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The Aleutians 1942–43

The Aleutians 1942–43 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review July 2019 Title The Aleutians 1942–43
Author Brian Lane Herder Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2019 ISBN 9781472832542
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $24.00


Timed to coincide with the much more famous Battle of Midway, Imperial Japanese operations against Alaska produced the only Axis occupation of American territory in World War II.

Now Brian Lane Herder recaps the fighting in The Aleutians 1942–43: Struggle for the North Pacific – 333 in Osprey’s vast “Campaign” series.

Contents follow the publisher’s proven prescription.

After introductory remarks on Alaska’s strategic value and a useful chronology, contents traverse opposing commanders, forces, and plans. Text next turns to the campaign itself. And day-by-day, almost hour-by-hour, Herder chronicles combat.

Fascinating facts abound.

Like the “Kiska Blitz”. The “first mass airlift in US history”. The “only American civilians captured in the United States during World War II”. And, of course, the aircraft of 19-year-old Flight Petty Officer First Class Tadayoshi Koga.

Herder tackles myths, too.

Like “Western narratives” that, “Until 2005”, portrayed Japan’s plans as a “feint to lure US carriers from Midway”. And claims that a captured A6M Zero “directly inspire[d]” the F6F Hellcat.

Period color and B&W photos illustrate the effort. Maps help chart actions. And tables, extended captions, “aftermath” remarks, speculations, references, and index augment the account.

But don’t expect annotations. So if you seek the specific source of, say, Herder’s claim that the “US government naïvely imagined Stalin would return American [Lend Lease] generosity by allowing US forces to stage against Japan from nearby Siberia”, you’re out-of-luck.

Additionally, Osprey shouldn’t automatically assume, for instance, that novice readers instantly recognize “36 A6M2 Zero fighters and 36 G4M Betty bombers at Paramushiro” as Imperial Japanese Navy machines – or what “white installations” are. And when did OS2U Kingfishers acquire “tail-mounted” machine guns?

Finally, this book needs a glossary of abbreviations and terms. What does “SNLF” signify? And what makes airpower “[o]rganic”?

Nitpicks aside, Osprey’s handy history competently captures multidimensional Aleutians fighting. Make it your introduction to this frontline “backwater”.

A personal postscript: one of my paternal uncles served as an infantryman in the Aleutians. From the weather to the enemy to the weather, he hated nearly everything there – and agitated for transfer.

The U.S. Army obliged – and posted him to the Southwest Pacific as a “B.A.R. man”. He survived – but only after seeing extensive jungle action and, near war’s end, contracting malaria.

From the weather to the enemy to the weather, he hated nearly everything there, too.

The moral? Careful what you wish for!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!