This day in 1942 was all about a world caught up in war. Fighting seemingly everywhere. News of a German offensive going on in the Libyan Desert near Tobruk. Hints of a major Western Front looming as U.S. troops landed in Ireland. Intense fighting near Sebastopol on the Eastern Front. And news of a Japanese landing of some 1,400 troops on the furthest-most island of the Aleutians off Alaska, marking the first time the Japanese had set foot on the Western Hemisphere since the beginning of the war. The Japanese invasions and occupations of Kiska on June 6 and Attu on June 7 1942 shocked the American public, as the continental United States was invaded for the first time in 130 years since 1815 (during the War of 1812). The invading forces initially met little resistance from the local Unangax, also known as Aleuts. Though the U.S. Navy had offered to evacuate Attu in May 1942, the Attuan Unangax chief declined. Little changed for the Unangax under Japanese occupation until September 1942 when Japan’s Aleutian strategy shifted. It was at this point that the Unangax were taken to Hokkaido, Japan, and placed in an internment camp.
The invasion of Attu and imprisonment of the local Unangax became the justification for the United States’ policy of forcible evacuation of the Unangax in the Aleutian Islands. Unangan civilians were placed in internment camps in the Alaska Panhandle.
US military propaganda poster from 1942/43 for Thirteenth Naval District, US Navy, showing a rat with stereotypical attire representing Japan approaching a mousetrap labeled “Army – Navy – Civilian,” on a background map of the Alaska Territory, referred to as future “Death-Trap For The Jap.”
Many Americans feared that the Japanese would use the islands as bases to strike within range along the rest of the US West Coast. Although the West Coast was subject to attack several times in the past six months (including unrestricted submarine warfare in coastal waters, the bombardment of Ellwood in California and the bombardment of Fort Stevens in Oregon), the Aleutians Islands Campaign of June 1942 was the first major operation by a foreign enemy in the American Theater
Rubber drives began in earnest; calls for scrap rubber in any quantity were needed for the War Effort. And V-Mail was introduced as a way of speeding up delivery of letters to troops stationed overseas.
It was looking to be a long haul.
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