Pretty much every single American knows about Pearl Harbor. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, killing thousands of people, and launching America into WW2.
Most people think that this was the only attack on American soil. But the Japanese actually occupied American soil in Alaska. The US attempt to reclaim it is known as the Forgotten Battle.
The Japanese believed that by seizing control of the Aleutian islands of Alaska, they could prevent a US attack from the Northern Pacific. They believed it was as incredibly important strategic location.
On June 6th, 1942, a small force of 500 Japanese soldiers was sent to Kiska, an Alaskan island. The island was only populated by a 10-man US Navy Weather Detachment and their six dogs. The force of 500 Japanese soldiers took them completely by surprise and took control of the island. Shortly after, they took control of the neighboring island of Attu. The Japanese force slowly grew to over 5000 soldiers.
The US was outraged. Pearl Harbor was very fresh in everyone’s minds, and the idea of Japanese soldiers on America soil was unacceptable.
America quickly drew up a plan to reclaim it called the Aleutian Campaign.
Sadly, the plan wouldn’t go into effect for some time. America was still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor, and most of their resources were put towards building their fleet and preparing for war in Europe. A few bombing raids were conducted from nearby islands, but despite public outrage, the island were mostly ignored.
Once January 1943 came around, the US effort became much more intense. The US had built up a force of 94,000 soldiers in the Alaska command.
By March, the US had created a debilitating blockade of Kiska and Attu. When supply ships were spotted by American patrol ships, they engaged in a battle known as the Battle of the Komandorski Islands. The Japanese fleet outnumbered the Americans fleet, and inflicted serious damage. The Japanese unexpectedly withdrew, fearing the arrival of US bombers, as well as running low on fuel and ammunition.
After several weeks of bombing runs, the US sent a force of 11,000 men to reclaim the land. The Japanese retreated to higher ground, instead of attacking the incoming force.
America equipment was ill suited for the harsh weather, and more soldiers died of frostbite and disease than enemy fire.
After weeks of continued advancement, the Americans had cornered the Japanese in one corner of the island. Knowing they were doomed, the Japanese tried a Banzai charge as a last resort. A banzai charge involves a massive wave of infantry charging toward the enemy. The charge ultimately failed. Two days later, the US took control of the island. About 2,000 Japanese died, as well as 1,000 American deaths.
The Battle of Attu was the only land battle of WW2 fought on US soil. Since the War of 1812, this was the only battle against a foreign nation fought on American soil