Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory and few calculations to defeat.



Chapter XXI
The North Pacific and the Soviet Union

Generals with their armies and admirals with their fleets are mere weapons wielded by the hand of the statesman. It is for him to decide when to strike, where to strike, and how to strike.


American interest in the North Pacific as a potential theater of operations in a war against Japan antedated Pearl Harbor. Based originally on the hope of gaining air bases in the Soviet Maritime Provinces within easy reach of Japan, this interest was reinforced later by the desire for an air ferry route to facilitate the delivery of lend-lease planes. But those pushing for air operations based on Soviet territory made little headway against Stalin's determination to maintain a neutral position in the Far East.1 Moreover, the requirements from other parts of the Pacific and the plans for an offensive in Europe left little for an area that was not in urgent need and where operations did not hold out the promise of decisive results.

Strategic Background

By the spring of 1942 the Army planners in Washington, despite strong arguments from the commanders in the theater and from the Army Air Forces, were beginning to view the idea of bombing Japan from Siberia with increasing skepticism. To the argument that such air attacks would relieve the pressure on Russia, the Army planners replied that the Soviet Union would benefit more if the Allies undertook an offensive in the South Pacific. Such action, they thought, would have the effect of containing Japanese forces, thus removing the danger of a Japanese attack against Siberia.2

This was a view that General MacArthur could support warmly. Writing from Australia in May 1942, he argued that the Soviet Union could best be helped by opening a second front, but that the second front should be in the Pacific. An offensive there would relieve Japanese pressure on Siberia, he argued, and permit Marshal Stalin "either to utilize the Siberian resources in direct support of his European front or to join his allies in the Pacific attack."3 But since Stalin had no intention of getting involved in the Far East or permitting U.S. aircraft to base in the Maritime Provinces, this entire discussion was academic. Without the active cooperation of the Soviet Union a North Pacific offensive


against Japan was out of the question at this time and General Marshall, on 18 March 1942, restricted the role of Army forces in Alaska to the strategic defensive. And at the end of the month, he and the other members of the Joint Chiefs agreed to discontinue planning for operations in the north until arrangements could be made with Russia for "a more complete military collaboration."4

Though the President took no action at that time, he did act early in June when information pointing to a Japanese attack on Siberia was received in Washington. The seizure of Attu and Kiska on 6 and 7 June, combined with the movement of Japanese air forces to Paramushiro in the Kurils, seemed ample confirmation of this information. Moreover, it was feared that as a preliminary step in their invasion of the Maritime Provinces the Japanese would seize additional positions in the North Pacific in order to cut the line of communications between Siberia and Alaska. To this fear was added the real concern felt by officers in the theater and in Washington and by the American people that Japan would use its newly acquired bases in the Aleutians as a springboard for invasion of the United States. Thus, the planners had to anticipate the possibility of additional operations in Alaska as well as a Japanese attack on Siberia, a step that would bring the Soviet Union into the war against Japan.5

In these circumstances the first and most pressing need was to strengthen the Alaskan defenses and measures were immediately taken to that end. The second and almost equally urgent matter requiring attention was to provide for coordination between U.S. and Soviet operations in the event of a Japanese attack. But no plans could be made until agreement with the Soviet Union was reached on the political level, a step that the Joint Chiefs had recommended in March and now urged again. This time the President acted upon the recommendations of his military advisers and on 17 June appealed personally to Marshal Stalin for "an immediate exchange of detailed information" on military facilities in Siberia and Alaska. "We are prepared to come to your assistance with our air power," Roosevelt told the Soviet leader, "provided suitable landing fields are available in Siberia." Secret military staff conversations, the President added, were essential to the common interest and ought to be initiated at once.6

Roosevelt's personal intervention accomplished its purpose and Stalin consented, somewhat reluctantly, to U.S.-Soviet staff conversations to be held in Moscow. Maj. Gen. Follett Bradley was chosen for the assignment and in July left for Russia on a mission that would prove both barren and frustrating so far as acquiring information about Siberian bases and concerting plans for action against Japan were concerned. The Russians were more interested in securing


lend-lease aircraft than in military collaboration.7

The Aleutians

Though the fear of a Japanese offensive in the north -- a fear the Russians, judging from their actions, apparently did not share -- ultimately proved groundless, the task of expelling the Japanese from the Aleutians remained. Operations in this area promised to be extremely difficult. The islands seemed, on the map, to provide an easy route across the Pacific to the Kurils and Japan, but in actuality this region was one of the most forbidding in the world. (Map 6) Sustained air and naval operations would be impossible during certain seasons of the year and difficult even at more favorable times. There were few developed areas suitable as bases, the distances between them were great, and almost all supplies would have to be brought from the United States.8

Command of the Aleutians, which fell within the North Pacific Area, was assigned to Admiral Nimitz who exercised his responsibility through his representative, Rear Adm. Robert A. Theobald. But the situation was complicated by the fact that the bulk of the forces in the region were Army troops assigned to the Alaskan Defense Command, under Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, Jr., which, in turn, was a part of Lt. Gen. John L. De Witt's Western Defense Command. At the time of Midway the Alaska garrison consisted of about 30,000 men -- more than half in antiaircraft units -- and the Eleventh Air Force (Brig. Gen. William O. Butler), all together almost 51,000 troops. Admiral Theobald's authority extended only to operations, but for this purpose the planes of the Eleventh Air Force came under his control, a situation that led to considerable difficulty.

