79 years after the brutal battle to expel the Japanese, remote areas of U.S. territory are once again in the spotlight.


Attu Aleutian Invasion of Alaska Japan World War II

On May 26, 1943, US soldiers and equipment landed on the beach of Massacre Bay on Attu Island.(AP photo / US Navy)

  • In May 1943, US soldiers began a brutal battle to recapture Attu and Kiska from the Japanese.

  • The remote islands that are part of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands were important for operations in the Pacific Ocean.

  • Alaska is renewing its military importance as the United States now focuses more on the Pacific and Arctic.

On May 11, 1943, American soldiers began landing on Attu Island. Attu Island, along with the neighboring island of Kiska, was confiscated by the Japanese army a year ago.

Attu Island is located on the westernmost tip of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, about 1,500 miles from Anchorage. The occupation by Japan was the first time that the territory of the United States was occupied by foreign powers since the War of 1812.

The Japanese troops that landed on the island were the northernmost units of a larger operation, including units dispatched to attack and occupy Midway Island in the Central Pacific Ocean. After retreating Japan’s advance, the United States dispatched large troops to recapture the island in mid-1943.

Instead of the three-day battle that Americans expected, the Battle of Attu turned into a three-week slogan.

79 years later, the Aleutian Islands and Alaska are of new importance to the United States, as the region is now a place of competition with Russia and China due to increased access to the Arctic Circle.

Aleutian Islands Campaign

Aleutian Islands

US military base on the Aleutian Islands as of August 1942.Wikimedia Commons

Japan occupied Kiska and Attu in June 1942 and attacked Pearl Harbor for just six months. Prior to their landing, an air raid on nearby Dutch Harbor killed 43 Americans and destroyed 11 planes.

Japan had two goals in the Aleutian Islands. Distract Americans before the planned midway invasion and avoid using the less populated islands as outposts.

Within months of their arrival, the Japanese deployed thousands of troops to the island, building fortresses and important infrastructure such as cover pits and tunnels. Port facilities and runways were also built in Kiska.

The U.S. military gained a footstep in Alaska when it realized the importance of the region and its lack of defense. When Kiska and Attu were confiscated, Alaska Defense Command freed up an army of 24,000. By January 1943, it had 94,000.

By the end of February 1943, US troops had landed on nearby islands and built airfields to bomb Attu and Kiska. By mid-March, the blockade of the US Navy separated Japanese garrison from supply and reinforcement.

On April 1, the US commander approved the invasion of Attu Island. The purpose, called Operation Land Club, was to defeat the small Chinese Garrison Army on Attu Island before heading to Kiska.

“Attack the pillbox on a tightrope”

Attu Aleutian Alaska Invasion of Japan World War II

A US soldier with a gun and grenade approached the Japanese in June 1943 with a bargain on Attu Island.(AP photo)

Many believed that victory was imminent, as the first landing on May 11 preceded airstrikes and naval artillery and was not opposed.

In fact, more than 2,500 Japanese garrisoners prepared further inland defenses, waiting for US troops to move forward, and then ambushed in small groups. This is a preview that the US military will face. Iwo Jima When Okinawa A year later.

To make matters worse, Americans soon realized they were fighting the weather with two enemies, the Japanese. Attu is covered with fog, rain and snow for about 250 days a year, with winds up to 120 mph.

Many U.S. forces lacked proper winter clothing and suffered from frostbite, gangrene, and trench foot. “Sturdy” Lieutenant Donald E. Dwinell Said.. “The whole terrible deal was steep, like attacking a pillbox on a tightrope in winter.”

Americans pushed to occupy the hills and push Japanese troops into several areas along the coast.

Attu Aleutian Alaska Invasion of Japan World War II

US military reinforcements landed on the beach of Attu Island on June 23, 1943.(AP photo)

On May 29, as the defeat was imminent, the last Japanese troops to fight occupied the highlands, used captured cannons against the U.S. forces, and used the captured food and supplies to their fortress. A large-scale Banzai charge was carried out with the aim of retreating to.

When an American soldier described it as “the turmoil, the turmoil, and the madness of the deadline,” about 800 Japanese soldiers invaded the American main line and reached the rear. The battle was fierce and included hand-to-hand combat, but the US troops gathered and pushed the Japanese back.

By May 30th, the island was safe. At least 2,351 Japanese bodies were recovered and buried by Americans. Like the other islands reclaimed from the Japanese, many defenders committed suicide rather than accepting defeat. Only 28 Japanese soldiers surrendered.

The battle was so fierce that the Japanese secretly withdrew from Kisuka at the end of July, hiding in the fog and darkness.Despite Japan’s departure, US and Canadian troops Still injured From booby traps, friendly fires, and the harsh environment of landing in Kisca in mid-August.

A total of 549 US soldiers were killed and 1,148 were injured during the Aleutian operations.

Newly discovered importance

During regular maritime patrols in the Bering Sea and the Arctic, the United States Coast Guard's Cutterbertolph on August 30, 2021 in the high seas of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, the China People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Task Force. Discovered and established wireless contact.

US Coast Guard cutter Bertholf chasing a Chinese Navy vessel on the high seas of the Bering Sea, August 30, 2021.Photograph of the United States Coast Guard by Ensign Bridget Boyle

Given its proximity to the Soviet Union, Alaska remained important during the Cold War, especially for air and missile defense, but memories of the World War II campaign faded significantly in the decades that followed.

Today, as the United States turns towards competition among the great powers and the region becomes more accessible, Alaska’s importance in military operations is gaining new attention, reflected in its recent activities. increase.

In 2007, Russia resumed patrols of long-range bombers. This patrol may enter the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, which surrounds the state but is not US airspace. In 2020, U.S. authorities said interception of those flights It was the highest level Since the Cold War.

The activity of the Russian Navy around Alaska is also increasing. A Large drill In 2020, 50 Russian warships operated in the exclusive economic zone of the United States. This zone extends approximately 200 miles from the coast of the United States where there was a collision with a US fishing vessel.

China too Expressing interest in the Arctic Circle.. It declares itself “close to the Arctic” and Grow a fleet of icebreakers..Chinese warships first operated off the coast of Alaska in 2015, with four Chinese warships Appeared off the Aleutian Islands Again in August 2021.

US Special Operations with Stinger on Shemya Island

Against the backdrop of the Cobra Dane Radar, US Special Operations Forces will train on Shemya Island in October 2021 with Stinger missiles.U.S. Special Operations Forces

U.S. military Strengthen your posture in Alaska.. The Army renewed its troops there, Reconstruction of the 11th Airborne Division Invest in new equipment and enhanced training.

The Air Force, which has had the largest presence in the Arctic Circle of any US service, has added dozens of fifth-generation fighters to its base. The Marines are interested in increasing training in Alaska, and the Navy is trying to set up a new deep-sea port in Nome to build operations in Alaska.

Alaska’s new importance extends to the Aleutian Islands. 2019, U.S. Sailors and Marines Trained on Adak IslandIs in the south of The Bering Strait is getting busier It used to house a major US Navy base.

In late 2020, U.S. special operations forces were deployed on Shemya Island, which is closer to Russia than the U.S. mainland.Protect critical terrain and critical infrastructure.. “

Alaska’s importance to the US military will increase in the coming years as the Arctic ice recedes and Russia and China increase their activity.

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