On a deserted Aleutian island, the scars of World War II remain
NPS photo by Bruce Greenwood
Seven decades later, few Americans are aware that World War II engulfed the westernmost region of Alaska. It’s a curious oversight, considering that the community of Dutch Harbor was bombed and two Aleutian Islands -- Attu and Kiska -- were occupied by Japan for more than a year. Even the fight to reclaim Attu, one of the bloodiest battles of the war and a pivotal victory in the Allied drive to end Japan’s designs on the Pacific, gets scant mention. Kiska, which Japanese troops evacuated on the eve of the Allied invasion, rarely warrants a footnote.
While Kiska was restored to U.S. control without resistance, it still bears the scars of war.
(snip) While some effort was made by U.S. and Canadian troops at cleaning up the mess after the island was retaken, much of what the Japanese left behind in their hasty evacuation remains strewn about, there to be found by occasional visitors.
(snip) Japanese forces arrived in Alaska on June 3, 1942, with a two-day aerial assault on Dutch Harbor, leaving 34 Americans dead. On June 6, they invaded Attu, taking its tiny population of Native Aleuts and two Caucasians prisoner. Next they moved on to Kiska, where only a 10-man Navy weather crew stood in their way. Bases were quickly established, but the American response was swift. U.S. bombing campaigns were soon underway, especially over Kiska. Owing to its lack of a civilian population, Kiska could be attacked mercilessly. Signs of the bombing remain, with many of the craters left by the explosions having become ponds where aquatic life now resides.
Read the whole article at the link. Note: the article serves as an ad for a book on the topic, but the article itself is still fascinating.
Update: since so many were unaware of this, I should point out that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians (part of the Territory of Alaska, years before statehood) as a feint to draw the Navy's attention away from the impending attack on Midway Island. And now you know the rest of the story.