We’ll keep it brief this evening, as it’s the first night of baseball’s amateur draft, and I enjoy tracking that.
Out of the disaster that was the Midway campaign, the Japanese did manage some success up north in the Aleutians. The Battle of Dutch Harbor (which we’ve talked about a couple of times) didn’t really accomplish a whole lot in terms of the actual engagements, but it tied down the U.S. forces stationed there so that an invasion force could approach the far western edge of the Aleutians.
Subsequent attacks on the island of Adak (between Dutch and the Japanese targets of Attu and Kiska) suppressed U.S. forces there such that Japan’s invasion force could make their landings.
Attu and Kiska are small islands sitting way out west in the Aleutians. They are rugged, barren, and largely inhospitable. But for the invaders, they provided a place to set up bases from which to patrol the northern Pacific. A victory at Midway would have made the islands very important as protectors of Japan’s northern flanks.
But of course, Japan was shockingly defeated at Midway, which really made the Aleutians untenable. Still, Admiral Yamamoto ordered their occupation, with two-fold reasoning in mind. First, the bases could still provide value should the Americans decide to launch attacks against Japan from the north. Second (and maybe more important), it would give the whole Midway campaign some marginal victory on which the Admiral’s hat could be hung.
And so, on June 7, 1942, Japanese forces landed on Attu (a day after they landed on Kiska). And for a year, they would sit with little to do but dig trenches and emplacements in the unforgiving climate. Back in Japan, the entire campaign was heralded as a huge victory for the Japanese. In fact, the Japanese citizens would not learn the truth of Midway until after the war ended in 1945.