Known to historians as the "Forgotten War," the Aleutian Campaign began on June 3rd, 1942 when Japanese planes bombed Unalaska and Amaknak Islands. Tens of thousands of troops mobilized to the Aleutians to defend the backdoor to the United States as the Japanese Northern Garrison occupied the western islands of Attu and Kiska. The 1943 Battle of Attu reclaimed the island; however, its residents would never reclaim their homeland. Captured by the Japanese and held prisoners of war for three years, the Attuans survived horrific conditions.

The Unangax̂ from nine other villages were relocated to substandard cannery and mining buildings in Southeast Alaska by the federal government, their homes and villages vandalized by U.S. troops, their beloved churches neglected, and their archeological sites looted for recreation. Of the 880 Unangax̂ who where removed or captured, nearly 100 died.
The Navy barracks in Dutch Harbor burn after they were struck by Japanese bombs on 4 June, 1942.

Raid on Dutch Harbor! June 3-4, 1942

Nearly six months to the day after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese struck again on American soil. The bombing of Dutch Harbor signalled the beginning of the Aleutian Campaign and led, in part, to the evacuation and internment of American civilians for the duration of the war. Learn more about the bombing of Dutch Harbor, the Japanese pilots, the American defenders, the innocent victims, and the aftermath.

Historic photo of five Japanese men posing in winter coats and hats

The Japanese Invade, June 6 - 7, 1942

In early June, 1942, the Japanese followed the Dutch Harbor raid with an invasion of American soil. After months of reconnaissance, they landed on Kiska and Attu Islands in the Western Aleutians, over 1,000 miles from Dutch Harbor. On Kiska, they took a small Naval weather crew captive; on Attu, they took the whole village hostage, later shipping them back to Japan as prisoners of war.

Read more about the Japanese invasion and the 1943 re-taking of the island by American forces.
A family from St. Paul waits on the dock for the Delarof to take them away.

Evacuation and Internment, 1942 - 1945

In the aftermath of the Japanese invasion, U.S. authorities scrambled to get civilians out of the war zone. As a result, nearly 900 Unangax̂ (Aleut) people were suddenly uprooted, evacuated from their homes with only a suitcase each, crammed onto crowded transport ships, and taken to internment camps in Southeast Alaska. They would remain in dismal, crowded conditions, suffering from disease and malnutrition, for three long years. Learn more about this little-known chapter in American history.

Even after the war, some villages remained empty, their residents forbidden to return. Ostensibly for their own safety, the U.S. Government did not allow the Unangax̂ displaced from Attu, Biorka, Kashega, and Makushin - the Lost Villages - to resettle.

handwritten letter

Memoirs from Servicemen

Reflecting on their experiences later in life, some of the Aleutian veterans have written about their time in the military and Alaska.

Additional Stories and Unit Histories

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    Last updated: July 27, 2023

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    Aleutian Islands WWII Visitor Center
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    Unalaska, AK 99692



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