Report From the Aleutians

If there is a forgotten theater where American troops fought in World War II, it is most definitely the Aleutians.  The Japanese took Attu and Kiska, islands in the Aleutian chain,  in June of 1942, to forestall the Aleutians being used as a base for a move on the Japanese Home Islands from the Aleutians.  Due to the rugged weather conditions, the US had never seriously entertained using the Aleutians as a staging area for future offensives.  However, Attu and Kiska were American territory, and national pride, as well as alarm from the Alaskan territorial government, made inevitable an American campaign to take back the strategically worthless islands.

Aleutians Campaign

Large reinforcements of planes, ships and men were part of a huge buildup which culminated in the retaking of Attu, after a very hard fight, in May of 1943 which resulted in 3900 American casualties and the death of all but 29 of the 2900 Japanese garrison.  Kiska was taken on August 15, 1943, the invasion force learning after landing that the Japanese had vacated the island.

Report From the Aleutians, the video that begins this post, was released in 1943.  Directed by Captain John Huston, it is the most non-controversial of the three films he made for the Army as a member of the Signal Corps during the War, although brass did unsuccessfully object to his inclusion in the film of comments regarding the mind numbing boredom that makes up so much of War for most of the common troops that fight it.

The film ends with a bombing mission over Kiska in which Huston almost lost his life.  The film is a reminder of a largely forgotten part of the American war effort.

2 Responses to Report From the Aleutians

  • The film mentions that Attu and Kiska were uninhabited. This is incorrect.

    Technically Kiska was, for the only people there were the members of a U.S. Navy meteorological station. Attu, on the other hand, had about 880 residents. The Alaskan government had imposed a mandatory evacuation before the Japanese arrived, but 47 residents were still present on the day of the invasion, and 42 survived the summary executions that day. These 42 were taken to a camp in Japan, and only 26 survived to the end of the war.

    It is a real shame that we forget the suffering of these Americans, and that of the U.S. citizens of Guam. These were the two places where Americans directly faced the enemy in World War Two in their homes. Other atrocities happened in the massacre of the U.S. contractors and Marines on Wake and of course in the Philippines. We should always remember.

  • My wife’s late grandfather, Elmer Pulaski, was in the Navy during WWII and was in the Aleutians. Didn’t like talking about it.

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