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In June 1942, just six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese soldiers landed on Attu and Kiska, two of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, marking the first time that American territory had been occupied since the War of 1812. Americans were shocked that Japanese troops had taken over any U.S. soil, no matter how remote. The Aleutian Islands were seen as a foothold to a possible Japanese invasion of Alaska or even the continental United States…
This film (originally titled as ‘Report from the Aleutians’) is a 1943 documentary film produced by the U.S. Army Signal Corps about the Aleutian Islands Campaign during World War 2. It is a cinematic record of U.S. military operations on the Aleutian Island of Adak to retake Japanese-occupied island of Kiska.
It is a very interesting film shot in color, a fairly accurate portrayal of the events. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. It was directed and narrated by John Huston while serving as captain in the U.S. army.
The film opens with a map showing the strategic significance of the Aleutian Islands. As Huston's father and co-narrator Walter Huston explains, the Aleutians are a chain of islands that extends about 1,200 miles west-southwest of the Alaskan peninsula towards Siberia. He details how the Japanese took advantage of the frequently moving curtain of storms over the region to land troops on the undefended island of Kiska.
In contrast to other documentaries made during World War 2, this film has relatively small amount of combat footage, and instead concentrates on daily activities of Army and Army Air Forces personnel on the isolated Adak Island. In order to show the reality of a wartime soldier's life, Huston included shots showing the monotony of Army life, e.g. latrine digging, cigarette smoking, eating, harbor patrols, etc.
The film shows the strong air, ground and naval defenses on Adak. It explains the role of the island as a base for air attacks on Japanese installations on nearby Kiska Island. The last twenty minutes or so of the film is taken from footage taken over an air raid mission over Japanese positions, wherein Huston nearly lost his life. The scenes of low level bombing runs conducted by B-17 and B-24 bombers over Kiska are noteworthy.
The film was shot and completed before the invasion of Kiska in August 1943 by U.S. and Canadian troops.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND / CONTEXT
The Aleutian Islands Campaign was a military campaign conducted by the United States in the Aleutian Islands, part of the Alaska Territory, in the Pacific theater of World War 2 starting on 3 June 1942. A small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska, where the remoteness of the islands and the challenges of weather and terrain delayed for nearly a year a larger U.S. / Canadian force to eject them. The islands' strategic value was their ability to control Pacific transportation routes, which is why U.S. General Billy Mitchell stated to the U.S. Congress in 1935, "I believe that in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world”. The Japanese reasoned that control of the Aleutians would prevent a possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific. Similarly, the U.S. feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to launch aerial assaults against the West Coast.
A battle to reclaim Attu was launched on May 11, 1943 and completed following a final Japanese banzai charge on May 29. On 15 August 1943, an invasion force landed on Kiska in the wake of a sustained three-week barrage, only to discover that the Japanese had withdrawn from the island on July 29.
The campaign is known as the "Forgotten Battle", due to its being overshadowed by the simultaneous Guadalcanal Campaign. In the past, many Western military historians believed it was a diversionary or feint attack during the Battle of Midway, meant to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet from Midway Atoll, as it was launched simultaneously under the same commander, Isoroku Yamamoto. However, historians Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully have argued against this interpretation, stating that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians to protect their northern flank, and did not intend it as a diversion.
Forgotten Battle of the Aleutian Islands | Alaska at War | WW2 Documentary in Color | 1943
NOTE: THE VIDEO DOCUMENTS HISTORICAL EVENTS. SINCE IT WAS PRODUCED DECADES AGO, IT CAN BE CONSIDERED AS A VALUABLE HISTORICAL DOCUMENT. THE VIDEO HAS BEEN UPLOADED WITH EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. ITS TOPIC IS REPRESENTED WITHIN HISTORICAL CONTEXT. THE VIDEO DOES NOT CONTAIN SENSITIVE SCENES AT ALL!