The WWII Battle for Alaska

The WWII Battle for Alaska

In June 1942, the Japanese invaded Kiska, a nearly uninhabited island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain, some 1,450 miles west of Anchorage. Despite orders from the War Department to “Get Kiska back,” it took the United States fourteen months to reestablish control of the island. To read more about this little-known World War II campaign, go to “Letter from Alaska: The Cold Winds of War.”

  • A view of Kiska Harbor from the eastern shore of Kiska Island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain. The island is treeless and much of its terrain is muskeg, a boggy mat of decaying vegetation that makes it very difficult to get around on foot. The skies are almost always cloudy, and the island’s weather is notoriously unpleasant and unpredictable. (Courtesy Project Recover)
  • Three U.S. planes fly in front of Kiska Volcano, which is obscured by clouds, during the U.S.-Canadian invasion of Kiska Island on August 15, 1943. It turned out that the Japanese had evacuated it several weeks earlier undetected by U.S. forces. (Courtesy NARA)
  • USS Abner Read undergoing repairs in October 1943 at the Puget Sound Navy Yard. While patrolling for Japanese submarines off Kiska Island on the night of August 18, 1943, the destroyer struck a Japanese mine, which blew off a 75-foot section of her stern and led to the deaths of at least 70 sailors. (Courtesy NARA)
  • A schematic diagram of USS Abner Read is overlaid on top of a side-scan sonar image of the wreckage of the ship’s stern, which was located off Kiska Island in 2018 by a team of researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of Delaware, and Project Recover. (Courtesy Project Recover)
  • A power station built by U.S. forces after they retook Kiska Island in 1943 is the only structure from the U.S. occupation still standing on the island. (Dirk H.R. Spennemann)
  • Private Ernest R. Mader of Long Island, New York, carved his name and address into a bomber wing several weeks after U.S. forces retook the island. The wing is wreckage from a B-24 that was shot down on June 11, 1942, during the initial U.S. blitz on the island. (Courtesy Project Recover)


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