History

Wars & Campaigns

Boer War
First World War

►►Western Front

►►►Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

►►Allied Offensive: 1916

►►►Allied Offensives: 1917

►►►German Offensive: 1918

►►►Advance to Victory: 1918

►►Siberia
Second World War
►►War Against Japan

►►Italian Campaign

►►►Sicily

►►►Southern Italy

►►►The Sangro and Moro

►►►Battles of the FSSF

►►►Cassino

►►►Liri Valley

►►►Advance to Florence

►►►Gothic Line

►►►Winter Lines
►►North-West Europe

►►►Normandy
►►►Southern France
►►►Channel Ports

►►►Scheldt
►►►Nijmegen Salient

►►►Rhineland

►►►Final Phase
Korean War
Cold War
Gulf War

Operations 

GAUNTLET Aug 1941

(Spitsbergen)

HUSKY Jul 1943

 (Sicily)

COTTAGE Aug 1943

 (Kiska)

TIMBERWOLF Oct 1943

(Italy)

OVERLORD Jun 1944

(Normandy)

VERITABLE Feb 1945

(Rhineland)

Battle Honours

Boer War

►Paardeberg

18 Feb 00

First World War
Western Front
Trench Warfare: 1914-1916

Ypres, 1915

22 Apr-25 May 15

Gravenstafel

22-23 Apr 15

St. Julien

24 Apr-4 May 15

Frezenberg

8-13 May 15

Bellewaarde

24-25 May 15

Festubert, 1915

15-25 May 15

Mount Sorrel

2-13 Jun 16

Allied Offensive: 1916

►Somme, 1916

1 Jul-18 Nov 16

►Albert

.1-13 Jul 16

►Razentin

.14-17 Jul 16

►Pozieres

.23 Jul-3 Sep 16

►Guillemont

.3-6 Sep 16

►Ginchy

.9 Sep 16

►Flers-Courcelette

.15-22 Sep 16

►Thiepval

.26-29 Sep 16

►Le Transloy

. 1-18 Oct 16

►Ancre Heights

1 Oct-11 Nov 16

►Ancre, 1916

13-18 Nov 16

Allied Offensives: 1917

►Arras 1917

8 Apr-4 May 17

Vimy, 1917

.9-14 Apr 17

Arleux

28-29 Apr 17

►Scarpe, 1917

.3-4 May17

►Hill 70

.15-25 Aug 17

►Messines, 1917

.7-14 Jun 17

►Ypres, 1917

..31 Jul-10 Nov 17

►Pilckem

31 Jul-2 Aug 17

►Langemarck, 1917

.16-18 Aug 17

►Menin Road

.20-25 Sep 17

►Polygon Wood

26 Sep-3 Oct 17

►Broodseinde

.4 Oct 17

►Poelcapelle

.9 Oct 17

►Passchendaele

.12 Oct 17

►Cambrai, 1917

20 Nov-3 Dec 17

German Offensive: 1918

►Somme, 1918

.21 Mar-5 Apr 18

►St. Quentin

.21-23 Mar 18

►Bapaume, 1918

.24-25 Mar 18

►Rosieres

.26-27 Mar 18

►Avre

.4 Apr 18

►Lys

.9-29 Apr 18

►Estaires

.9-11 Apr 18

►Messines, 1918

.10-11 Apr 18

►Bailleul

.13-15 Apr 18

►Kemmel

.17-19 Apr 18

Advance to Victory: 1918

Amiens

8-11 Aug 18

►Arras, 1918

.26 Aug-3 Sep 18

►Scarpe, 1918

26-30 Aug 18.

►Drocourt-Queant

.2-3 Sep 18

►Hindenburg Line

.12 Sep-9 Oct 18

►Canal du Nord

.27 Sep-2 Oct 18

►St. Quentin Canal .29 Sep-2 Oct 18
►Epehy

3-5 Oct 18

►Ypres, 1918

.8-9 Oct 18

►Valenciennes

.1-2 Nov 18

►Sambre

.4 Nov 18

►Pursuit to Mons .28 Sep-11Nov

Second World War

War Against Japan

South-East Asia

Hong Kong

 8-25 Dec 41

Italian Campaign

Battle of Sicily

Landing in Sicily 

   9-12 Jul 43

Grammichele 

15 Jul 43

Piazza Armerina

16-17 Jul 43

Valguarnera

17-19 Jul 43

Assoro 

  20-22 Jul 43

Leonforte

 21-22 Jul 43

Agira

24-28 Jul 43

Adrano 

29 Jul-7 Aug 43

Catenanuova

29-30 Jul 43

Regalbuto

29 Jul-3 Aug 43

Centuripe

  31 Jul-3 Aug 43

Troina Valley

 2-6 Aug 43

Pursuit to Messina

 2-17 Aug 43

 Southern Italy

Landing at Reggio

 3 Sep 43

Potenza 19-20 Sep 43
Motta Montecorvino 1-3 Oct 43
Termoli 3-6 Oct 43
Monte San Marco 6-7 Oct 43
Gambatesa 7-8 Oct 43
Campobasso 11-14 Oct 43
Baranello 17-18 Oct 43
Colle d'Anchise 22-24 Oct 43
Torella 24-27 Oct 43

