Additional material is available for the Aleutians campaign.

Chapter 6: The Aleutian Campaign

Preliminary Events and Planning

Success at Pearl Harbor was beyond Japanese expectation. The United States Pacific Fleet was immobilized by a sudden stroke of Japanese naval air power and a comparatively easy and rapid expansion to the south took place. Japanese planners realized that inevitably the war must turn to the defensive. When this occurred a strong outer perimeter of air bases from which to conduct air reconnaissance and attack, backed by a powerful fleet operating on interior lines with its own concentrated carrier-borne air power, would make the war so expensive for America that she would tire of it. Then a peace could be secured which would gain for Japan the needed resources in lands to the south, the control of China, and a strong and dominating position in East Asia.

The first United States air attack against the home islands of Japan occurred on 18 April 1942 when the planes of the Doolittle Raid took off from a carrier 600 miles east of Honshu. This token attack directed Japanese attention to the east and northeast. It added point to the argument of those Japanese planners who advocated taking advantage of the favorable situation created by the success of current operations to extend the defensive perimeter of the Empire. In 1942 the American territory nearest to the Japanese homeland was that in the Aleutian islands. Japan's perimeter, originally conceived to pass through the Kuriles, Wake, Marshalls, Bismarck Archipelago, Timor, Java, Sumatra, Malaya and Burma, was intended to be moved outward to include the Western Aleutians, Midway, Samoa, Fiji, New Caledonia and Port Moresby.

The plan for the Midway and Aleutian Campaign was prepared on a staff level below that of the Imperial Headquarters. It was presented in completed form to that headquarters, to the Naval General Staff, and to the Commander in Chief, Combined Fleet. The Commander in Chief, Combined Fleet, approved the plan and was anxious to carry it out. The Chief of the Naval General Staff initially opposed the plan, but gave way to the enthusiasm of the Commander in Chief, Combined Fleet, and ultimately approved it. The agreement of the Army was then secured in Imperial Headquarters and the plan became a scheduled operation.

The Aleutian and the Midway operations were intimately related. The main strength of the Japanese Fleet was to be employed in the seizure of Midway and would offer battle to the United States Pacific Fleet under one of three tactical plans, the choice of which would depend upon developments. In the north, a small, but relatively powerful part of the Japanese Fleet, the Second Mobile Force, composed of two aircraft carriers, two heavy cruisers, and three destroyers, would strike Dutch Harbor a paralyzing blow, while, at the other end of the Aleutian chain, the islands of Adak, Kiska, and Attu would be seized by other forces regularly attached to the Japanese Fifth Fleet.

The mission of the Fifth Fleet up to this time had been twofold: (1) "The defense and patrol of assigned area;" and (2) "Anti-Soviet security." The "assigned area" embraced the eastern seaboard of Japan including Marcus Island, Ogasawara Islands, Hokkaido, and the Kurile Islands. That "anti-Soviet security" was regarded seriously was evidenced by the fact that float planes of the Kimikawa Maru made an extensive photo reconnaissance of Kamchatka in January 1942. On 11 May (east longitude ) from a position 150 miles south of Kiska, the Kimikawa Maru supported by the light cruiser Kiso used her float planes to make


a photo reconnaissance of Adak and Kiska. This was quite successful in the case of Adak, but thwarted by weather in the case of Kiska.

Apparently the Japanese overrated, rather than underrated the severity of weather in the Aleutians. It is believed that this is attributable to their experience in the Kuriles, the proximity of which to the Asiatic mainland gives them a far greater range of temperature and more severe winter weather than that experienced in the Aleutians. However, the Japanese fishing boats for a long time had been sterilizing areas of Bristol Bay of fish by their thorough methods, and these with the seal and sea-otter activities in the southern Bering Sea must have amassed for Japan very considerable meteorological and geographic information.

At any rate, the Aleutian Campaign was first planned as a reconnaissance in force. Adak was to be occupied, any United States military installations there destroyed, its harbors mined, and then the occupying force withdrawn to land on Attu. The job ashore on these two islands was to be done by the Army. Kiska was to be occupied by a naval landing force. Kiska and Attu would be held until fall and then the occupying forces withdrawn before the onset of severe winter weather. Meanwhile the Japanese expected confirmation of their belief that these northern islands, so like their Kuriles, were unfit as bases for sustained air operations. An advantage to be derived from the seizure of islands in the Western Aleutians was that of a base for flying boats which could cover the northern half of the 1,400 miles between Adak and Midway. The barrier air patrol thus established would prevent a surprise penetration of the United States Pacific Fleet beyond the contemplated Japanese base at Midway towards the Empire. Incidentally, further carrier raids of the Doolittle variety would be made much more difficult.

The first blow in the Aleutians, the Japanese carrier attack against Dutch Harbor, was timed to be 1 day earlier than the carrier attack against Midway, thus to confuse the enemy and throw off his timing.

The Japanese Occupation

The Second Mobile Force, the principle elements of which were the two carriers Ryujo and Junyo, launched their attack against Dutch Harbor on schedule on 3 June (west longitude date). It was not considered a success by them, however, since about two-thirds of the planes turned back due to weather. Only 6 fighters and 13 carrier attack planes, all from Ryujo, reached the target. The force retired, refueled destroyers, and attempted to carry out the plan for the second day which called for a reconnaissance and air attack on Atka and Adak. While visibility had been the principle difficulty the first day, they found that wind and sea conditions as well as visibility were a bar to flight operations the second day. They therefore steamed towards Dutch Harbor, and as wind and sea improved they launched two weather scouts. Late in the afternoon they launched against Dutch Harbor a single attack of about 32 planes flown by pilots selected for their experience. This flight reached the target and did considerable damage. The surface units of the Second Mobile Force were scouted throughout most of the second day by PBYs, and alarming attacks by B-17s and B-26s developed which, handicapped by unfavorable weather, did them no damage. Returning from the attack, the Junyo planes chose a rendezvous point off Umnak Island which turned out to be almost directly over a United States airfield of the existence of which the Japanese had hitherto obtained no intelligence. They here lost four planes to defending United States fighters. The Second Mobile Force retired to cruise in a support area about 400 miles south of Kiska. It had no further contacts with United States forces. A planned interception of United States air raids against Kiska was cancelled due to weather, but two carrier scout planes reached and reconnoitered Komandorski islands on 13 June (east longitude date).

