An 11th Air Force B-25 based in the Aleutian Islands leads an attack on an enemy convoy near the Kurile Islands. This air strike left six Japanese vessels either sunk or damaged. (U.S. Air Force photo)
DAYTON, Ohio -- On the left is a Japanese electrically heated flight suit, and on the right is an AAF cold weather flying suit issued in Alaska for trials in 1941-1942. The Japanese flight suit was donated by Jacques E. Young from Dayton, Ohio. The AAF suit was donated by Col. (Ret.) F.B. Gallagher from Pinellas, Fla. Both are on display in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
As a diversionary move in conjunction with their strike against Midway, the Japanese in June 1942 bombed Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Island chain and landed troops on Kiska and Attu islands. Here the Japanese remained, primarily in a defensive situation, to prevent any movement by American forces toward Japan through the Aleutians. Aerial operations by the enemy and by the 11th Air Force were often restricted by severe weather, and in general, it was a struggle against nature rather than against rival enemy forces. During the first six months of the campaign, the 11th Air Force lost 72 planes, nine of which were destroyed in combat.
In May 1943 American forces seized Attu, and on July 10, the AAF began using it as a base for raids against the Kurile Islands. When U.S. troops invaded Kiska on Aug. 15, they found the enemy had already given up its foothold on the North American outpost two weeks before. Bombing raids against the Kuriles were limited, although the presence of American forces immobilized substantial numbers of enemy aircraft as a defense against a major attack on the northern Japanese islands that never came.