The Sangro and Moro

The Sangro

19 Nov-3 Dec 43

Castel di Sangro

.23-24 Nov 43

The Moro

5-7 Dec 43

San Leonardo

8-9 Dec 43

The Gully

..10-19 Dec 43

Casa Berardi

 ..14-15 Dec 43

Ortona

20-28 Dec 43

San Nicola-San

.31 Dec 43

Tommaso

.
Point 59/ 29 Dec 43-

Torre Mucchia

4 Jan 44

Battles of the FSSF
Monte Camino

.5 Nov-9 Dec 43

Monte la Difensa-

2-8 Dec 43

 Monte la Remetanea

.
Hill 720

25 Dec 43

Monte Majo

3-8 Jan 44.

Radicosa

4 Jan 44

Monte Vischiataro

8 Jan 44

Anzio

22 Jan-22 May 44

Rome

.22 May-4 Jun 44

Advance

.22 May-22 Jun 44

to the Tiber

.
►Monte Arrestino

25 May 44

►Rocca Massima

27 May 44

►Colle Ferro

2 Jun 44

Cassino
►Cassino II

11-18 May 44

►Gustav Line

11-18 May 44

►Sant' Angelo in

13 May 44

Teodice

.
►Pignataro

14-15 May 44

Liri Valley
Liri Valley

18-30 May 44

►Hitler Line

18-24 May 44

►Aquino

18-24 May 44

►Melfa Crossing

24-25 May 44

►Ceprano

26-27 May 44

►Torrice Crossroads

30 May 44

Advance to Florence
►Advance

17 Jul-10 Aug 44

to Florence

.
►Cerrone

25 - 31 Aug 44

Trasimene Line
►Trasimene Line

20-30 Jun 44

►Sanfatucchio

20-21 Jun 44

►Gabbiano

1 Jul 44

►Arezzo

4-17 Jul 44

►Tuori

5 Jul 44

Gothic Line
►Gothic Line

25 Aug-22 Sep 44

►Monteciccardo

27-28 Aug 44

►Montecchio

30-31 Aug 44

►Point 204 (Pozzo Alto)

31 Aug 44

►Monte Luro

1 Sep 44

►Borgo Santa Maria

1 Sep 44

►Tomba di Pesaro

1-2 Sep 44

►Coriano

3-15 Sep 44

►Lamone Crossing

2-13 Sep 44

Winter Lines
►Rimini Line

14-21 Sep 44

►San Martino-

14-18 Sep 44

San Lorenzo

.
►San Fortunato

18-20 Sep 44

►Casale

23-25 Sep 44

►Sant' Angelo

11-15 Sep 44

 in Salute

.
►Bulgaria Village

13-14 Sep 44

►Cesena

15-20 Sep 44

►Pisciatello

16-19 Sep 44

►Savio Bridgehead

20-23 Sep 44

►Monte La Pieve

13-19 Oct 44

►Monte Spaduro

19-24 Oct 44

►Monte San Bartolo

11-14 Nov 44

►Capture of Ravenna

3-4 Dec 44

►Naviglio Canal

12-15 Dec 44

►Fosso Vecchio

16-18 Dec 44

►Fosso Munio

19-21 Dec 44

►Conventello-

2-6 Jan 45

Comacchio

.
►Granarolo

3-5 Jan 44

Northwest Europe
Dieppe

19 Aug 42

Battle of Normandy
Normandy Landing

6 Jun 44

Authie

7 Jun 44

Putot-en-Bessin

8 Jun 44

Bretteville

8-9 Jun 44

       -l'Orgueilleuse .
Le Mesnil-Patry

11 Jun 44

Carpiquet

4-5 Jul 44

Caen

4-18 Jul 44

The Orne (Buron)

8-9 Jul 44

Bourguébus Ridge

18-23 Jul 44

Faubourg-de-

18-19 Jul 44

       Vaucelles .
St. André-sur-Orne

19-23 Jul 44

Maltôt

22-23 Jul 44

Verrières Ridge-Tilly--

25 Jul 44

         la-Campagne .
►Falaise

7-22 Aug 44

►Falaise Road

7-9 Aug 44

►Quesnay Road

10-11 Aug 44

Clair Tizon

11-13 Aug 44

►The Laison

14-17 Aug 44

►Chambois

18-22 Aug 44

►St. Lambert-sur-

19-22 Aug 44

       Dives

.