Planning for active operations against the Japanese in the Aleutians began in mid-June, within a week of the occupation of Attu and Kiska. At that time General DeWitt proposed to Marshall that he be given additional troops to retake the islands as the first step in a counteroffensive aimed at reaching Japan through the North Pacific. But the Army planners in Washington saw little profit in such an undertaking, especially when the resources of the Allies were already being strained to the utmost. They therefore vetoed DeWitt's suggestion but did approve his request for additional air and ground forces for the defense of Alaska.9

Not easily discouraged, General DeWitt continued to press for an offensive in the North Pacific, submitting to General Marshall various plans to drive the enemy from the Aleutians. All of these proposals, coming in the midst of preparations for the Guadalcanal and North African invasions, were rejected. A more modest plan, submitted by DeWitt on 18 July, did meet a favorable response. According to this plan,


Map 6: The North Pacific

Tanaga Island, about 160 miles from Kiska, would be occupied and converted into an air base, thus neutralizing the Japanese base at Kiska. General DeWitt had already conducted a reconnaissance and was able to assure the Chief of Staff that the island possessed adequate airfield sites and harbor facilities to make the scheme practicable.10

What impressed the Washington planners most was DeWitt's assertion that he could accomplish this task with troops already under his command (3,000 for the assault and 5,000 for the garrison), and with resources available on the west coast and in Alaska. All he needed, he said, was naval support, and he asked that he be allowed to arrange for that with Admiral Nimitz. "Urge details of operation be left to me and I be given freedom of action," he wrote. "Early decision essential to success of this operation."11

This request for naval support led to complications DeWitt had not foreseen. To secure the naval support he required, it was necessary to gain the Navy's approval of the project and to issue a joint directive to DeWitt and to the naval commander in the area, Admiral Theobald. Almost immediately the plan ran into trouble. In proposing the project to the Navy, the Army planners mentioned


Adak, a small island near Tanaga, as an alternative but expressed a preference for Tanaga. This created the first obstacle, for the Navy decided it would first have to conduct its own reconnaissance. It appeared also that approval would have to await Admiral Theobald's return from a brief journey. And finally, naval officers in Alaska were reporting that the naval support needed for the operation would not be available until September.12 The Navy, therefore, while approving the plan in principle, asked that a decision be deferred.

Though General DeWitt protested this delay, there was little to be done. His difficulties were increased when Admiral Theobald, on his return, expressed opposition to the Tanaga project because of navigational hazards. Adak, he thought, would be preferable on account of its harbor facilities. DeWitt and General Buckner continued to favor Tanaga for its advantageous airfield sites. The Joint Chiefs' approval on 5 August of the Tanaga project failed to bring the field commanders into agreement and finally in mid-August the dispute was referred to Washington for settlement.

The compromise worked out in Washington was a victory for the naval point of view. Admiral King not only stood solidly behind Theobald but also withdrew his earlier approval of the seizure of Tanaga, substituting Adak Island in its stead. If this substitution was not acceptable to the Army, he told Marshall, then the entire project should be dropped.

With far more important operations in progress or in prospect, the Army planners were not inclined to take a strong stand on so relatively unimportant a matter. They therefore counseled General Marshall to accept King's proposal, with the proviso that Tanaga might be taken at a later time. Marshall accepted this solution and so informed General DeWitt. On 30 August Army troops from Alaska occupied Adak and two weeks later the first Adak-based planes hit Kiska.13

Although the Tanaga-Adak debate had finally been settled and the operation successfully concluded, relations between the Army and Navy officers in the area were such that there was grave doubt in Washington that joint operations in the theater would be conducted with the degree of cooperation required for success. Many factors contributed to this lack of harmony, not the least of which was the personality of some of the senior commanders. Unified command, difficult to attain under ideal conditions, was impossible without a determination on the part of all commanders to subordinate their individual convictions to the common good. As viewed from Washington, this "predisposition to agree" was not evident among the commanders in the Alaskan theater and by August had produced such strong feelings as to bring from General Handy a recommendation that the War and Navy Departments inform the senior officers in the theater


that there could be no excuse "for withholding whole-hearted support of the Service or the Commander exercising unity of command." "Strong notice of this conviction ...," he believed, "would do much to force essential cooperation and reduce much fruitless controversy between the two Services."14