On the day of the second attack on Dutch Harbor, which was the day of the main engagement at Midway, two occupation forces moved up to positions from which to run in to their objectives. The first of these forces was the so-called Adak-Attu Occupation Force, and the second, the Kiska Occupation Force.


As a result of the Japanese defeat at Midway the occupation of the Western Aleutians was cancelled by the Commander in Chief, Combined Fleet. However, within about an hour, this order was countermanded and these two forces were ordered to proceed with their operations. Shortly thereafter a message was received indicating a further change in plan. The Adak occupation was cancelled and the Adak-Attu Occupation Force was directed to seize only Attu. The Kiska Occupation Force landed a battalion of naval landing force at Reynard Cove on Kiska at 1500, 6 June (150th meridian west longitude, zone plus 10, time and date). The Adak-Attu Occupation Force landed a battalion of Army troops on Attu at about 0300, 7 June (zone plus 10 time and date).

The reasoning of the Japanese Fleet commanders which occasioned the rapid cancellation, reinstatement and ultimate modification of the plan for the occupation of the Western Aleutians, is not clear. Some credence may be given to one account which states that the Commander in Chief, Combined Fleet, Admiral Yamamoto, decided against the Aleutian occupation immediately upon learning of the destruction of the major carrier force at Midway, but thereafter gave way to the recommendation of the Commander in Chief, Fifth Fleet, Vice Admiral Hosogaya, and ordered the occupation of just the two westernmost islands, dropping from the plan Adak, which is only 300 miles west of Dutch Harbor, but retaining Kiska which is 600 miles west. Certainly there would be a great temptation to save something from the debacle at Midway, and the story in the Japanese newspapers that some American territory had been occupied would detract from any leak of the sad information on the loss of carriers in the larger battle.

It is quite evident that the Japanese High Command was concerned over the possible intervention of the United States Pacific Fleet in this token occupation of American soil, for the carrier Zuiho was detached from the defeated Midway force and sent up to reinforce the Second Mobile Force as the latter stood by at a discrete distance in support of Kiska. When this force returned for a rapid replenishment at Ominato during the period 22-29 June, it sortied reinforced by a fourth carrier, the Zuikaku, and remained in a support position on 6 July. By this time the Japanese were apparently convinced that the Americans would not accept a carrier duel in the bad visibility of summer in the Aleutians, or that the aircraft carriers of the Pacific Fleet were deploying elsewhere.

Due both to the vagaries of weather and the extreme demand for search from the Dutch Harbor area, United States air reconnaissance did not discover than an occupation of Kiska and Attu was taking place until 4 days after it had begun. The PBYs led off in the bombing of Kiska, followed by B-17s and the longer range B-24s as soon as these could be concentrated at the strip on Umnak Island. Initially the strip could be used only as a staging point, but it was expanded as rapidly as possible to the proportions of an air base. Ironically, no suitable airfield site could be found on Unalaska Island, which had two harbors but impossible terrain for an airfield. As a result the good terrain on Umnak was utilized and was served by lightering material to an indifferent beach on that island.

The initial Japanese landings on Attu and Kiska were made with combat and labor troops totalling about 1,200 men at each location. At the end of June, the Kiska garrison was doubled. Antiaircraft and communication personnel were added as well as submarine base personnel and six midget submarines. About 6 September 1942 the Army troops on Attu were all moved to Kiska leaving Attu unoccupied, except for a small naval communication unit, until 30 October 1942 when the so-called Second Attu Invasion Force of Japanese Army troops was landed. Little by little the garrisons on these two islands were built up, although with extreme difficulty as the United States air and sea blockade tightened, until on Attu at the time of the United States assault, May 1943, there were 2,500 troops and on the same date at Kiska, about 5,400.

Japanese air activities from their acquired bases in the Western Aleutians were beset with difficulties from the start. Fog and the swell in Kiska harbor were found great operational hazards. Additionally, the lightly armed and unarmored float planes were no match for United States bombers and fighters. A unit


of six Kawanishi Type 97 flying boats moved in on 8 June, but the surviving planes, only half the original number, were flown out on 15 August, when it was decided that long aerial reconnaissance was impractical because of enemy attacks, sea and weather at the base. Float planes continued to be brought in, however. The seaplane carriers soon found the harbor of Kiska untenable due to United States bombing, and, after being attacked even at outlying anchorages, thereafter limited their activities to flying off planes to land at Kiska or Attu from distances off shore, or to quick dashes into port with a hasty unloading in darkness or bad weather.

Expulsion of Japanese

Having successfully seized bases in the Western Aleutians, the Japanese decided during the fall of 1942 to hold and reinforce their Aleutian outposts rather than to withdraw from that area as was originally planned. A Japanese Imperial Headquarters directive of 1 November 1942 implemented that decision with orders for the moving up of troops, the construction of defense works, and the building of airfields on Kiska and an island of the Semichi group adjacent to Attu. The then firm intention of the Japanese to hold the northern anchor of their defensive perimeter in the Aleutians was evident from the fact that the date of February 1943 was set for the completion of the tasks contained in the directive.

That the Japanese had come to the Aleutians to stay was also evident from United States reconnaissance. As United States strength was gradually built up the action against the Japanese grew from operations of attrition principally by air and submarine, but with a surface ship bombardment of Kiska on 7 August 1942 thrown in, to an advance down the Aleutian chain to secure bases closer to the Japanese. The island of Adak was occupied on 30 August 1942 and an airfield as in operations there by 13 September 1942; the island of Amchitka was occupied on 12 January 1943 and fighters operated from there on 17 February. With this extension of bases to the westward and the control of the air thus assured, United States naval surface forces augmented the blockade in early February 1943. On 19 February the United States heavy cruiser Indianapolis and two destroyers intercepted and sank the 3,100 ton Akagane Maru, enroute to Attu loaded with a platoon of troops, stores and materials for an airstrip.

