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Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians (Classic… (original 1969; edition 1995)
by Brian Garfield (Author)
The Thousand Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians by Brian Garfield (1969)
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This is not your typical war and battle narrative. Brian Garfield's dry humor and narrative style will keep you engaged to the very end. This little known theater of war during WWII, Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, was described as "the weirdest war ever waged". Submarines, battleships and bombers all played second fiddle to the ferocious weather; weather so formidable that even trees are unable to grow in the raging winds and sunless days. The climate determined the outcome of all the battles and compelled both sides to blindly search through the fog to find each other. Sometimes entire convoys slipped past the enemy hidden in the dense and ever-present fog. The severely limited visibility resulted in the inadvertent bombing of entire small islands and even whales mistaken for enemy convoys. Troops were neither prepared for the elements in training or gear, with no warm clothing and traditional fighting tactics unusable. Pilots in particular needed to invent new strategies for missions. Colonel William Eareckson was especially creative in his bombing tactics and was often specifically named in curses by Tokyo Rose. The many lives lost here in a war of radio silence caused an unreported pivotal turning point for American troops fighting the Japanese at Midway and other Pacific islands. With Japanese forces and materials divided, America was able to prevail for the first time against the Japanese naval forces.
The title is expressive. The Aleutian Campaign was conducted in a very difficult environment. Men and machines were driven very hard, and in the final analysis it was a side-show. But it was also a potent threat to either side of the Pacific War. For the serious student this is an important book. Mr. Garfield has done his research and has also achieved a good level of verisimilitude, and an engaging text. For the general reader, this is also a good time.
The Aleutian campaign can best be characterized as a folie a deux. This admirably paced narrative will leave you with one overwhelming feeling: Gratitude that you weren't there for it.
Well told story of a little kn own area of operations in WW2
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Wikipedia in English (13)
The Thousand-Mile War, a powerful story of the battles of the United States and Japan on the bitter rim of the North Pacific, has been acclaimed as one of the great accounts of World War II. Brian Garfield, a novelist and screenwriter whose works have sold some 20 million copies, was searching for a new subject when he came upon the story of this ""forgotten war"" in Alaska. He found the history of the brave men who had served in the Aleutians so compelling and so little known that he wrote the first full-length history of the Aleutian campaign, and the book remains a favorite among Alaskans.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)940.54History and Geography Europe Europe 1918- Military History Of World War II
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Brian Garfield tells about it in his 1969 book “The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians,” now mostly forgotten, like the battles themselves, but still worth reading.
The Aleutian Islands stretch so far into the Pacific that they cross the International Date Line, meaning that Alaska can be called both the most western state and the most eastern. Protecting all those islands proved an impossible task, although the severe weather, even in summer, helped. In 1942 the Japanese landed thousands of men on the islands of Kiska and Attu, viewing them as both a potential base from which to launch air attacks against the United States mainland and a means to prevent similar attacks by the U.S. against Japan. Conditions discouraged actually building much of a base on these islands, however, and the Japanese were preparing to withdraw when the military minds back in Washington finally decided to take the threat seriously and ordered an attack.
The invasion plans were something of comedy of errors. Garfield offers up the great line: "The War Department worked in mysterious ways its blunders to perform." In fact, much of this book proves humorous, as he devotes entire chapters to the dark humor of those Americans unlucky enough to be stationed in the Aleutians and ridicules generals who outfitted men for battle in the tropics, then sent them to Alaska.
The fight to reclaim these otherwise insignificant islands included, writes Garfield, "the last and longest classic daylight naval battle in the history of fleet warfare." That's a lot of qualifiers, but basically it refers to a sea battle involving just warships, not aircraft. Later he refers to the Battle of Attu as "the second most costly battle of the war in the Pacific," next to Iwo Jima. The invasion taught lessons that would prove valuable on D-Day.
As for Kiska, the bigger prize, the Japanese troops had evacuated under the cover of fog and darkness by the time the Americans invaded. The invaders found an island occupied only by a few dogs.
So why didn't this World War II campaign receive more attention? Garfield cites a couple of reasons. First, there were no Marines involved. It was the Army that invaded, and historically the Army gets less attention than the Marines. Second, there were too many blunders. The generals and admirals preferred that it all be ignored.
Garfield is best remembered as a novelist, especially for “Death Wish” and “Kolchak’s Gold.” This book proves he could write excellent military history, as well. ( )