing a base at Holtz Bay under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hiroshi Yanekawa. The size and strength of the garrison grew steadily over the next few months. By 10 Mar 1942, 2,300 men were present on the island, but after the action off Komandorski Islands in late Mar, the Japanese ceased attempts to supply Attu Island by surface vessels. Supplies trickled in by submarine only.

On 11 May 1943, Americans landed on Attu Island without resistance on the beach, and the officers smiled to each other as they thought it would be a easy battle. In fact, they believed that the island was so weakly held that the invasion troops only carried one day's worth of K-ration meals. They were proven wrong as soon as the troops moved further inland. Japanese troops in well-defended positions on high ground fought back ferociously. Meanwhile, the cold weather worsened the already-inefficient American logistics situation as trucks and other vehicles became trapped in the icy mud. Frostbite also was a major problem among the infantry. "It was so dang cold up there," said Edwin Trebian, an US Navy supply clerk; he vividly recalled the US Army soldiers staying in tents, keeping warm by means of a small stove while constantly fighting against the muddy ground that served as the tent floor. It took the Americans over two weeks to contain Japanese resistance in the area of Massacre Bay. On 29 May, Yamazaki led a suicide charge that penetrated the American line, surprising the rear echelon troops with hand-to-hand combat, nearly reaching the American artillery positions. Nevertheless, the Japanese final offensive was ultimately defeated. The Japanese who remained by that time committed ritual suicide, including Yamazaki.

The final casualty counts were stunningly high for both sides, especially considering that Attu was an island so remote in the North Pacific. Fighting nearly to the last man, the Japanese suffered 2,351 killed as counted by the Americans, though the actual number could be hundreds higher because some Japanese bodies might had been blown apart and made impossible to count, and because the Japanese regularly buried their dead in secret locations to hide their casualty numbers. The Americans suffered 3,929 casualties. Of that number, 549 were killed in combat; many more were killed by friendly fire or by booby traps installed by the Japanese. "There were so many [bodies]", recalled Trebian. "The Army just cut a path with a bulldozer and then shoved 'em in.... What else could they do?"

At Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Alaska, United States, the Americans constructed a prisoner of war camp in anticipation of receiving prisoners from Attu. After the battle, they were surprised to find that only a handful of prisoners arrived.

Landing of Kiska Island
15-16 Aug 1943

During the winter of 1942 to 1943, Kiska Island was reinforced by sea. Like Attu, however, surface ships ceased visiting Kiska after the Komandorski Islands action. Nevertheless, by Jul 1943, 5,200 Japanese were present on the island. After the tough fight on Attu Island, Americans feared a similarly difficult battle, therefore a much larger force was deployed for the Kiska operation. 29,000 Americans and 5,300 Canadian troops landed on the island on 15 Aug and 16 Aug, respectively, supported by a powerful fleet centered around three battleships and a heavy cruiser and 168 aircraft, only to find the island deserted. Taking advantage of heavy fog more than two weeks before the invasion, the Japanese successfully evacuated the island of Kiska without detection on 28 Jul 1943. The Japanese did, however, leave deadly booby traps that killed upwards of 20 men as they secured the island.

Conclusion of the Campaign

The victories at Attu and Kiska Islands represented the first lost American territory to be recaptured, boosting American morale. With the Americans uninterested in a campaign across the Kuril Islands and the Japanese not holding Attu and Kiska for offensive purpose anyway, the Aleutian Islands became of little strategic importance for the remainder of the Pacific War.

Sources: A Soldier's Flag, Interrogations of Japanese Officials, Nihon Kaigun, Wikipedia.

