Battle of Dutch Harbor

Last updated
Battle of Dutch Harbor
Part of the American Theater of World War II
Japanese Attack at Dutch Harbor.jpg
Buildings burning after Japanese air attacks on Dutch Harbor, circa 3 June 1942.
DateJune 3–4, 1942
Location 53°53′15″N166°32′32″W / 53.88750°N 166.54222°W / 53.88750; -166.54222 Coordinates: 53°53′15″N166°32′32″W / 53.88750°N 166.54222°W / 53.88750; -166.54222
Result Japanese victory
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Robert Theobald
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Simon Buckner
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Archibald Arnold
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg Kakuji Kakuta
37th Infantry Regiment
206th Coast Artillery (AA)
1 search light battery
6 anti-aircraft batteries
U.S. Marines
30 aircraft
2 light carrier
3 cruisers
5 destroyers
86 aircraft
Casualties and losses
43 dead
50 wounded
14 aircraft destroyed
1 barracks ship destroyed
10 killed
5 captured
8 aircraft destroyed
1 aircraft captured [1]

The Battle of Dutch Harbor took place on June 3–4, 1942, when the Imperial Japanese Navy launched two aircraft carrier raids on the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and U.S. Army Fort Mears at Dutch Harbor on Amaknak Island, during the Aleutian Islands Campaign of World War II. The bombing marked the first aerial attack by an enemy on the continental United States, and was the second time in history that the continental U.S. was bombed by someone working for a foreign power, the first being the bombing of Naco, Arizona by Patrick Murphy despite being an accident.



In this battle, a Japanese aircraft carrier strike force under Kakuji Kakuta launched air attacks over two days against the Dutch Harbor Naval Base and Fort Mears [2] in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The attacks inflicted moderate damage on the U.S. base. Shortly thereafter, Japanese naval forces under Boshiro Hosogaya invaded and occupied Attu and Kiska islands in the Aleutians.


Dutch Harbor was ringed with anti aircraft artillery batteries from the 206th Coast Artillery (Anti Aircraft), Arkansas National Guard, and was one of key targets protected by the Eleventh Air Force based out of mainland Alaska. [3] The 206th CA (AA) was deployed to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, in August 1941 and had been on station for approximately four months when the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7. The 206th CA was equipped with the 3-inch Gun M1918 (an older model with a vertical range of 26,902 ft (8,200 m)), .50in (12.7mm) M2 Browning machine guns, and 60 in (150 cm) Sperry searchlights. The 206th had one radar in position at Dutch Harbor at the time of the attack. In the harbor were two old destroyers, King and Talbot, destroyer-seaplane tender Gillis, submarine S-27, Coast Guard cutter Onondaga, and U.S. Army transports President Fillmore and Morlen. [4]


On June 3, 1942, a Japanese carrier strike force, under the command of Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta, comprising the carriers Ryūjō and Jun'yō, plus escort ships, sailed to 180  mi (160  nmi ; 290  km ) southwest of Dutch Harbor to launch air strikes at the United States Army and United States Navy facility to support a Japanese offensive in the Aleutians and in the central Pacific at Midway. The Japanese planned to occupy islands in the Aleutians in order to extend their defensive perimeter in the North Pacific to make it more difficult for the U.S. to attack Japan from that area.

U.S. Marines observing the battle from trench positions, June 3, 1942 Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor, June 3, 1942. Group of Marines on the "alert" between attacks. Smoke from burning... - NARA - 520589.tif
U.S. Marines observing the battle from trench positions, June 3, 1942

Shortly before dawn at 02:58, given the geographic latitude and longitude, Admiral Kakuta ordered his aircraft carriers to launch their strike which was made up of 12 A6M Zero fighters, 10 B5N Kate high-level bombers, and 12 D3A Val dive bombers which took off from the two small carriers in the freezing weather to strike at Dutch Harbor. One B5N was lost on takeoff from Ryujo.

The planes arrived over the harbor at 04:07, and attacked the town's radio station and oil storage tanks causing some damage. Many members of the 206th were awakened on June 3 by the sound of bombs and gunfire. While the unit had been on alert for an attack for many days, there was no specific warning of the attack before the Japanese planes arrived over Dutch Harbor. With no clear direction from headquarters, gun crews from every battery quickly realized the danger, ran to their guns stationed around the harbor and began to return fire. In addition to their 3 in (76 mm) guns, 37 mm (1.46 in) guns and .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, members of the unit fired their rifles and one even claimed to have hurled a wrench at a low-flying enemy plane. Several members reported being able to clearly see the faces of the Japanese aviators as they made repeated runs over the island. [5] The highest casualties on the first day occurred when bombs struck barracks 864 and 866 in Fort Mears, killing 17 men of the 37th Infantry and eight from the 151st Engineers. [6]

When all the Japanese planes were recovered, there were erroneous reports of enemy ships in the vicinity, but search planes found no ships within the area. During the search, four Nakajima E8N2 "Dave" two-seat reconnaissance planes—launched from the heavy cruisers Takao and Maya—encountered U.S. fighters searching for the departing Japanese squadron.

Barracks ship Northwestern engulfed by flames in Dutch Harbor after the second Japanese airstrike, June 4, 1942 NorthwesternInFlames-2.jpg
Barracks ship Northwestern engulfed by flames in Dutch Harbor after the second Japanese airstrike, June 4, 1942

The 206th CA spent much of the night of June 3/4 moving guns down off the mountain tops surrounding the harbor down into the city of Unalaska and into harbor facilities themselves. This was partially as a deception and partially to defend against an expected land invasion. Civilian contractors offered to help and were put to work filling sandbags to protect the new gun positions.

On June 4, the Japanese carriers steamed to less than 100 mi (87 nmi; 160 km) south of Dutch Harbor to launch a second attack. At 16:00, a second airstrike of nine fighters, 11 dive bombers, and six level bombers took off and attacked the U.S. facilities at Dutch Harbor again less than an hour later. More targets were damaged including some grounded aircraft, an army barracks, oil storage tanks, aircraft hangar, and a few merchant ships in the port. When the Japanese returned on 4 June, the Zero fighters concentrated on strafing the gun positions while their bombers destroyed the fuel tanks located at the harbor. One wing of the military hospital at the base was destroyed. [7] After hitting the fuel tanks, the enemy dive-bombers and high-level bombers concentrated on the ships in the harbor, Fillmore and Gillis. Driven away from these two targets by intense anti-aircraft fire, they finally succeeded in destroying the station ship Northwestern which, because of its large size, they mistakenly believed was a warship. Northwestern was actually a transport ship which had been beached and used as a barracks for civilian workers. Although in flames and badly damaged, firefighters managed to save the hull. Its power plant was thereafter used to produce steam and electricity for the shore installations. [8] [9] An anti-aircraft gun was blown up by a bomb and four U.S. Navy servicemen were killed. [7]

Two Japanese dive bombers and one fighter, damaged by anti-aircraft fire, failed to return to their carriers. On the way back, the Japanese planes encountered an air patrol of six Curtiss P-40 fighters over Otter Point. A short aerial battle ensued which resulted in the loss of one Japanese fighter and two more dive bombers. Two out of the six U.S. fighters were lost as well.


Front page of the June 3, 1942 Anchorage Daily Times featuring the attack Anchorage Daily Times June 3, 1942.JPG
Front page of the June 3, 1942 Anchorage Daily Times featuring the attack

As a result of the enemy actions, the Eleventh Air Force lost four B-17s, two Martin B-26 Marauders, and two P-40s, while the Navy suffered the most with six PBY Catalinas destroyed. [1] 43 Americans were killed: 33 soldiers, eight sailors, a Marine, and a civilian. Another 50 were injured in the attack. [10]

None of the Japanese ships were harmed, but one above-mentioned Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero was damaged by ground fire and crash-landed on Akutan Island, about 20 mi (17 nmi; 32 km) northeast of Dutch Harbor. Although the pilot was killed, the plane was not seriously damaged. This Zero—known as the "Akutan Zero"—was recovered by American forces, inspected, and repaired. The recovery was an important technical intelligence gain for U.S., as it showed the strengths and weaknesses of the Zero's design. [11]

The following day, Admiral Kakuta received orders to break off further attacks and head for the central Pacific to support the Combined Fleet which was retreating after being defeated at Midway. Two days later, a small Japanese invasion force landed and occupied two of the Aleutian islands, Attu and Kiska, without further incident.

The bombing of Dutch Harbor and the subsequent occupations of Kiska and Attu by the Japanese helped trigger an impression among Americans that they were going to launch a full-scale attack along the United States West Coast. As a result, military and commandeered civilian aircraft flew nearly 2,300 troops to Nome, along with artillery and antiaircraft guns and several tons of other equipment and supplies to deter a possible Japanese landing in mainland Alaska.

After the bombing of Dutch Harbor, all Aleut people of the Aleut islands were forced into internment camps in the form of abandoned warehouses and canneries, where they remained for four years and which caused a significant number of deaths. [12]


  1. 1 2 Fern Chandonnet (2007). Alaska at War, 1941–1945: The Forgotten War Remembered. University of Alaska Press. p. 394. ISBN   978-1-60223-135-1.
  2. NPS Aviation History Archived 2008-06-11 at the Wayback Machine
  3. WILLIWAW WAR: The Arkansas National Guard in the Aleutians in World War II by Donald Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, March 1992, University of Arkansas Press, See Also, NEVER GIVE UP! A HISTORY OF THE 206TH COAST ARTILLERY (ANTI-AIRCRAFT) REGIMENT OF THE ARKANSAS NATIONAL GUARD IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR by William E. Maxwell, Jr. March 1992
  4. "The Aleutians Campaign June 1942 - August 1943". Naval History and Heritage Command, Office of Naval Intelligence, U.S. Navy.
  5. WILLIWAW WAR: The Arkansas National Guard in the Aleutians in World War II by Donald Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, March 1992, University of Arkansas Press, page 151
  6. WILLIWAW WAR: The Arkansas National Guard in the Aleutians in World War II by Donald Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, March 1992, University of Arkansas Press, page 152
  7. 1 2 Garfield, p. 49
  8. Garfield, pp. 48–49
  9. WILLIWAW WAR: The Arkansas National Guard in the Aleutians in World War II by Donald Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon, March 1992, University of Arkansas Press, page 176
  10. Page 63/183
  11. O'Leary, Michael. United States Naval Fighters of World War II in Action. Poole, Dorset, UK: Blandford Press, 1980, pp 67–74. ISBN   0-7137-0956-1.
  12. Tuck and Yang, Eve and K. Wayne (2012). "Decolonization is not a metaphor". Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. Vol. 1, No. 1: 18.

Related Research Articles

Battle of Midway World War II naval battle in the Pacific Theater

The Battle of Midway was a significant naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II that took place on 4–7 June 1942, six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea. The U.S. Navy under Admirals Chester W. Nimitz, Frank J. Fletcher, and Raymond A. Spruance defeated an attacking fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy under Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto, Chūichi Nagumo, and Nobutake Kondō near Midway Atoll, inflicting devastating damage on the Japanese fleet that proved irreparable. Military historian John Keegan called it "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare", while naval historian Craig Symonds called it "one of the most consequential naval engagements in world history, ranking alongside Salamis, Trafalgar, and Tsushima Strait, as both tactically decisive and strategically influential".

USS <i>Nashville</i> (CL-43) WWII US light cruiser

USS Nashville (CL-43) was a Brooklyn-class cruiser. She was laid down on 24 January 1935 by New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey. She was launched on 2 October 1937, sponsored by Misses Ann and Mildred Stahlman and commissioned on 6 June 1938 with Captain William W. Wilson in command.

