Military Review

The perfect storm in the Aleutian Islands. Operation Cottage


Kiska Island and the direction of the landing. Graphics Wikimedia Commons

Operation Cottage, carried out by the US armed forces in August 1943, became widely known. Its purpose was to liberate Fr. Kiska (Aleutian Islands) from the Japanese invaders. By the time the American troops landed, the enemy had been evacuated from the island, but the advancing troops still suffered losses. Let's try to understand the reasons for this situation.

Aleutian campaign

In early June 1942, the Japanese fleet landed troops on the Attu and Kiska islands. The capture of the islands took place practically without interference, although there was a small battle for the American weather station on Kisk. Having occupied the islands, the Japanese began military construction, and after a few weeks, full-fledged trench systems, underground structures, a port, etc. appeared.

Ships and boats "Cottage" at about. Adak before going out to Kiska. Library of Congress Photo

The seizure of the southern Aleutian Islands threatened the mainland United States, and the American army immediately took action. The army's fleet and air corps carried out reconnaissance and identified enemy targets on the islands. Long-range bombers and naval artillery worked on them. There was also a hunt for Japanese transport ships. Starting in March 1943, the supply of the islands was carried out only by submarines, which hit the volume of traffic and the combat capability of the garrisons.

On May 11, 1943, the United States carried out a landing on the coast of about. Attu. The 7th Infantry Division, supported by three battleships, an aircraft carrier, surface ships and submarines, faced serious enemy resistance in well-fortified positions. The fighting continued until the end of May and ended with the liberation of the island. The US Army suffered heavy casualties - 649 killed, nearly 1150 wounded and over 1800 sick. All this affected the planning of further operations to liberate the islands.

Landing boats off the coast. Photo National Museum of US Navy

On the eve of the landing

Having regained control of Fr. Attu, American troops began preparing the landing on Kyska. Active reconnaissance from the air was conducted, aimed at identifying all enemy positions. The preparation of new landing forces was carried out, taking into account the experience of the previous battle. Several infantry, mountain rifle and artillery regiments of the US and Canadian armies were to participate in the liberation of the island. The total number is over 30 thousand people. The landing and support was supposed to provide flotilla of 100 pennants.

At the end of July, the distant aviation The United States and warships have stepped up their bombing of targets on the island. Before the start of the amphibious assault, bombers unloaded over 420 tons of bombs over Kiska, and the ships used shells with a total mass of 330 tons.

At this time, the Japanese garrison about. Kiska included up to 5400 people. - military and civilian personnel. Even during the battles for Attu in the highest circles of Japan, there was an understanding that Kysku would not be able to defend. After disputes and mutual recriminations, on May 19, an order appeared to prepare for the evacuation of troops, but they did not rush to implement it. First of all, it was required to find and implement the safest way to withdraw troops through the blockade of the island.

The disembarkation continues. Photo National Museum of US Navy

The evacuation began only on July 28, when the United States intensified shelling of the island. In the evening, hiding in the fog, several warships went through the blockade and ended up in the port of Kiski. In less than an hour, approx. 5 thousand people, and the ships went to about. Paramushir. The task of the remaining soldiers was to imitate the work of the garrison and air defense, prepare traps, etc. A few days later they were taken out on submarines. Of all the manpower on the islands, only a few dogs remained.

Operation Cottage

American intelligence believed that there were up to 10 thousand people on Kisk. and there is a developed network of fortifications. At the same time, it was noted that at the end of July the air defense had weakened, negotiations on the radio had become rare, etc. The theater command had a version about the evacuation of the enemy, but it did not receive full support. It has been argued that the Japanese remain on the island and prepare for defense, as was the case on Attu.

Long-range aviation bombing Japanese targets. Library of Congress Photo

As a result, it was decided to land amphibious assault forces, and the event was codenamed "Cottage". In the early morning of August 15, landing craft landed the first American and Canadian units. Due to adverse weather conditions and errors in forecasts, some of the landing craft ran aground and hampered the operation of other pennants. However, the speed of the landing did not matter - the first wave of the landing did not meet any resistance, and it became possible to concentrate the shock group on the shore.