Aleutian Islands Campaign Interactive Map

Aleutian Islands Campaign Timeline

15 Jul 1942 The US Joint Chiefs of Staff held its first discussion on recapturing Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.
26 Mar 1943 During the Battle of the Komandorski Islands, Nachi was forced to push one of her floatplanes overboard (concussion damage from her own guns), fired several Type 93 "Long Lance" torpedoes at the US forces (none of which hit), and received five hits (killing 14).
26 Mar 1943 In the Aleutian Islands, American warships intercepted Japanese troops attempting to reinforce Kiska, engaging in the Battle of the Komandorski Islands.
31 Mar 1943 US leadership gave the order to invade Attu in the Aleutian Islands on 7 May 1943.
11 May 1943 US 7th Infantry Division landed on Attu, Aleutian Islands.
24 May 1943 US troops mopped up the final Japanese opposition groups in the Aleutian Islands. Overall in this campaign, the 2,600 Japanese men were wiped out at a cost of 550 American lives.
31 May 1943 US troops completed their occupation of Attu in the Aleutian Islands.
3 Jun 1943 All Japanese resistance on Attu, Aleutian Islands ceased.
18 Jul 1943 2 B-24 and 6 B-25 bombers of the US Eleventh Air Force B-24 attacked Japanese positions at Kiska Island, Aleutian Islands.
21 Jul 1943 9 B-24 bombers of US 11th Air Force bombed Kiska, Aleutian Islands while two US Navy destroyers bombarded the Gertrude Cove area of the same island.
15 Aug 1943 Supported by a massive bombardment from three battleships, cruisers and destroyers and under a protective umbrella of 170 aircraft, 35,000 American and Canadian troops stormed ashore on Kiska Island in the Aleutian Islands only to discover that the Japanese had fled nearly three weeks earlier.

Photographs

PBY-5A Catalina patrol plane flying past Segula Island (just east of Kiska), Aleutians, Summer 1942.G3M bombers in flight in the Aleutian islands, 1942-1943Japanese officers at the Aleutian Islands, circa 1942-1943LCVPs disembarking US Marines during an amphibious assault exercise in US Territory of Alaska, 1942-1943
See all 33 photographs of Aleutian Islands Campaign

Maps

Map depicting the American operations on Attu Island, Aleutian Islands, US Territory of Alaska, 11-30 May 1945Map depicting the Allied landings on Kiska Island, Aleutian Islands, US Territory of Alaska, 15-16 Aug 1943




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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. E. H. Thomas says:
    12 Sep 2006 01:58:10 PM

    The landings to retake Kiska by Corletts Long-Knives began on 15 August not 7 August 1943.
  2. Anonymous says:
    2 Feb 2008 01:46:22 PM

    does anyone know if any japanese were left on attu or kiska after the war alive ? not knowing the war ended. if so any info would be appreciated. thank's . toby in alaska.
  3. Fred A. Dias says:
    21 Sep 2010 02:35:08 PM

    I am trying to write a book on USS Nevada BB-36 and would like to contact any crew members who served aboard her during World War II or relatives of same. I would like to receive comments, stories, photos, etc. please email me, call, 928 251-00112 or write: Fred Dias, P.O. Box 82, Eagar, AZ 85925-0082 Thanks...Fred
  4. Anonymous says:
    24 Oct 2010 09:48:21 PM

    I had two great uncles that fought on these islands they both were shot but they survived
  5. Anonymous says:
    22 Jul 2011 01:21:31 AM

    7th 32nd infantry fort ord monterey,ca anyone know homer lovejoy?
  6. Anonymous says:
    23 Aug 2011 11:49:28 AM

    My Great Grandfather Alva Sholty served in WWII on the Island of Attu. Due to some documents brought back with him, I am desperately searching for a complete list of the few Japanese soldiers that were captured after the fighting on Attu Island. Does anyone know where I could find such a document?
  7. Anonymous says:
    26 Mar 2012 10:49:25 PM

    inderdict should be interdict
  8. C. Peter Chen says:
    27 Mar 2012 06:09:56 AM

    To Anonymous of 26 Mar 2012: The typographical has been corrected, thanks for pointing it out!
  9. Anonymous says:
    12 Apr 2012 04:25:03 PM

    need ino on sgt. frank sokol attu..'43 if anyone has known or known about sokel please respond
  10. Jeff Winter says:
    8 May 2012 09:08:26 PM