►Dives Crossing

17-20 Aug 44

Forêt de la Londe

27-29 Aug 44

The Seine, 1944

25-28 Aug 44

Southern France
Southern France

15-28 Aug 44

Channel Ports
Dunkirk, 1944

8-15 Sep 44

Le Havre

1-12 Sep 44

Moerbrugge

8-10 Sep 44

Moerkerke

13-14 Sep 44

Boulogne, 1944

17-22 Sep 44

Calais, 1944

25 Sep-1 Oct 44

Wyneghem

21-22 Sep 44

Antwerp-Turnhout

   24-29 Sep 44

Canal

.

The Scheldt

The Scheldt

1 Oct-8 Nov 44

Leopold Canal

6-16 Oct-44

►Savojaards Platt

9-10 Oct 44

Breskens Pocket

11 Oct -3 Nov 44

►Woensdrecht

1-27 Oct 44

►The Lower Maas

20 Oct -7 Nov 44

►South Beveland

 24-31 Oct 44

Walcheren

31 Oct -4 Nov 44

Causeway

.

Nijmegen Salient
Ardennes

Dec 44-Jan 45

Kapelsche Veer

31 Dec 44-

.

21Jan 45

The Roer

16-31 Jan 45

Rhineland
The Rhineland

8 Feb-10 Mar 45

►The Reichswald

8-13 Feb 45

►Waal Flats

8-15 Feb 45

►Moyland Wood

14-21 Feb 45

►Goch-Calcar Road

19-21 Feb 45

►The Hochwald

26 Feb-

.

4 Mar 45

►Veen

6-10 Mar 45

►Xanten

8-9 Mar 45

Final Phase
The Rhine

23 Mar-1 Apr 45

►Emmerich-Hoch

28 Mar-1 Apr 45

Elten

.
►Twente Canal

2-4 Apr 45

Zutphen

6-8 Apr 45

Deventer

8-11 Apr 45

Arnhem, 1945

12-14 Apr 45

Apeldoorn

11-17 Apr 45

Groningen

13-16 Apr 45

Friesoythe

14 Apr 45

►Ijselmeer

15-18 Apr 45

Küsten Canal

17-24 Apr 45

Wagenborgen

21-23 Apr 45

Delfzijl Pocket

23 Apr-2 May 45

Leer

28-29 Apr 45

Bad Zwischenahn

23 Apr-4 May 45

Oldenburg

27 Apr-5 May 45

Korean War
Kapyong

21-25 Apr 51

Domestic Missions

FLQ Crisis

International Missions

ICCS            Vietnam 1973

MFO                 Sinai 1986-

Peacekeeping

UNMOGIP

India 1948-1979

UNTSO

 Israel 1948-    ....

UNEF

Egypt 1956-1967

UNOGIL

Lebanon 1958    ....

ONUC

 Congo 1960-1964

UNYOM

Yemen 1963-1964

UNTEA

W. N. Guinea 1963-1964

UNIFCYP

 Cyprus 1964-    ....

DOMREP

D. Republic 1965-1966

UNIPOM

Kashmir 1965-1966

UNEFME

Egypt 1973-1979

UNDOF

Golan 1974-    ....

UNIFIL

 Lebanon 1978    ....

UNGOMAP

Afghanistan 1988-90

UNIIMOG

Iran-Iraq 1988-1991

UNTAG

Namibia 1989-1990

ONUCA

C. America 1989-1992

UNIKOM

Kuwait 1991    ....

MINURSO

W. Sahara 1991    ....

ONUSAL

El Salvador 1991    ....

UNAMIC

Cambodia 1991-1992

UNAVEM II

Angola 1991-1997

UNPROFOR

Yugosla. 1992-1995

UNTAC

Cambodia 1992-1993

UNOSOM

Somalia 1992-1993

ONUMOZ

Mozambiq. 1993-1994

UNOMUR

 Rwanda 1993    ....

UNAMIR

Rwanda 1993-1996

UNMIH

Haiti 1993-1996

UNMIBH

Bosnia/Herz.1993-1996

UNMOP

Prevlaka 1996-2001

UNSMIH

Haiti 1996-1997

MINUGUA

Guatemala 1994-1997

UNTMIH

Haiti 1997    ....

MIPONUH

 Haiti 1997    ....

MINURCA

C.Afr.Rep. 1998-1999

INTERFET

E. Timor 1999-2000

UNAMSIL

Sie. Leone 1999-2005

UNTAET

E. Timor 1999-2000

Exercises

 

Operation COTTAGE

(Note: this article describes the planning and execution of Operation COTTAGE. As this operation did not involve combat, there is not a separate article for actions on Kiska Island listed in the Battle Honours articles.)

