Tuesday, June 1

Island War & World War 2 in the Aleutian Islands

June 6 & 7, 1942 - The Japanese invade and occupy the islands of Kiska and Attu, part of the Alaskan coast.  This is the first time the continental United States was invaded since the War of 1812.

Alaska was a US territory during the war, but still a player in the Pacific theater.  The Aleutian Islands were an important stop in the Pacific transportation routes, and the Japanese wanted to prevent the US from using them as a jumping-off point to attack.  The US also feared that the Japanese would use it as a staging area to attack major west coast cities.

It was the remoteness of the islands and the challenges of weather and terrain that allowed the Japanese to set up camp and stay a while after invading.  These factors delayed a larger U.S.-Canadian force from ejecting them for a year.  On August 15, 1943, an invasion force landed on Kiska, only to discover that the Japanese had withdrawn from the island two weeks earlier.

This campaign is known as the "Forgotten Battle."  Some military historians believe that the invasion of the Aleutians was a diversionary attack during the Battle of Midway, meant to draw out the U.S. Pacific Fleet from the region. Others have argued against this interpretation, believing that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians to protect their northern flank, and did not intend it as a diversion.


  • Island War (Patricia Reilly Giff)
    • Fourteen-year-old Matt never wanted to come to the remote Aleutian Islands--he was dragged here by his father for reasons he can't understand. Eleven-year-old Izzy, on the other hand, loves it--the wild weather, the strange birds, all the new people she's meeting. The two have little in common, except their hometown--they certainly aren't friends.  But when Japanese soldiers land on the island, Izzy and Matt are the only ones who escape being shipped off to a prison camp. The two kids must put their differences aside and work together if they're going to survive. With a long, harsh winter ahead of them, they'll need to dodge Axis soldiers and withstand Allied bombing raids--and keep the village dog from giving them away to the enemy, too.
  • Attu Boy: A Young Alaskan's WWII Memoir


  • History Rediscovered: Report from the Aleutians (included with Prime)
    • John Huston's acclaimed documentary shows the struggle of American forces to dislodge the Japanese from the island of Kiska. Huston's portrait of ordinary G.I. Joes courageously facing opposition earned him an Oscar nomination in 1944.

Make / Do

  • Compare the climate of the Aleutian Islands through the year with the climate where you live. What effect did the climate have on Izzy and Matt’s actions in various parts of the story as the year went on?
  • The Bering Strait was named for Vitus Bering.  Research his life, and write a short biography about him.  Why was it named for him?
  • Research the Battle of Attu.  Write a paragraph that describes the battle, the casualties, and the establishment of a National Historic Landmark.

Nature Notebook

  • Draw (or find) pictures of each of the following, and write some basic information on each.
    • Blue heron
    • cormorant
    • cuckoo
    • Emperor goose
    • Eurasian skylark
    • Horned puffin
    • House wren
    • Killdear
    • Kittiwake
    • Laysan albatross
    • Peregrine falcon
    • Plover
    • Sandhill crane
    • Yellow bittern


  • Each of the two main characters had a missing parent, one of whom was dead. Do you think you would feel differently about a missing parent vs. one who had died? Explain the difference.
  • At the end of the story, Matt remembers that his dad had said, “Things aren’t always the way you think they are.” What did he mean? What does this phrase mean to you? Matt also said to Izzy, “You’re my best friend.” Why do you think it took Matt so long to realize this about Izzy? Describe an experience you’ve had with someone you didn’t like at first who ultimately became a friend?

Get the entire World War 2 Bundle!


  • The Book Thief
  • We Were There at the Battle of Britain
  • Number the Stars
  • The Winged Watchmen
  • We Were There at Pearl Harbor
  • We Were There at the Battle of Bataan
  • Island War
  • Red Stars
  • The Night Witches
  • Mare’s War
  • We Were There at the Normandy Invasion
  • Code Talkers
  • We Were There at the Battle of the Bulge
  • The Light Between Us
  • We Were There at the Open of the Atomic Era
  • A Merry 1940s Christmas

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