(Courtesy Elmendorf Air Force Base History Office, Alaska)
n early June 1942, Americans had cause both for jubilation and for despair. As they tuned in their radios for news of the war, they heard of the coordinated attacks by the Japanese on the Midway and Aleutian islands. At the Battle of Midway, American planes sunk four Japanese aircraft carriers and destroyed or damaged some 300 planes. But in the Aleutians, the Japanese bombing had been successful, and
Japanese forces occupied the islands of Attu, Agattu,
and Kiska. This alarmed the American people because
it was feared that the enemy would use Attu and other
small Aleutian islands as a staging area for attacks on
the North American mainland. There was also concern
that the occupation might disrupt United States-Siberian communications necessary for the Lend-Lease program, a program allowing the president to sell, transfer, exchange, lend equipment to any country to help it defend itself against the Axis powers. This included assistance to the U.S.S.R. The Americans had to regain
the Aleutians at all costs. Following a difficult campaign, made more difficult by the weather, the Americans did oust the Japanese from Attu and gain control of the rest of the Aleutians. The islands then were used as a staging point for attacks on Japanese territory.
This lesson is based on Attu Battlefield and U.S. Army and Navy Airfields on Attu, several of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The properties have been designated a National Historic Landmark.