When the situation did not improve the following month, the Army proposed a separate Alaskan Department independent of General DeWitt and headed by an air officer. This arrangement would also make it possible to shift the three top commanders in Alaska -- Theobald, Buckner, and Butler -- to other assignments quietly and without any unpleasantness. But even while this proposal was under discussion, DeWitt and Theobald were involved in a dispute over a small garrison in the Pribilof Islands. "What is it," General Marshall was moved to remark when he learned of this new conflict, "that produces so many complete misunderstandings?"15 If he was seeking an answer he failed to receive one then, but since the immediate disagreement was soon settled, he and Admiral King decided to make no change in command at that time.16

Less than a year later, after the test of active operations and after the relief of Admiral Theobald, King wrote:

In the North Pacific Area no complete unified command has been established. Naval Forces, amphibious operations, and a portion of the Army Air Forces have been placed under the Commander North Pacific, to operate under the principle of mutual cooperation with the ground forces and other Air Forces. The Commander North Pacific has carried out operations under joint directives not directly from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but from the Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, and the Commanding General, Western Defense Command. This arrangement, made last year, has, for the ADAK, AMCHITKA, ATTU, and the prospective KISKA operations, worked extremely well in practice, largely due to excellent cooperation between the responsible commanders concerned. I have not seen fit to press for a change in this setup, nor do I wish to do so now. In fact, it is working so well that I believe a change would be a mistake.17

Meanwhile General DeWitt, far from abandoning his original proposal for the occupation of Tanaga, had begun again to urge the seizure of that island. But with Adak in American hands, the planners in Washington could see no advantage in occupying Tanaga and suggested Amchitka Island, only fifty miles from Kiska, as the next objective. DeWitt did not favor this plan. Pointing to the inconclusive findings of a reconnaissance


made at the end of September, he emphasized the difficulties of constructing an airfield on the island. Moreover, the seizure of Amchitka would require larger naval forces than would be available, in view of an impending transfer of destroyers and other ships from the North Pacific to Guadalcanal. Operations against Amchitka, DeWitt asserted, were impractical, and unless otherwise directed he intended, he told Marshall on 17 October, to go ahead with the Tanaga project. If the Joint Chiefs approved, he hoped to go on to Kiska, then possibly to Attu and finally to Amchitka.18

The Kiska plan to which DeWitt referred in his message to Marshall was one he had submitted almost two weeks earlier. The occasion for this new move to open up the question of a general offensive in the North Pacific had been provided by Admiral Nimitz. As commander of the Pacific Ocean Area (which included the North Pacific), Nimitz was legitimately concerned over the fact that a portion of his naval strength was being immobilized in North Pacific waters without any visible effect on Japanese operations at Kiska and Attu. This strength, Nimitz felt, could profitably be employed elsewhere in the Pacific where it was badly needed. He did not believe, either, that the newly constructed base at Adak would achieve decisive results, or that the Japanese could be driven from the Aleutians by air power alone. Nothing less than the seizure of both Japanese-held islands by American troops could accomplish that, said Nimitz, and he recommended that the Army begin training a force capable of doing the job.19

Here was strong support indeed for DeWitt, who had long been pushing for an offensive against Kiska, and he lost no time sending to Marshall a plan for the seizure of the island. This plan called for the use of troops already in Alaska and accustomed to the climate, their place to be taken by additional troops provided by the War Department. In this way, DeWitt pointed out, the troops for the invasion could be assembled quickly in one place for training and equipped there for the coming assault. But, if this plan was not acceptable, DeWitt expressed a willingness to employ troops from the United States. In either case, the equivalent of a division, trained and equipped for amphibious operations, would be required. These same troops, DeWitt added, could be employed later for operations against Attu and Amchitka.20

There was no disagreement in Washington about the desirability of driving the enemy from the Aleutians. President Roosevelt had even suggested, during a visit to the west coast, that old battleships be used "to blast the Japs out of Kiska." But Admiral King, when this suggestion reached him, saw little merit in the President's idea. Like Nimitz and DeWitt, he thought the job could be done only by amphibious troops. And he agreed also with DeWitt's scheme to use troops already in Alaska for the landing. But he did not agree with DeWitt's optimistic


estimates of what he would need to capture Kiska. This matter, King felt, needed further study, and since the transports required for the operation could not be made available until January or February of 1943 no time would be lost by looking into the matter further.21

General Marshall also felt no purpose would be served by haste since weather in the fog-swept Aleutians was most difficult during the winter months. The spring of 1943, he thought, was the earliest date when an offensive could be launched in the North Pacific. He saw no necessity, therefore, for using troops already in Alaska, as DeWitt had suggested. There was ample time to select the troops needed and to train them in the United States where facilities for amphibious training already existed. For these reasons, plus the fact there was not then available or likely soon to be the assault shipping required for operations against Kiska, General Marshall thought it best to tell DeWitt his plan was not "favorably considered" at this time. And on the basis of reports on Amchitka, he suggested that another reconnaissance be made of the island to determine its suitability as an air base.22

