Aleutian air war only WWII fight waged on North American soil
Primarily an air war, the Aleutian Campaign was the only World War II campaign fought on North American soil.
It ended with the reoccupation of Kiska Island on Aug. 15, 1943, according to a history of the 11th Air Force posted on the Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, Web site.
To manage the buildup of Army air forces in Alaska, the Alaskan Air Force was activated at Elmendorf Field in January 1942 and redesignated the 11th Air Force on Feb. 5, 1942.
Following the Japanese bombing of Dutch Harbor in the eastern Aleutian Islands and the occupation of Attu and Kiska in the western Aleutians in early June 1942, the 11th Air Force launched an air offensive on the two islands.
Missions were flown initially from Cape Field on Umnak Island in the eastern Aleutians and later from fields on Adak and Amchitka.
The air attacks on Kiska were substantial.
During June, July and August, 11th Air Force pilots flew 1,775 sorties and dropped 1,405 tons of bombs on the island.
Airstrikes were called in with the help of Navy PBY-class reconnaissance aircraft.
When a combined force of 33,000 Canadian and U.S. troops landed Aug. 15, they found Kiska abandoned.
Without detection, the Japanese had evacuated their garrison of more than 5,000 from the island under cover of fog on July 12.
Headquarters 11th Air Force was moved to Davis Field, on Adak, in early 1943.
The 11th Air Force flew 297 missions and dropped 3,662 tons of bombs during the Aleutian campaign.
But the action took a toll on pilots and air crews — 114 men were killed in action, another 42 were reported missing and 46 died as a result of accidents, according to historical records.
Thirty-five aircraft were lost to combat and another 150 to operational incidents. That’s the highest American combat-to-operational loss ratio of the war.
The 11th Air Force destroyed approximately 60 Japanese aircraft, seven transport ships, a destroyer and submarine.
Following the occupation of Kiska, the 11th Air Force flew bombing and reconnaissance missions against Japanese military installations in the northern Kurile Islands north of Hokkaido. The missions were flown from Attu and Shemya islands.
The first land-based bombing mission of the World War II against Japanese home islands was launched from Attu on July 10, 1943.