Early in 1942, fortifying the strategically important Aleutian Islands seemed vital necessity, but with the main Japanese force soon to be dealt with in the Coral Sea and at Midway only a scanty force could be diverted to the whole Aleutian-Alaskan theater. Rear Admiral Robert A. Theobald had been designated to command all Army, Navy, and Canadian forces in the area. From the outset he was faced with the problem of an inadequate number of ships and personnel, plus the ever-present natural enemy--the weather.
In the Aleutians
Our first encounter with the Japanese in the North Pacific occurred 3 June 1942, when their bombers, escorted by Zeros, made a surprise attack on Dutch Harbor. Several days later we discovered that they had followed this with landings on the islands of Kiska and Attu, at the farther end of the Aleutian chain. After that they best that Theobald's task force could do was to prevent the landing of enemy reinforcements and to attempt to check further advances until our forces could take the offensive. Yet in October 1942 his already meager force was dimished by the withdrawal of a number of troops needed to aid in the Solomons campaign.
Meanwhile on 30 August our troops occupied Adak Island, and on 2 January 1943, Amchitka Island, to establish airfields on both, each time drawing closer to Japanese-held Attu and Kiska. Adak later developed into more than a mere airfield when Kuluk Bay on the east coast proved to be a good anchorage for our naval forces. In November of 1942 Rear Admiral T.C. Kinkaid was relieved in the South Pacific by Rear Admiral T.C. F.C. Sherman and assigned as Commander Task Force Eght, North Pacific, relieving Theobald. He assumed his new duties 4 January 1943. His achievements in them and his subsequent assignments form a brilliant record reflecting glory on his country, the Navy, and himself.
The bases and services available at this time were being expanded in order to take the offensive, recapture Kiska and Attu, and, if successful there, perhaps to strike down along the Kuriles as one prong of our
Submarine undocking from ARD-6, Dutch Harbor.
Sweepers Cove, Adak Island.
Finger Bay, Adka, Aleutian Islands.
offensive against the enemy homeland. Rear Admiral J.W. Reeves, Jr., was charged with the naval-base development for the whole North Pacific area, and his command had been making great headway despite adverse weather and the distances involved.
Kodiak was rapidly being turned into a first-class air base. Dutch Harbor was already a submarine operating base, and improvement was being attempted on the airstrip alongside Ballyhoo Mountain, while facilities for additional oil storage and an anchorage for heavy shi9ps were being developed in Iliuliuk Bay. The floating drydock YFD-22 was in operation at Dutch Harbor, and in June 1943 drydock ARD-6 was added. At Adak, a combined military and naval base was being pushed ahead under the efforts of both Army and Navy, and one large airfield was already operating. A seaplane base in Andrew Lagoon was in use and a steel-plated (Marston mat) airfield in this latter area was contemplated.
The main fleet anchorage at Adak in Kuluk Bay was well protected by the natural physical formations, supplemented by a net and sonar buoys. The inside harbor, Sweeper Cove, had three unloading wharves and was entirely closed against submarine attack. All the facilities on Adak had been built by our forces. Before the war there was nothing on the island but a single fox farm.At Finger Bay, Adak, a base for PT boats was well under way, and a floating ARD drydock was operating.
During April and May 1943 the destroyer tenders Markab and Black Hawk moved forward from Dutch Harbor and did fine around-the-block maintenance and repair work for destroyers, besides special jobs for other vessels. At Sand Bay, Great Sitkin Island, across from Adak, a fueling dock and fuel-oil storage tanks were being built, and in the valley right under the crater of a smoking volcano a naval ammunition storage was being constructed. Facilities for warehousing provisions and other stores were built during the spring of 1943 and were virtually complete by the middle of May when the Attu operation was undertaken.
Few people realize the distances involved in this cold and barren part of the world. Not only is it a long way from west coast ports, but the distances between harbors within the area itself are considerable. For example, Anchorage, lying to the northwest 1k,242 nautical miles by air from Seattle, is 220 miles from Kodiak; 85 miles separate Cold Bay from Attu. It and Adak are 378 miles apart, and from Adak to Paramushiro in the northern Kuriles it is 1,019 miles.