The Aleutian Islands, in the northern Pacific, were the only parts of North America to come under direct Axis occupation during the Second World War. While Canadian troops did not see active combat there, the deployment of Canadian Army soldiers to the region was significant for a number of reasons.

Background

War with Japan began in December of 1941, and Allied power in the Pacific was severely damaged not just by the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on 7 December, but also the sinking of H.M.S. Prince of Wales and H.M.S. Repulse off of Malaya three days later.1

The enemy in the Pacific had shown an astonishing ability to conduct simultaneous offensives over widely separated areas, engulfing in short order Malaya, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Guam, Wake Island, North Borneo, Dutch East Indies, Singapore, Burma and the Solomon Islands. Despite having no immediate intention of invading either Australia or North America, the Japanese nonetheless carried out further operations aimed at widening their defensive perimeter to protect the sizeable gains of their early offensive actions, including occupation of New Guinea, the Solomons, Midway Island, and bases in the Aleutian Islands, as well as occupation of New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa. The first objective, completion of their occupation of New Guinea and the Solomons, was checked at the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942.2 In June 1942, the Japanese set their sights on the next objectives of Midway and the Aleutians, with the desire that a decisive fleet action be precipitated in which the U.S. Navy could be brought to battle and soundly defeated. In the event, through strokes of sound intelligence work, determined fighting, and some good fortune, the Japanese were soundly beaten by an outnumbered force at Midway Island, though a foothold was gained in the Aleutians. The invasion of Kiska and Attu was intended as a decoy, to draw the U.S. fleet away from Midway while landing operations took place, and the troops were to be withdrawn before winter.3 The Americans weren't fooled; by reading Japanese codes they determined the real target - Midway - and managed to inflict crippling losses on the main fleet, including four first-line aircraft carriers. The battle has long been considered the turning point of the war in the Pacific; the third stage of the expansion of their defensive perimeter was not attempted as the Japanese from that point on had lost the strategic initiative.4

Japanese Invasion

The Aleutian Islands do not form the strategic link between Asia and North America that they appear to on a globe or map. The islands are barren, mountainous, and offer no natural resources. Operation of aircraft and naval vessels are restricted by overcast, fog, and high and variable wind. Finally, the islands are remote. Attu, the westernmost, is 700 mils from the closest pre-war Japanese naval base at Paramushiro, but the distance from Attu to Dutch Harbor, the only pre-war American military base, is 800 miles and Dutch Harbor stands 1,650 miles from Vancouver. Paramushiro is separated from Tokyo by about 1,000 miles. The Japanese had no real fear of a U.S. strike against them via the Aleutians, according to their records, and their intentions for invasion were mainly defensive, to anchor the northern end of their own perimeter in the Pacific, as well as possibly laying claim to the prestige of standing on North American soil.5

The Japanese forces assigned to the Aleutians during the Battle of Midway were built around two aircraft carriers. Their mission was to strike Dutch Harbor and occupy Adak and Attu, the latter only long enough to destroy American military installations. The state of Japanese intelligence regarding the islands was low - Attu in fact contained no U.S. military presence of any kind. The first air strike on Dutch Harbor, on 3 June, caused little damage, but a second on 4 June was more successful. This was the same day that the main fleet, far to the south, was badly defeated at Midway. The occupation of the Aleutians was actually called off by Japanese admiral Yamamoto, but the order was reversed and he ordered it to proceed regardless. U.S. warplanes operating from Umnak had managed to do damage to the Japanese, dissuading them from occupying Adak, but on the afternoon of 6 June Kiska was occupied, followed by Attu the next morning. With no Allied forces in the islands to resist the invasion, it took four days before U.S. forces realized the occupation had occurred.

The Kiska garrison was reinforced with 1,200 men in July 1942, and the Japanese soldiers from Attu were mosly shipped to Kiska in the autumn. The decision was made by the Japanese to leave garrisons on both islands permanently, and Attu was reoccupied in October. Defence works and airfields were ordered, with February 1943 selected as a target date. A U.S. blockade interfered with the reinforcement of the garrisons, but by spring Attu boasted 2,500 men and Kiska 6,000, including civilians in some numbers, living what the Canadian official historian called a "precarious and uncomfortable existence."6

Counter-Offensive

The first military actions against the Japanese in the Aleutians were air strikes; United States Army Air Force raids began as early as 11 June 1942, when bombers based at Umnak attacked Kiska. The island was attacked frequently thereafter. Attu was out of range until Adak was occupied on 30 August 1942, and Amchitka was occupied on 12 January 1943, putting Attu only 80 miles away. The first aerial bombardment of Attu happened in November 1942. RCAF aircraft moved to Anchorage from British Columbia in June 1942, and in the only air combat with the Japanese recorded a kill of a Japanese Zero. Weather turned out to be more dangerous than the Japanese, though anti-aircraft fire remained a hazard. U.S. Navy submarines and cruisers also plied their trade in the waters around the occupied islands.

