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Defense of the Aleutians

The Japanese realized that in order to win the war in the Pacific, they would have to bring the United States fleet into decisive combat. Their plan envisaged a deceptive move in a northern direction, towards the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. It would be a difficult campaign. The climate of the chain of islands that bounds the Bering Sea is not conducive for military operations or bases. It was cold and foggy in the summer, and bitterly cold in the winter. The climate was hard on man and machines. To counter the Japanese threat, the United States planned bases on the Aleutians. Into those bases throughout the first half of 1942, the nation moved her soldiers, sailors and airmen. Arkansas' 206th Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft) armed with obsolescent 3" anti-aircraft guns and water-cooled 0.50 caliber machine guns arrived in Dutch Harbor, the Aleutian Islands as part of the air defense. On the third of May, 1942, a Japanese task force made up of two light aircraft carriers and supporting ships moved into position 165 miles from Dutch Harbor. Fog shrouded their advance as they eluded the United States Navy forces that were searching for them. Half of the first attack group turned back because of the bad weather, but a dozen planes flew on to Dutch Harbor. Although the American forces were surprised, the 206th still managed to provide a thick screen of anti-aircraft fire. The gunners downed one Japanese Zero, but even more importantly, they denigrated the effect of the Japanese bombers' aim. Even so, the first attack cost the defenders of Dutch Harbor 25 killed in a 20-minute attack. This was the first Japanese attempt to destroy the new base at Dutch Harbor. Throughout the rest of the 3rd of June, weather assisted the defenders. On the 4th the Japanese struck again, damaging a hospital, oil storage facilities and killing more defenders. This was the last attack. Dutch Harbor was bloodied, damaged, but still in operation. The 206th served in Alaska from March, 1942 until they were deployed to Europe in 1944. The proud heritage of the 206th Coast Artillery is carried on today by the members of the Arkansas Army National Guard's 206th Field Artillery Regiment.

Copyright Notice

Images of these paintings may also be used for educational purposes with an appropriate permission statement, such as: "[name of painting], a National Guard Heritage Painting by [name of artist], courtesy the National Guard Bureau." The U.S. Government retains all copyrights to these paintings. No commercial use is authorized without prior approval.