What happened when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor

The first Japanese attack began early in the morning of June 3, 1942. More than thirty Japanese planes take off from aircraft carriers cruising the North Pacific. The pilots set course for Dutch Harbor, a small port located half on Unalaska and half on Amaknak, two islands in the center of the Aleutian Islands. The chain of islands between North America and Asia on the southern edge of the Bering Sea belongs to Alaska, the northernmost state in the USA.

It was six months ago that Tokyo bombed the US naval base Peal Harbor, forcing the United States into World War II. Against the inferno in Hawaii, the military strike in the far north is quite small.

The first attack led by Admiral Kakuji Kakuta took less than half an hour; 23 American soldiers are killed and 25 others are injured.

The American units on the base are prepared for an imminent attack thanks to the decryption of Japanese communications. Even so, they do not receive an explicit warning. On June 4th, the Japanese appear again in the sky, this time south of Dutch Harbor. War equipment, tank farms, merchant ships and barracks are destroyed.

The "Battle of Dutch Harbor" is a largely forgotten piece of world war history - but also one that is not very easy to explain. The attack is part of a major Japanese offensive: Japanese armed forces quickly attack allied posts in India, Singapore and Australia. For Tokyo, the focus is on supremacy over the Pacific - this is an important step towards building a Greater Asian Empire under Japanese rule. The Aleutian Islands are another stop away from the Japanese heartland.

Exult in Hitler's Germany

The attack in Alaska received a lot of attention in Hitler's Germany. The attack by the allied Japan is cheered in the press, which has been brought into line. In the output of the Munich latest news of June 5, 1942, it is said that the "bold undertaking" testifies "to the unimaginable range of Japanese weapons". Japanese warfare is "the work of uncanny energies and an imperial spirit." And: "Every enemy warship newly sunk or badly damaged by the Japanese is a relief for our own European sea fronts."

Attempts to explain "Japan's lightning-fast maritime strategy" are obviously difficult for German commentators. So they suspect Munich Latest News, that the Aleutians actually pose a threat to the Japanese Empire. On June 6, the theory was that the attack on Dutch Harbor was merely a diversionary maneuver from other Japanese attacks.

A mini-Japanese invasion follows. The soldiers of the Tenno occupy the islands of Kiska and Attu, the resistance is low. The world war thus arrived not only from the air, but also on land on the territory of the United States of America.

Less than a week later, they suspect Munich latest news, Dutch Harbor could be a first stage for a later attack on the American mainland. US General Simon Buckner Junior commented on the latter with the words: "They (the Japanese) could make it, but their grandchildren would first arrive (on the mainland); by then they would all be American citizens anyway!"

So why the attacks on Dutch Harbor, why the occupation of two islands? The North Pacific outpost of the Americans off Alaska was largely insignificant from a military point of view, and the geographic and climatic conditions of the Aleutians were sometimes catastrophic. Especially in June, the constant fog makes navigation difficult, and rocky bays make sea maneuvers highly risky. The two most common explanations for the attack amount to a failed diversion from other Pacific theaters of war or a fatal misjudgment of the military importance of the Aleutians for the American military.

In fact, one day later, on June 4th, the Japanese Navy attacked American positions on the Midway Islands in the central Pacific. The losses suffered by the Japanese are devastating. Instead of luring US forces to Alaska, the Japanese get tangled up in a military stalemate. At Midway, they lack military capacity. Historians see the Japanese defeat at Midway as a turning point in favor of the Americans in the struggle for supremacy in the Pacific.

The fate of the native Aleut people

The attack on Dutch Harbor and the occupation of the two islands were not without consequences. The following battle for the Aleutians lasted a whole year. It is a year of war on American territory that costs enormous amounts of energy, ultimately leads to reconquest - and is almost forgotten today.

In addition to more than 4,000 deaths on the Japanese side and 1,400 American deaths, the native Aleut people in particular suffered from the fighting: After the Japanese attacks in 1942, 881 Unangax from the western islands were forcibly relocated by the US government to camps in Southeast Alaska, in order not to to fall into Japanese hands.

Their houses are burned, one in ten do not survive the catastrophic storage conditions. It was not until 1988 that the forgotten victims of this forgotten theater of war were compensated by the US government.