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A Glimpse into the Fog: The Military History and Legacy of the Aleutian Islands

Updated: May 25, 2023

The Aleutian Islands, a chain of 14 large volcanic islands and 55 smaller ones, stretch across the North Pacific Ocean forming part of the U.S. state of Alaska. These remote, fog-shrouded islands may seem an unlikely stage for a pivotal World War II campaign, yet they hold a unique place in military history.

During World War II, the Aleutian Islands became a battleground in the Pacific. The Japanese invasion of the islands of Attu and Kiska in June 1942 marked the only time during the war that enemy forces occupied American soil. This operation aimed to divert U.S. attention from the main theater in Midway, but it opened up a new front in the remote Aleutians.

The U.S. military response was swift and determined. The campaign to reclaim the islands was marked by harsh weather conditions, difficult terrain, and fierce resistance. The Battle of Attu in May 1943 was particularly brutal, with high casualties on both sides. In a strange turn of events, when U.S. and Canadian forces moved to retake Kiska in August 1943, they found the island deserted, as the Japanese had secretly withdrawn under the cover of fog.

In the years following WWII, the Aleutian Islands served as a strategic location during the Cold War. The radar stations established on the islands were part of a defensive early warning line designed to detect incoming Soviet bombers.

Today, the Aleutian Islands serve as a poignant reminder of a hard-fought campaign in a distant corner of World War II. The remnants of military installations, amidst the rugged beauty of the islands, bear silent witness to the resilience and determination of the forces that fought there.

Moreover, the Department of Defense has been involved in the Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) program, which aims to clean up and restore military sites from any era, including some of those in the Aleutians. This ongoing work is essential to addressing environmental issues and preserving the islands for future generations. The legacy of military action, then, is not only written in the annals of history but also in the continuous efforts to heal and protect these remote and beautiful lands.

Management Solutions is proud to support a Department of Defense client with the preparation of Finding and Determination of Eligibility (FDE) documents for over a hundred Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) properties, including some in the Aleutian Islands. Management Solutions performs day-to-day project management of the process, archival research, and final production of all project deliverables. Management Solutions’ staff archaeologist Madeline Laderoute is involved in research on the project. “The great thing about doing research for the FUDS program (Formerly Used Defense Sites) is getting to learn about all the little details that make up the larger picture of United States Military History,” says Laderoute.

Photo credit: 9-lens aerial photograph provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District

Disclaimer: The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

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