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Operation Cottage was the code name for the last operation of the Aleutian Island Campaign in which the Allies invaded Kiska island. The operation lasted for a few days from its beginning on August 15, 1943 to August 17, 1943. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the operation was that just prior to the Allied invasion, the entire Japanese garrison had abandoned the island, leaving only empty fortifications and mined paths to traverse. Regardless, even with no actual Japanese on the island, the Allies suffered over 300 casualties.

Of these, twenty-four personnel were shot, four were killed by booby traps, over one hundred suffered from trench foot, the USS Abner Read lost 71 due to hitting a stray mine, and 191 went missing in action.[1]

Planning

Allied

Allied interest in capturing the island of Kiska began following the successful capture of Attu, leaving only the island of kiska left to be captured. The Canadian Army Pacific Command was anxious to have its troops face combat for the first time and thus was included in the planning for the attack. Following the bloody fighting on Attu, Allied military planners made sure to anticipate heavy fighting on the island. In order to allow troops to be sent to Kiska, the Canadian government was forced to expand its definition of Home Defense, meaning that many of the troops sent to Kiska were freshly trained conscripts given largely American equipment.[2] For the invasion, American and Canadian forces were to land at different landing sites.

The Battle

Prelude

Kiska was invaded by the Japanese on June 7, 1942 by a force of some 500 SNLF soldiers. The island of Kiska was left for last in the Aleutian campaign largely for its considerably larger garrison of Japanese troops. Sightings made by a British B-24A bomber of ships in the island's harbor only confirmed the suspicion of large concentrations of Japanese on the island. Following this event, the bombing of Kiska began, forcing the Japanese garrison to restrict their movements. Further hampering the Japanese occupation, an American naval blockade isolated the island. Sensing a hopeless situation, Japanese submarines began evacuation of the island on July 28, 1943 with all 5,183 personnel gone, completely unbeknownst to the US Navy.

Invasion

The invasion of Kiska began on August 15, 1943. The invasion fleet, consisting of three battleships, two cruisers, and nineteen destroyers, bombarded Japanese positions prior to the initial landings which were first conducted by elements of the First Special Service Force in both landing zones, American and Canadian.[3] Landing on D+1 would be the Canadian 13th Infantry Brigade, an element of the 6th Canadian Infantry Division. In the fog, Canadian and American troops promptly opened fire on each other, mistaking one another for Japanese troops, resulting in significant casualties for both sides. Over the next few days, many more Allied troops would go missing in action, die to enemy mines, or simply suffer from trench foot, marking the invasion effectively as an embarrassing event for Allied forces, though it did result in the end of the Aleutian Island Campaign.

Among the casualties were 71 aboard the USS Abner Read which struck a mine while patrolling the waters around Kiska. One unexpected find however, was the discovery of a dog nicknamed 'Explosion', which had survived for over a year since its owners, the American sailors captured by the Japanese marines in the initial landing, had been sent to POW camps.[1] Following the events of Operation Cottage, the vast majority of personnel were evacuated out, with some staying behind to help construct new air facilities on the island.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 http://www.hlswilliwaw.com/aleutians/kiska-homepage.htm
  2. http://canadianheroes.org/henri/the-battle-for-kiska-story.htm
  3. http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/operations/operationcottage.htm


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