On 26 March 1943, between Attu and the Komandorski Islands, Rear Admiral C.H. McMorris in the Salt Lake City, accompanied by the
Richmond and the destroyers Bailey, Coghlan, Dale, and Monaghan, encountered a heavily protected convoy headed to reinforce the Japanese garrisons on Attu and Kiska. Our ships had a running gun fight with the heavier Japanese force, with resulting damage to the Salt Lake City, Bailey, Coghlan, and Monaghan. This necessitated sending the first two, after temporary repairs by the Black Hawk and Markab at Dutch Harbor, more than 2,000 miles to the Mare Island Navy Yard. Thus it was evident that if a naval or an amphibious campaign were to be carried on in this area some logistic resources would be required in certain localities within the region. If adequate shore facilities were not possible, floating equipment must be obtained, which demanded that proper harbor requirements be met. At this time in the Atlantic, German submarines still had the edge on us. In the South and Southwest Pacific we had just gained superiority enough to hold the offensive, and could spare few floating units from those areas. So in the beginning only a meager combination of floating equipment and new shore-based facilities would be available in Aleutian waters.
As a result of agreement between the Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet, and Lieutenant General J.L. DeWitt, Commander of the Western Defense Command, Rear Admiral F.W. Rockwell, commanding the Amphibious Force of the Pacific Fleet, was directed in December 1942 to devise plans to retake Kiska. Requirements in ships and services were large. The venture appeared especially formidable since we were not quite sure early in 1943 of the outcome in the South Pacific, and therefore could not expect much help from that area. A joint staff of officers from the Alaskan Defense Command and the Amphibious Force was organized in San Diego to formulate the plans.
After Kinkaid relieved Theobald in January 1943, Theobald reported to Nimitz in Pearl Harbor for a few days. One of his recommendations was that consideration be given to capturing Attu prior to Kiska. This was because the weather came from Attu toward Kiska. With Attu in our hands we would be in a better position to take Kiska, the tougher of the two objectives.
When Kinkaid had had time to estimate the Alaskan situation, he too recommended that Attu, not Kiska, be the first objective. He was evidently influenced by the inability to get adequate shipping (in particular, attack transports and attack cargo carriers), and by intelligence reports which showed that Attu could be taken more easily with a smaller force. Work on Kiska planning was abandoned for the time being, and the joint staff was directed to begin a study of Attu.
Besides those forces already assigned to the Alaskan theater, Nimitz made available Battleship Division Two (Idaho, Nevada, and Pennsylvania), Cruiser Division One (less the Randolph and Salt Lake City), Destroyer Squadrons One and Fourteen, of 16 destroyers and 4 attack transports. The only attack cargo carriers available would have to be withdrawn from the South Pacific, and this was disapproved. Later, to alleviate the small-boat situation, a number of landing craft were delivered to the Army in San Francisco. The Perida, the only Army ship to accompany the assault force, carried 1 LCM and 10 LCV's.
The secrecy surrounding the early planning of the Attu operation (LANDCRAB) proved detrimental in loading the transports on the west coast. Commanding officers were called to conferences on loading plans without being acquainted with the mission. Only a few knew that Alaska was the destination. Winter clothing was secreted aboard ships; as a diversion, medical officers were directed to give lectures on diseases and sanitation in the tropics.
In loading the attack transports too much emphasis was placed on supplies for occupation forces and not enough on combat supplies. Admiral Rockwell remarked in his action report on the Attu landings: "The time has come for combat troop organizations to realize that landing on territory occupied by the enemy means a campaign and not an occupation, and that the first days following such a landing will see them involved in action in which the fighting tools of war have first priority."
A large amount of cargo in addition to that originally agreed upon was sent to the docks at San Diego and San Francisco and every effort made to cram it aboard without regard to consequences. This naturally resulted in confusion and delay in unloading at the objective. In some cases high explosives were loaded in the same portion of the ship as gasoline. This could have been disastrous had any of the ships been hit.
