Attack on Kiska: Untouched Relics from a Baffling WWII Battle
Kiska Island, in the Aleutians far west of Alaska, is also the site of a deadly World War II battle in which only one side fought. In the early hours of June 7, 1942, 1,200 Japanese soldiers stormed the island. They didn't have a lot of overpowering to do: Just 10 Americans were living on the island, operating a weather station. After killing two of the Americans and sending the other eight to Japan as POWs, the Japanese settled into Kiska and stayed for more than a year, carving out tunnels, building machine gun bunkers, and even planting gardens. With no Americans left on the island, the U.S. Army was not concerned about civilian casualties launching a series of bombing campaigns.
Aleut people were sent to internment camps which had up to 18% fatality rate
When World War II threatened a remote chain of islands off the Alaskan coast, the indigenous Aleut people were displaced from their homes. Hastily set up internment camps had horrible conditions: Meals were basic, medical supplies were limited and medical staff largely absent, sanitation was nonexistent. Tuberculosis, the flu, measles and pneumonia thrived. One site, Ward Lake, would see an 18% rate of fatality among its internees. Of the 831 Aleuts relocated to Southeast Alaska, eighty-five would die in the camps.
Forgotten for decades, WWII Alaskan Natives volunteers finally get their due
More than 6,300 Alaskan Natives volunteered for the ATG, or Eskimo Scouts. They never had to fight off a full-fledged invasion, but the ATG — who served without pay — did rescue a downed pilot and secured key airfields. The unit dissolved at the end of the war. The U.S. government certainly seemed to forget about them: It took until 2000 to get the ATG recognized as veterans, then several years more for the bureaucracy to start registering them for benefits.
Alaska's civilian POWs recall their lost village of Attu which none saw ever again
On a calm spring day in 1942, Nick Golodoff was roaming on the beach in front of his home village, Attu, when he heard the clatter of machine guns. He looked at a hill behind the school and saw Japanese soldiers descending on the settlement at the western edge of the Aleutian Islands. As bullets splattered the mud around him, Golodoff ran to shelter in a sod house. The Japanese rounded up the residents and put them under martial law. A few months later, Golodoff and 41 other Attuans were shipped to Japan. Half would die before they returned to America. None would ever see their village again.
Uncle Sam wanted to leave Alaska as an undefended frontier but the Japanese attack changed it all
70 years ago bombs fell on Dutch Harbor. The damage on a remote Aleutian islet amounted to little more than a blip in the cataclysm of WWII. But the battle changed Alaska in ways that few at the time realized. In an essay in the collection "Alaska at War," historian Stephen Haycox describes Anchorage in 1940 as "a sleepy little village" with a population of 3,500. Uncle Sam had been content to leave Alaska as an undefended frontier. A military buildup was reluctantly initiated only when global war began to seem inevitable. Progress was slow and patchy, but after the bombing of Pearl Harbor the next 7 months were "characterized by a great deal of panic. There was not enough of anything, and there was a sense that everything had to be done at once."
Ghosts in the Fog: The Untold Story of Alaska`s WWII Invasion (book review)
On June 7, 1942, a Japanese infantry battalion landed on Attu Island at the western end of the Aleutians, took the population hostage and claimed the island as their own. A day earlier, Japanese forces had also taken neighboring Kiska Island, which was unpopulated save for a small U.S. Navy weather station. The seizure of the islands, the only takeover of American soil during WW2, prompted a long standoff in the region between the U.S. and Japan, aerial bombardments of other parts of the archipelago and the forced removal of indigenous residents. Despite having occurred on U.S. territory, this part of the war has often been overlooked by historians. Many American schoolkids remain unaware of it. Seeking to fix the situation, Samantha Seiple offers up "Ghosts in the Fog" - a brief but informative account aimed at young adult readers.
Photos: The decaying WWII bunkers of the Aleutian Islands Campaign
Photographs: The decaying World War II bunkers of the Aleutian Islands Campaign.
Different aspects of the Aleutian front explored - Alaska in World War II
In 1942, the Japanese military seized two islands at the western end of the Aleutian Chain. By the time the counter-attack by American and Canadian forces was over: civilian population had been displaced, the islands - Attu and Kiska - saturated with weaponry, and legions of soldiers were encamped in the mud and ice of the stormy region.