With the sinking of the Akagane Maru the Japanese began a series of operations in which the entire strength of the Fifth Fleet, two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and six destroyers, was used to escort supply ships to Attu. The fist convoy run was successfully completed when the ships discharged in Holtz Bay on 10 March (east longitude date). The second convoy was intercepted off the Komandorski Islands 27 March 1943 (east longitude date) by a much weaker United States force of one heavy cruiser, one light cruiser and four destroyers. In the ensuing battle, although the United States heavy cruiser and one destroyer were heavily damaged, a successful delaying action was fought and the Japanese force finally withdrew because of radio intelligence of impending air attack. While supply ships had been precariously running the air blockade into Kiska and Attu under cover of weather and darkness, the Komandorski action ended all surface ship supply to these bases.

The successful American assault and occupation of Attu against the fanatical resistance of the Japanese Army garrison took place during the period of 12-28 May 1943. During the progress of this action ashore the Japanese made three unsuccessful air raids, and attempted but gave up an evacuation, first by destroyer, then by submarine. Japanese air sorties against the United States amphibious forces at Attu were made on 14, 23 and 24 May (east longitude dates). The first two sorties were made by 19, the last by 17 twin-engined naval land-based attack planes from Paramushiro. The first sortie did not reach the target due to weather; the second dropped torpedoes but made no hits; and the last was intercepted by P-38s and driven off.

The United States amphibious assault on Attu caused a very considerable reaction in the Japanese Fleet. A concentration of major units began in Tokyo Bay about mid-May in preparation for a sortie against the United States forces at Attu. Before the Fleet sailed, however, Colonel Yamazaki, in command of the Attu


garrison, announced on 28 May that he would make his final charge. With Attu in United States hands, and the relatively heavy concentration of United States air strength in the Aleutians, Japanese fleet operations in the north were cancelled as being of no promise.

The situation confronting the Japanese was an unhappy one. Kiska, the strong point at the north end of the Japanese perimeter, was bypassed and could no longer be supplied. Moreover, the assault and occupation of Attu might presage a further amphibious advance from the north towards Japan, and the defenses of the Kuriles were weak. The Japanese therefore decided to withdraw the Kiska garrison and absorb it in the defenses of the Kuriles. The defense of the Kuriles was to be greatly augmented.

An Imperial Headquarters directive of 21 May 1943 read, in part: "The Kiska Garrison Force will evacuated in successive stages, chiefly by submarine, as expeditiously as possible. Also, with due regard for fog conditions, and after ascertaining the enemy situation, transports and destroyers are to be used in conjunction with this movement if circumstances are favorable. Defenses of the Kuriles, Hokkaido and Karafuto are to be strengthened expeditiously. Garrison units for the Northern and Central Kuriles, now standing by in Hokkaido, as well as Hokkaido garrison units, will be moved up and deployed in the Northern and Central Kuriles. Furthermore, particular attention will be given to the strengthening of antiaircraft and coastal batteries in the Northern Kuriles. Army and Navy air forces will be deployed immediately in the island chain to act as the backbone of defense. All air and shipping base installations will be put in order and strengthened immediately." The Army air strength to be deployed was "the major part of the First Air Division," and the Navy, "the major part of the Twelfth Air Fleet," 88 and 146 airplanes, respectively.

After a costly attempt to evacuate the Kiska garrison by submarine, in which 3 of the large undersea craft were sunk, it was decided to employ light cruisers and destroyers, utilizing the thick fog of the summer as cover to prevent the detection and destruction of the evacuating force. Accordingly light units of the Japanese Fifth Fleet sortied from Paramushiro on 7 July 1943 and stood by about 400 miles southwest of Kiska awaiting favorable weather until they were forced by lack of fuel to return to Paramushiro, where they arrived in 13 July. Sortieing again on 22 July, a successful dash was made into Kiska Harbor on 29 July (east longitude date) by two light cruisers and 10 destoryers .After a brief visual landfall at the southwest end of Kiska Island at 1105 (Tokyo time) this force circumnavigated the north end of the island at high speed in thick fog. Hugging the shoreline, the navigation was by soundings, radio bearings, and indifferent radar information. The force anchored at 1350, embarked approximately 5,100 troops, got underway at 1435 and, dividing into two groups, departed by approximately the same route they had followed coming in. Outbound, the light cruiser Abukuma, leading one of the groups, sighted a submarine off the northwest coast of Kiska. This was the only contact with United States forces by any of the Japanese ships.

The day on which the Japanese evacuated the Kiska garrison, a strong United States task group was absent from its patrol southwest of Kiska Island engaged in fueling. A close in patrol by submarine was in effect. A single destroyer patrol on a radius of 40 miles from the island had been removed on 24 July, east longitude date, and was not again activated until 30 July. Air searches were in effect, but were hampered by fog. Ashore the Japanese preparations for evacuation were interpreted as a redeployment for defense. United States air and surface ship bombardments were continued after the Japanese evacuation. On 16 August (east longitude date) an assault landing was made on Kiska by elements of United States and Canadian troops, the total number of which comprised 34,000 men. The Japanese had escaped from Kiska.

Pressure on the Kuriles

With Kiska occupied by the United States, the war in the north settled down to one of attrition by submarine against the Japanese, minor air raids, air reconnaissance, and minor surface ship raids against shipping and Japanese bases in the Kuriles.


On 5 August 1943 the Japanese Northeast Area Fleet was organized, comprised of the Fifth Fleet and Twelfth Air Fleet. The Commander in Chief, Northeast Area Fleet was charged with the defense of the Kuriles Area and given tactical command of local base forces. An Imperial Headquarters Directive of 30 September 1943 stated, "object of Northeast Area Operations is to smash the oncoming enemy and to defend the Kuriles, Hokkaido, and other integral parts of the Empire. Simultaneously, and insofar as possible, enemy strength in the Aleutians is to be whittled down." Despite the last statement Japan was on the defensive in the Kuriles, and desperately concerned over an amphibious advance from that direction against the Empire. In November 1943 an estimated 262 airplanes were in Hokkaido and the Kuriles, in about equal numbers for the Army and Navy. Air activity was confined to defensive fighter patrols and antisubmarine patrols except for a few Attu reconnaissance missions. Also one attack mission against Attu was conducted on 10 October 1943 by naval twin-engined land-based attack planes. Air strength in the Hokkaido-Kuriles Area in the summer of 1944 was approximately 500 planes. By the spring of 1945 practically all air strength had been withdrawn from the Kuriles except for about 18 Army fighter planes on Paramushiro and 12 Navy dive-bombers divided between Shimushu and Etorofu.

