War Comes to Attu

1942

You would think a place like the Aleutian Islands would be left out of the war. But no, the Japanese showed up in 1942 and took over two of the US-owned islands west of Alaska. There weren’t that many people on Attu and Kiska, maybe 40 or 50, but Japan had now taken over some US land!


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Why?

No one was sure why the Japanese wanted the islands in the first place. I mean, these barren, mountainous, volcanic islands did not seem to have much strategic value with their rotten weather like sudden dense fogs, high winds and often snow.


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The Battle of Attu

The U.S. set up a naval blockade. This stopped the flow of supplies and left the Japanese soldiers isolated. Then the Americans landed 10,000 troops on Attu who slugged through the rugged, muddy terrain only to find the Japanese had moved to higher ground. The U.S. soldiers were not ready for this. Frostbite and booby traps made life miserable as they fought back and forth across the barren island.


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Finally, when trapped in a corner of the island, the Japanese commander, Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki ordered a last-ditch attack. His troops charged wildly through the American lines and many Japanese soldiers were killed including Yamasaki. The U.S. forces secured the island and the only land battle fought on American soil during World War II, was over.


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Kiska

What happened on the second island, Kiska? When the Americans landed, they discovered that the Japanese were gone. They had left earlier, under cover of dense fog.


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