The task organization as finally constituted was made up of Task Forces Sixteen and Fifty-one, of more than 60 vessels of all types, including 2 Canadian destroyer escorts. The aircraft also included 28 RCAF fighter planes. Some changes were made after the Attu landings, notably the addition of the battleships New Mexico, Mississippi, and Tennessee; the heavy cruisers Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, and Portland; several destroyers; and the tankers Neosho, Pecos, and later the Schuylkill. With the exception of the assault contingent (Task Force Fifty-one), all vessels had been either operating in the Alaskan area or had been diverted to it prior to 1 May. Task Force Fifty-one left the west coast late in April and
reached Cold Bay, Alaska, on the 30th. Here final arrangements for the operation and logistics were completed, and the force sailed to the point of attack 4 May.
Because of bad weather, D-day for Attu, scheduled for 7 May, was postponed until the 11th. A dense fog on the 10th caused considerable difficulty in lining up shps for the approach. The destroyer Macdonough and the light minelayer Sicard collided. Their loss to the operation was a severe handicap, as the Sicard was to have been used as a boat-control ship and the Macdonough personnel had been trained for fire support. Sicard took Macdonough in tow and proceeded to Adak. Tatnuck, an old ocean tug, was dispatched from Adak to meet the two vessels and take Macdonough in tow. On arrival at Adak both ships went alongside the Black Hawk for repairs to enable them to make the journey to a west coast navy yard. The oiler Tippecanoe towed Macdonough back to the United States,while Sicard was able to proceed under her own power.
Foul weather conditions prevented the fleet tug Ute--the only tug to accompany the assault force--from assisting during the early phases of the landings on D-day, as she was unable to take station for the final approach because of lack of suitable radar equipment. The following day she went to the assistance of the Army transport Perida, which hit a pinnacle in shifting anchorage. The Perida was beached, and salvage and unloading operations proceeded simultaneously.
A shortage of landing craft was soon evident. In the Massacre Bay area it was necessary to shift to one transport landing craft assigned to another, to augment the boats available for landing a complete combat team. The dense fog made it extremely difficult for the boats to locate the designated transports, and many of them became lost for long periods before they finally reached their destinations. The landing craft proved too fragile to withstand the rugged conditions, and the equipment was not substantial enough, despite the fact that a few LST's and LCT(5)'s had been sent to Alaska previously to test their ability in that theater. In addition to the immense amount of labor required to keep their hulls in proper condition, there was a shortage of spare parts, particularly engineheads, cylinder liners, pistons, and starters. On 23 May General Landrum, the landing-force commander, urgently requested Admiral Kinkaid to send tugs and barges to Attu to replace the small boats, which were "deteriorating rapidly."
At the outset both the fuel situation and the bombardment ammunition supply gave Admiral Kinkaid some concern. However, no critically serious shortage developed in either case.
Because of the weather, air spot could not be depended upon. In consequence an enormous amount of ammunition from our bombardment ships failed to knock out the Japanese artillery and antiaircraft emplacements. On the morning of 14 May Admiral Rockwell informed Colonel Culin, commanding the northern troops, that there was naval ammunition for one more attack and that time was vital. By afternoon the battleships Idaho and Nevada had expended all their high-capacity 14-inch ammunition, and in view of the threat from enemy submarines they were ordered to proceed northward, refuel certain destroyers, and await orders. By evening of 15 May the Pennsylvania reported her H.C. ammunition exhausted, and she too moved seaward. The destroyer Phelps then took over in the Holtz Bay area and the Abner Read in the Massacre Bay area. Provision was made to replenish the Phelps' ammunition from other destroyers, from which she was able to obtain 1,120 rounds of 5-inch .38-caliber. The destroyers Meade, Faragut, Edwards, and Hull were prepared to give additional fire support if necessary. On the 17th the Pennsylvania gave the Abner Read 875 rounds of 5-inch .38-caliber before withdrawing. The destroyers Ammen and Alywin were also instructed to deliver gunfire if ordered. Meanwhile, the ammunition ship Shasta had arrived at Adak 8 May with replacement.