Strategically, the Japanese posed little hazard to anyone, but worried civilians in Alaska and British Columbia prompted early calls for an expeditionary force to remove the Japanese garrisons. The early occupation of Adak was done in response to these early calls. In December 1942, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized the occupation of Amchitka and ordered the commander of U.S. forces in the western U.S.A. (including Alaska) to prepare a force to attack Kiska. The Americans intended to promote such an operation at the Casablanca conference, but General Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, feared the British would misunderstand it as a diversion of forces to a secondary theatre, in violation of the "Germany first" program previously agreed to. In January 1943, the American Joint Chiefs thus advocated that Allied policy be that the Allies "make the Aleutians as secure as may be", a vague statement that was adopted at Casablanca.7

The Kiska operation was postponed, but an attack on Attu, which had a weaker garrison, went ahead, as it would not require diversion of as many resources from other theatres. Approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff came in March 1943, and the U.S. Army's 7th Division landed on 11 May 1943. The Japanese fought according to their unique code, refusing to surrender. The battle lasted until a final Banzai charge on 29 May, and some additional mopping up, after which the U.S. commander counted 2,350 Japanese soldiers killed and only 24 survivors of the garrison taken prisoner.

The garrison of Kiska remained to be dealt with. The question received some attention, along with much more important matters, from the Combined Chiefs of Staff during the "Trident" conference in Washington (12-25 May 1943). The U.S. planners argued that until the Japanese were driven out of Kiska the United States would have to keep large air and ground forces in the Aleutians and was obliged to "disperse naval forces to that area"; the Japanese must therefore be expelled. This argument was accepted by the Combined Chiefs, and the final conclusions of the conference, as approved by President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill, included "Ejection of the Japanese from the Aleutians" as one of the objects of operations in the Pacific in 1943-44. On 24 May, the second-last day of the conference, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff accordingly authorized planning and training for the attack on Kiska, and subsequently gave final approval for the enterprise.

We have already noted the part played by the R.C.A.F. in Alaska. The Royal Canadian Navy, although it had only minor forces available on the Pacific Coast, placed these vessels and its port facilities at the U.S. Command's disposal as soon as the threat to the Aleutians developed. At this time the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, placed "all Army, Navy, and Canadian forces in the Alaskan-Aleutian theater" under the Commander Task Force 8, later North Pacific Force (then Rear-Admiral Robert A. Theobald). The Canadian Army's activity in Alaska was limited in the first instance to the anti-aircraft defence of Annette Island. Now, however, it was brought into the Kiska project. This piece of cooperation resulted from very informal American suggestions which were warmly taken up in Canada. On 19 April General DeWitt had visited General Pearkes at Vancouver and given him an outline of the operations projected in the Aleutians commencing early in May. Pearkes reported this to Ottawa. There had apparently been no actual suggestion of Canadian assistance. On 10 May, however, General Pope in Washington reported to the Chief of the General Staff (General Stuart) that the Secretary of the American section of the Permanent Joint Board on Defence, Mr. J. D. Hickerson, had suggested to him that it would be eminently appropriate if Canadian forces cooperated in removing the existing threat in the Aleutians. The following day General Stuart telegraphed General Pearkes referring to the latter's earlier report and inquiring whether it was "too late to consider some form of army participation". (The C.G.S. did not know that U.S. troops had landed on Attu that day, for the operation was not announced until some days later.) On 12 May General Pope was instructed to approach General Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and had an interview with him the following afternoon. Marshall received the suggestion of Canadian assistance cordially and proceeded to consult the_ Western Defence Command. On 24 May he wrote Pope that he had had a message from General DeWitt stating that both he and Major-General Simon B. Buckner, Commanding General, Alaska Defence Command, were "delighted at the prospect of having units of the Canadian forces associated with his Command in present and future operations in the Aleutian area".