Kiska: The most significant intact World War II battlefield
On Kiska Island, anti-aircraft guns still point at the sky. Lakes fill craters blown into the tundra by bombs that once fell through the clouds. Around them lie the silent husks of war: a submarine, a war plane, tracked transports, tent pegs, ships and shells - some yet waiting to explode. All over the Pacific, weapons, wrecks and relics are gone, grown over, built over or decayed. Except in Alaska, on Kiska Island. "Kiska is far and away the most significant intact battlefield remaining from WWII. Everything is there. It's just unbelievable," said Dirk Spennemann, a professor of cultural heritage.
WW2 map leads student to segregated compound on Umnak Island in the Aleutian Islands
A strange notation on an old map of Fort Glenn had Chris Roe puzzled. He had obtained a copy of the WW2 document for a project in pursuit of his master's degree. An army veteran and history buff, he knew the jargon to understand most of what he saw. "AE" designated the quarters and facilities for Company A of the Engineering Regiment. But area "N"? So he checked the Post Diary, an official synopsis of day-by-day activities. "I saw an entry that in April 1943 the Second Battalion of the 93rd Engineering Regiment (Colored) had arrived." It was one of the African-American Army units that built the Alaska Highway, and the last all-black military unit.
Army stops retiree pay for Alaskans in World War II militia force
The U.S. Army has cut off retirement pay for veterans of a militia formed to guard the territory of Alaska from the threat of Japanese attack during World War 2. The change means 26 members of the Alaska Territorial Guard will lose up to $557 in month. 300 members are still living from the original 6,600-member unit called up 1942-1947 to scout patrols, build airstrips and do other duties. Only a fraction of them had enough other military service to reach the 20-year requirement for retirement pay. "We did not get one cent being in the territorial guard. And we worked hard," says Paul Kiunya.
The Aleutians Islands World War II campaign was filled with misery (Article no longer available from the original source)
In the summer of 1943, Lt. Bernard Kasten saw the sun just twice. "It's 1,000 miles from Dutch Harbor to Attu. They are the most brutal miles in the Pacific Ocean. For 15 months, that is where we fought one of the toughest campaigns of WW2." Kasten feels the long Aleutians Islands campaign has been largely forgotten. It began with the Japanese bombing Dutch Harbor's naval base. It included one battle on Attu Island and a surprise, when it was found the Japanese had emptied Kiska Island. The rest, Kasten said, was pure misery, adding that the only authentic book about this campaign is "The Thousand Miles War" by Brian Garfield.
After a difficult excavation of WWII battle site, searchers find Japanese remains on Attu Island
The searchers dug for days, getting blisters and sore muscles, to look for remains of some of the 2,000 Japanese soldiers laid to rest in mass graves on the Aleutian island of Attu after a WWII battle. But old bullets and barbed wire were all that emerged from beneath the tundra - until the end of the 2-week mission. On May 23, searchers struck their shovels on wood boxes and found the bones of two Japanese soldiers buried by their comrades during the 1943 Battle of Attu. "We were at a disadvantage because we were digging with hand tools and the graves were originally dug with bulldozers," said Lt. Col. Matt Kristoff.
Japan Search for World War II Japanese MIAs in Alaska
The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) told that a team of Japanese and U.S. specialists is visiting Attu Island, Alaska, in search of locations of the Japanese soldiers who are missing from a 1943 WWII battle. The team's work on Attu Island will be supported by Army engineers from Ft. Richardson, who will also employ ground-penetrating radar to locate remains and guard against unexploded ordnance. In June 1942 a unit of the Japanese Army occupied Attu, and in May 1943 American forces started to recapture the small island. It was the site of the only land battle in WWII in North America.
WW2 veteran fights to have monument removed from Alaskan battlefield
Many decades have passed since the Battle of Attu ended, but Bill Jones has a new foe on the island. When he traveled back to the remote Aleutian battlefield he was astonished to see a large titanium starburst - The World War II monument placed there by Japan in 1987. Jones, who owes his survival of that battle to the death of another American, had no idea it was there. An inscription reads: "In memory of all those who sacrificed their lives in the islands and seas of the North Pacific during World War II..." But Jones regards the starburst as a memorial to the Japanese, and nothing more.
Alaska: The Most Important Strategic Place in the World -- Part 2
In his last appearance before he died "Billy" Mitchell (1879-1936) took the stand before the U.S. House of Representatives, pleading them to realize the importance of Alaska: "...in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world. I think it is the most important strategic place in the world." Congress did not act. It took decades for people to begin to value the strategic importance of the roof of the world. But as any Navy planner can tell you, strategy must follow logistics and not vice versa. Today there is no question that Billy Mitchell was a visionary: Alaska is an unsinkable aircraft carrier at the center of the Northern Hemisphere.
