Attu Island, Aletuian Islands, Alaska

The Forgotten Battle

Zegrahm Contributor|July 5, 2016|Blog Post

In 1942, the Japanese invaded two Aleutian Islands—Kiska and Attu—only six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. What is now known as “The Forgotten Battle” began during the early morning hours of June 6, when 500 Japanese soldiers landed on Kiska, taking the 10-man US Navy Weather Detachment (the island’s only inhabitants) by complete surprise. Attu Island had been invaded two days before, and 42 native Aleuts were taken prisoner. Though this was the only US soil Japan would claim during the war in the Pacific, the Japanese occupation was a huge blow to American morale.

Plans were immediately drawn up to retake the islands, known as the Aleutian Campaign. The Army Air Force and Navy Patrol Wing dropped seven million pounds of bombs on Kiska, but the anti-aircraft response from the Japanese was formidable. Extreme isolation, combined with volatile weather and difficult terrain, strung the conflict out for almost a year and claimed the lives of scores of American airmen.

On May 11, 1943, US forces landed on Attu and began an uphill battle to retake the island. After 19 days of fighting, the beleaguered Japanese soldiers launched a final banzai charge in an attempt to break through the American line. When the battle ended, only 29 remained of the Japanese force that had numbered roughly 2,600, while the Americans lost some 1,000 men. This would be the only World War II battle fought in North America. Three months later the drama at Attu was matched by an equally dramatic anticlimax—foul weather had delayed Allied attempts to retake Kiska. When US and Canadian forces finally landed on August 15, they were stunned to find that the entire force of 5,000 Japanese soldiers were gone, having evacuated under cover of fog two weeks before. 

Today, the site where the Japanese occupied Kiska and the battlefields and bases of Attu are now National Historic Landmarks, the maximum level of recognition given to historic locations in the US. On both islands, you’ll still find a considerable amount of relics scattered among the hills and harbors—equipment dumps, gun emplacements, tunnels, and even small, experimental submarines.

Learn more about the battles fought on American soil during World War II on our upcoming Wild Alaska expedition, July 6 – 20, 2017.

Related Blog Posts

  • Little Diomede
    Field Report

    Wild Alaska 2017 Field Report

    August 23, 2017 | Field Report

    Thursday, July 6, 2017 - Home / Anchorage, Alaska

    Read More

    Golden Circle
    Field Report

    Circumnavigation of Iceland, 2017 Field Report

    July 31, 2017 | Field Report

    Friday & Saturday, June 2 & 3, 2017 - Reykjavík, Iceland / Embark Ocean Diamond

    Read More

    Antarctic Sunset
    Blog Post

    The Best Places for Stargazing Around the World

    July 25, 2017 | Blog Post

    On August 21, the moon will pass in front of the sun and the sky will turn completely dark in the middle of the day. Total solar eclipses like this occur approximately once every 18 months, but they’re usually only visible from less than half a percent of the Earth’s surface. This will be the first total solar eclipse visible in the United States since 1979.

    Read More

  • Puffin, Iceland | Brent Stephenson
    Blog Post

    Arctic Animals: A Guide to Key Wildlife Species

    June 26, 2017 | Blog Post

    From Alaska and northern Canada to Greenland and Scandinavia, exploring the Arctic ranks among the world’s greatest adventures. For us, one of the most rewarding aspects was seeing the incredible array of Arctic animals that manage to survive in these harsh landscapes.

    Read More

    Narsaq, Greenland
    Blog Post

    Viking History: How Erik the Red Settled Greenland

    May 31, 2017 | Blog Post

    If you’re only casually familiar with the history of the Vikings, you might think of them as the fearsome seafaring warriors who left their Scandinavian homes in search of wealth, raiding countless coastal sites along the way.

    Read More

    Great Barrier Reef
    Infographics

    2018: 26 Countries, 52 UNESCO World Heritage Sites [Infographic]

    May 4, 2017 | Infographics

    In 2018, Zegrahm will be visiting 52 amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in over 25 countries! The United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the UN that maintains a list of important natural or historical sites, whose preservation and safe-keeping are deemed important for the world community.

    Read More

  • Island Sky
    Infographics
    Lanzarote, Canary Islands
    Blog Post

    2018 Travel Bucket List

    March 6, 2017 | Blog Post

    Where will your travel dreams take you in 2018? Here are just a few once-in-a-lifetime experiences Zegrahm can help you check off your bucket list next year.

     

    Read More

    Kyoto, Japan
    Infographics

    2017: 34 Countries, 90 UNESCO World Heritage Sites [Infographic]

    February 14, 2017 | Infographics

    In 2017, Zegrahm will be visiting 90 amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in over 30 countries! The United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the UN that maintains a list of important natural or histroical sites, whose preservation and safe-keeping are deemed important for the world community.

    Read More

  • Jaguar, Pantanal, Brazil | Mark Brazil
    Blog Post

    What Was Your Favorite Wildlife Experience of 2016?

    December 28, 2016 | Blog Post

    We recently reached out to our field staff, to find out what their favorite wildlife experiences of 2016 were. From South America to Australia’s Kimberley, our staff have traveled the world this year. Below, enjoy their stories.  

     

    Read More

    Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland
    Field Report

    The Untamed North: Iceland to Greenland 2016 Field Report

    October 12, 2016 | Field Report

    Thursday & Friday, July 28 & 29, 2016 - Reykjavík, Iceland / Embark Sea Adventurer

    Read More

    Zodiac Cruising in Alaska
    Infographics

    Choosing an Alaska Cruise [Infographic]

    August 25, 2016 | Infographics

    Alaska inevitably wows visitors with awe-inspiring scenery, abundant wildlife, and a long, colorful history. With more coastline than the rest of the states combined, exploring by ship is one of the best ways to see Alaska's many wonders. And, there is no shortage of cruises to choose from, ranging from mega-ships to private yachts.

    Read More