    My grandfather served in the Aleutians, but I don't have any information on his division or which island he was stationed. Sgt. William Winter was his name.
  11. Anonymous says:
    28 Dec 2012 04:42:07 AM

    My father, Willis Cecil Anderson served in the Army Air Corps in the Aleutian Islands. He was well decorated as a pilot but as is typical of those from the "Greatest Generation" he never spoke of his service or duties. Does anyone have any information that will fill this gap in my knowledge of my father?
  12. jimmie allen says:
    12 Feb 2013 03:40:09 AM

    My Grandfather Elmer Hausinger served in the Aleutians in ww2..I do not know which island it may have been but he was there from 1942 to the end of the war..
  13. ciaiba says:
    3 May 2013 12:17:51 PM

    Hi there, found what seems an error, in the "Battle of Attu Island" it says 3929 died in the capture but in the timeline instead I read 5 hundreds. Thanks so much for this report, awesome.
  14. Anonymous says:
    10 Jun 2013 04:44:00 AM

    My late father was on the USS Jarvis. He did the calculations for the gun placements. His ship is not listed.
  15. suellen edwards says:
    5 Jan 2014 02:56:16 PM

    My father Walter David (Dub) Barnett was stationed in Alaska during WWII. The National archive where his records would be had a Fire in 1973 and most army records were destroyed. I am desperately seeking any record on him. He is past on now and I would like to put his rank and unit on his headstone
  16. Chris O'Connor says:
    12 Jan 2014 05:04:05 PM

    For the anonymous poster from 28 Dec 2012, Lt Anderson was a pilot in the 77th Bomb Squadron. He flew a B-25 from Attu, against Japanese shipping and bases on Paramushiru island. The records I have indicate he was there from May to October of 1944. A normal tour would have been about a year, but I don't know his arrival/departure dates. His service number was 0740020. Try the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis using that number and his 1940's home address. Also, a trip to the Air Force Historical Research Center at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama would be productive.
    Can this be forwarded? I give my permission to send my email address to the requestor.
  17. sabin says:
    22 Jan 2014 10:09:59 AM

    I have photo life on Aleutian Ilands, Attu. one of the only tree on Attu. they of the 58 Tech supply, radio operator timplin last name unknowen, some of his friends, a building called downtown, planes, jap landing craft, post cemitary, the 11th. fighter cotrol squadron, the millers friends of timplin's, out over the port with ships. neat bunch of life photo's. pictures have been cleared.
  18. Dale LaCognata says:
    22 Jan 2014 01:09:06 PM

    My father, Joseph Gwozdz, was an army sargent in the Aleutian Islands and talked of being one of Corlett's Long-knives. I was too young at the time to understand what any of that meant but my brother has a few pictures of the tents buried deep snow with only the stove pipes stiking out, etc. Sure, NOW it interests me! But Dad is long gone.
  19. sabin says:
    23 Jan 2014 12:38:34 PM

    pryer to finding these photo's of the Aleutian Ilands, there seams alot that I do not know about WW2. I stsrted with intrest in the civil war, now I find the history of the men and women of who fought in them, truly deserve more respect for what they acompolished. I say hats off to you and all the respectI can muster upfrom my heart, praise the lord for each of you.
  20. Anonymous says:
    12 Mar 2014 09:42:20 PM

    My father was William Juntunen. I do not know anything about his service record but I would like to. Any one remember him?
  21. Shadowfax says:
    1 May 2014 05:49:38 AM

    Does anyone know if the US 77th Bomber group was flying B-26s or B-25s in early June of 1942? I have researched this on the net and find conflicting information.
  22. Shadowfax says:
    1 May 2014 07:55:55 AM