An index to the importance which Japan attached to the defense of the Kuriles is indicated in the number of Army troops deployed there. From 14,200 men in late 1943 the garrisons were increased to a total of 41,000 men in mid 1944 and decreased to 27,000 men in 1945. These men were Japan's answer to the threat of United States invasion from the North via the Aleutians. The men were not in action, except in defense against harassing air raids, or against sporadic shore bombardment by light United States naval forces. However, they were required to maintain their defensive positions and hence were unavailable for combat assignment elsewhere. Moreover, their supply and movement afforded excellent shipping targets for aggressive United States submarines. This resulted in a heavy loss of ships to Japan as well as a loss at sea of about 10 percent of the total personnel deployed to the islands.

Comments and Conclusion

The Aleutian campaign in its two phases, consisting first of the Japanese expansion into and expulsion from the Western Aleutians, and second of the operations of holding and attrition against the forces in the Kuriles, was in true perspective a minor part in the war against Japan. However, it had results, both tangible and intangible, which deserve to be recorded.

Foremost among the tangible results was the direct loss to Japan of aircraft, personnel, equipment and materials. This loss was relatively small, but not insignificant to a nation which had to fight an economical war. Japan salvaged nothing from what she put ashore in Attu and Kiska except approximately 5,100 men, less their equipment, from the latter island. In Western Aleutian operations she lost three destroyers sunk and four heavily damaged, five submarines sunk, and nine cargo transport ships sunk. Of these, air attack accounted for one destroyer sunk, two severely damaged, two submarines sunk, and seven cargo transport ships sunk. Nothing has been found to date upon which an accurate report of Japanese air losses can be based. Estimates shown in appended exhibits indicate 7 planes lost in the carrier raid on Dutch Harbor, 60 from those water-based at Kiska and Attu during the Japanese period of occupancy, and an undetermined number in the Kuriles. Equally vague was the information on personnel killed. Of particular interest in this study were those killed in air raids on Kiska. From interrogations this is estimated to be between 5 and 7 percent of the garrison over the period of occupation of 1 year and 2 months, a disappointing total in view United States attempt to bomb the Japanese out. Another but less evident tangible result was the absorption in the northern theatre of operations of parts of the military strengths of the opposing powers, commitment of forces to this theater which prevented their use elsewhere. Covered by a short initial effort involving a part of the Japanese fleet, represented by the employment of two aircraft carriers in early June, four by the end of that month, and terminating with the withdrawal of fleet support


on 7 July 1942, the Japanese put ashore garrisons on Kiska and Attu. The maximum strength of these garrisons at any time was about 8,500 men, yet the United States gathered together a landing force of 34,5600 men by July 1943 in order to expel the Japanese from their holdings. Such is the disproportion of forces required to wrest the initiative from a small but aggressive nation which has made quick early gains against a powerful but unprepared opponent. When Japan fell back upon the Kuriles this disparity of forces was no longer in her favor. She then had to deploy a far greater fraction of her total men under arms against the threat of invasion from the north than did the United States to hold a reestablished frontier and to conduct sufficient operations to ensure the semblance of threat. Compounding the ill effect upon Japan, the highly trained United States amphibious troops, experienced and hardened in the Aleutians, were employed in the Central Pacific to speed the advance toward the heart of the Empire over an alternate route, the choice of which lay with the side having the initiative. The air situation was analogous.

The intangible results of the Aleutian Campaign may be said to have been its effect upon national morale and the lessons afforded to the military. The shortest distance between the United States and Japan is through the Aleutian Islands. The great circle route from Seattle to Tokyo in 1,200 miles shorted than that from San Francisco through Honolulu to Tokyo. The seizure of American territory in Attu and Kiska was given great emphasis in the Japanese press. It colored Japanese propaganda where it was flaunted as an example of the prowess of Japanese arms and of the uselessness of attempting to interfere with Japan's assumption of her sphere of influence in Asia. In the American press the attack against Dutch Harbor was compared to that against Pearl Harbor and an immediate and complete public release of damage was demanded. Japanese expansion into the Aleutians gave rise to popular clamor the United States for their expulsion at all cost. American rejoicing over the victory at Midway was tempered by dark foreboding over the possibility of an invasion of Alaska. It may be said, however, that in overall effect on the course of the Pacific War, Japanese initial successes in the Aleutians served only to heighten the resolve of the American people and to further mislead public opinion and generate false confidence within Japan.

To be mentioned among the intangible results of the Aleutian Campaign was its effect upon the probable participation of Russia in the Pacific War. Russia was an ally of the United States in Europe and a potential ally in the Pacific. The probability of Russia's commencing hostilities against Japan depended in some degree upon the possibility of assistance reaching her by seaborne transport. An air route via Nome was in operation and over it was ferried a large number of lend-lease aircraft. The water route passed through the Aleutians and the Kuriles. In order to facilitate a future entry of Russia into the war against Japan it was necessary to secure this water route, which was done to the extent of expelling the Japanese from the Aleutians and weakening and containing their forces in the Kuriles.

The military lessons of the Aleutian campaign were of considerable moment. The paucity of United States naval forces in June 1942 caused orders to be given to the task force commander to operate cautiously under the concept of calculated risk; he was not to hazard his surface fleet unless assured of a disproportionately large return in damage to the enemy. These were difficult orders indeed. He elected to deploy the major portion of his destroyers to hiding places in the fjords of islands around Dutch Harbor so that they might execute a night torpedo attack if the opportunity offered. The principle naval surface ship strength was held in waters south of Kodiak, almost certainly out of reach of the Japanese but equally beyond range of any promising quarry. The defense of the Aleutians and Alaska was entrusted to air for which there was the Eleventh Army Air Force of 6 heavy bombers, 20 medium bombers, and 32 fighters, and a Navy Patrol Wing of 20 amphibious flying boats. At the time of the Dutch Harbor raid, the Japanese Second Mobile Force was found and attacked, but no damage done to any surface ships. When the occupation of Kiska was discovered, orders were given to bomb the Japanese out. The impracticability of this effort was evident from the course of subsequent events. With thrice the original air strength and two air bases as close as 60 and 200 miles respectively from Kiska, air effort alone did not suffice to drive the Japanese from their


honeycomb defense. Although blockaded by air and sea, the Japanese held their much bombed island outpost, Kiska, until it was outflanked by the amphibious assault and capture of Attu.