Ashore on 18 May the landing-force commander asked that replacement ammunition be sent from Adak, as the 105 millimeter was running low. At the same time he reported that considerable Japanese had been captured. Kinkaid answered this by stating that half the reserve ammunition at Adak was being forwarded, and that 5,000 additional rounds of 105 millimeter were available in the transport Fillmore.
As for fuel, Admiral Kinkaid notified Commander Northwest Sea Frontier and Commander Alaskan Sector on 13 May of the necessity of a quick turn-around of all available tankers. He further inquired whether a fuel shortage in the Seattle area required that tankers proceed to San Francisco or San Pedro. Once again that old bugaboo of the uncertainty of the fuel-oil situation raised its ugly head. The reply on 14 May confirmed the shortage and stated that the Tippecanoe, returning for reloading, was being diverted to San Francisco instead of putting in to Puget Sound. On the 19th Kinkaid requested that the oiler Guadalupe at San Pedro make a quick turn-around as "the logistic situation in this area does not make any delay feasible."
Fueling of Task Force Fifty-one, which had left San Pedro and San Francisco on 23 and 25 April, respectively, was done at Cold Bay by the Neches, which had accompanied the group. On 3 May she was damaged
by grounding on leaving Cold Bay and, after pumping out her remaining fuel at Kodiak, had to be withdrawn to Puget Sound for repairs.
The fueling of the supporting task groups--Task Group 16.6 (Admiral McMorris), with four cruisers and five destroyers; and Task Group 51.1 (Admiral Kingman), three battleships, one escort carrier, and seven destroyers--was done at sea on 2, 3, and 9 May and subsequently on the 15th, 16th, and 17th by the Neosho. The Pecus (she and the Neosho were new vessels named in memory of the Neosho sunk in the Coral Sea and the Pecos sunk south of Java) fueled Task Group 16.6 at sea on the 21st, and the following day effected rendezvous with Task Group 16.7 for fueling. She was relieved by the Neosho, and after servicing the destroyers Phelps and Meade and the transport St. Mihiel at Adak, pumped her remaining fuel into the Platte, which had arrived from San Pedro on the 20th. She sailed on the 26th for San Pedro to reload.
Neither the Neosho nor Pecos is listed in the Operation Plan LANDCRAB, but this is probably because they were not assigned to the task force until 22 April, before which date the plan was probably printed and ready for distribution. It is perhaps because of this omission that the task-force commander likewise overlooked them, and when the Neches had to be withdrawn for repairs felt the fuel situation to be more serious than it proved to be. From 5 May until September, Neosho and Pecos serviced the task forces at sea and at anchor, often in thick weather.
During that period the Pecos made 4 trips and the Neosho 3 trips to San Pedro (Adak to San Pedro, 2,704 miles), bringing on each trip 95,000 barrels of fuel, 80 drums of lubricating oils, 150 cylinders of bottled gases, about 95 tons of provisions, and about 300,000 gallons of aviation gasoline, besides any additional deck cargo they could handle, such as airplanes or boats. About 8 SBD-5 Douglas scout bombers could be carried by the big tankers. These two ships alone in a total of 7 trips from May to September carried nearly 700,000 barrels of of fuel to the Aleutians, nearly 700 tons of provisions, about 2,100,000 gallons of aviation gasoline, more than 500 barrels of lubricants, and numerous smaller items. That is a brief summary for 2 tankers, but a number of others were making regular trips during the period. The Tippecanoe, Platte, Guadalupe, Neches, Cuyama, Ramapo, Brazos, Schuylkill, Neshanic, Saranac, and the commercial tanker Fort Moultrie jointly made about 27 trips, adding a total of about 2,545,000 barrels of fuel to the 665,000 delivered by Pecos and Neosho, making in round figures well over 3 million barrels for the May to September supply. While this was
inconsequential in comparison to what the carrier striking forces in the Pacific were using, and a mere drop in the bucket to what was later used in the Central Pacific, it was at that time, considering the long haul and the shortage of tankers, a matter of some logistic magnitude.