General DeWitt did not accept this decision without protest. Though he ordered the reconnaissance Marshall requested he again asserted his objections to the occupation of Amchitka as a prelude to the seizure of Kiska. And convinced as he was of the possibility of a Japanese offensive in the Aleutians he could not agree that there was time to train the troops in the United States. He wanted the troops quickly for use in an emergency, and he wanted them readily available. "I appreciate the heavy responsibility and pressure under which you are working ...," he told Marshall, "but I hope you will find time to consider its [the Kiska plan] broader aspects and direct a favorable decision."23

This plea had no observable effect on Marshall's conviction that there was no real danger from the Japanese at Kiska, and therefore no pressing need to send troops to a theater whose mission was primarily defensive. Requirements elsewhere, in the Solomons, in New Guinea, in North Africa, and in Burma, were far more urgent and important.24 Moreover, the Navy had by mid-November concluded that the most favorable target date for the seizure of Kiska would be 15 May 1943. If this date was acceptable, Admiral King proposed that the theater commanders be directed to prepare for the operation. On this basis, General Marshall was willing to agree tentatively to the Kiska invasion in mid-May. A final decision, he maintained, should not be made until March when he and King would be in a better position to determine what troops and assault shipping were needed and whether they could be spared. Admiral King accepted this condition without demur on 23 November, thus settling the problem temporarily for the Washington planners


but leaving the theater commanders in doubt as to whether an offensive against Kiska would ultimately be launched.25

The temporary shelving of the Kiska offensive left unsettled the question of Amchitka. On receipt of Marshall's request for a new reconnaissance, General Buckner and Admiral Theobald had organized a survey party, but had delayed its departure because of the weather and the reported presence of Japanese on the island. So concerned was Admiral Nimitz over this report that he recommended on 22 November, the day before King and Marshall had reached agreement on Kiska, that an Army force be sent immediately to Amchitka to prevent the Japanese from constructing an air base there.26 This was a step the Air Forces planners had already urged but which DeWitt continued to oppose persistently.

Under Rear Adm. Thomas C. Kinkaid, Theobald's successor and an experienced carrier commander who had fought the Japanese in the South Pacific, relations between the Army and Navy improved greatly. En route to his new assignment as commander of the North Pacific Area, he stopped off at Pearl Harbor to talk with Nimitz, who undoubtedly impressed on him the necessity for occupying Amchitka. He then went on to San Francisco where on, a December he met General DeWitt and had a long talk with him about the situation in the Aleutians. As a result of this discussion, DeWitt agreed to cancel his long-cherished design for occupying Tanaga and to use the troops already assembled for that purpose to seize Amchitka Island instead. Both Admirals King and Nimitz, who were in San Francisco at the time, immediately gave their consent to the cancellation of Tanaga.27 Substitution of Amchitka would have to await formal approval by the Joint Chiefs.

Steps to gain this approval were initiated by Admiral King on his return to Washington. By 15 December he had already prepared and sent to General Marshall a proposed directive for the occupation of Amchitka, which he explained, was intended as preliminary to the expulsion of the Japanese "from Kiska and all of the Aleutians." At the same time, King suggested that the target date for Kiska be advanced to 1 March and that Admiral Nimitz be instructed to submit detailed plans for the seizure of both Amchitka and Kiska as well as an estimate of the forces required for both operations. Left to Nimitz also was the selection of a date for the occupation of Amchitka.28

General Marshall and the Army planners accepted this revised plan, but with two important reservations. First, they would not agree to the occupation of Amchitka until the results of the reconnaissance ordered in November were in; and second, they refused to commit themselves to any target date for the Kiska invasion. This refusal was based,


General DeWitt

Marshall explained, on "our serious logistical shortage" in the South and Southwest Pacific and on the possibility that once air forces were established on Amchitka the invasion of Kiska might prove unnecessary.29

Admiral King made no objection to the Army's conditions and the proposed directive authorizing the Amchitka and Kiska operations was quickly revised and approved by the Joint Chiefs on December. Within a few days the first condition set by the Army was met when the reconnaissance group returned from Amchitka and reported that there were favorable airfield sites on the island. This was the signal DeWitt was waiting for and he now acted with vigor and speed. By mid-January 1943, American troops had landed on Amchitka, occupied the island without resistance, and begun the construction of an airfield. Before the end of February, fighter planes based on the island were flying over Kiska as often as the foul weather permitted.30

Planning for the occupation of Kiska had meanwhile run a checkered course and come to a standstill. The Joint Chiefs directive, though it failed to set a target date for the operation, called for plans and these General DeWitt hastened to supply. Immediately on receipt of the directive he conferred with Nimitz, Kinkaid, and others about the Army's participation in the campaign and on 19 December forwarded to Washington an estimate of what he would need. Included was one division, two infantry regiments, and service and support troops, all together 25,000 men. Though this estimate was less than Admiral Nimitz' by one division, it still called for more troops than Marshall was ready to commit to the Aleutians. He was willing to give DeWitt the division, but no additional infantry strength beyond that. And to be certain that there was no misunderstanding he reminded DeWitt that the final decision on Kiska was still to be made. But the assurance of one division was enough for DeWitt and on that basis he made his plans. These were approved by Admiral Nimitz on 9 January, when


