The Aleutian Campaign From Adak

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.

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