Aleutians - warranted or a waste?

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Kingfish
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Aleutians - warranted or a waste?

Post by Kingfish » 13 Dec 2020 14:11

Was this campaign really necessary is the question?

My cursory reading of the campaign seems to indicate the main impetus was the fear of a Japanese attack on Anchorage or even the CONUS, but how much of that was grounded in reality?

Distance from Kiska to Anchorage is over a thousand miles in some of the worst flying weather on the planet. Considering how difficult it was for the Japanese to build airbases in the far more hospitable SoPac I doubt they could do so on those wind swept rocks. Operational losses alone would account for more than American air defense.
The gods do not deduct from a man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing.
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EwenS
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Re: Aleutians - warranted or a waste?

Post by EwenS » 13 Dec 2020 15:51

It seems to me that there are many reasons that need considered.

1. The politics of an invader on US territory. Possibly the most important in the eyes of the American public after Pearl Harbor.
2. The potential threat of air attack on the mainland USA and Canada. Building airfields was difficult, not impossible. Flying was difficult but not impossible with the right training. Ask the bush pilots of Alaska & Canada. The Japanese did build an airfield on Kiska. The USAAF immediately built one on Attu when they recaptured it. The latter became a base for USAAF & USN aircraft to carry the war to the Japanese in the Kuriles right through to the end of the war albeit with only small numbers of aircraft involved. Consideration was given to basing B-29s in the Aleutians but that came to nothing with bases becoming available in China and then the Marianas.
3. The western end of the Aleutians formed a good jumping off point to invade Paramushiro in the Kuriles and then onward to northern Japan should the US have decided to invade Northern Japan.
4. There is also the question of securing the trans-Pacific Lend-Lease shipping route to the USSR. While the USSR and Japan remained at peace until Aug 1945 and all goods were shipped in USSR flagged ships, Germany did lodge complaints with the Japanese to try to get them to close the route down. Remove Japanese troops from the Aleutians and the threat is reduced should Japanese policy have changed.

Ultimately the area became a backwater in late 1943 because there were better opportunities to be had in the central Pacific. Had those not worked out so well, who knows how things might have played out in the Aleutians.

This on the USAAF in the Aleutians
https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/IV/AAF-IV-11.html

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Aleutians - warranted or a waste?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 13 Dec 2020 15:55

Hi Kingfish,

Probably unnecessary.

History is full of such diversions.

For example, was the French assault on the German-held Atlantic Ports in late April 1945 really necessary?

I would suggest that neither the USA, nor France wanted the enemy to still be holding national territory at the end of the war, if this could be avoided.

The British took a more pragmatic approach over the Channel Islands and the USA itself was quite content to bypass other Japanese-held island groups in the Pacific that were not part of its national territory.

Cheers,

Sid

P.S. The US clearly wasn't entirely hung up on national prestige, as Canadian forces were also allocated to the Aleutian Campaign.

daveshoup2MD
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Re: Aleutians - warranted or a waste?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 13 Mar 2021 20:30

Kingfish wrote:
13 Dec 2020 14:11
Was this campaign really necessary is the question?

My cursory reading of the campaign seems to indicate the main impetus was the fear of a Japanese attack on Anchorage or even the CONUS, but how much of that was grounded in reality?

Distance from Kiska to Anchorage is over a thousand miles in some of the worst flying weather on the planet. Considering how difficult it was for the Japanese to build airbases in the far more hospitable SoPac I doubt they could do so on those wind swept rocks. Operational losses alone would account for more than American air defense.
Equally questionable was the Japanese assault and the American counter-offensive. The same resources the Japanese deployed to the Aleutians in June, 1942, certainly might have made a difference at Midway; the resources the US committed in 1943, beyond the Alaska defense force, to retake Attu and occupy Kiska, would have been very useful in the Central Pacific or elsewhere.

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Aleutians - warranted or a waste?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 18 Mar 2021 02:02

There was one other line of thinking. A idea of a 'northern approach' as a alternative. The furthest this went were some experimental air raids on Hokkaido island by a B24 Group based in the far north. That effort proved US technology could barely cope with the good day in the great white north, & no way a average day. Trying to establish a blockade of Japan from that direction was not as easy as it had looked on paper back at some sunny Army HQ offices in California.

daveshoup2MD
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Re: Aleutians - warranted or a waste?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 18 Mar 2021 04:46

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
18 Mar 2021 02:02
There was one other line of thinking. A idea of a 'northern approach' as a alternative. The furthest this went were some experimental air raids on Hokkaido island by a B24 Group based in the far north. That effort proved US technology could barely cope with the good day in the great white north, & no way a average day. Trying to establish a blockade of Japan from that direction was not as easy as it had looked on paper back at some sunny Army HQ offices in California.
Yes, the "victory through air power" adherents who could read a map, but not a weather precis.

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