Early experience in the Aleutian campaign also developed clearly the disadvantages of the northern short route to Japan. The prevalence of fog in the summer and great storms in the winter was known, but the effect on air operations was not fully appreciated. Significant was the ratio of total theater loss to combat loss in aircraft of the Eleventh Air Force. This ratio was 6.5 to 1, as against 3 to 1 for an average of all Pacific theaters. Reflected in it were unusual hazards due to weather--visibility at base, icing, storm damage, poor maintenance, condition of the runways--and the hazard of operating from a sparse number of airfields strung along a single line of islands which paralleled the direction of the target. Significant also was the number of days upon which successful bombing missions could be flown: for a period of 19 days, 11-30 June 1942, during the early attempt to bomb the Japanese out of Kiska, only six successful heavy bombing missions were completed. Likewise in the critical period of the Attu occupation, weather permitted air bombardment and support on only 9 out of 20 days.

Much was learned in the art of building airfields. In an atmosphere of secrecy and urgency two airfields were built in the vicinity of Dutch Harbor in late winter of 1941-42 and spring 1942. Completed in 4 months' time by Army engineers, these field were used to great advantage when the Japanese attacked. However, in the move to Adak a filed was made on this barren island in only 15 days. In the dead of winter on the island of Amchitka, a fighter strip was in operation a little over a month after the initial landing. Certainly the Aleutians ranked high as a school for the rapid building of air fields.

With prevailing bad visibility the Aleutians early became an experimental and proving ground for airborne search radar. The British ASV equipment, hastily manufactured in the United States, was installed in the search planes of Fleet Air Wing Four beginning in March 1942. By the date of the Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor, all the flying boats of that wing were equipped with it. Assisted by this device, search planes were able to locate the Japanese Second Mobile Force, and, in at least one instance, to avoid contact with the Japanese fighter patrols. It enabled the weakly armed boats to conduct aerial search in darkness and poor visibility, conditions favorable to their defense. Also, in an area so poorly equipped with radio aids, the importance of radar in providing navigational fixes and in permitting instrument letdowns cannot be overemphasized. Without radar the effectiveness of air search would have been reduced to practically nothing. Without it the Japanese gave up as ineffective their flying boat searches from Kiska. later in the campaign, radar was made to serve other purpose when Ventura search land planes led blind bombing attacks over Kiska.

Unique in the naval history of the Pacific war, the Aleutian campaign provided at the Komandorski battle the only conventional daylight gun duel between opposing surface forces in which air attack was not made. The Japanese had airborne at the scene of battle one ship-based reconnaissance plane; the United States none. Yet with victory almost in their hands and a United States heavy cruiser seriously damaged and at one time stopped dead in the water, the Japanese broke off the action for an important, if not governing, reason: fear of imminent air attack. Failure to conduct an air attack is a dark chapter in the United States air effort. The bombers, both heavy and medium, were delayed several hours because they found it necessary to change their bomb load from one of demolition against Kiska to one appropriate for employment against warships. When they arrived at the scene of battle, the Japanese surface fleet had withdrawn and was beyond range.

Despite the fact that the area is one of the most unsuitable in the world for air operations due to weather and terrain, aircraft played a dominant role in the North Pacific as they did in all theaters of the war against Japan. The opening blow of the campaign was struck against Dutch Harbor by carrier aircraft of the Japanese Fleet. The first counterblow against the occupation of Kiska was struck by United States flying boats and bombers. The first amphibious moves to the westward were for the purpose of securing


airfields so that added pressure from the air might be applied against Japanese holdings. In later stages of the war aircraft maintained a steady though relatively small effort against the Kuriles in order to maintain, in conjunction with submarine patrols and surface ship sweeps, the attrition of shipping and the threat to Japan from the north.


    Nav No. USSBS No.
1. United States Strategic Bombing Survey (Pacific) Interrogations:    
  Carrier Aircraft Attack on Dutch Harbor. (Comdr. Okumiya, Masatake) 20 97
  Kiska Seaplane Operations, the Naval Battle of the Komandorski Island, and the Defense of the Kuriles. (Comdr. Miura, Kintaro) 21 98
  Japanese Occupation of Kiska, the Kiska Garrison, and Operations in the Kuriles. (Comdr. Mukai, Nifumi) 22 99
  Japanese Flying Boat Operations in the Aleutians. (Capt. Ito, Sukemitsu) 23 100
  Planning and Operations through November 1942. (Capt. Ito, Taisuke) 24 101
  Aleutian Campaign and Defense of the Kuriles, Planning and Operations from November 1942 to August 1945. (Comdr. Hashimoto, Shigefusa) 25 102
  Transports at the Battle of the Komandorskis, March 1943. (Comdr. Kuwahara, Tadao) 51 205
  Japanese Twelfth Air Fleet in the Kuriles and North Pacific. (Comdr. Shimada) 67 311
  Operations of the Japanese First Destroyer Squadron. (Vice Admiral Omori and Capt. Arichika) 73 367
  Japanese Army Garrisons on Attu and Kiuska. (Lt. Col. Fuji) 84 408
  The Japanese Historical Account of the Naval Battle fought off the Komandorski Islands, March 1943. (Comdr. Okumiya) 93 438
  Deployment of Japanese Army Forces in the Kuriles, 1942 to 1945. (Major Mashida) 103 461
  San Diego, Calif. 20 December 1945 Information of Japanese Second Mobile Force and the Kiska Garrison from United States Prisoners of War. (Lt. (jg) Wiley M. Hunt, William C. House, Aer M 1/c) 118 606
2. O.N.I. Combat Narrative "The Aleutians Campaign": June 1942-August 1943.
3. Aleutian Campaign: A brief historical outline to and including the Occupation of Kiska, August 1943. Advanced Intelligence Center, North Pacific Document No. 880--Published 15 December 1944 Naval Records and Library, Navy Department.
4. Eleventh Air Force History: A.A.F. Headquarters, War Department.
5. War Diary of Commander Fleet Air Wing Four: Naval Records and Library, Navy Department.
6. Japanese Replies to U.S.S.B.S. (Pac) NAVMEMO Nos. 12 and 26.
7. Translation of Japanese Documents:
  (a) Merit report of carriers and battleships. (WDC 161733).
  (b) Detailed merit report of carriers. (WDC 161734).
  (c) Action Reports of Kimikawa Maru. (WDC 161074).
  (d) Report of Combined Fleet Headquarters. (WDC 160678).
  (e) War Diary of Fifth Fleet. (WDC 160331).
  (f) Aircraft Carrier movements. (WDC 160677).


