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The Japanese invasion and occupation of Alaska

The Japanese invasion and occupation of the Aleutian Islands (Alaska) is the only time in history that the United States has been occupied by an invading force.

The Forgotten Battle

The invasion of Attu and Kiska in the U.S.Aleutian Islands Alaska) is the only time in history that the United States has been occupied by an invading force.

The Japanese bombing attack of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska on the islands of Kiska and Attu began on June 3, 1942. The attack planes were launched from the Japanese carriers Junyo and Ryujo commanded by Isoroku Yamamoto . The same Japanese commander that ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The bombing raid did very little damage for two reasons. The raid was conducted in bad weather during low visibility and second, there was very little to damage. Their was no U.S. Military presence in the Aleutians due to the cold, barren remoteness of the Islands. Their was nothing of strategic importance only small, isolated huts and villages of native Aleuts.

On June 6 and 7 the Japanese landed and occupied the islands of Kiska and Attu without any resistance. In August of 1942 the United States established a base on the nearby island of Adak and began bombing the occupying Japanese forces. The island of Adak is a barren wasteland, mostly tundra, and usually cloud covered. Therefore the U.S. Bombings were infrequent and damage was minimal. It would take nearly a year for American forces to launch a legitimate response to the invasion and occupation of the islands.

On May 11, 1943 the operation to retake the island of Attu began. Included in the operation was a specially formed unit of locals called the Cutthroats. The Cutthroats was a band of men skilled at flourishing in the tough conditions of the Alaskan wilderness including the native Aleuts and Eskimos, prospectors, hunters, trappers and fishermen. Their background in survival and hunting made them ideal scouts. Hard and dangerous men, they often had names in keeping with their unit's nickname, such as Bad Whiskey Red, Aleut Pete and Water-bucket Ben.

Instead of resisting the landing of American forces the Japanese moved inland and dug in on high ground. After several days of fierce, bloody fighting the Japanese launched a surprise attack, the largest bonsai attack of WWII, and charged the American lines. Hand to hand combat resulted and the Japanese were killed almost down to the last man. Only 28 of the occupying Japanese force survived. 580 Americans were killed and 1200 suffered cold weather injuries such as frozen feet, fingers and toes. A total 1512 Americans died during the retaking of the Aleuts from battle or weather caused deaths.

On August 15, 1943, an invasion force of 34,426 Allied troops landed on Kiska to find it abandoned. The Japanese had slip out during a heavy fog. Although the island was abandoned the allied forces still lost 313 men to bobby traps, friendly fire and cold weather.

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