OFF THE MAP
Submitted by Dick Martin - Information taken from an article in WWII magazine entitled “Off the Map”
Well, of course, we all know the Japanese attacked American Territory at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the Philippine Islands the next day as well as other American Territory in the Pacific. But did you know that the Japanese got closer than that by attacking and occupying American Territory on the North American continent? Anybody, who was alive then, sure does!! Have you ever heard of the islands of Attu and Kiska on the Aleutian chain of Islands off but part of the American Territory of Alaska? We had to send American forces and use American forces already there in the Aleutian campaign to eliminate the Japanese threat from the North American Continent in Attu and Kiska. Nobody really knows why they were there. It could have been a diversion from the upcoming battle at Midway or possibly to protect their flank as they drove east. For whatever reason, they were there and the unexpected occupation of those two Alaskan Islands met little opposition. The Japanese dug in and launched highly destructive bombing raids at Dutch Harbor. The Americans retaliated by striking back from Adak, an Air Force Base they built to counter the Japanese occupation. The action was not confined to the islands as Ocean warfare picked up drastically in the area.
Finally, in May of 1943, the United States struck back on Attu, and with ferocious fighting in horrible weather on frozen featureless tundra, the 7th Infantry Division forced the Japanese from being in well dug-in high ground positions into a smaller and smaller enclave appropriately called Massacre Bay. The Japanese have no choice but to conduct a suicide bayonet banzai attack against the American position which was stopped cold by hand-to-hand combat and superior American fire power.
The Americans learned many lessons on Attu about the Japanese fighting spirit and their willingness to die. Consequently, they prepared massively for the next allied landing on Kiska by employing 35,000 troops in the effort. However, Kiska was no Attu. The landing went smoothly with no resistance. The Japanese forces had left the night before.
Down in the continental United States, America had a crazy general by the name of General John DeWitt in charge of civil defense in the west who was afraid of being relieved of his command for being unprepared like his very close friend, Pearl Harbor Admiral Short. Consequently, he conducted too many blackouts and had his antiaircraft guns firing and was scrambling his fighters for every perceived threat from above. This, as well as the Japanese threat on Attu and Kiska made for a jittery public.
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