Admiral Kinkaid

preparations for the operation began in earnest.31

Selected to lead the assault was Rear Adm. Francis W. Rockwell, who had come out of the Philippines with General MacArthur. With Army and Navy officers assigned to the operation, Rockwell formed a joint planning staff at San Diego, site of the Marine Corps Amphibious Training Center and in close proximity to the major forces and headquarters that would participate. While this group developed its plans, the 7th Division, selected to make the assault, was reorganized, brought up to full strength, and put through an intensive training program. In its amphibious phase, this program was directed by Marine officers. At the same time, the Eleventh Air Force stepped up its operations against Kiska, bombing the island as often as weather permitted.

These preparations did not change General Marshall's views on Kiska. Never enthusiastic about a North Pacific offensive unless the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan and fearful of its effect on other more important areas, he had given reluctant consent to the invasion of Kiska. At the same time, he sought to keep to a minimum the forces required for the operation while hoping that ultimately it would prove unnecessary. Thus, at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 he had. taken the lead in modifying the original statement of U.S. intentions in the Aleutians -- seizure and occupation of the western Aleutians -- to the milder "make the Aleutians as secure as may be" with the forces available. Though the change was made ostensibly to allay British fears of large-scale operations in the North Pacific, there was never real danger of such operations in the light of Marshall's conviction.32

The limitations placed on the North Pacific offensive by General Marshall and confirmed at Casablanca led ultimately to a change in the plans for Kiska. By early March, when these plans were already far advanced, it had become apparent to Admiral Kinkaid that he would not be able to get the ships he needed or to launch the planned air offensive against Kiska in time to mount


the operation before the pea-soup fogs of the summer season set in. After consultation with DeWitt and Buckner, he proposed, therefore, a less ambitious undertaking against Attu, which, he believed, could be carried off with the forces and shipping already available. The Joint Chiefs readily agreed to this change, but Admiral King made it clear to both Nimitz and DeWitt that this acceptance did not constitute a directive for the operation but only authorization to plan and train for it. Final approval would wait the outcome of the Pacific Military Conference, then only two days away.33

While Pacific strategy was being debated in Washington, Admiral Rockwell's joint staff in San Diego started to plan for the seizure of Attu, the new but still unapproved objective. On March General DeWitt, hoping perhaps to force a decision, submitted to Nimitz a draft directive setting 7 May as the target date for the invasion. No action followed this recommendation, but a few days later word reached Washington that the Japanese were building an airfield on Attu. "If they are allowed to complete this, and go further in the consolidation of their position there by establishment of airfields on Shemya and Agattu," wrote Admiral King, "our eventual recapture of these areas will be rendered very much more difficult." Since by that time the Pacific Military Conference had reached the conclusion that operations in the South and Southwest Pacific during 1943 would have to be limited to Task Two, King recommended that the Joint Chiefs give Nimitz and DeWitt the green light on Attu. On the understanding that no additional forces would be required, Marshall consented and the same day, 22 March, King issued, in the name of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the joint directive for the seizure of Attu.34

Preparations for the coming invasion now moved forward rapidly. Detailed plans were drawn up by Rockwell's staff and by the troop commanders. On 31 March, Admiral Nimitz and General DeWitt jointly issued the operational directive outlining the tasks -- seizure of Attu and Shemya Islands -- and setting the date for the assault as 7 May. Kinkaid, as commander of the North Pacific, was to command the entire operation; Admiral Rockwell, the amphibious phase. Once the troops were established ashore, command was to pass to the 7th Division commander, Maj. Gen. Albert E. Brown. The relationship between the Army and Navy commanders, DeWitt assured General Marshall on 1 April, was excellent and all the officers concerned were showing a commendable unity of purpose. Preparations were being completed rapidly and he expected, he told Marshall, that his greatest enemy would be the weather and not the Japanese.35

This easy assumption proved less than accurate for almost immediately on landing the troops ran into all sorts of


difficulties. By 12 May it was evident that the reduction of the Japanese defenses would be a longer and tougher job than anyone had anticipated. As the campaign dragged on the Navy became increasingly apprehensive over the safety of the naval supporting force and on 16 May Admiral Kinkaid, after consultation with DeWitt and Buckner, relieved General Brown, the ground commander, and appointed Maj. Gen. Eugene M. Landrum in his stead. Fortunately, this drastic move did not impair the harmony between the services, but neither did it accomplish the miracle of ending the stalemate ashore. It was not until two weeks later that the island was secured and construction begun on an airfield. By that time a small force had landed on Shemya Island, thirty-five miles to the east, to begin work on an airfield there.36

