New World War 2 National Monument Includes Refuge Lands
The largest intact collection of Japanese artillery pieces in the world is on Kiska Island.
Photo Credit: Kent Sundseth/USFWS
B-24D Liberator bombers, such as this one which crashed due to weather on Atka, played a significant role in WWII in the Aleutians.
Photo Credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS
The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument was created by Presidential Proclamation on December 5, 2008 by President Bush. Sites on the Aleutian Islands of Attu, Kiska and Atka, all within the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, were included in the monument; as were other locations in Hawaii and California. Bush said the monument would remind generations of Americans of the sacrifices that were made to protect our country, and of the transformative effect of freedom.
The three island sites are: the crash site of a B-24D Liberator bomber on Atka, the Japanese occupation site on Kiska, and the location of the sole WWII land battle fought in North America, on Attu. Kiska and Attu were both occupied by the Japanese in 1942, and were the only places on the U.S. mainland to be occupied by enemy forces during WWII.
The Kiska site contains historic relics of the Japanese occupation, including coastal and antiaircraft defenses, camps, roads, a submarine base and other installations, numerous bomb craters from the Allied aerial campaign, and the Allied defenses that remained after the island was retaken.
Attu was the site of the 19-day battle to recapture the island, one of the bloodiest struggles in the Pacific. The four monument sites on Attu are: the Japanese base at Holtz Bay, and the scenes of fierce fighting on Sarana Nose, Fish Hook Ridge, and Engineer Hill. On Engineer Hill Seabees and medics held off banzai charges by the Japanese in their final desperate attempt to drive back the American advance. With defeat, many of the Japanese took their own lives, leaving less than 30 alive from the original occupying force of 2,300.
The Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska was intended to divert American troops and ships from the central Pacific theater, particularly Midway, and to strike a psychological blow against the U.S by occupying American soil. It also marked the peak of Japan's military expansion in the Pacific. The occupation of this remote part of the North American continent succeeded in creating concern among Americans, however briefly, that it might represent the beginning of an invasion of the United States through Alaska. The American recapture of the island provided a needed morale boost to the nation.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service archeologist Debbie Corbett, Kiska and Attu, because of their isolation and climate, are some of the best preserved WWII battlefields in the world. A management plan will be prepared over the next three years to outline actions that will enhance the protection, interpretation, and public understanding and appreciation of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and of the broader story of WWII in the Pacific. The new monument has a website at https://pwrcms.nps.gov/customcf/apps/ww2ip/ . More information about World War II actions within the refuge can be found on the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge web site at http://alaskamaritime.fws.gov/.