Alaskan Islands show World War II scars - Pillboxes and bunkers
At the end of the driveway concrete structure sat partly obscured by Arctic wildflowers. For anyone in the military, it was evident it was a pillbox. Pillboxes, bunkers and gun placements are common sights in Dutch Harbor, an Aleutian Island port built over its World War II past. The only places in the US that were bombarded and occupied by the enemy were a series of isles in the great island chain of Alaska called the Aleutians. On June 3 and 4, 1942, Japanese planes swooped low over Dutch Harbor, bombing U.S. Army and Navy facilities. The best place to get a sense of the military buildup of Dutch Harbor is the site of Fort Schwatka, now a National Historic Area.
Japanese invasion of Alaska - Red, White, Black & Blue documentary
"That thing shouldn't be here," Bill Jones says about the Japanese monument on the tundra of Attu, one of Alaska's Aleutian Islands. His voice cracks as he recalls fighting Japanese soldiers in this forgotten World War II wasteland. "It doesn't belong on Attu. It doesn't belong on Engineer Hill." Red, White, Black & Blue documentary by Matt Radecki tells the story of the little-known Japanese invasion of Alaska and the battle to take it back. "The U.S. and Canadian govts didn't want to panic the population, so they kept it a secret. The unintended result is that it's really remained an unknown story," Putnam says.
Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During World War II
During WWII, Soviet Army officer Boris Dolitsky in Siberia and couldn't help but notice the influx of American goods pouring into the country. But he was like many of the Soviet people, who knew little about the scope of the 4-year Alaska-Siberia Lend-Lease Program, which shuttled 8,000 aircraft and billions of dollars' worth of goods during its 31-month run 1942-1945. Much of that was the raw material that enabled the Soviet military's mobility. "This chapter of history was sort of forgotten," said Alexander Dolitsky, Boris' son, and the author of "Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During World War II."
World War II mass graves confirmed in Alaska (Article no longer available from the original source)
Mass graves believed to hold the remains of 2,300 Japanese WWII soldiers killed on the Aleutian island of Attu have been confirmed. Maj. Chris Johnson says 4-day expedition turned up clothing and remains that confirmed the burial sites listed in a 1953 report. "During that first day we found 2 boots; both left feet and different sizes. But we found the remains of foot bones in overboots, then we knew we had indeed found the burial sites." Japanese troops occupied the island of Attu in June 1942 but U.S. forces retook the island year later. The Americans lost 549 troops while the Japanese, fighting to the last man, sustained 2,300 casualties.
U.S., Japanese Investigators Seek World War II Dead in Alaska
US and Japanese investigators are searching for the remains of Japanese soldiers who died in WWII's only ground battle in North America, the Pentagon said. Japanese forces seized Alaska's Attu Island in June 1942. It was recaptured by U.S. troops the following May in fighting that led to 540 American and 2,300 Japanese deaths. 5 Japanese and 3 American "specialists" flew to the island. The team is investigating potential loss or burial sites where the remains of Japanese soldiers may be found. U.S. forces found only 235 sets of Japanese remains after the war. They were buried at Fort Richardson, near Anchorage.
Army sent him to Aleutian Islands to spy on Japanese planes
During World War II, the Army sent Lt. Earl Acuff to a remote location in the Aleutian Islands to spy on Japanese aircrafts. He was able to warn the Army about several attacks. However, months went by, and the Army heard nothing from him. The Alaskan Scouts, a unit of commando rangers under the leadership of Col. Lawrence Castner, were sent out to recover his body. Acuff, however, was far from dead. "I was living like a king," he recalled with a chuckle. "They told me not to break radio sound unless I saw a Japanese plane, so I didn't." Alaskan Scouts, also known as Castner's Cutthroats, were a band of trappers and hunters who fought off the Japanese in WWII.
WWII internment of Aleuts recounted in documentary
A new documentary film, Aleut Story, includes this testimony from Bourdukofsky and other Aleuts in chronicling the little-known internment of 881 Alaska Natives from the Pribilof and Aleutian Islands during World War II. Many in the film are speaking publicly for the first time about their experiences in the camps, where they were sent after troops from Japan invaded Alaska's western outposts in June 1942.