Still on the docket was the seizure of Kiska, deferred in favor of Attu because of the lack of shipping and other resources. Thought to be the main Japanese stronghold in the Aleutians and garrisoned by a force of about 10,000 men, this island had always been DeWitt's preferred objective. Now there was no further reason for delay and even before the Attu campaign was over DeWitt joined with Admiral Nimitz in urging the Joint Chiefs to give their consent to the invasion of Kiska early in September. Failing to receive approval, they tried again at the end of the month. This time they furnished a detailed operational plan and moved the target date up to 15 August, in accordance with Admiral King's wishes.37

While the Navy supported the Kiska project, the Army planners continued to express doubts about the advisability of the operation. Some were concerned over the diversion of critical resources to this indecisive area; others thought a war of attrition in the Aleutians might pay better dividends than outright seizure of the island. Finally, Nimitz and DeWitt were authorized to prepare for the invasion, but permission to make the assault was withheld.38

The second week of June saw the resolution of the differences over Kiska. On the heels of a study by the Army planners, General Marshall expressed a willingness to leave the decision to the Navy. But Admiral King refused to act on this suggestion and recommended instead that they turn the problem over to the Joint Staff Planners. Marshall agreed, and during the next few days the planners reviewed the entire project. Their recommendation, made on June, was that Nimitz and DeWitt be authorized to invade Kiska at a date to be chosen by themselves. August, the planners pointed out, was the best month of the year for operations in the Aleutians. Moreover, the force required for the invasion -- five regimental combat


Planning the Kiska Operation. From left seated: Admiral Rockwell, Admiral Kinkaid, Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett, General Buckner, General Butler, and Maj. Gen. G.R. Pearkes of the Canadian Army Pacific Command; standing: Commander Dennison, Captain Colclough, Colonel Jones, General Ready, General Post.

teams, a specially equipped and trained U.S.-Canadian force of regimental size, and an artillery battalion -- was available, or would be by 15 August, the planners observed. There was, therefore, in their opinion no reason to delay, especially since the operation would have a favorable psychological effect on the American people. The Joint Chiefs accepted this recommendation and gave their approval immediately, despite the fear that the operation would be a costly one and the island once taken would require a large garrison. Three days later the theater commanders were notified of the decision.39

The next two months were busy ones for the commanders in Alaska. While final preparations were being made, the Eleventh Air Force in July stepped up its operations, to drop a total of 424 tons of bombs on Kiska. During the same month the Navy hit the island with an additional 330 tons of explosives. On 2 August, a joint air and naval force struck Kiska with devastating blows, followed two days later by the heaviest air raid to date. Thereafter the island was subjected to daily bombings, with increased intensity until D-day, 15 August.

The absence of strong enemy opposition to these attacks had been noted, but no one had put the correct interpretation


on this fact. Actually there had been no enemy opposition at all after July. The Japanese garrison had evacuated under cover of fog and mist. But despite this fact, pilots and observers had continued to report antiaircraft fire and Japanese activity. It was only when the troops landed on 15 August fully expecting to meet strong resistance that the Allies learned there were no Japanese on the island. For almost three weeks Allied air and naval forces had been pounding an empty island. If this fact was embarrassing to those entrusted with the direction of the campaign, it was none the less welcome to the foot soldier on whom would have fallen the nasty job of wiping out the Japanese garrison.

The decision by the Japanese to withdraw the Kiska garrison of almost 6,000 men had been made shortly after the Attu landing in May. The first reaction of Imperial General Headquarters to the American invasion had been to order Army and Navy forces in the area to rush to the scene and "annihilate the enemy," a favorite Japanese phrase. Mature second judgment dictated another course and within a week these orders were countermanded. The Aleutians, Imperial General Headquarters now decided, could not be defended with the forces available. These forces, it reasoned, could be employed more effectively in the Kurils and Hokkaido and on 21 May Imperial General Headquarters issued orders for the evacuation of both Attu and Kiska.

The withdrawal of the troops on Attu proved an impossible task, though at least one submarine made the attempt. But on Kiska, the evacuation went forward smoothly under an elaborate and detailed plan. Thirteen submarines assigned to the task first took off the sick and wounded and then the civilians early in June. The loss of two of the submarines led to a change in plan. A naval task force of the 5th Fleet was to move in and take off the entire garrison, with its supplies and equipment, in one operation. Delayed by bad weather, the task force (consisting of three cruisers and eleven other warships) finally anchored in Kiska Harbor at 1340 on 29 July. It took only fifty-five minutes to embark over 5,000 men and by 1 August the force was back in the Kurils (Paramushiro) after a calm and safe voyage.40

Though the anticlimax at Kiska rang down the curtain on the campaign to expel the Japanese from the Aleutians, it did not end consideration of the use of these bleak islands for further offensives against Japan. Rather it increased the urgency of the problem for there were now in the Alaska-Aleutians area almost 150,000 troops. Until a decision was reached, these troops would remain idle.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (20) ** Next Chapter (22)


1. See above, pp. 154-56.

2. Memo, Capt John H. Caughey for Eisenhower, 11 Mar 4, sub: Assistance to Russia, JPS 19/D, ABC 381 (1-23-42).

3. Rad, MacArthur to Marshall, No. 176, 8 May 42, GHQ SWPA Hist Rec Index.

4. Mins, JCS Mtg; 30 Mar 42, Memos, Marshall and King for Roosevelt, 30 Mar 42; Marshall for WPD, 18 Mar 42; both in ABC 381 (1-23-42); JCS 1, 29 Mar 42, sub: UN Action in Case of War Between Russia and Japan.

