This year, we recognize the 75th Anniversary of the Aleutians Campaign.  Our Programme Manager, Jon Ambler explains,

“Over the next few years DND and the RCAF will commemorate specific significant historical events through Op DISTINCTION. As part of Op DISTINCTION the Comox Air Force Museum was tasked to create a display commemorating the 75thAnniversary of the Aleutians Campaign.

The Aleutians Campaign, as distinct from the bigger picture of World War Two on the West Coast, started in June 1942 when the Japanese attacked Dutch Harbour and invaded and occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska, all located in the Aleutians Island chain of Alaska. Counter-invasion operations commenced in May 1943, 75 years ago,when the US forces attacked the Japanese occupiers on Attu. Further operations continued through the summer. The Aleutians Campaign ended in August 1943 when the Japanese in theatre had been defeated and completely removed from the Aleutians.

The Canadian contribution included the 13 Canadian Infantry Brigade, which conducted its training in the Comox Valley and deployed from Vancouver Island. The RCN contributed three armed merchant cruisers and two corvettes. The RCAF contributed seven operational squadrons, one of which, 14 (Fighter) Squadron was reformed as 442 Squadron when it deployed to North West Europe after contributing to victory in the Aleutians.

There were many firsts associated with the Aleutians Campaign:

  • It was the only time in the 20thCentury that enemy forces occupied North American territory.
  • It was the first time that American and Canadian combat forces combined todefend North America, a pre-cursor to NORAD.
  • The RCAF achieved its only combat victory over North America
  • It was the first time that Canadian soldiers sailed from Canada directly into combat. Those soldiers sailed from Nanaimo and Cowichan.

It is worth noting that this display is the first major display created entirely by Museum staff and volunteers. All research, design and development was done in-house, with a local company, ABC Printing, creating the graphic panels.

The Aleutians Campaign is often called the Forgotten War. It was a small-scale combat, in a remote and isolated part of the world, while huge war-winning actions were taking place elsewhere. But for the men fighting the Japanese, dealing with the terrible weather and operating in demanding terrain, all while living in very spartan conditions, it was a very difficult war. Lest We Forget.”

Have a look at these parts of our exhibit and then come in for a closer understanding of this time in our history!