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Posts Tagged ‘Kiska’

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.

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For a good number of you, the Battle of Midway needs no special mention.  And that’s especially true of regular visitors of this site.  While not discussing the battle in minute detail, we’ve looked at numerous events surrounding this pivotal engagement.  But while it may not require an introduction, the introduction of the battle is our subject for today.

On May 28, 1942, the invasion force left Ominato, Japan.  And that’s it…almost.  The force that left on this day was not Nagumo’s Striking Force – the one with all the carriers destined for catastrophe the following week.  It had departed the day before.  Nor was it Admiral Kurita’s supporting group of heavy cruisers (though it also left on the 28th).  It wasn’t Admiral Kondo’s force of battleships, cruisers, and a light carrier, tasked with reinforcing the invasion of Midway.  Neither was it Yamamoto’s Main Force itself, comprised of seven battleships (including the mighty Yamato), yet another carrier, and its screen of support ships…it left on the 29th.

Do you get the idea that the Japanese were really serious about taking Midway?

Anyways, the force in question was yet another invasion force, and it was bound for the Aleutian Islands.  The Japanese plans for Midway also involved Alaska.  It has long been believed that this particular force was merely diversionary, an attempt to draw off forces from the main battle.  When I was in the 7th grade, I gave a speech about Midway in my English class, and that’s what I said about it, too.  And while I got an A for the speech, the fact is that the Japanese were serious in having a presence in the northern Pacific region.  The empire Japan was building in the Pacific would need its northern flanks guarded, and it was thought that bases at Attu and Kiska (islands in the Aleutians) would provide that.

And so at 5:00pm, a dozen transports and their supporting vessels left their berths and glided from the harbor.  Destination:  Alaska.

Recommended Reading: Incredible Victory – The Battle of Midway

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