The Americans were better prepared on this second day of fighting and, with photographs taken during the first raid, so were the Japanese. They knocked out a tank farm, set ablaze the Northwestern, a former passenger ship pressed into service as barracks, a vacant Bureau of Indian Affairs hospital, warehouse and hangar facilities.
The raiders regrouped at a predetermined point off Umnak Island where they were confronted by Col. John Chennault's P-40s. The Japanese had not known that an American field was in the area. The Americans, still struggling with spotty radio connections, had no news from Dutch Harbor; they had taken to the air as a precaution since the island had no ground defences.
The ensuing dogfight took a toll on both sides. But the bulk of the Japanese force made it back to the carriers. The planes were stowed below and the fleet steered back into the fog.
They left behind one important trophy. A disabled Zero crashed on Akutan Island, killing the pilot but leaving the plane mostly intact. Americans retrieved and rebuilt the machine, testing it against their best fighters and discovering the feared warplane's Achilles' heel -- its formidable speed was the result of minimum armor.
People in Anchorage had bare bones information. The Anchorage Times ran a hastily prepared extra edition with the giant-print headline, "Raid Dutch Harbor!" But the accompanying "story" was merely a press brief.
Gruening issued a short message, "To the people of Alaska: The anticipated air raid on Alaska began this morning with an air attack by Jap planes on Dutch Harbor" -- with no other details.
Information about the fighting was frustratingly scattershot. Reports came in that Japanese ships had been sunk, that air raids on Anchorage loomed, that enemy soldiers had invaded Attu and been fought off by the brave villagers.
None of this was true, but it satisfied the curious more than the official declaration on June 8 that, due to bad weather "the situation is still obscure." Adm. Ernest King, Fleet Commander, went on the record saying, "We have none too clear a picture of what is going on (in the Aleutians), but it is going on."
Meanwhile, residents were told that the blackout would be strictly enforced.
It would be days or weeks before the scope of the incursion was reported, including the sobering information that Japanese troops had indeed landed on two Alaska islands, capturing the weather crew on Kiska and sending the Attu villagers to internment camps in Japan.
For the next 18 months the recapture of the Alaska islands was a primary focus for the military. Tens of thousands of troops, up-to-date warships and state-of-the-art planes poured into the territory. Radios and radar worked. A road from the states was pushed through in record time.
This second phase ended with a U.S. Navy victory in the Battle of the Komandorski Islands, the bloody Battle of Attu and a remarkable bloodless evacuation of the occupation force from Kiska. By the end of the war American bombers were striking Japan from the air base on Shemya Island. The overland route sending American planes to the Soviet Union via Fairbanks and Nome is credited with turning the tide on the Russian Front.
Despite that, Alaska's role in World War II is largely unrecognized. The proposition that the government covered up Alaska battles to protect civilian morale is a myth, said Cloe.
"There was a lot of coverage at the time," he said. "There were big spreads on the Aleutians and Dutch Harbor in Life magazine. There was no cover-up."
Instead, Cloe suggests, the bombing was overshadowed by bigger events that followed it -- D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Hiroshima. The Dutch Harbor casualty list of less than 100 American and Japanese dead pales next to the 3,300 or more who died in the simultaneous Battle of Midway.
The real legacy of the battle has less to do with war than with peace. When those bombs fell, 70 years ago today, they brought not just destruction but the seeds of coming prosperity. War in Alaska turned serious and the haphazard backwater afterthought, a dumping ground for old equipment and token commands, was suddenly transformed into a fortress and major depot as big and modern and efficient as military planners could make it. That status grew as the threat from Japan ended and the threat from the Soviet Union emerged.
Military spending replaced the gold, coal and fur that had sustained Alaska before the war, ushering in two booming decades that would see the territory to statehood and keep it growing until oil became the state's major economic engine.
In the process, the sleepy village of Anchorage became a large, permanent city.
"Anchorage pioneers who bet their grubstakes on the federal government had guessed right, or had just lucked out," writes Haycox. "It was an El Dorado the likes of which had never been seen in the Great Land before."
A bonanza still evident in every neighbor in uniform who drives through the Boniface gate to their job of defending the country every morning and every fighter jet that roars over Muldoon.
Numerous books about Alaska's role in World War II have been written, sometimes presenting conflicting information and conclusions. Here are three worth noting:
"The Thousand-mile War," by Brian Garfield, is widely considered a classic of historical research presented in the fluid style of an accomplished novelist and screenwriter. It has most recently been republished by the University of Alaska Press.
"Alaska at War," edited by Fern Chandonnet, is an invaluable collection of papers delivered at the Alaska at War Symposium conducted in Anchorage in 1993. It includes essays and first-person narratives by both American and Japanese. It is available as an e-book and a print edition from University of Alaska Press.
"The Aleutian Warriors," by John Haile Cloe, is a carefully detailed account of the campaign with special focus on air power and including hundreds of historical photos along with a good index. A labor of love, it was originally published by the Anchorage Chapter of the Air Force Association and it is no longer in print; however, Cloe says a reissuing and second volume are in the works.
Most Popular Stories
- Accenture Gets 8 Percent Bump in Q1
- Lockheed Martin Ends Gifts to Boy Scouts Over Gay Ban
- Texting With Vodka: Booze and Social Media Can Mix After All
- Menendez Pushes for Iran Sanctions
- Stripped-Down Defense Bill Creates Winners, Losers
- Mazda Leads the Pack for Fuel Efficiency
- Debt Ceiling Looms Again as Deadline Approaches
- How to Protect Yourself After Target Data Breach
- Deportation Threat Looms Larger Than Citizenship Among Hispanics
- Baucus May Be Next China Ambassador