The storage in shore tanks was small, and most of it not yet in operation. At Kodiak there were two 10,000-barrel tanks; at Dutch Harbor, more; but not all of this was available during May-September 1943. Four storage tanks there had been knocked out during the Japanese raids in June 1942. There was also a small storage at Akutan, an old whaling station converted for fueling use, with a capacity of about 32,000 barrels. At Adak it was planned to have tanks at both Andrew Lagoon and at San Bay on Great Sitkin Island, 20 miles to the east, but at this time neither was completed. The oilers not only brought fuel to the task forces but furnished many provisions, all bottled gases, most of the Diesel oil, gave the small ships their depth charges at sea, delivered nearly half the mail, gave canteen stores and ice cream to the small ships, and took off many of the sick and emergency cases.
The record of the Neosho illustrates such activities. She reached Kuluk Bay, Adak, 8 May 1943, and unloaded a considerable quantity of stores, drum oils, and aviation gasoline to the air station. A number fo small craft were fueled and provisioned in the anchorage. On the 13th she sailed to make rendezvous at sea with Admiral Giffen's Task Group 16.7. On the 15th she supplied the heavy cruisers Wichita, San Francisco, and Louisville, and the destroyers Balch, Mustin, Hughes, and Morris with 22,166 barrels of fuel, 19,423 pounds of provisions, 74,88 candy bars, and 7,500 packs of cigarettes. The next day she fueled Task Group 16.6 (Admiral McMorris), giving the light cruisers Santa Fe, Detroit, Richmond, and Raleigh, and the destroyers Bancroft, Frazier, Caldwell, and Gansevoort 24,205 barrels of fuel, 63,485 pounds of provisions, acetylene and oxygen cylinders (not counted), 9,360 candy bars, and 11,500 packs of cigarettes.
Meeting Admiral Kingman's Task Group 51.1 the next day, she gave the Nevada, Idaho, and Hull 35,061 barrels of fuel, 52,511 pounds of provisions, 12,000 candy bars, 16,000 packages of cigarettes, and miscellahneous items, including lubricating oils. Returning to Adak net day, 18 May, she went alongside the commercial tanker Fort Moultrie for cargo; remained at Kuluk Bay 4 days fueling vessels; topped off cargo from the Cuyama; and sailed 26 May to meet Task Group 16.6, which she gave 21,949 barrels fo fuel, 32,650 pounds of provisions, acetylene, oxygen, lubricating oil, cigarettes, and candy. The next day, 28 May, she met Admiral R.M. Griffen's Task Group 16.12 and gave the Mississippi
12,993 varrels of fuel and 500 gallons of aviation gasoline. To the New Mexico she brought 9,033 barrels of fuel and 1,000 gallons of aviation gasoline. The destroyers Dale, Monaghan, and Farragut received, respectively, 810 barrels of oil and 4,750 pounds of food; 886 barrels of fuel, 100 pounds of food, and 1 cylinder of Freon gas, and 1,226 pounds of food and 1 cylinder of oxygen.
On returning to Adak on the 29th she put into the oiler Platte 34,452 barrels of fuel oil, 67 drums of lubricants, 30 cylinders of CO2 gas, 9 cylinders of Freon gas, 45 cylinders of oxygen, miscellaneous depth charges, pistols, boosters, and detonators. On the 30th she sailed for San Pedro, reloaded, and returned to Kuluk Bay 20 June to begin servicing all over again. This was only a little more than a month's activity for one oiler, and by no means represents an unusual case. These ships made service their mission, and they gave unsparingly and efficiently. The services they rendered at sea clearly showed that much more than oil could be transferred from ship to ship. They showed the way in the technique of supplying at sea which led to the formation of Service Squadron Six in the winter of 1945. Its establishment was merely a question of awaiting the availability of suitable ships to carry sufficient "other than oil" types of supplies.
