Alaska February 14, 2019
Not Many Know The Story Of The World War II Battle That Took Place On Alaskan Soil
Just last year, Alaska celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Attu. Not many people realize that there was a battle on Alaskan soil during World War II. However, when the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor six months to the day after Pearl Harbor, the Aleutian Campaign began.
The islands of Attu and Kiska, located in the western part of the Aleutian chain, were invaded by the Japanese shortly after the Dutch Harbor bombing.
The Japanese spent months doing reconnaissance before invading. On Kiska, they took a Naval group captive. On Attu, they, unfortunately, took the entire Aleut village hostage. They were held as prisoners in Japan until the end of the war.
After the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor, the U.S. government rounded up the residents of nine villages on the Aleutian Islands and brought them to camps in Southeast Alaska.
Around 900 Unangax̂ (now known as Aleut) peoples were sent to the camps with very little belongings. They lived in small 15' x 20' structures, frequently with up to 28 people in them. The Aleut people stayed in these internment camps for more than two years.
In August of 1942, the U.S. military established an air base on Adak Island as the start of their response to the Japanese.
U.S. Navy submarines and ships began patrolling the area, and the pilots began bombing the Japanese. As Kiska Harbor was one of the main areas for the Japanese to anchor their ships, many were sunk in air raids.
In March 26th, of 1943, Japanese ships attempted to resupply their troops at Attu.
They were spotted by U.S. vessels, who then engaged them in what would be known as the Battle of the Komandorski Islands. The Japanese unknowingly inflicted great damage on the U.S. ships. Because they feared an air strike, they withdrew abruptly, however. Following this battle, the Japanese troops on Kiska and Attu were now undersupplied.
The air war with the Japanese lasted more than 15 months.
The pilots, owing to the very difficult climate around Attu, preferred the P-38 planes to the P-40 planes. Due to the plane's construction, the P-40's were slightly more unstable in the rough weather, with more narrow landing gear.
The U.S. then bombed the Japanese at Attu and Kiska for weeks before launching their next operation.
Operation Landgrab was launched on May 11th, 1943. More than 11,000 troops landed on Attu. Due to extreme weather conditions, including fog, and cold, harsh temperatures, the battle to reclaim Attu took weeks.
The U.S. military, suffering from harsh conditions, were unable to exert great force against the Japanese.
Frostbite became a problem for the Americans, as cold weather gear was unable to be supplied. Many of the beaches on Attu were unsuitable for landing. They also suffered from gangrene and trench foot.
The Japanese withdrew high into the mountains, leaving booby traps behind for the Americans.
There was fierce combat with the Japanese over the coming weeks. The U.S. military moved slowly, as their vehicles didn't work on the tundra. Eventually, catching the Japanese on a corner of the island, the Japanese ran out of supplies and ammunition.
In the early morning hours of May 29th, 1943, Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki marshaled the remainder of his troops in a last attack against the U.S. military near Massacre Bay.
He and his soldiers attempted the largest banzai charge of the war in the Pacific. This shocked American troops, as they descended deep into American lines. The Japanese fought fiercely, but in the end, only 28 Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner, and none of them were officers. The Americans lost more than 3,000 men in the retaking of Attu. American burial teams counted more than 2,300 Japanese dead after the battle was over, but there may have been more.
It’s surprising so few Americans have heard about this big battle. Did you know that this battle took place on American soil? Have you ever heard of the Battle of Attu? Let us know in the comments below!
If you’re interested in learning more about this, the Prince William Sound Museum in Whittier, Alaska has more exhibits about it. They are located in the Anchor Inn Hotel at Department 102, 743 Whittier St., Whittier, AK 99693. You can visit their
website here for more information.
There was even a shipwreck during the battle. You can read
This Shipwreck Just Discovered In Alaska Was From The Only World War II Battle In North America to learn more about it!