5. Memo, G-2 for OPD, 21 May 42, OPD 381 Japan (3-7-42), sec. 1, and related papers in this file; JCS 61, 14 Jun 42, sub: Estimate of Sit in North Pacific.

6. Rad, Roosevelt to Stalin, 17 Jun 42, OPD Exec Files; Mins, JCS Mtg, 15 Jun 42; JCS 61, 14 Jun 42, sub: Estimate of Sit in North Pacific. For the measures taken to defend Alaska, see Conn, Engelman, and Fairchild, Guarding the United States and Its Outposts, ch. X.

7. For an account of the Bradley mission, see Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning, 1941-42, pp. 343-46.

8. In the preparation of this section, the author used freely the following works: Conn, Engelman, and Fairchild, Guarding the United States and Its Outposts, chs. IX and X; Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-144; Craven and Cate AAF I, ch. 8, and ch. 11; Hayes, The War Against Japan. In most cases, however, the author has consulted the source materials and drawn his own conclusions.

9. Rads, DeWitt for Marshall, 8 and 15 Jun 42, Nos. 583 and 630, OPD 381 (Alaska), case 24; Notes on War Council, 15 Jun 42; Gen Council Mins, 16 Jun 42.

10. Ltr, DeWitt to Marshall, 16 Jul 42; Rad, Marshall to DeWitt, 18 Jul 42, CM-OUT 5106; Memo, OPD for Marshall, 27 Jul 42, sub: Plans for Opns in Alaska, OPD 381 (Alaska), case 24.

11. Rad, DeWitt for Marshall, 19 Jul 42, OPD 381 (Alaska), case 25.

12. Memos, Actg CofS for CNO, 23 Jul 42, sub: Occupation of Tanaga or Adak; CNO for Actg CofS, 25 Jul 42, same sub, OPD 580.82 (Alaska), case 13. See other papers in this file for additional correspondence on this matter.

13. JCS 42/D, 5 Aug 42, sub: Japanese Capabilities in Aleutians; Memo, King for Marshall, 18 Aug 42, sub: Tanaga Island Development, OPD Exec Files; OPD for Marshall, and Marshall for King, same date and sub, OPD 580.82 (Alaska), case 15; Rads, DeWitt to Marshall, 20 and 31 Aug 42, CM-IN 7583 and 12123.

14. Memo, Handy for McNarney, 8 Aug 42, sub: Army-Navy Cooperation in Alaska, OPD 384 (WDC), case 9. In commenting on this chapter in manuscript, General DeWitt wrote: "Too much emphasis is being placed on an incident that had no appreciable effect on operations as far as local commanders were concerned. It seems to have appeared more serious on paper than it actually was. There was a personality clash between Admiral Theobald and General Buckner, but it was superficial and had no lasting effect on the mutual cooperation that followed. It was forgotten after Admiral Theobald was relieved and General Buckner promoted." (Comments of DeWitt, July 1959, OCMH.)

15. Memo, Marshall for Handy, 8 Sep 42, no sub, OPD Exec Files; Ltr, Marshall to DeWitt, 3 Sep 42; Memo, Marshall for King, 3 Sep 42, last two in WDCSA (Alaska).

16. Memo, Marshall for King, 22 Sep 42, sub: Comd in Alaska, WDCSA (Alaska). See also correspondence between Marshall and DeWitt in this file and in "GCM" Personal File.

17. Memo, King for Marshall, 19 Jul 43, sub: Relief by Army Troops of Marine Corps Ground and Aviation Units now in Garrison and Defense Duty at Tutuila, Wallis, Upolu, and Palmyra, OPD 384 PTO, case 55.

18. Rads, DeWitt to Marshall, 20 Aug 42, CM-IN 7583; Marshall to DeWitt, 15 Oct 42, CM-OUT 5161; DeWitt to Marshall, 17 Oct 42; Memo, Streett for Handy, 9 Sep 42, PD 381 (ADC), case 38.

19. Ltr, Nimitz to King, 24 Sep 42, sub: Amphibious Training for Opns in Kiska, WDCSA (Alaska).

20. Ltr, DeWitt to Marshall, 5 Oct 42, WDCSA (Alaska); Memo, DeWitt for Marshall, 12 Oct 42, sub: Plans for Reduction and Occupation of BOODLE (Kiska), OPD 320.2 (WDC), case 194.

21. Ltr, DeWitt to Marshall, 29 Sep 42; Memos, King for Marshall, 5 and 12 Oct 42, sub: Amphibious Opns Against Kiska, WDCSA (Alaska).

