Invasion of Kiska

Three planes fly in front of a cloud-capped volcano, with the ocean below.
Three PV-1 (Ventura) planes fly by cloud-capped Kiska Volcano during the Allied invasion of Kiska on August 15, 1943.

National Archives

This is a short pictorial summary of the World War II events that occurred on Kiska. For a more detailed account, explore The Silent Sentinels article.

On June 7, 1942, the Japanese invaded the Aleutian island of Kiska.

"Push the enemy into the sea. Get Kiska back." Instruction to the 11th Army Air Force and Navy Patrol Wing 4

Kiska Aerological Unit group photo
Standing from left to right: J. L. Turner, AG2c; R. L. Coffield, PharM; W. C. House, AG1c; Nulla; L. Eckles, GM; GunM; L. Yagnoneli, PhotoM;  and M. Courtenay, RdM3c. Kneeling left to right: J. C. McCandless, Cook3c; R. Christensen, RdM2c; W. M. Winfrey, AG2c (with dog “Explosion”); G.T. Palmer, S1c; and W. Gaffey, S1c.

Courtesy Ralph Carrigan, brother of Paul E. Carrigan, Aerographer’s Mate 2nd Class, US Navy, Circa 1942-1943.


The island’s sole inhabitants of the island were the crew of the U.S. Aerological Detail who fled to the hills when the Japanese attacked on June 6; most were captured after a few days. Senior Petty Officer William C. House managed to remain at large for 50 days eating only plants and earthworms until, weighing a mere 80 pounds, he was forced to choose between capture and starvation and surrendered to the Japanese.

“We can’t understand... why we continue to send our (air)men out into this God awful stuff against a target which can’t be seen...” 11th Air Force Squadron Commander

Men in uniform stand in front of plane that has "Kiska Katie" painted on it.
Pilot and crew pose with the bomber “Kiska Katie,” in 1942/1943.

U.S. National Archives

Kiska, 1943

In the following year, the 11th Army Air Force and Navy Patrol Wing 4 dropped seven million pounds of bombs on the Japanese on Kiska. The pilots, many of whom were fresh out of flight school, had to contend with both Japanese anti-aircraft fire and the unpredictable Aleutian weather. Fog, hurricane -force winds, and freezing temperatures were responsible for scores of deaths. The relentless bombing, coordinated with an Allied blockade, strangled the Japanese supply line to Kiska and Attu and prepared the way for an Allied (American and Canadian) invasion in August, 1943.

“We... threw our rifles and bayonets into the water and then went away. They never saw us.” Karl Kasukabe, Japanese veteran of Kiska


On July 29, 1943, the Japanese forces on Kiska executed a daring escape plan. They wired “Kiska City” with demolition charges and destroyed supplies, ammunition, and buildings. During the night, the US battleships that circled Kiska were diverted by radar blips that they mistakenly interpreted as a Japanese evacuation fleet. In their absence, the real evacuation fleet of eight warships steamed into Kiska Harbor. In 55 minutes the entire Japanese force of over 5,000 men boarded the vessels and drifted off silently under the cover of darkness.

“The island appears desolate and unoccupied.” Billy Wheeler, 36th Squadron, August, 1943

Men crowd onto a submarine with water in the background.
The first round of Japanese soldiers escaped from Kiska in the summer of 1943 by submarine. Eventually, the Japanese were forced to abandon the use of submarines as evacuation vessels because of high casualty rates and depend instead on a surface fleet to evacuate.

National Archives

Seated man pets dog, with other men and a wooden building in background.
An Allied soldier pets Explosion, one of half a dozen dogs that originally belonged to the Aerological Detail on Kiska. Cared for by the Japanese, the dogs survived the relentless Allied bombardment of Kiska. August, 1943.

US National Archives


Nearly 35,000 Allied troops landed on Kiska on August 15, 1943. The original plan was to invade Kiska in the spring, before Attu, but the invasion was postponed to allow the Allies time to gather the resources they needed for a major attack. Allied troops expected to meet a Japanese force several times the size of the one on Attu, and they were prepared for heavy casualties. The men were greeted instead by half a dozen dogs, among them “Explosion,” who originally belonged to the captured Kiska Aerological Detail, and who the Japanese had cared for during the occupation.

Men pose holding a large flag with the rising sun on it, in front of small hills and wooden buildings..
A Japanese flag on Kiska captured by members of the Royal Canadian Fusiliers. August 23, 1943.

National Archives

Allied commanders refused to believe that the Japanese could have completely evacuated Kiska. For eight days, troops searched the island, firing into the dense fog and sometimes accidentally shooting their comrades. 24 Allied soldiers were killed by friendly fire, four by Japanese booby traps, and a further 71 died when the ship Abner Read struck a floating mine. 168 Allied soldiers were wounded or fell ill on Kiska. The bombardment and invasion of the deserted island was written off as a “training exercise,” and the Aleutian Campaign officially ended after 439 days of warfare.

Learn more about the Underwater Battlefield that remains in this article from NOAA.

Older men with gray or white hair standing inside a hall.
The 1998 reunion of Battery #411, who retook Kiska in 1943. From left: Fritz Waldvogel, "Beans" Beale, Charles Henry, Jim English, Red McCharque, Roger Jeanfaivre.

Courtesy of Roger Jeanfaivre

Aleutian Islands World War II National Historic Area

Last updated: July 27, 2023