By noon, the forward units in the fog reached the Japanese trenches, which were empty. As they moved further, the Americans occupied new dugouts and bunkers, but did not find an enemy. The battle did not begin, the situation remained tense. The first skirmish soon followed. American and Canadian soldiers advancing from different directions mistook each other for Japanese. A short battle began, during which 28 US Army soldiers and four Canadians were killed. Another fifty people were injured.

A broken Japanese fighter jet at the Kiski airfield. Photo National Museum of US Navy

The clearing of the island continued for several days. The mines left by the Japanese exploded regularly, and there were skirmishes between the allies due to the general tension, poor visibility and other factors. On the morning of August 18, the destroyer USS Abner Read (DD-526) was blown up by a mine in Kiski Bay. The explosion tore off the stern; 70 sailors were killed and 47 were injured. The losses of the ground group were also constantly growing.

On August 17 they occupied the main camp of the garrison, and soon after that it became clear that the enemy was not on the island. However, it was required to check all the existing trenches and bunkers, as well as identify mines and other traps. It all took several days. Only on August 24, the command announced the successful completion of the operation and the final liberation of the Aleutian Islands.

The evacuation was urgent: the Japanese even abandoned the weapon... Photo National Museum of US Navy

As a result of Operation Cottage, the United States regained control of Fr. Kiska. The cost of this was no less than 90-92 dead soldiers, marines and sailors. Another 220 people. received injuries of varying severity. The specific conditions of the island negatively affected the health of the soldiers, and 130 people. I had to be sent to the hospital with different diagnoses. The destroyer "Abner Reed" was towed away for repairs, and the landing fleet did not receive serious damage.

Prerequisites and Causes

Considering Operation Cottage and the events that preceded it, it can be seen that the specific course of events and significant losses (in the complete absence of enemies) were associated with a number of characteristic factors that developed in the least successful way.

The perfect storm in the Aleutian Islands. Operation Cottage
American soldiers outside the former Japanese telephone exchange. On the left is a Japanese dog abandoned by the owners on the island. Photo National Museum of US Navy

First of all, all the processes were negatively affected by the harsh climate of the Aleutian Islands. Fogs and precipitation interfered with the conduct of reconnaissance and the normal operation of surface ships, and together with the low temperature they became a threat to the ground forces. It was because of bad weather conditions that the American side was unable to detect the evacuation of the Japanese garrison and draw conclusions.

The next factor was the wrong assessment of the situation by the American command. Seeing signs of the absence of a garrison, it did not believe in the possibility of an evacuation and began to act on the assumption that a developed defense was being prepared. If the intelligence data on the absence of the enemy were confirmed, it would be possible to cancel the landing of the landing - and drastically reduce losses.

The destroyer USS Abner Read (DD-526) after being towed to port, October 1943. Photo by US Navy

After the landing, the difficulties of interaction between troops, aggravated by fog and precipitation, became a serious problem. With poor visibility, the fighters could mistake each other for the enemy, which ended in friendly fire, injuries and death. In addition, the enemy organized a mass of mine-explosive obstacles and mined all objects. Sea mines were planted around the island, one of them damaged the destroyer and killed 70 sailors.

Perfect Storm

Thus, we are talking about an unsuccessful combination of a number of factors - natural conditions, enemy actions and the American command's own mistakes. A change in any of these factors could seriously affect the development of the situation and the outcome of the entire operation. So, good weather would reduce the number of friendly fire, and the correct interpretation of intelligence data would make it possible to do without the landing. However, a scenario was possible in which the Japanese troops remained on the island, and then the losses of the United States would be several times higher.

During World War II, the US Army conducted numerous amphibious operations in the Pacific Ocean, during which it fought Japanese troops in different conditions. For several years of war, only once had to "liberate" an island abandoned by the enemy. First of all, this means that the Cottage operation is faced with an extremely rare set of circumstances. It was this “perfect storm” that influenced the course and results of the operation, and also provided it with dubious fame.
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  1. Korsar4
    Korsar4 20 October 2020 05: 15
    Known upsetting embarrassment. No intelligent intelligence - get ready for surprises.
    1. tihonmarine
      tihonmarine 20 October 2020 08: 57
      Quote: Korsar4
      No intelligent intelligence - get ready for surprises.

