The only WWII battle to take place on U.S. soil occurred in the Aleutian Islands. The Japanese Army invaded the islands of Attu and Kiska in June 1942 wth the hopes of diverting the U.S. Navy away from the Midway Islands. The National Park Service established a historic area in Unalaska near the airport. Several remnants such as pillboxes are leftover reminders of the feirce battle that was fought here.
Battle of the Aleutian Islands takes place between June 1942-August 1943 during
the second World War II. In June 1942, Japan aggressively moved toward securing
the inhabited islands of Attu and Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands. Throughout
the entire war the Aleutian Islands were the only U.S. soil taken by the Japanese.
Historians believe that this act was to divert U.S. forces during Japan’s
attack on Midway in the central Pacific. Also, it’s possible the Japanese
thought that holding the Aleutians could prevent the U.S. from invading Japan. No
matter, the Japanese occupation was massive blow to morale in the states.
was six months after Pearl Harbor the Japanese targeted the Aleutians. The Aleutians
are chain of remote, sparsely inhabited, volcanic islands extending some 1,200
miles west of the Alaskan Peninsula. Once the Japanese arrived on June 3rd
they conducted air strikes on Dutch Harbor, which housed two American Military
bases. The Japanese then moved to Kiska Island on June 6 and Attu Island,
approximately 200 miles away, on June 7.
Americans heard that Japanese troops had taken over any U.S. soil, many where
in shock that such a act had even occurred. Some feared that this was the first step in an
attack against mainland Alaska or even the U.S. Northwest. Despite the
nationwide attention the Aleutians were getting, American war planners paid
relatively little attention to the Japanese garrisons at Attu and Kiska. Due to
process of building up forces in the South Pacific and preparing for war in
Europe. In fact, the U.S. military conducted only occasional bombing raids from
nearby Aleutian Islands. But by January
1943, U.S. Army forces in the Alaska Command had grown to 94,000 soldiers, with
several bases constructed on other Aleutian Islands. On January 11, troops from
the Alaska Command landed on Amchitka Island, only 50 miles from Kiska.
March 1943, U.S. Navy Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid had blockaded Attu and Kiska to
restrict the flow of supplies to the Japanese on the islands. On March 26,
1943, Japanese ships in the Bering Sea attempted to deliver supplies and
reinforcements to Attu. However, they were spotted by U.S. vessels patrolling
the area and the two sides soon engaged in what became known as the Battle of
the Komandorski Islands. Although the outnumbered U.S. fleet emerged victorious,
the Japanese fleet inflicted serious damage on Kinkaid’s fleet. The Japanese withdrew
in fear of American bombers as well as running low on fuel and ammunition. The now
isolated Japanese soldiers on Attu and Kiska, were reduced to meager supplies
sporadically delivered by submarine.
landing troops, the Americans bombed Attu and Kiska for several weeks before
the U.S. military began Operation Landgrab on May 11, 1943, landing 11,000
troops on Attu. Higher command expected the operation to take no more than
several days, but due to harsh weather and rugged muddy terrain, combat carried
on for more than two weeks. The Japanese troops, greatly outnumbered, had
withdrawn to high ground rather than contest the initial landings. It is
important to note that the U.S. soldiers, were ill-equipped for the harsh
weather conditions suffered more casualties from frostbite, trench foot,
gangrene and other illnesses rather than enemy fire.
fate of the Japanese had been sealed when the Americans established air and
naval supremacy over the island. Since no supplies could make it to the
Japanese forces on the island cutting the last remaining Japanese troops were
starving and had insufficient ammunition when eventually the U.S. troops
trapped them in a corner of the island towards the end of May. The Japanese
commander, Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki, decided to make one final frontal charge. The
next morning on May 29, he and his soldiers enacted one of the largest banzai
charges of the war in the Pacific. The charge ultimately failed. After the
final attack on May 30, U.S. soldiers counted more than 2,000 Japanese dead,
including Yamasaki. The American losses totaled around 1,000 men in the
retaking of Attu. Within two days, U.S. forces secured the island and the
Battle of Attu, the only land battle fought on American soil in World War II,
Attu, in preparation for Kiska the American commanders made sure that their
soldiers had better equipment and proper clothing for the upcoming assault. Which
was later named Operation Cottage. Intelligence at the time reported that a much
larger force on Kiska compared to what they faced at Attu. When the U.S. arrived
at Kiska on August 15, 1943, 35,000 soldiers landed with no opposition. After
several days of patrolling the island, they discovered that the Japanese had evicted
the island several weeks earlier, with the aid of the fog. On August 24, when
U.S. troops declared Kiska Island secure, the Battle of the Aleutian Islands
its defeat in the Aleutians, the Japanese navy reassigned some of its Pacific
forces to defend Japan’s northern flank against a possible American invasion
from the Alaskan Peninsula. This decision ultimately took vital players out of the
fight against the Americans in the South Pacific. To fuel Japan’s paranoia American
planes in the Aleutians conducted occasional bombing raids against Japan’s
Kuril Islands, which lie between Japan and Alaska.
years after the Battle of the Aleutian Islands, Japan formally surrendered to
the Allies on September 2, 1945, effectively ending World War II.