Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Canadian Troops In The Aleutians

Funny thing,  I had started writing and writing about the Canadian Military's role in the Aleutian Islands Campaign in WW2 and the post just kept on going and going.  For my taste, it was too long for one blog post so I decided I needed to break it up so that each division:  Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Royal Canadian Army (RCA), and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) can get the recognition they deserve.

RCAF F/O Robert W. Lynch (my grandfather)
& an AAF Officer in Kodiak, AK
about to ref the troops  hockey game. 
Just like many people did not know that there was even battle fought in Alaska in WW2, even fewer knew that the Canadians were fighting right alongside the United States to defend the North American continent.  Some would say defending 'America' but the way I look at it, if Alaska was being invaded then British Columbia and Canada could have been next, maybe just as a stepping stone to the south, but a stepping stone none the less.  

When the Aleutian battle first started in June 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor, the American defense was already stretched thin due to what was going on in Europe and the Pacific and it was clear it needed to establish a stronger northern defense.  It was only natural that the Canadians were called on to help defend their continent.  In 1940, to ensure help was available when needed, the two countries along with the Soviet Union signed the Pacific Joint Agreement on Defense, which basically stated that each nation would supply troops, ships, and planes to its neighbor if thy neighbor needed to defend themselves against an enemy attack.  Of course, this would be specifically helpful to the United States in regards to the eminent threat of Japan against Alaska.  So in a nutshell, a big nutshell,  that is how Canadians became involved.

Below is a very brief summary of  each divisions contributions to the Aleutian Campaign.  

Canadian Troops disembark on Kiska 9/1943
Source-Dept of National Defense Canada
The Royal Canadian Navy had 3 large ships, several corvettes, minesweepers and some sub chasing auxiliary vessels and not to forget, the many men needed to man those vessels.  Those ships saw duties in water as far north as Dutch Harbor to Amchitka as well as guarding the more southern waters of the inside passage.  Canadian boats were attacked, Seamen died and many were injured.

The Canadian Army were also involved from beginning to end, from guarding the inside passage where transport and military boats would pass to the final offensive mission, where 5300 Canadian troops landed with the Americans to re-take Kiska.  At least, 313 never to return home.

Royal Canadian Air Force
Source- Canada Wings
The Royal Canadian Air Force,  had approximately 500 personnel up north with at least 5 squadrons participating, No.111F, No.14F and  No.8B were stationed up north and 2 further south manning Annette Island.   Both the No. 111F and No.14F went on regular offensive missions and 11 of the dedicated and brave Canadian Airmen won American Air Medals for their service.  Many Canadian airmen were lost, not due to enemy attacks, we survived those, but due to the harsh and dangerous flying conditions in the Aleutian Islands, noted to be the worst in the world, with low ceilings, intense fog and spontaneous strong crosswinds.

Although by numbers, the Canadians may have had fewer troops but by no means were they less valuable to the success of this forgotten campaign. I can say now, having lived in both Canada and the United States, that Americans want to hold onto their pride and Canadians want to hold onto theirs, but in the end we are all North Americans and we should all feel proud that we worked together right here on our soil to keep it protected and in tact.

From the words of my grandfather, RCAF F/O Robert W. Lynch, No. 111F Squadron, when asked by historian, M.V. Bezeau "How the detachment blended into the AAF's 11th Pursuit and how were it's relations?"

"Pilots are pilots, consequently we had no trouble blending into the routine of the 11th Pursuit's operational duties.  We definitely retained our identity and our relations could not have been better."

In closing, I need to say that I am no war expert, nor author, so what I share with you, is what I have learned researching for thousands of hours (according to my 9 year old) the information about this campaign.  Along the way I have met and spoken with some wonderful people; veterans, historians, Alaskans, authors and regular joe's. Thank you all for helping me along this journey.  What fun, and it has only just begun! 


  1. Interesting stuff. Thank you for writing about this.

  2. Thank you for reading! This is a really interesting and almost unknown part of history and in my lil ol opinion, it needs to be know... and that's my goal, well, one of them.

    Please keep reading, there are a ton more stories to tell....

    Thank you for the comment!

  3. The Canadian Army is not and has never been the Royal Canadian Army. Units within the Canadian Army my be "Royal", such as the Royal Highland Regiment or the Royal Canadian Dragoons. It would interesting to know which regiments took part in the action.

    1. YES- thank you for this correction! And welcome others. The Canadian Army formed a force that took part in Operation Cottage (the invasion of Kiska) lead by Brig.Harry Foster. The force, the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade included the Winnipeg Grenadiers, Canadian Fusiliers, Rocky Mountain Rangers, Le RĂ©giment de Hull. Also the 24th Field Regiment, R.C.A., 46th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, 24th Field Company, R.C.E., a company of The Saint John Fusiliers (M.G.) and the 25th Field Ambulance, R.C.A.M.C. and the 1st Canadian Special Services Battalion. Around 5,300 troops in all. The force trained both at Nanaimo and Courtney before embarking on the long journey towards Kiska on July 10th, 43 and eventually landing on the North side of Kiska August 15th and 16th.