Kiska, Remains of a Battle that Never was

Posted on April 7th, 2016 by:

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Kiska, Remains of a Battle that Never was

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The sunken Borneo Maru

On June 7, 1942, 500 Japanese soldiers landed on the island Kiska, part of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Opposing the Japanese landing force were ten American soldiers, a few dogs and three aircraft from the island’s naval weather station. After a brief fight, two of the Americans were killed and the remaining eight were sent to Japan as prisoners of war. Settling in, the Japanese built bunkers and machine gun nests for defense and planted gardens to grow food. Two weeks later, the US Army Air Force launched its first bombing raid against the island, attacking Japanese ships and fortifications.

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Japanese Tabi shoes scattered on Kiska

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Army gas masks on Kiska

The Japanese held out against the aerial bombing, but after the Americans invaded the neighboring island of Attu, which had also been captured by Japan on June 7th, they decided Kiska was not tenable and decided to abandon it. The Japanese evacuation was completed on July 28th, 1943.



On August 15th, 1943, 35,000 American soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division, 10th Mountain Division and US-Canadian First Special Service Force landed on the island amidst dangerous weather and rough seas. The Americans were prepared for a tough fight. On edge and wary of the enemy, there were numerous friendly fire incidents. In all, the landing force suffered nearly 200 casualties including 28 American and 4 Canadians soldiers killed, either from friendly fire or from mines and booby traps left behind by the Japanese.

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Remains of Japanese anti-aircraft gun

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A Japanese Artillery gun stands guard on Kiska

Because of its remote location and inaccessibility, Kiska remains a place where relics of World War Two can still be found. To get to Kiska, you need permission from the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Once permission is granted, you need to fly from Anchorage, Alaska and wait for one of the bi-weekly flights to Adak Island. From Adak, you need to get a ride to Kiska on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service research vessel. You must carry all food and essential items with you as the island is uninhabited.

Once you reach the island, a time capsule of ships, guns and fortifications, to personal items the soldiers carried, are waiting for you, unspoiled and unmolested relics of a battle that was never really fought.

Photos via Brendan Coyle

For more information about the battle of Kiska relics see Brendan Coyle’s book:

Kiska: The Japanese Occupation of an Alaska Island

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