      It was the same in the Soviet-Finnish war, when the offensive was launched, without proper intelligence.
  2. Far B
    Far B 20 October 2020 05: 43
    Only on August 24, the command announced the successful completion of the operation.
    If this is a successful completion of the operation, then what is unsuccessful? If the Americans fled in fear from a non-existent enemy, tunnels ???
    all processes were negatively affected by the harsh climate of the Aleutian Islands
    So so reason. In the Kuriles, especially in the northern ones, the climate is also not so hot.
    Perfect Storm
    This is never the perfect storm. An ideal storm presupposes a confluence of objective factors that humans, with all their might, cannot influence. And then there was
    incorrect assessment of the situation by the American command
    and this is a subjective factor.
    In general, with such losses from friendly fire on Kisk, where only a few unarmed mongrels dug in, the thought involuntarily arises that during other landing operations the losses from friendly fire among the Americans were very high. It was just that in conditions of fierce resistance from the enemy, there was an opportunity to write off these losses according to a "better" item.
    PySy. I am openly addressing the magicians of Hollywood: I want a film about Operation Cottage! Who are you, masters of cinema? laughing
    1. Kot_Kuzya
      Kot_Kuzya 20 October 2020 07: 54
      Quote: Dalny V
      involuntarily the thought arises that during other amphibious operations the losses from friendly fire among the Americans were very high

      I don’t remember who, but someone said that "the Yankees have a habit of shooting first, and then asking." For example, during the offensive in the Ardennes in 1944, the Germans used a sabotage brigade, consisting of English-speaking soldiers and with camouflaged armored vehicles. But their whole venture failed, as the Americans calmly shot the German armored vehicles, despite the brightly painted white paint stars, without even trying to find out if they were really trophies.
    2. Freeman
      Freeman 20 October 2020 10: 36
      Far At Today, 05:43
      I am openly addressing the magicians of Hollywood: I want a film about Operation Cottage! Who are you, filmmakers with ?! laughing

      Something tells me that the Americans don't have such a film. Well, or I haven't found it yet.

      But their Japanese colleagues did shoot a "war drama" dedicated to the operation to evacuate the garrison.

      b] Retreat from the island of Kiska (1965) [/ b]

      Video on the link. Russian voice-over monophonic translation.
      1. boris epstein
        boris epstein 20 October 2020 11: 06
        A film was made about Pearl Harbor. Besides the film about Kiska, I would like to see an AMERICAN film from Operation Tiger, the last rehearsal of the Normandy landing. The main participants were American and British troops. Yes, on the sly at the finish line, the Kriegsmarine rushed in, torpedo boats sank two landing craft. The total losses of the British and Americans in the rehearsal are about 1000 people.
        Or an American film about the storming of the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa in the Mediterranean. For two weeks battleships, cruisers and bombers ironed the islands. We occupied them without firing a single shot and without losses. The garrisons of the islands consisted of disabled and non-combatants. They did not fire a single return shot. The losses of the garrisons amounted to 3 (three) people - they sat out in concrete underground bunkers.
        1. Alexey RA
          Alexey RA 20 October 2020 12: 37
          It would be nice to watch the British film about Operation Zipper. smile
          Operation Zipper was being prepared for several months, preparing slowly, in the expectation that the war with Japan would last at least another year. Its purpose was the capture of Singapore. The landing was supposed to involve 100 thousand people. It was the preparation of Operation Zipper that justified the British General Staff's lack of activity in Southeast Asia. Preparations for the operation continued even after it became clear that Japan had withdrawn from the war. The inertia of the British General Staff, unable to reverse the decision, even meaningless, was already manifested in the implementation of Operation Dracula, which took away the laurels of the liberators of Rangoon from Slim and the 14th Army. In an even stranger form, this inertia manifested itself in Operation Zipper. Despite the fact that the Japanese garrison of Singapore officially surrendered on September 3 and the war with Japan was already over, transports with troops and escort forces still went to sea on September 6 and headed for Singapore, where preparations were underway for the solemn ceremony of signing the surrender.

