The battle of the Aleutians was a war that was forgotten in part due to the fear that would arouse if the public knew that the enemy had taken some of the islands in the Aleutian Chain. Kiska and Attu were taken and held for almost a year with a strong garrison on each island, an air force and naval forces. Throughout the campaign the naval and air forces were brutally fought back to the point where the islands were virtually cut off from all but submarines but even they were eventually stopped. Many men on both sides died but the main enemy throughout the entire campaign for both sides was the weather and terrain of the Aleutians.
There are many firsts in the war in the Aleutians partly because it was the first time many new military concepts were attempted, including amphibious assaults, high altitude and low altitude bombing, specific weather designed gear and many others. For the US it was as much a testing ground as it was a battle. Part of that was the idea of island hopping. Since weather was such an issue in the Aleutians it was paramount to get supplies, men and aircraft closer to the front. This also put more distance safely defended behind the front and the mainland. Adak was one of those islands. Seventy Five years ago the first zero altitude strike, combined fighters and bombers, was carried out from Adak against Kiska. The anti aircraft defenses had become exceptionally good and with low level clouds, attacking at zero altitude proved to be the most effective way to strike the island. The B-24, P-38 and P-39 were the primary aircraft in the Aleutians with some P-40 units and B-17’s. Getting top of the line supplies wasn’t easy for this campaign since many didn’t believe it a real threat. History proved otherwise. Not much is out there about the Aleutian War but one good source is The Thousand Mile War by Brian Garfield.
On October 19th 1940 the Seventh Air Force was established in Hawaii providing Air Defense of the islands before going to the Pacific Theater where it fought in many of the major air battles during WWII. From Pearl Harbor to the Battle of Okinawa the Seventh Air Force’s Fighter, Bombers and Transports saw a lot of action. By August of 1944 the Seventh along with the Thirteenth and Fifth Air Forces were assigned to the United States Far East Air Force and were focusing all effort on Japanese held islands. From Mid 1944 to July 1945 the Seventh focused on stopping Japanese attacks on the Mariana islands.
Seventy Three years ago the first B-24 bombing raids were made against Iwo Jima. There would be ten major raids in the month of August made by Saipan based B-24 Liberators. Iwo Jima was a crucial strategic island in the campaign against Japan. B-29 bombers would later use the island’s airbases to bomb Japan’s home island. Iwo Jima itself went down as one the costliest battles in the Pacific, with more American casualties then Japanese.
The B-24 Liberator was built by Consolidated Aircraft Company in Sand Diego, CA as a heavy bomber to be used during the bombing campaign of WWII. Consolidated was already making flying boats and trainers when they went after the contract for a heavy bomber. The initial fuselage and tail were designed after their work on the large flying boats. The B-24 had numerous techinological invations that in some ways made it superior to the B-17 although was never produced in the same quantity. Today marks a special anniversary in the history of the B-24, on December 29th 1939 the prototype XB-24 first flew. The B-24 would go onto to serve with multiple air forces throughout the war and would be utilized in the European and Pacific Theatre.
On this day in 1947 the United States Air Force was officially created and the United States Army Air Force was officially disbanded. For decades the command structure of the Air Force was disputed over. Starting with the Army Signal Corp in 1914, then the Army Air Corp in 1926, then the GHQ in 1935 and finally the United States Army Air Force from 1941-1947 which was created for better use of funds, supplies and allocation during the war effort. Throughout WWII several people fought for independent air force to reduce restrictions that were being placed on the USAAF due to the need for planes to go to both the Navy and Army. After the war ended it took two years before a restructure of the United States Government defense took place in which the Department of the Navy, Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force was created under the Department of Defense.
The USAAF helped bring an end to WWII with it’s vast fleet of iconic allied aircraft and tireless devotion of the pilots, mechanics, ground personnel and administrative staff. If not for the great legacy that the USAAF had during the war it is conceivable that a separate air force might not have been created. Since that day in 1947 the USAF has gone on to create thousands of jobs, engineer countless new planes and help protect our freedom.
Every now and then, usually in the off time, I do a little a blog maintenance. It occurred to me that it had been a while since I updated my gallery pages and with the increasing number of images that I’ve finished lately I thought it would be fun to update some of those. So now under the Aviation page in “the shed” the B-24 Liberator is parked as well as updates to the B-29, A6M2 Zero and A6M3 Zero.