Chapter 4: Occupation of Adak
On 5 August the Joint Chiefs of Staff had approved a plan to occupy Tanaga Island and construct an airfield there in order to deny the area to the enemy and to provide advance base support for offensive operations by our forces. This plan was to be carried out at such time as Task Force Tare could be augmented, "after certain commitments elsewhere had been met."12 Preparations, however, were to begin immediately. Extensive searches revealed no enemy operations east of Kiska, although it was probable that the Japanese had scouted other islands. Meanwhile, our submarines continued their aggressive support of the policy of "strong attrition."
30 August 1942
On 15 August the Gato (Lt. Comdr. William G. Myers) sank the 9,300-ton Kinka Maru in latitude 51º05' N., longitude 162º07' E. The next day the Triton, patrolling 60 miles northwest of Kiska, torpedoed an enemy cruiser or destroyer, which was said to have "disintegrated."
On 21 August, Admiral Theobald issued an operation plan covering the projected move to the west, which was now to culminate in the occupation of Adak. D-day was to be 30 August. It was assumed that the Japanese might have lookouts as far east as Adak itself and that they might be planning the early construction of airfields on that island and on Amchitka. On 28 August soldiers from the Alaska Defense Command, together with 40 combat intelligence scouts, landed at Kuluk Bay. No signs of the enemy were discovered. Search planes reported that Amchitka also was ostensibly unoccupied.
Available for the operation at Adak was approximately the same strength at the
beginning of the month. A few more planes were now on hand, however, as well as the destroyer Lawrence (Lt. Comdr. Henry T. Jarrell), one additional submarine, two more minesweepers, the Canadian auxiliary cruisers Prince David, Prince Henry, and Prince Robert, and two Canadian corvettes. The transports J. Franklin Bell (Capt. Herbert J. Grassie), St. Mihiel (Comdr. Edward B. Rogers), and Thomas Jefferson (Comdr. Chauncey R. Crutcher), the Army transport North Coast, and the merchant vessels Branch and Stanley Griffith had also arrived to carry the occupation force, which was to be commanded by Brig. Gen. Eugene Landrum, USA. The escort force, under Capt. Francis S. Craven of the Nashville, was to consist of that ship, the St. Louis, and the Brooks, Dent (now commanded by Lt. Comdr. Thurlow W. Davison), and Kane. The covering group, commanded by Rear Admiral Smith, was composed of the Indianapolis, Louisville, Honolulu, Gridley, McCall, and Reid (now commanded by Lt. Comdr. Harry H. McIlhenny). The transport group, under Capt. Herbert J. Grassie, was to include, in addition to the ships mentioned above, the over-age destroyers Humphreys (now commanded by Lt. Comdr. Robert C. Peden), King, Lawrence, and Sands.
The Air Striking Group had effected a concentration of all available heavy bombers and P-38s at Umnak in preparation for possible enemy opposition. As it turned out, the landing proper was accomplished without incident, but on the first day the tender Casco (Comdr. Willis E.
Cleaves) was struck by a small submarine torpedo while in Nazan Bay, Atka, and had to be beached. She was not refloated until 13 September.
As soon as the troops were ashore, work was begun on the first Adak airfield. By almost superhuman effort, the runway was completed by 12 September, thus advancing our westernmost base to within 250 miles of Kiska and altering the whole complexion of the air war.
It will be remembered that on 7 August we had landed in the Solomons, and on the 24th our carriers fought the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, first in a series of actions in support of Guadalcanal.
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