DeWitt now presented to Pearkes two requests: one for the immediate provision of one infantry battalion and a light anti-aircraft battery "to be ready to move 15 June to reinforce Amchitka or Attu in case of counteroffensive"; the other, the provision in August of a brigade group for "offensive operations"-that is, the attack on Kiska. These proposals were placed before the Cabinet War Committee at a special meeting on 27 May, and although final decision was postponed pending a more formal approach from the United States the consensus was that the second of the two proposals was preferable. On 31 May a further meeting of the Committee considered a letter from the U.S. Secretary of War (Colonel Henry L. Stimson) to Colonel Ralston, extending a formal invitation in general terms;* and approval was then given for the employment of a brigade group. The battalion scheme was not proceeded with. Arrangements had already been made, on the initiative of General Pearkes, to send ten Canadian officers to the Aleutian theatre as observers.8

Operation GREENLIGHT

The decision was made to use the headquarters of the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade, a formation raised for home defence, and the three infantry battalion in Pacific Command that were numerically strongest. These were:

  • The Canadian Fusiliers

  • The Winnipeg Grenadiers

  • The Rocky Mountain Rangers

It was subsequently deemed desirable to include a francophone unit, and Le Régiment de Hull was added to the force, which was patterned after a U.S. Regimental Combat Team. It was slotted in where a battalion of combat engineers would have gone in the U.S. organization, and one company of the Le Régiment de Hull was attached to each of the other three battalion combat teams. Included in the force also were the 24th Field Regiment, R.C.A., 46th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, 24th Field Company, R.C.E., a company of The Saint John Fusiliers (M.G.) and the 25th Field Ambulance, R.C.A.M.C. The special training that the force underwent received the code name GREENLIGHT, while the invasion of Kiska itself received the code name Operation COTTAGE.

First Canadian Army in the United Kingdom was canvassed for a suitable officer to command the force, and Brigadier Harry Foster was selected.

...I flew to Nanaimo to look over my new job. First impressions: for conscripts who form the majority, the troops look pretty good material to me. But there are altogether too many old soft officers to my liking and I feel uneasy about the 24th Field Regiment. For the job in hand I would have preferred to have younger and more adaptable officers. However, time will not permit - here are the tools, get on with the job. I am a little staggered at what has to be accomplished in a matter of weeks. And we are to use all American equipment!9


Brigadier Harry Foster. He wears the formation patch of the Kiska force on his Canadian battledress, as well as an American pistol belt with first aid pouch and pistol case.

Major W.S. Murdoch accompanied Foster, but rather than be made Brigade Major, the typical Canadian staff appointment, he was promoted lieutenant-colonel and made Chief of Staff to fit into the U.S. staff system, as the brigade headquarters was also being organized along American lines.

Two battalion combat teams trained at Nanaimo and the third at Courtenay, the major units concentrating by 14 June. The syllabus included hardening, weapon and tactical training, amphibious training with assault craft, organization of beaches and the loading and unloading of vehicles. Canadian weapons were used but much American equipment, unfamiliar to the troops, was also to be used, including the replacement of 3-inch mortars by 81mm mortars, and some 25-pounder field guns with 75mm pack howitzers, which were more portable, a necessity in the rough terrain of the Aleutians. The .30 calibre carbine was also issued as a personal weapon to officers, and U.S. clothing and web equipment was issued for wear over top of Canadian battledress. U.S. sleeping bags were also issued and there remained the administrative task of weeding out soldiers without four months training, or meeting physical fitness standards, made more difficult when the date of the operation was moved up.

The units contained a great many soldiers enrolled for compulsory service under the National Resources Mobilization Act. One of the reasons adduced by the (Chief of the General Staff) for taking part in the Kiska enterprise was that "The use of Home Defence personnel in an active theatre will serve to break down the hostile attitude with which Home Defence personnel are regarded by large sections of the Canadian public." ...(A)n order in council of 18 June 1943 authorized the employment of such personnel in Alaska, including the Aleutians. This was put into effect with some caution. Under its terms, the Minister of National Defence issued on 11 July a "Direction" permitting the dispatch of the "Greenlight" force for "training, service or duty" at Adak or points in Alaska "east of Adak"-i.e., those parts of the Aleutians then firmly in American hands.

Only on 12 August, following receipt of a formal report from the Vice Chief of the General Staff (Major-General Murchie), who went to Adak for the purpose, that the state of the force was in all respects satisfactory and the plan represented "a practical operation of war", was "Direction No. 2" issued removing this limitation, and Pacific Command
authorized to allow the force to proceed.
10

Operation COTTAGE

The invasion of Kiska got off to an inauspicious start:

Embarkation of the Canadian Kiska force began at Nanaimo on 10 July. There were a few embarrassing moments when a battalion of the Winnipeg Grenadiers marched smartly onto the dock, halted and then refused to go up the gangway to their ship. Three or four rifles were thrown into the sea to the delight of news reporters covering the event. The battalion's commanding officer was furious. Before matters got out of hand, a detachment of Provost was summoned from Nanaimo to assist and the troops were marched back to camp.

