Review and rating by Christopher Eric (Moon) Mullins
Author : Michal A Piegzik
General – Pages : 106 | Images : 68 b/w photos, 17 colour profiles, 5 b/w maps, 1 colour map, 7 diagrams, 39 tables
Paperback – Date of Publication : 6th December 2023 | Size : 297mm x 210mm | ISBN : 9781804513651 | Helion Book Code : HEL1746
A forgotten but important air campaign in the Aleutian Islands area. The author does a great job of calling out the details and importance of these air battles for the Alaskan archipelago.
The Aleutian Islands Campaign, unfolding from 1942 to 1943, wasn’t your typical World War II clash. It wasn’t fought on European plains or Pacific atolls, but on a remote string of islands stretching off the Alaskan coast, closer to the American heartland than most battlefields. Yet, within this unlikely setting, raged a fierce air war, etched in the icy skies above windswept peaks and fog-shrouded bays.
The Japanese, aiming to disrupt American supply lines and sow uncertainty about mainland invasion, struck first. Their surprise attack on Attu and Kiska islands in June 1942 caught the Americans off guard. But the skies above the Aleutians soon became a battleground for a motley crew of American P-40 Warhawks and B-25 Mitchells, pitted against the agile Japanese Zeros and Betty bombers.
This was no ordinary aerial confrontation. Both sides grappled with the brutal Aleutian environment. Biting winds, blinding fog, and treacherous terrain challenged every flight. Ingenious adaptations became the name of the game, with American crews donning fur-lined suits and tweaking their machines to withstand the unforgiving cold.
Gradually, the tide turned. American intelligence sharpened, allowing them to anticipate Japanese movements. Radar and radio direction finders became their eyes in the fog, revealing enemy maneuvers. Their aircraft, better suited to the unforgiving weather, gained the upper hand. Though not resounding victories, key clashes like the Battle of Dutch Harbor and the Battle of the Komandorski Islands chipped away at Japanese dominance.
By August 1943, the gamble had run dry for the Japanese. Facing relentless pressure and dwindling resources, they abandoned the Aleutians. The American air war, with its resilience and tactical prowess, had played a crucial role in reclaiming North American soil and securing a vital supply route to the Soviet Union.
Though often overshadowed by more prominent battles, the Aleutian Islands Campaign serves as a testament to human ingenuity and adaptability in the face of extreme adversity. It’s a story of aerial dogfights amidst blinding blizzards, of technological innovation on the fly, and ultimately, of American grit prevailing over formidable odds.
Rated 4 and 1/2 stars for readability, content and context