22. Memos, Marshall for King, 17 Oct 42, sub: Amphibious Opns Against Kiska; OPD for Marshall, 15 Oct 42, same sub: Ltr, Marshall to DeWitt, 29 Oct 42; Memo, OPD for Marshall, same date, sub: DeWitt's letters of 19 and 23 Oct 42, all in OPD 381 (ADC) case 36.

23. Ltr, DeWitt to Marshall, 5 Nov 42, WDCSA (Alaska).

24. For expressions of this view, see the papers filed in OPD 381 (ADC), cases 36 and 44.

25. Memos, King for Marshall, 15 Nov 42, sub: Amphibious Opns Against Kiska, WDCSA (Alaska) SS: OPD for Marshall, 17 Nov 42 and Marshall for King, 23 Nov 42, same sub, both in OPD 381 (ADC), case 45.

26. Rad, Nimitz to King, No. 1041, 22 Nov 42, OPD 381 (ADC), case 47.

27. Rad, Nimitz to Theobald, No. 2112, 17 Dec 42, OPD 381 (ADC), case 4.

28. Memo, King for Marshall, 15 Dec 42, sub: Directive to occupy Amchitka, OPD 381 (ADC), case 50.

29. Memo, Marshall for King, 16 Dec 42, sub: Directive To Occupy Amchitka; OPD Memo for Record, same date and sub, OPD 381 (ADC), case 50.

30. Memo, Conolly for Handy, 18 Dec 42; Ltr, Marshall to DeWitt, 17 Dec 42; Rpt of OPD Observer on Amchitka Opn, all in OPD 381 (ADC), cases 50 and 61; Rads, DeWitt to Marshall, 20 and 25 Dec 42, CM-IN 8656, 8937, 11265.

31. Rads, Marshall to DeWitt, 20 Dec 42, CM-OUT 7134; DeWitt to Marshall, 19 and 21 Dec 42, 11 Jan 43, CM-IN 8228, 9548, 5161; Nimitz to CTF 3 and 8, No. 0342, 9 Jan 43.

32. Mins, JCS Mtg, 22 Jan 43; CCS 168, 22 Jan 43, sub: Conduct of the War in Pacific in 1943; CCS 170, 23 Jan 43, Rpt to President and Prime Minister.

33. Rads, Kinkaid to Nimitz, Nos. 0103 and 0115, 7 mar 43; King to Nimitz and DeWitt, No. 1221, 10 Mar 43, OPD 381, case 39. For an account of the Pacific Military Conference, see above, ch. XIX.

34. Memos, King for Marshall, 22 43, sub: Opns Against Attu; Handy for King, same date and sub; Rad, DeWitt to Nimitz, No. 2239, 19 Mar 43, all in OPD 381, case 54 and 39; Rad, King to Nimitz, No. 1939, 22 Mar 43, OPD Exec Files.

35. Rads, Nimitz to Kinkaid and Rockwell, No. 1839, 1 Apr 43; Kinkaid to Nimitz, No. 09323, 31 Mar 43, OPD 381, case 54; Ltr, DeWitt to Marshall, 1 Apr 43, WDCSA (Alaska).

36. For General Brown's account of his relief, see his account of the operation entitled "The Attu Operations," undated but written after the war, in OCMH. See also Samuel Eliot Morison Aleutians, Gilberts, and Marshalls, June 1942--April 144, vol VI, "History of United States Naval Operations in World War II" (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1951), pp. 47-49; ONI Combat Narrative, The Aleutians Campaign, pp. 83ff; Conn, Engelman, and Fairchild, Guarding the United States and Its Outposts, ch. XI.

37. Rads, DeWitt to Nimitz, No. 2345, 19 May 43; Nimitz to King, No. 0247y, 21 May 43; DeWitt and Nimitz to JCS, 30 May 43, CM-IN 19422; memos, King for Marshall, 23 May 43, no sub; OPD for Marshall, 22 May 43, sub: Reduction of Kiska, all in OPD 381, case 132.

38. The various papers dealing with this discussion are filed on OPD 381, case 132, and ABC 381, Japan (5-31-42).

39. Supp Mins, JCS Mtg, 8 Jun 43; OPD Brief, 8 Jun 43, sub: Notes on JCS 91st Mtg, JCS 346, AC 381 Japan (5-31-42); JCS 346/2, 11 Jun 43, sub: JPS Rpt Opn Cottage; Rad, JCS to DeWitt, 14 Jun 43, CM-OUT 5847. For Canadian participation in Aleutian operations, see Col. Stanley W. Dziuban, Military Relations Between the United States and Canada, 1939-1945, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1960).

40. The Aleutians Island Campaign; Naval Opns in the Northern Area; Northern Area Monthly Combat Reports; Naval Opns, Mar 42--Feb 43, all in Japanese Studies in World War II, Nos. 51-54; Hattori, The Greater East Asia War, II, pt. 5, 51-57.

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