The bulk of the provisions for the Alaskan-Aleutian sector was supplied by three provisions ships, Bridge, Antigua, and the merchant ship Platano formerly operated by the United Fruit Company. Some foodstuffs were supplied to the ships of the task forces by direct contact while in port, others by storage barges which had been stocked from the provisions ships. So far as having enough to eat was concerned, provisions were never any considerable problem; but to obtain the amount of fresh and frozen foods the ships wanted was entirely out of the question. Throughout the war there were never enough to keep them stocked to their liking. The days of dry stores, bully beef, and canned foods were not relished by our crews. So at a great deal of effort and expense, ships with refrigeration plants were sent with fresh and frozen foods at every opportunity. Since there were insufficient "reefers" to meet the demands, the tankers supplemented them as much as possible by carrying what they could in excess of their own needs.
At first, Commander North Pacific had had a few task groups made up of battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and some submarines, for bombardment and patrol activities from the summer of 1942 on, and these received such maintenance services as Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, and Adak could afford. For any major repair or overhaul, or for underwater work,
it was necessary to send ships back to Seattle, San Francisco, or San Pedro. In the spring of 1943, when plans were under way to retake Attu and Kiska, the destroyer tenders Black Hawk and Markab were sent to Dutch Harbor. They soon moved forward to Adak, Black Hawk in mid-April, Markab at the end of May. Vessels of all types were serviced by these two, with temporary repairs also for those which had to go back home for major repairs or drydocking.
In July 1943 the repair barge YR-38 was towed from Dutch Harbor to Adak, and in early August went on to Attu as plans shaped up for the Kiska operation. During July, Commandant Thirteenth Naval District recommended to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations that the drydock YFD-22 be transferred from Kodiak to Adak, and that ARD-6, which had reached Dutch Harbor 15 June, remain there for the time being. YFD-22 could provide much needed docking for LST's at Adak, besides taking some of the burden from the Black Hawk and Markab. YFD-22, towed by the tugs Oriole and Tatnuck, reached Adak 25 July.
Probably the busiest service vessels in the Aleutians were the tugs Ute, Tatnuck, Oriole and Cree. The latter did not arrive until after the Attu landings, but the other three were constantly on the move and when not hauling equipment or landing craft from one base to another were assisting some stranded vessel. Such a scarcity of tugs existed at this time that Admiral Kinkaid ordered that none leave the area. The transport Arthur Middleton, badly damaged by grounding in the January 1943 landings on Amchitka, was directed to wait at Dutch Harbor until the Cree and James Griffith, bringing the ARD-6 from the United States, arrived on 15 June, when she would be taken in tow by these two on their return trip. After delivering the Arthur Middleton the tugs reported back to Dutch Harbor for Aleutian operation by mid-July.
The main part of Task Force Fifty-one returned to the west coast as soon as the troops were ashore at Attu with their supplies and equipment. Admiral Rockwell and staff returned to San Diego in the transport Zeilin, and immediately began to initiate plans for operations against Kiska. Many lessons were to be learned from Attu, and plans proceeded with that in mind. The Pennsylvania, flagship of Admiral Rockwell at Attu, was undergoing conversion at Puget Sound to fit her as headquarters ship for the coming operation. Consequently, after making preliminary plans, Admiral Rockwell boarded the transport U.S. Grant 22 July for passage to Adak. The Pennsylvania was directed to proceed to Adak early in August on completion of her overhaul. Here final plans for Kiska were coordinated.
Meanwhile, from the seizure of Attu until the middle of August the ships of ComNorPac guarded and supplied Attu while continuing the softening up of Kiska. An airfield was immediately begun in the Massacre Bay area on Attu, and another, previously started by the Japanese on Alexei Point, was rapidly put into operation. Nearby, on the small flat island of Shemya, a medium-bomber field was completed 18 July. This was needed because of the many losses due to fog when the mountain-obstructed fields on other islands were used.