Appendix 26

Movement of Japanese Forces
Aleutian Campaign

Appendix 27

Kiska Island


Appendix 28

Summary of Air Effort

Japanese Attack on Dutch Harbor, 3 and 4 June 1942

  Japanese United States
  Available Lost Available Lost
Fighters 20 1 32 2
Light Bombers 36 51
Medium Bombers 20 1
Heavy Bombers 6 1
Flying Boats 20 4
Float Planes   6   1        
Total 62 7 78 8
1(4 VB, 1 VT)

Results at Dutch Harbor:

Casualties 43 killed, 50 wounded.
Destroyed 4 oil tanks and 20,000 barrels of fuel oil, 2 barracks, 4 huts, one 20 mm gun and emplacement, one Navy flying boat (PBY-5A) destroyed on the ground.
Damaged 1 barracks ship (S.S. Northwestern), 1 warehouse, t hangar.
No damage to ships of the Japanese Second Mobile Force.


Appendix 29

Summary of Air Effort

Against Kiska and Attu 10 June 1942--15 August 1943

  Japanese United States
  Available Lost Available
Combat and
Operational Total
Fighters 128 18 108 126
Light Bombers 0 2 2
Medium Bombers 30 7 18 25
Heavy Bombers 24 10 22 32
Patrol planes (land and sea) 6 54 5 34 39
Float planes         54     ?     1     ?     1
Total ? 60 236 41 184 225

Japanese estimate of personnel killed:

Air About 150 Navy.
Sea About 1,000 Navy.
Land About 200 Navy, about 250 Army, plus 2,351 Army in the United States occupation of Attu.

Japanese ships sunk:

By air One destroyer: Oboro.
One submarine: RO-65.
Seven cargo and trannsport ships: Nissan Maru, 6,537 tons; Nojima Maru, 7, 189 tons; Borneo Maru, 3,110 tons; Montreal Maru, 7 tons; Kotohira Maru, 6,101 tons.
Otherwise Two destroyers: Arare, Nenobi, both by submarines.
Four submarines: RO-61 (air assist), I-9, I-31, I-7, all by surface ship.
Two cargo and transport ships: Kano Maru, 8,572 tons, by submarine; Akagane Maru, 3,121 tons, by cruiser and destroyer gunfire.

Japanese Navy ships heavily damaged:

By air Two destroyers: Hibiki, Hatsubaru.
Otherwise Two destroyers: Kasumi, Shiranibu, both by submarine torpedo.
Additionally various Japanese small craft varying in size from net tenders and patrol craft down to landing boats were lost. United States submarine sinkings away from the vicinity of the Aleutians are not included.


Appendix 30

Summary of Air Effort
For the War in the North Pacific 7 December 1941--15 August 1945

Eleventh Army Air Force:  
  Aircraft attack missions flown 7,318
  Tons of bombs dropped 4,331
  Aircraft lost in air combat 39
  Total aircraft lost due to enemy action 63
  Total aircraft lost in the theater 409
  Japanese aircraft claimed destroyed, air and ground 113
Navy Fleet Air Wing Four (Land and Water Based):  
  Aircraft attack missions flown 704
  Tons of bombs dropped 295
  Aircraft lost in air combat 16
  Total aircraft lost due to enemy action 35
  Total aircraft lost in the theater (?)
  Japanese aircraft claimed destroyed, air and ground 5
NOTE--Aircraft search missions flown, the primary employment for Fleet Air Wing Four, are not summarized.
Navy Carrier Aircraft (USS Nassau at Attu, May 1943):  
  Aircraft attack missions flown 86
  Tons of bombs dropped 4
  Aircraft lost in air combat 0
  Total aircraft lost 7
  Japanese aircraft claimed destroyed, air and ground 0
NOTE--Nassau was engaged in providing fighter cover for amphibious and support forces,, and close support of ground troops in the Attu operation, May 1943. Weather and terrain made flying exceedingly hazardous.


Appendix 31

Chronological Summary of Japanese Warships Sunk or Heavily Damaged
in the North Pacific
7 December 1941--15 August 1945