Officers and senior NCOs then divided the men into groups and in short order sorted everything out. A few ringleaders and barrackroom lawyers were cut from the boarding roster, and the battalion marched back next day ready to board its ship. Other Zombies who headed for the hills once the embarkation date had been announced began trickling back into camp. By 11 July Harry (Foster) was able to report the following: "Absentee situation completely under control. Some returning voluntarily, others being rounded up by the Provost and in custody...One Sergeant and a Corporal of the Winnipegs caught with a large store of supplies in bivouac on Mt. Benson! Had the Deputy Minister of National Defence, Lt.-Col. G.S. Currie, on my hands all day..."11

Infantrymen of the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group aboard a landing craft taking part in Operation COTTAGE in August 1943. The special formation patch of ATF-9 featured a knife on a blue disc with white edge. A mix of Canadian battledress and American gear (including steel helmets) is being worn. American rank insignia is worn on the steel helmets by Canadian officers for ease of recognition by their allies. LAC photo

The 13th Infantry Brigade Group sailed on 12 July from Nanaimo and Chemainus in four U.S. transports, with a strength of 4,831 all ranks. There were 165 men absent without leave at the time of sailing, a fact that Pacific Command attributed to the high turnover rate of personnel, about 33% in the space of a month. The Army's official historian noted that Le Régiment de Hull, which had less turnover than the other units, also had only 6 absences while other battalions had larger AWL numbers.12

Brigadier Foster's legal status within the Canadian and American chain of command was clarified by an official letter of appointment, and he was granted powers of command (but not discipline and/or punishment) over American troops in his brigade, and the same powers extended to American commanders with Canadian troops under them.

Another Canadian force was also on its way to the northern Pacific by the time the 13th Brigade sailed. The First Special Service Force had been briefly discussed at the Trident conference as being in need of combat experience, and a remark was made that it had been a pity it was not available for employment at Attu, but perhaps might be used in another operation in the area. The prospect of deployment to Kiska proved amenable to both Americans and Canadians, and both the U.S. War Committee and Canadian Cabinet so approved the move.13

On 26 June the Force departed Fort Ethan Allan in Vermont, expecting to head to Europe via Boston to fight the Germans, and instead were surprised to find themselves heading west via Albany. They disembarked in San Francisco and were briefed that although just over 30 Japanese surrendered out of a force of 2,300 on Attu, the goal of their next mission would be to take as many prisoners as possible. They embarked at San Francisco with 169 officers, 8 warrant officers and 2,283 enlisted men, including 42 Canadian officers and 552 Canadian other ranks, a U.S.-Canadian ration of about 60:40. The Force arrived at Adak, but disembarked instead at Amchitka, as the main body of "Amphibian Training Force 9", including the 13th Canadian Brigade Group, was using Adak for training.14

The 13th Brigade had disembarked on 21 July, and its training was done, with the rest of the Training Force, under the direction of Major-General Holland M. "Howling Mad" Smith of the U.S. Marine Corps. The climax of the training was a landing exercise on Great Sitkin Island during the first week of August 1943.15

Marine Maj.-Gen. Holland M. Smith, commander of the training program, seemed mightily impressed by the quality of the Canadian troops. They reminded him more of his own marines than soldiers. Accustomed to the American army's casual dress, discipline and poorly trained soldiers, Smith turned to Harry (Foster) during one inspection and inquired, "Say, General, how do you get these men of yours to shave every day?"

"Well, General, I tell them that I don't want them looking like a bunch of bloody Americans."

Smith gave a grim smile. "Iszzatso?"16

General Pearkes, commanded of Pacific Command, established an Advanced Headquarters on 8 Auguest at Adak in order to observe the invasion. D-Day was scheduled for 15 August. A conference on 30 July was held and though Brigadier Foster was not present, he recommended a delay until 24 August to allow for further training. Admiral Nimitz, the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, refused the request. On 13 August, 5,300 Canadians (including the Canadian component of the 1st Special Service Force, known administratively as the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion), sailed from Adak for Kiska, part of a force of 34, 426 soldiers.17

The Assault

The plan for the assault included heavy fire support, and air and sea forces began their work on 22 July, with another heavy bombardment on 2 August and lesser fire missions on other dates. For the invasion itself, three battleships, two cruisers and 19 destroyers had been assembled. The plan called for a bombardment and feint landing on the south and east side of the island, where the bulk of the Japanese installations were, while the actual landings occurred on the north and west side of the island. The first troops ashore were to be the First Special Service Force in both areas. On D-Day, 15 August, they would precede the American troops landing in the south. On D+1, the 13th Canadian Brigade was scheduled to follow troops of the FSSF, landing on the right hand sector, with U.S. troops on the left.

In the event, the Japanese had already vacated the island by 15 August, unbeknownst to the Allies. Friendly fire was exchanged in a few cases, through the fog, and a Canadian was wounded by machine-gun fire on 16 August. A Canadian officer was killed by a mine on 17 August, and three further deaths would occur due to Japanese booby-traps or ammunition accidents.