Kiska was known to be more strongly defended, and therefore was bombed by air and bombarded by ships to much greater extent than was Attu. Ammunition dumps of fairly large size had been established at Adak, but there was still a limited quantity of high-capacity projectiles. The Shasta, as before, remained at Adak to replenish ammunition for the Kiska forces. A considerable number of aerial bombs were stored at Amchitka. The battleships Tennessee, New Mexico, and Idaho, with cruisers and destroyers based at Adak, conducted preliminary sweeps and bombarded the Japanese positions on Kiska during July and August. These vessels were serviced by oiling from tankers, at sea or in port, and with ammunition at Adak.
One such bombardment of Kiska occurred 2 August, when Task Groups 16.6 (Richmond, Raleigh, Detroit, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Gansevoort, Frazier, Edwards, and Meade) and 16.7 (Tennessee, Idaho, Phelps, Dale, and Anderson) shelled the island in two places. The estimated ammunition expended in less than an hour's firing was 1320 rounds of 14-inch, 200 of 8-inch, 600 of 6-inch, and 1,400 of 5-inch. Ten such dual bombardments were executed between 2 and 15 August. The task groups, again under the supreme command of Kinkaid, now a vice admiral, were much the same as for Attu. Captain Buchanan's transport group was considerably enlarged, and a large landing-craft group under command of Captain Robert Bolton was added.
The rearrangements required very little change in the servicing group, now designated as Task Group 16.13. Most of the oilers which had supplied the Attu forces continued through the summer to deliver their cargo in anticipation of the final drive on Kiska. Ships which made one or more trips during this period were the Platte, Ramapo, Fort Moultrie (merchant ship), Cuyama, Brazos, Neosho, Neches, Pecos, Saranac, Guadalupe, Tippecanoe, Schuylkill, and Neshanic. Some discharged their cargoes immediately and returned to San Pedro. Others, coming from the west coast, operated in the Alaskan area, fueling ships at sea and discharging oil to port storage tanks before returning for reloading.
D-day for the seizure of Kiska was set as 15 August. Landings proceeded on schedule, with accompanying naval gunfire and air coverage. As at Attu, low visibility proved a handicap to operations ashore and afloat. Though our forces failed to establish contact with the Japanese on D-day, it was generally thought that they had well-entrenched positions in the hills, and considering their failure to defend the beaches at Attu, which resulted in severe fighting on high ground, plans for landings on D-plus-1 went ahead as scheduled. However, ammunition for fire-support ships was reduced about 50 percent.
Though more than 34,000 troops participated, the seizure of Kiska could not be considered a combat operation, but the planning, raining, and landing phases were conducted with full expectation of strong enemy resistance. The operation medical plan had been worked out on the basis of an estimated 9,000 casualties, which was later believed justifiable had the island been defended.
Despite the absence of the Japanese, some few casualties to our forces did occur. In the early morning hours of 18 August the Abner Read hit a mine while on antisubmarine patrol. Her stern was blown off from frame 170 aft. She was towed by the Ute to Adak and placed alongside the destroyer tender Markab for temporary repairs prior to heading for the west coast. Her casualties were 1 dead, 70 missing,and 34 wounded and hospitalized.
This Kiska operation (COTTAGE) was of some value in the practice it gave. Some liessons of what to do and what not to do were learned. Admiral Kinkaid commented: "The fact that the Japanese chose to evacuate rather than stay and fight, must in itself stand as the reward for the officers and men of the United States and Canadian forces involved." Admiral Nimitz commented similarly: "The disappointment of our forces at the enemy's escape without engagement is fully appreciated. It should be realized, however, that the effort of preparation for this operation and the diversion of forces to it were by no means wasted, since our experience and proficiency were improved thereby; and the evacuation without resistance which was forced upon the enemy not only saved us inevitable heavy losses, but released ships, men, and
equipment for other theaters much earlier than would otherwise have been the case."
With the reoccupation of Kiska the Aleutian campaign ended. Thenceforward to the end of the war, operatons there were principally a matter of routine building up of shore facilities, with a raid now and then on the Kuriles. The scene henceforce shifted to the Central Pacific.
Soon afterward Vice Admiral F.J. Fletcher relieved Vice Admiral Kinkaid, who was ordered to the Southwest Pacific to assume command of General MacArthur's naval force, the Seventh Fleet.
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