    I am also curious if anyone has information about when the Japanese bases, particularly the airfields of Kitanodai, Surabachi, Kashibawara, Kakumabetsu, Musashi, & Miyoshi on Panmushiro and Sh Islands were built?
  23. David says:
    14 May 2014 10:19:19 AM

    My dad, George Stoehner (also called Jack) was stationed on Adak Island during the war (1942-1945). He was a Radio Operator. I am looking for any information or pictures about this era.
  24. Chris O'Connor says:
    16 May 2014 08:23:52 PM

    The unit history for the 77th is at nps.gov/aleu. The squadron brought B-26 planes with them when they deployed to Alaska in early 1942. In June they were half and half B-26 and B-25. By February, 1943, the unit was all B-25s. Similar pattern for 73rd Squadron. The B-26 was a tough plane to fly, and in 1942 production was stopped and many changes made to try to make the plane easier to handle. This is probably the reason for the shift in the 73rd and 77th from b-26 to B-25.
  25. Anonymous says:
    28 Jun 2014 05:05:42 PM

    This is the first time I have actually researched the Aleutian Islands campaign.I am a Vietnam Veteran myself but my father and I rarely talked about his campaign there. He served with an artillery unit.
  26. John Craig Thompson says:
    16 Jul 2014 03:29:20 AM

    My father served with the army air corps in the Aleutian Island campaign. He was a staff sergeant at the end of WW2. I was in hopes maybe someone could help me locate which squadron / air wing he serve with. All help appreciated!
    He was born in 1924 and passed away 2003.
    His Name was Billy Guy Thompson from Oklahoma. Trained as aviation mechanic. I'm one of three sons asking for the air wing. Thank everyone!
  27. Anonymous says:
    13 Sep 2014 05:39:27 PM

    My dad was Lt. William Bain and he was part of the August 1943 landing on Kiska. My sister tells me that dad told her that he was chosen to go into the tunnels because of his short stature. He was scared to death, not knowing who or what he would find. Does anyone remember him or have any info? My mom has an ashtray made from an artillery shell inscribed with the name Wm. Pattie, and Kiska 1943. Anyne know who he was? Dad passed in 1970.
  28. jane says:
    16 Nov 2014 06:40:22 PM

    My dad August "Gus" Jensen was in the signal detachment served in Aleutians and Battle of Attu, He passed in 2005, I sure do miss him, always a go getter. I got his Army box, and now am just always searching researching wanting to write a book about the great forgotten theater. In my opinion the forgotten theater in Aleutian campaign was the most important to USA, I want to give this theater the respect it and all the men and their families the proper respect deserved. My heart does go out to you searching for records of your dad. another source to put in your search engine is the site "areyouinmyphoto.com there is a ww2 army section and recently saw my Dad's pic in one group shot with someone wanting to know all the names in that group shot. I gladly entered the info, but that person sent the request in 2007 - that was seven years ago, sure wish I had found that site earlier.
  29. Lew says:
    19 Nov 2014 01:56:40 PM

    Looking for info. on any meterological units with object of finding about a person, James Wasson, who served on (pretty sure) Addak during the war. Any Unit numbers, and time frame etc.

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More on Aleutian Islands Campaign
Participants:
» Buckner, Simon
» Erskine, Graves
» Kuwahara, Tadao
» Soji, Akira
» Yamazaki, Yasuyo

Location:
» Alaska

Ship Participants:
» Abukuma
» Detroit
» Hull
» Ikazuchi
» Kiso
» Louisville
» Maya
» Monaghan
» Nachi
» Nautilus
» Nevada
» New Mexico
» Pennsylvania
» Salt Lake City
» Tama

Documents:
» Interrogation Nav 21, Commander Kintaro Miura
» Interrogation Nav 51, Commander Tadao Kuwahara


Aleutian Islands Campaign Photo Gallery
PBY-5A Catalina patrol plane flying past Segula Island (just east of Kiska), Aleutians, Summer 1942.
See all 33 photographs of Aleutian Islands Campaign



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