The story of the evacuation is now available from Japanese sources. While the fighting on Attu was still in progress, the Japanese decided to withraw the Kiska garrison and use it to strengthen the Kuriles. The decision was promulgated in an Imperial Headquarters directive of 21 May. An attempt was made to remove the men by submarine, and 820, more than half of them civilians, are said to have been safely brought away in this manner; but this was done at a cost of four submarines lost to the U.S. Navy or navigational hazards, and three others damaged; and the effort was abandoned late in June. Orders were then issued for the job to be done by surface forces under cover of fog. The force detailed for the enterprise made one unsuccessful attempt, being driven back to Paramushiro on 17 July by unsuitable weather and shortage of fuel. A second try was favoured by fortune, in spite of collisions on 25 July which incapacitated two ships. On 28 July (West Longitude date), while one light cruiser stood off south of Kiska, two others and a flotilla of destroyers dashed in through the fog to the island. The garrison was waiting eagerly, and the whole remaining force-according to the best Japanese source, 5183 servicemen and civilians-were jammed aboard the cruisers and six of the destroyers in, it appears, less than one hour. The force dashed out again and reached Paramushiro in safety.18

The naval blockade, previously effective, had failed not only to prevent the evacuation of the island, but to alert the Allies that a major operation was unnecessary. While aerial sorties over the islands in the days preceding the attack had reported an absence of anti-aircraft fire, it was interpreted as a sign of enemy deceit, and soldiers in the invasion force were warned that the Japanese had likely taken to the hinterland of the island, and to expect a long and hard fight for the island.19 Casualties were estimated as high as 30 percent of the attacking force.20

On the basis of the experience of Attu, the Kiska enterprise might have produced a very bloody campaign. Thanks to the Japanese withdrawal, this was avoided. The enemy had lost his only foothold in the North American zone, and this was a source of satisfaction. From the Canadian point of view, however, it was particularly unfortunate that the episode could be presented as such a ridiculous anticlimax. It had been hoped, as we have seen, that participation by N.R.M.A. soldiers in an active campaign would improve the attitude of the public towards them. The Kiska affair certainly had no such result. This was the more regrettable as the N.R.M.A. men had behaved admirably. Their discipline was good and their morale high, and Brigadier Foster received many compliments from United States officers on their general standard of behaviour.

The 13th Infantry Brigade Group remained on Kiska for more than three months, living in "winterized" tents, and engaged in road and pier construction, transport fatigues, building and manning defences, and carrying on such training as conditions permitted. Fog, rain and wind made the island an acutely unpleasant residence, and the troops were heartily glad when the withdrawal to British Columbia began in November 1943. The last shipload of Canadians left Kiska on 12 January 1944. The Special Service Force had left much earlier, and were back in the United States by 1 September. Though the Kiska enterprise had not brought the action that had been expected, it had been well completed and had set some precedents. This was the first occasion when Canadian units operated in the field under United States higher command and on United States organization. These arrangements worked very satisfactorily. It was also the first occasion in history when an expedition left the shores of Canada prepared and equipped with a view to immediate offensive action, and the arduous task of administration which this necessitated appears to have been well performed.21

Notes

  1. Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume I: Six Years of War: Canada, Britain and the Pacific. pp.492-493

  2. McKay, Donald A. Gaudeamus Igitur "Therefore Rejoice" (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 2005) ISBN 1894255534 p.260

  3. Barker, A.J. Midway (Galahad Books, New York, NY, 1981) ISBN 0-88365-545-4 p.17
  4. Stacey, Ibid, p.493
  5. Ibid, p.494
  6. Ibid, p.495
  7. Ibid, p.496
  8. Ibid, pp.497-498
  9. Foster, Tony Meeting of Generals (Robin Brass, Toronto, ON, 1986) ISBN 0-458-80520-3
  10. Stacey, Ibid, pp.499-500
  11. Foster, Ibid, p.272
  12. It may also be worth suggesting that Le Régiment de Hull was a francophone unit and deserters in British Columbia, who spoke only French, may have had a hard time on the lam.
  13. Stacey, Ibid, p.501
  14. Burhans, Robert D. The First Special Service Force: A War History of The North Americans 1942-1944 (Methuen Publications, Toronto, ON, 1981) ISBN 0-458-95020-1 pp.59-64
  15. Stacey, Ibid, p.501
  16. Foster, Ibid, p.273
  17. Stacey, Ibid, p.502
  18. Ibid, pp.502-503
  19. Ibid, p.503
  20. Foster, Ibid, p.274
  21. Stacey, Ibid, pp.504-505

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