          The only spectators of the powerful landing operation were local fishermen, amazed by the spectacle, but not realizing with whom the British were fighting. The landing sites were extremely poorly chosen, although the British landed on an island, the approaches to which they should have known perfectly. The landing itself was so stupid that one Japanese battalion would have been enough to drop a colossal landing into the sea. Even the official British history of the war admits that "under combat conditions, landing would be a nightmare." Without any enemy resistance, many cars and tanks were drowned near the shore, and when an avalanche of equipment and people nevertheless made it to the shore with considerable losses, tanks and vehicles blocked the beaches and were so firmly stuck on the hillsides that it took several days before managed to free the technique. Thus, the operation turned into an embarrassment - the last embarrassment and the last defeat of the British in World War II.
          © Mozheiko I.V. West wind - clear weather.
          1. Alf
            Alf 20 October 2020 22: 36
            Quote: Alexey RA
            Thus, the operation turned into an embarrassment - the last embarrassment and the last defeat of the British in World War II.

            Command is unskilful and embarrassing.
    3. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 20 October 2020 12: 31
      Quote: Dalny V
      So so reason. In the Kuriles, especially in the northern ones, the climate is also not so hot.

      The reason is just good - the Americans lost more aircraft in the Aleutian campaign from the weather than for combat reasons.
      In total, during the Aleutian campaign, the 11th VA made about 4000 sorties, dropping 3500 tons of bombs on the enemy. 54 Japanese aircraft were destroyed, of which 34 were in air battles: 9 on the P-40, 10 on the Cobra and 15 on the Lightnings. Their losses amounted to 214 vehicles, of which only 40 died from enemy influence, the rest crashed in various flight accidents, mostly related to weather vicissitudes.
      © "Aviation", No. 3, 2004

      And since we remembered the Kuril Islands, the intelligence there also screwed up in full. The landing of the landing force overboard in full combat at depths over 2 m occurred precisely because the reconnaissance of the landing zone was not carried out, and the stones that did not allow approaching the shore turned out to be an unpleasant surprise. I am not even talking about tanks that suddenly appeared and antiamphibious batteries that were shooting through the landing zone.
      1. mat-vey
        mat-vey 20 October 2020 15: 19
        Quote: Alexey RA
        Quote: Far In
        So so reason. In the Kuriles, especially in the northern ones, the climate is also not so hot.

        The reason is just good - the Americans lost more aircraft in the Aleutian campaign from the weather than for combat reasons.

        So this is where "General Moroz" actually fought)))
  3. Alex 1970
    Alex 1970 20 October 2020 06: 12
    They practically whipped themselves, sadly, but it happens.
    1. CTABEP
      CTABEP 20 October 2020 20: 06
      This is a war, it happens.
  4. parusnik
    parusnik 20 October 2020 06: 16
    The two comments written above are enough to somehow comment on the events indicated in the article.
  5. bubalik
    bubalik 20 October 2020 19: 28
    damaged the destroyer and killed 70 sailors.
    ,, yeah, "damaged" the stern tore off completely laughing
    USS Abner Read (DD-526). 71 sailors were killed and 34 wounded, 5 missing. The further fate of the destroyer was no less sad. After Operation Cottage, it was repaired for several months, rebuilt, but was sunk by a kamikaze plane in Leyte Gulf (Philippine Sea) on November 1, 1944. 22 people were saved.
  6. Freeman
    Freeman 20 October 2020 20: 31
    Quote: Alex 1970
    They practically whipped themselves, sadly, but it happens.

    In the official American military newsreel, everything is bravura and patriotic.

    "Allies take Pussy - Japanese flee from the last base in the Aleutian Islands
    Admiral Kinkaid is directing US and Canadian troops for an unimpeded landing on Kiska Island. "

    Link to video: