On the dawn of August 15, 1943, 100 Allied warships arrived at Kiska in the Aleutian Island chain of Alaska. They were followed by a chaotic but successful movement of around 35,000 U.S. Army and Canadian combat infantrymen, more than prepared to destroy the Japanese garrison and take the island back. The only problem was that they were two weeks too late.

Japan Invades the Aleutian Island of Kiska

In June 1942, the Japanese forces successfully invaded the island of Kiska under the command of Captain Takeji Ono, accompanied by about 500 Japanese marines. They immediately went after the American weather station situated on the island. They killed two United States Navy officers while the remaining eight were captured and sent to Japan as prisoners of war. Not long after, another batch of 2,000 Japanese troops landed in the Kiska Harbor. Additional anti-aircraft units, engineers, and some reinforcement infantry also arrived on the island by December.

Why did they even want these freezing windswept islands? Because of the Doolittle Raid on Japan a few months before.  The B-25 Army bombers had launched from the carrier USS Hornet but the Japanese believed they may come from Alaska.  They expected the United States would build up the islands due to their relative closeness to Japan and use it as an offensive springboard to invade them. Had they known just how harsh the weather was in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, they would have put that idea right out of their heads.

Senior Petty Officer William C. House was one of the people on the island. He managed to run and remain at large for 50 days, eating nothing but plants and earthworms until he was too weak and dying that he had to surrender. On his accounts, he wrote: