Posted by: SJS | August 18, 2018

WWII fighting in the Aleutians

WWIi in Aleutians 08-18-2018_11-51-08-378

On August 18, 1943, the USS Abner Read had just finished one leg of its anti-submarine patrol off the shore of Kiska in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and it seemed to be a calm night.  The Japanese had recently evacuated the island but left behind a minefield.  Near 2:00 am, as the destroyer crept along at a low speed, the boat’s stern erupted in a geyser of water.  It had hit a mine which snapped off a large section of its stern, sending that part of the ship and its five-inch gun to the bottom with 70 sailors trapped inside.

This past week, a team of scientists announced they had found the sunken stern and its big gun in 290 feet of water.  No remains of the sailors were recovered.  In one of the war’s great ironies, the bulk of the Abner Read was repaired and sent back into battle in 1944.  The ship was hit again, this time by a Japanese Kamikaze plane and sank off the Philippine island of Samar.

The link I have included shows some photographs that were recently featured in the Washington Post about the Abner Read and its fate in WWII.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the fighting around the Island of Kiska was the only WWII battle on North American soil.  Kiska and the nearby Attu Island are the only US territories to be occupied by foreign forces in the last 200 years.  Kiska was seized by the Japanese in June 1941 and weren’t driven off until July of 1943 after relentless shelling and bombing by US forces.

Along with destroyers, the US Navy had deployed PT boats to the Aleutians.  In doing my research about my father’s service, I was amazed to discover that PTs were a part of naval operations in Alaska during WWII.  While Red Stahley was never assigned there, plenty of other PT sailors found themselves serving in the frigid waters of Alaska.  Learning about PT operations in the Aleutians is something I’m eager to pursue.  If any of my fellow PT Splinters out there have insights or stories to share, please send them in!






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