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1943:

This is a list of aviation-related events from 1942:

Aleutian Islands campaign WWII battle in Alaska, USA

The Aleutian Islands campaign was a military campaign conducted by the United States and Japan in the Aleutian Islands, part of the Territory of Alaska, in the American theater and the Pacific theater of World War II starting on 3 June 1942. In the only two invasions of the United States during the war, a small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska, where the remoteness of the islands and the challenges of weather and terrain delayed a larger U.S.-Canadian force sent to eject them for nearly a year. The islands' strategic value was their ability to control Pacific transportation routes, which is why U.S. General Billy Mitchell stated to the U.S. Congress in 1935, "I believe that in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world. I think it is the most important strategic place in the world." The Japanese reasoned that control of the Aleutians would prevent a possible U.S. attack across the Northern Pacific. Similarly, the U.S. feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to carry out a full-scale aerial attack on U.S. West Coast cities like Anchorage, Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles.

Japanese aircraft carrier <i>Ryūjō</i> 1930s Japanese aircraft carrier

Ryūjō was a light aircraft carrier built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the early 1930s. Small and lightly built in an attempt to exploit a loophole in the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, she proved to be top-heavy and only marginally stable and was back in the shipyard for modifications to address those issues within a year of completion. With her stability improved, Ryūjō returned to service and was employed in operations during the Second Sino-Japanese War. During World War II, she provided air support for operations in the Philippines, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies, where her aircraft participated in the Second Battle of the Java Sea. During the Indian Ocean raid in April 1942, the carrier attacked British merchant shipping with her guns and aircraft. Ryūjō next participated in the Battle of the Aleutian Islands in June. She was sunk by American carrier aircraft at the Battle of the Eastern Solomons on 24 August 1942.

Eleventh Air Force Numbered air force of the United States Air Force responsible for the Alaskan region

The Eleventh Air Force (11 AF) is a Numbered Air Force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It is headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson, Alaska.

USCGC <i>Onondaga</i> (WPG-79)

USCGC Onondaga (WPG-79), a United States Coast Guard cutter, was built by Defoe Boat Works in Bay City, Michigan, commissioned on 11 September 1934. From her commissioning until 1941, Onondaga was stationed at Astoria, Oregon, where she performed important law enforcement duties and rendered much assistance to ships in distress. Each year she patrolled the annual pelagic seal migration to the Pribilof Islands, and she attempted to prevent out of season halibut fishing.

Operation Cottage 1943 Allied military campaign during World War 2

Operation Cottage was a tactical maneuver which completed the Aleutian Islands campaign. On August 15, 1943, Allied military forces landed on Kiska Island, which had been occupied by Japanese forces since June 1942.

Cape Field at Fort Glenn United States historic place

Cape Field at Fort Glenn was a military site significant for its role in World War II. It consists of Fort Glenn, an airfield of the United States Army Air Corps later renamed Cape Air Force Base, and the adjacent Otter Point Naval Air Facility, both located on Umnak Island in the Aleutian Islands of southwestern Alaska. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Battle of Attu Battle in the Pacific theatre of World War II

The Battle of Attu, which took place on 11–30 May 1943, was a battle fought between forces of the United States, aided by Canadian reconnaissance and fighter-bomber support, and Japan on Attu Island off the coast of the Territory of Alaska as part of the Aleutian Islands Campaign during the American Theater and the Pacific Theater.

Japanese occupation of Kiska

The Japanese occupation of Kiska took place between 6 June 1942 and 28 July 1943 during the Aleutian Islands Campaign of the American Theater and the Pacific Theater of World War II. The Japanese occupied Kiska and nearby Attu Island in order to protect the northern flank of the Japanese Empire. Along with the Attu landing the next day, it was the first time that the continental United States was occupied by a foreign power since the War of 1812, and was one of the only two invasions of the United States during World War II.

Akutan Zero Japanese Fighter Aircraft

The Akutan Zero, also known as Koga's Zero and the Aleutian Zero, was a type 0 model 21 Mitsubishi A6M Zero Japanese fighter aircraft that crash-landed on Akutan Island, Alaska Territory, during World War II. It was found intact by the Americans in July 1942 and became the first flyable Zero acquired by the United States during the war. It was repaired and flown by American test pilots. As a result of information gained from these tests, American tacticians were able to devise ways to defeat the Zero, which was the Imperial Japanese Navy's primary fighter plane throughout the war.

206th Field Artillery Regiment United States artillery regiment

The 206th Field Artillery Regiment is a United States artillery regiment, currently represented in the Arkansas Army National Guard by the 1st Battalion, 206th Field Artillery, Headquartered at Russellville, Arkansas. The 1–206th FA is an element of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Arkansas National Guard and World War II

The history of the Arkansas National Guard and World War II begins with the reorganization following World War I. The State first reorganized a provision unit, the 5th Arkansas, in order to provide a force to deal with domestic situations. As the Defense Department slowly implemented the massive changes and expansions outlined National Defense Act of 1916, the Arkansas National Guard was allowed to reorganize its war time units, including the 153rd Infantry Regiment, the 141st Machine Gun Battalion, and the 142nd Field Artillery. The Guard acquired its first permanent facilities and additional training during its annual encampments. During World War II, the entire Arkansas National Guard was activated and units saw duty in the Pacific and European theaters of conflict.

Military history of the Aleutian Islands

The military history of the Aleutian Islands began almost immediately following the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire by the United States in 1867. Prior to the early 20th century, the Aleutian Islands were essentially ignored by the United States Armed Forces, although the islands played a small role in the Bering Sea Arbitration when a number of British and American vessels were stationed at Unalaska to enforce the arbitrators' decision. By the early 20th century, a number of war strategies examined the possibility of conflict breaking out between the Empire of Japan and the United States. While the Aleutian Islands were seen as a potential staging point for invasions by either side, this possibility was dismissed owing to the islands' dismal climate. In 1922, the Washington Naval Treaty was signed, after which the United States Navy began to take an interest in the islands. However, nothing of significance was to materialize until World War II.

Fort Glenn Army Air Base

Cape Air Force Base also known as Fort Glenn Army Air Base, is a site significant for its role in World War II fighting, operating alongside Otter Point Naval Air Facility.

Naval Air Facility Adak United States historic place

Naval Air Facility Adak, was a United States Navy airport located west of Adak, on Adak Island in the U.S. state of Alaska. After its closure in 1997, it was reopened as Adak Airport. The facility was designated a National Historic Landmark for its role in World War II, although most of its elements from that period have been demolished or lie in ruins.

Landing at Amchitka

The Landing at Amchitka was the amphibious landing operation and occupation of Amchitka island by American forces during the Aleutian Islands Campaign.

VP-3 was a Patrol Squadron of the U.S. Navy. The squadron was established as Patrol Squadron 16-F (VP-16F) on 2 January 1937, redesignated Patrol Squadron 16 (VP-16) on 1 October 1937, redesignated Patrol Squadron 41 (VP-41) on 1 July 1939, redesignated Bombing Squadron 136 (VB-136) on 1 March 1943, redesignated Patrol Bombing Squadron 136 (VPB-136) on 1 October 1944, redesignated Patrol Squadron 136 (VP-136) on 15 May 1946, redesignated Medium Patrol Squadron (landplane) 3 (VP-ML-3) on 15 November 1946, redesignated Patrol Squadron 3 (VP-3) on 1 September 1948, and was disestablished on 1 November 1955. It was the second squadron to be designated VP-3, the first VP-3 was redesignated VP-32 on 1 July 1939.


Further reading