Forward to the NHC Edition
The Aleutians Campaign is one of a series of twenty-one published and thirteen unpublished Combat Narratives of specific naval campaigns that was produced by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. Selected volumes of this series are being republished by the Naval Historical Center as part of the Navy's program of commemorating the 50th anniversary of World War II.
The Combat Narratives were superseded long ago by accounts such as Samuel Eliot Morison's History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II, which could be more comprehensive and accurate because of the abundance of American, Allied, and enemy source materials that became available after 1945. But the Combat Narratives continue to be of interest and value since they demonstrate the perceptions of naval operations during the war itself. Because of the contemporary, immediate view offered by these studies, they are well suited for republication today as veterans, historians, and the American public turn their attention once again to a war that engulfed much of the world a half century ago.
The Combat Narrative program originated in a directive issued in February 1942 by Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, that instructed the Office of Naval Intelligence to prepare and disseminate these studies. A small team composed primarily of professionally trained writers and historians, including such noted scholars as Carl Bridenbaugh and C. Vann Woodward, produced these narratives. They based their accounts on research and analysis of the available primary source material, such as action reports and war diaries, augmented by interviews with individual participants. Since the narratives were classified Confidential during the war, only a few thousand copies of each were published at the time, and their distribution was primarily restricted to commissioned officers in the Navy.
The Aleutians Campaign, originally published as a Combat Narrative in May 1945, reefers to an area that Samuel Eliot Morison once described in his 15-volume history as a "theater of frustration." The Japanese invasion of Attu and Kiska during the Midway campaign of 1942 seemed
to indicate that the enemy sought to use the Aleutians island chain as a line of advance for operations against the North American mainland. But the severe climate of the Aleutians and the increasing attention given to other areas of the Pacific greatly diminished the strategic value of these islands. After the American reoccupation of Attu and Kiska in May 1943, the Aleutians Campaign became relatively inactive. "Both sides," in Morison's opinion, "would have done well to have left the Aleutians to the Aleuts for the course of the war."
While the Aleutians proved to be of minor strategic importance, their symbolic value to Americans was immeasurable. The reoccupation of Attu and Kiska, the only U.S. territory in the Western Hemisphere to fall to the enemy, was a matter of extreme national pride to the United States. The Aleutians Campaign also served as a laboratory for the further refinement of the doctrine for conducting amphibious operations. Finally, the Aleutians Campaign epitomized the definition of war as "hours of tedium punctuated with moments of sheer terror" as the contending forces struggled against each other for nearly fifteen months in the frigid waters and on the barren specks of land in the theater.
As was true for all of the Combat Narrative volumes, The Aleutian Campaign was originally published without author attribution. Naval records indicate, however, that Naval Reserve intelligence officer Lieutenant Colin G. Jameson was the narrative's principal author; he was assisted by Chief Petty Officer L.C. Smith. Prior to entering the Navy in 1942, Lieutenant Jameson was a free-lance short story writer who had published about 40 stories.
I wish to acknowledge the invaluable editorial and publication assistance offered in undertaking this project by the staff of the Naval Historical Center, including Mrs. Sandra K. Russell, Managing Editor, Naval Aviation News magazine; Commander Roger Zeimet, USNR, Naval Historical Center Reserve Detachment 206; and Dr. William S. Dudley, Senior Historian, Naval Historical Center. We also are grateful to Rear Admiral Kendell M. Pease, Jr., Chief of Information, and Capt. Jack Gallant, USNR, Executive Director, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps WW II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Committee, who generously allocated the funds from the Department of the Navy's World War II commemoration program that made this publication possible.
Dean C. Allard
Director of Naval History
Office of Naval Intelligence
1 March 1945
Combat Narratives are confidential publications issued under a directive of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations, for the information of commissioned officers of the U.S. Navy only.
Information printed herein should be guarded (a) in circulation and by custody measures for confidential publications a set forth in Articles 75
1/2 and 76 of Navy Regulations and (b) in avoiding discussion of this material within the hearing of any but commissioned officers. Combat Narratives are not to be removed from the ship or station for which they are provided. Reproduction of this material in any form is not authorized except by specific approval of the Director of Naval Intelligence.
Officer who have participated in the operations recounted herein are invited to forward to the Director of Naval Intelligence, via their commanding officers, accounts of personal experiences and observations which they esteem to have value for historical and instructional purposes. It is hoped that such contributions will increase the value of and render ever more authoritative such new editions of these publications as may be promulgated to the service in the future.
When the copies provided have served their purpose, they may be destroyed by burning. However, reports acknowledging receipt or destruction of these publications need not be made.
Rear Admiral, U.S.N.,
Director of Naval Intelligence
1 March 1945.
Combat Narratives have been prepared by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence for the information of the officers of the United States Navy.
The data on which these studies are based are those official documents which are suitable for a confidential publication. This material has been collated and presented in chronological order.
In perusing these narratives, the reader should bear in mind that while they recount in considerable detail the engagements in which our forces participated, certain underlying aspects of these operations must be kept in a secrete category until after the end of the war.
It should be remembered also that the observations of men in battle are sometimes at variance. As a result, the reports of commanding officers may differ although they participated in the same action and shared a common purpose. In general, Combat Narratives represent a reasoned interpretation of these discrepancies. In those instances where views cannot be reconciled, extracts from the conflicting evidence are reprinted.
Thus, an effort has been made to provide accurate and, within the above-mentioned limitations, complete narratives with charts covering raids, combats, joint operations, and battles in which our Fleets have engaged in the current war. It is hoped that these narratives will afford a clear view of what has occurred, and form a basis for a broader understanding which will result in ever more successful operations.
Fleet Admiral, U.S.N.,
Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations.
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