Date Name Class Results and Remarks
6-12-42 Hibiki Destroyer Heavily damaged by near bomb misses off bow by PBY. Steaming possible at reduced speed. Accompanied by destroyer Akatsuki arrived Ominato about 26 June 1942.
7-5-42 Nenobi Destroyer Sunk by submarine torpedo. Attacked off Agattu Island by USS Triton, struck from abaft starboard beam by one torpedo, capsized in 2 minutes, sank in 5. Survivors, 20-30; about 200 lost. Survivors picked up by Inazuma.
7-5-42 Arare Destroyer Sunk by submarine torpedo. Attacked just outside Kiska Harbor by USS Growler. Hit by one torpedo, broke up and sank. This destroyer, together with Kasumi and Shiranubi, after escorting Arentina Maru and Chiyoda into Kiska Harbor with reinforcements for Navy garrison, stood out but because of fog anchored off Salmon lagoon where they were attacked by the Growler.
7-5-42 Kasumi Destroyer Heavily damaged by submarine torpedo from Growler. Attacked as above, bow was broken and hung down at about 30° angle. Bow was later cut off and ship was towed to Maizuru arriving about 1 August 1942.
7-5-42 Shiranubi Destroyer Heavily damaged by submarine torpedo from Growler. Attacked as above. Missed by first torpedo, hit by second. Hull broken just abaft forward stack. Patched and braced and towed back to Maizuru arriving about 1 August 1942.
9-1-42 RO-61 Submarine Sunk by destroyer depth charges and gunfire. RO-61 torpedoed USS Casco in Nazan Bay, Atka Island, 31 August 1942 (ELD), ran aground trying to go north around Atka. Sighted, bombed and strafed as it surfaced by PBY (Lt. S.E. Coleman, VP-42), bombed by second PBY (Lt. C.H. Amme, VP-43). Damaged, it was depth charged and forced to surface by USS Reid, sunk by gunfire. Five of crew survived and were made prisoners of war.
9-28-42 RO-65 Submarine Sunk in Kiska Harbor. Bombed by B-24, Japanese claimed lost by accident. (Mishandling after bomb damage?)
10-17-42 Oboro Destroyer Sunk off North Kiska Island by bombs from 6 B-26s. Sank at 1235 (-9), 17 survivors. One B-26 (2d Lt. J. Pebworth, 11th AAF) was shot down in this attack. Oboro was carrying supplies to Kiska.
10-17-42 Hatsubaru Destroyer Heavily damaged by bombs from B-26s in same attack which sank Oboro. Hatsubaru was escorting Oboro. Hatsubari received one direct hit which destroyed rudder, but proceeded under own power to Kakumabetsu; 4 men killed, 14 injured.
6-11-43 I-9 Submarine Sunk 40 miles northeast of Shemya Island by Ramming by USS PC-487.
6-14-43 <-31 (I-24) Submarine Sunk off Sirius Point, Kiska Island by depth charges from USS Frazier. War Diary of Japanese 1st Destroyer Squadron refers to this loss being the I-24.
6-23-43 I-7 Submarine Beached and sunk in vicinity of Twin Rocks, Kiska Island, as result of gunfire from USS Monaghan. Conning tower of this submarine was holed as it stood in to Gertrude Cove. It went in, unloaded, and was again attacked as it stood out. Damaged, it was beached east of Gertrude Cove. About 40 survivors reached shore.
3-16-44 Shirakumo Destroyer Sunk on 42°18' N., 145°11' E. off Erimo Cape, Hokkaido by submarine torpedo. from USS Tautog.
4-27-44 I-180 Submarine Sunk in 55°10' N., 155°40' W. off Kodiak by depth charges of USS Gilmore. This sinking was not precisely confirmed by available Japanese sources, but is believed correct.
5-31-44 Ishigaki Gunboat Sunk in 48°28' N., 151°30' E. by submarine torpedo from USS Herring.
7-7-44 Hachijo Escort Heavily damaged in Kataoka Wan by air attack. Serious damage to hull, auxiliary engine room flooded.
6-22-45 Kasado Gunboat Heavily damaged near Otaru, West Hokkaido by submarine torpedo from USS Crevalle. Bow was broken off, temporary repairs completed 26 July 1945.


Appendix 32

Chronological Summary of United States Ships Sunk or Heavily Damaged
in the North Pacific
7 December 1941--15 August 1945

(All dates are west longitude dates)

Date Name Class Results and Remarks
6-4-42 Northwestern Barracks ship Damaged by fire after direct hit by bomb in Japanese carrier aircraft attack on Dutch Harbor.
6-19-42 S-27 Submarine Grounded on Amchitka Island. Destroyed on 10 July, to avoid falling into Japanese hands.
7-14-42 Arcata Army transport Sunk by Japanese submarine gunfire. 53°41' N., 157°45' W.
7-30-42 Grunion Submarine Missing, presumed sunk by destroyer depth charge. [Sunk by gunfire from her quarry (Kashima Maru), 10 miles north of Segula Island.]
8-30-42 Casco Small seaplane tender Torpedoed by Japanese submarine RO-61, one engine room destroyed, beached, subsequently floated, repaired and returned to service, 5 killed.
12-27-42 Wasmuth Destroyer mine sweeper Sunk by accident--own depth charge--off Scotch Cap, Unimak Is. None killed.
1-12-43 Worden Destroyer Grounded and sank at entrance to Constantine Harbor, Amchitka.
1-13-43 Arthur Middleton Transport Grounded by storm, Constantine Harbor, Amchitka Is. Refloated 1-31-43.
3-26-43 Salt Lake City Heavy cruiser Damaged by cruiser gunfire in Komandorski action. Some flooding, list, and impairment of speed.
3-26-43 Bailey Destroyer Heavily damaged by cruiser gunfire in Komandorski action. One engine room flooded, various holes in hull and machinery derangements.
5-12-43 Perida [Army] transport Holed by pinnacle rocks, beached in massacre Bay, forward holds flooded. Later refloated.
7-20-43 Dellwood Army cable layer. Foundered off Massacre, Bay, Attu, after striking pinnacle rock near Alexai point. No personnel lost.
8-18-43 Abner Read Destroyer Heavily damaged probably by a mine during Kiska landings. Stern blown off, but towed to base. One dead, 70 missing, 34 injured.


Appendix 33

Translation of Japanese Report of Activities and Losses in the Kuriles

Translation of Reply to U.S.S.B.S. Nav Memo 26
as Submitted by Japanese Navy General Headquarters Tokyo, 22 November 1945

Dates and Times of Japanese Aleutian Air Sorties Originating in the Kuriles

Date Time Number and
Type of Planes
Mission Sortie Area
9 June 1942 N/A 2 flying boats Cooperate in Aleutians Strategy Advanced to Kiska.
14 May 1943 0800 19 land-based attack planes Attack (impossible to complete due to bad weather) Attu Island.
23 May 1943 0555 19 land-based attack planes Attack Attu Island.
24 May 1943 0645 17 land-based attack planes Attack Attu Island.
25 Aug 1943 N/A ? land-based attack planes Reconnaissance Western Aleutians.
2 Sept 1943 N/A ? land-based attack planes Reconnaissance Western Aleutians
29 Sept 1943 N/A ? land-based attack planes Reconnaissance Attu Island
14 Oct 1943 1500 8 land-based attack planes Attack Attu Island.

Damage to Installations, Shipping and Aircraft in the Kuriles
Resulting from American Air Raids

Date Time Place of Damage No. and type
attacking planes
12 Aug 1943 A.M. Paramushiro 3 B-24s 3 airfield barracks knocked down; 33 men killed.
3 Sep 1943 0915 Paramushiro 12 B-25s Slight damage to the Teisho Shima Maru (2,742 tons) as well as one 4,000-ton vessel.
21 Jan 1944 0240 Shimushu, Paramushiro Several flying boats Slight damage.
14 Mar 1944 2125 Shimushu, Paramushiro 10 twin-engine planes 1 intercepting night fighter missing.
30 May 1944 0935 At sea, East of the Kuriles Flying boat Shinyo Maru (patrol ship) sunk.
30 May 1944 P.M. At sea, East of the Kuriles Flying boat No. 3 Showa Maru (patrol ship) sunk.
31 May 1944   At sea, East of the Kuriles Flying boat Enemy planes repeatedly attacked Naval vessels, sinking three and severely damaging three others.
24 Jun 1944 2215 Northern Kuriles Not known 2 land attack planes destroyed by fire, 1 moderately damaged. Some fuel lost by fire.
19 Aug 1944 1120 Shimushu 2 B24s No. 4 picket boat div. received bomb hits.
20 Aug 1944 1130 Northern Kuriles Several flying boats 2 intercepting type Zero fighters missing.
27 Aug 1944 0924 Shimushu Not known 1 fishing boat sunk.
1 Sep 1944 0600 Shimushu 2 B-24s 2 buildings on shore damaged.
11 Jan 1945 1051 Paramushiro 3 B-24s Aircraft installations received bomb hits.
12 Jan 1945 0945
Paramushiro 5 B-25
4 B-24s
2 buildings on shore destroyed.
25 Jan 1945 0920 Paramushiro 4 flying boats
4 B-25s
13 machine gun batteries damaged.
5 Jun 1945 1200 Shimushu 2 B-24s 1 ammunition warehouse destroyed.
8 Jun 1945 1200 Shimushu 3 B-24s 1 unescorted vessel sunk, 2 slightly damaged, 12 men killed.
18 Jun 1945 1230 Northern Kuriles 2-3 B-24s Motor-powered sailboats strafed, 1 destroyed by fire, 1 unable to navigate.
24 Jun 1945 1425 Matsuwa 2 B-24s 1 land attack plane slightly damaged, 2 Army fighters heavily damaged, 4 moderately damaged, 3 slightly damaged.
11 Jul 1945 0500 Paramushiro 6- B-24s 2 buildings destroyed.


Damage to Installations, Shipping and Aircraft in the Kuriles
Resulting from Attacks by American Vessels

Date Time Place of Damage Damage
24 Jul 1942 1415 Etorofu Island 4 small vessels sunk by submarines: the Hiaki Maru (342 tons), the Kohima Maru (134 tons), the 83 Shinsei Maru (63 tons), and one other.
11 Jun 1943 1446 Paramushiro Island Kotake Maru (5,228 tons) sunk by submarine torpedo attack.
28 Feb 1944 1540 Paramushiro Island Kaiko Maru (3,548 tons) sunk by submarine topedo attack.
2 Mar 1944 2315 West of Uruppu Island Akashizan Maru (4,541 tons) sunk by submarine torpedo attack.
3 May 1944 N/A West of Uruppu Island Fushini Maru (4,933 tons) sunk by submarine torpedo attack.
31 May 1944 1130 70 miles West of Matsuwa Island Ishigaki (PG) sunk by submarine torpedo attack.
31 May 1944 1205 West of Matsuwa Island Madorasu Maru (3,802 tons) sunk by submarine torpedo attack.
1 Jun 1944 0746 Matsuwa Island Iwaki Maru (3,124 tons) and Hifuri Maru (4,366 tons) sunk by submarine torpedo attack.
13 Jun 1944 2135 150 miles West of Paramushiro Takashima Maru(5,633 tons) moderately damaged by submarine torpedo attack.
14 Jun 1944 0000 Matsuwa Island Bombardment, lasting one hour, 2-4 CA's and 8 DD's which approached through fog. Slight damage.
9 Jul 1944 1000 North of Shimushu Taihei Maru (6,284 tons) sunk by submarine torpedo attack.
22 Nov 1944 1742
  Bombardment by6 light support craft, damage not clear, but slight.
12 Jun 1945 1815
Northern Kuriles Bombardment directed against Matsuwa Island at 1815 hours and against Paramushiro Island at 1945 hours. One small craft destroyed by fire off Paramushiro at 1917 hours. but full details not known.
26 Jun 1945 N/A Onnekotan Offing Attack, lasting 11/2 hours, by 3 surface craft and 1 submarine (surfaced) against the surface craft attached to the 8th Kuriles Defense Unit. The Kusunoki Maru and the Subchasers No. 73 and 206 sunk.
22 Jul 1945 1945
Paramushiro Island Bombardment by 7 surface craft, slight damage.


Damage Due to Operational Hazards

Date Time Place of Damage Damage
16 Jul 1942 0440 Onnekotan Straits Shumagawa Maru ran aground, slight damage.
17 Jul 1942 N/A Onnekotan Straits Due to the difficulty of assisting the Shumagawa Maru, the Ishigaki, which went in to take her off, was driven aground by heavy waves, suffering light water damage.


Appendix 34

Organization of Japanese Forces for the Occupation of the Western Aleutians
1 June 1942

Commander in Chief Combined Fleet-Admiral Yamamoto

Northern Force, Commander in Chief Fifth Fleet, (Vice Admiral Hosogaya, Moshiro; Chief of Staff, Capt. Nakazawa, Tasuku):

Second Mobile Force, (Commander Carrier Division 4 (Rear Admiral Kakuda, Kakuji):

Adak-Attu Occupation Force, Commander 1st Destroyer Squadron (Rear Admiral Omori, Sentaro; Chief of Staff Comdr. Arichika, Rokuji):

Kiska Occupation Force, Commanding Officer of Kiso (Capt. Ohno, Takeji):

Submarine Force, Commander 1st Submarine Squadron.

Seaplane Force:

Base Air Force, Commanding Officer of Flying Boat Unit (Capt. Ito, Sukemitsu):

Attached Forces:

Added subsequently, during 1942:


Appendix 35

Organization of United States Forces in the North Pacific
1 June 1942

North Pacific Force, Commander Task Force Eight, (Rear Admiral Theobald)


Appendix 36

Organization of Forces at the Battle of the Komandorski Islands

United States:


For a detailed Japanese account of the Battle of the Komandorski Islands, see USSBS Interrogation No. 438 (Nav-93), Tokyo, 24 November 1945, and for a detailed United States account, see "Combat Narratives, The Aleutians Campaign," Office of Naval Intelligence, Navy Department, Washington, D.C.


Appendix 37

Organization of Forces at the Battle of Attu

United States:



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