Alaska, Battle in the Aleutians: 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 6th Canadian Infantry Division, 1943

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3262662)

Infantrymen of the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade in British Columbia, preparing to take part in Operation Cottage, the invasion of Kiska, Alaska, in July 1943.

During the Second World War a military campaign was conducted by American and Canadian forces against Japanese forces occupying the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska, part of the Territory of Alaska.  The remoteness of the islands and the challenges of weather and terrain delayed a larger American-Canadian force sent to eject them for nearly a year. The islands' strategic value was their ability to control Pacific transportation routes and to guard their northern flank.

The Japanese believed that control of the Aleutians would prevent a possible US attack across the Northern Pacific. Similarly, the Americans feared that the islands would be used as bases from which to carry out a full-scale aerial attack on the US west coast.

A battle to reclaim Attu was launched on 11 May 1943 and completed after a final Japanese banzai charge on 29 May. On 15 August 1943, an invasion force landed on Kiska in the wake of a sustained three-week barrage, only to discover that the Japanese had withdrawn from the island on 29 July.

On 15 August 1943, an invasion force of 34,426 Canadian and American troops landed on Kiska. The invasion consisted mainly of units from the American 7th Infantry Division. The force also included about 5,300 Canadians, mostly from the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 6th Canadian Infantry Division, and the 1stSpecial Service Force, a 2,000-strong Canadian-American commando unit formed in1942 in Montana and trained in winter warfare techniques. The Force included three 600-man regiments: the 1st was to go ashore in the first wave at Kiska Harbour, the 2nd was to be held in reserve to parachute where needed, and the3rd was to land on the north side of Kiska on the second day of the assault. The87th Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division, the only major American force specifically trained for mountain warfare, was also part of the operation.

Royal Canadian Air Force No. 111 and No. 14 Squadrons saw active service in the Aleutian skies and scored at least one aerial kill on a Japanese aircraft. Additionally, three Canadian armed merchant cruisers and two corvettes served in the Aleutian campaign but did not encounter enemy forces.

The invaders landed to find the island abandoned; the Japanese forces had left two weeks earlier. Under the cover of fog, the Japanese had successfully removed their troops on 28 July. Although the Japanese troops had gone, Allied casualties on Kiska numbered 313. They were the result of friendly fire, booby traps, disease, mines, timed bombs set by the Japanese, vehicle accidents, or frostbite. Like Attu, Kiska offered an extremely-hostile environment.

The battle also marked the first time that Canadian conscripts were sent to a combat zone in the Second World War. The government had pledged not to send draftees "overseas", which it defined as being outside North America. The Aleutians were considered to be North American soil, which enabled the Canadian government to deploy conscripts without breaking its pledge. There were cases of desertion before the brigade sailed for the Aleutians. In late 1944, the government changed its policy on draftees and sent 16,000 conscripts to Europe to take part in the fighting.  (Wikipedia)

Map of Kiska and Attu, 1943.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3262661)

Canadian Infantrymen of the 13th Infantry Brigade Group, embarking in an American troopship to take part in Operation Cottage, the invasion of Kiska, July 1943.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3230068)

Infantrymen of Le Régiment de Hull waiting to board ships at Nanaimo or Chemainus, British Columbia, to take part in Operation COTTAGE, the invasion of Kiska, Aleutian Islands. 12 July 1943.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3598693)

Personnel of the 13th Infantry Brigade Group disembarking from a United States transport in British Columbia, after returning from Operation COTTAGE, the attack on Kiska, ca. November 1943 - January 1944.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3240005)

Infantrymen of the 13th Infantry Brigade Group aboard a landing craft taking part in Operation COTTAGE, the invasion of Kiska, Aleutian Islands, August 1943.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3298802)

Members of the 13th Infantry Brigade Group taking part in Operation Cottage, the invasion of the island of Kiska. British Columbia, July 1943.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3211083)

Canadian Infantrymen of the 13th Infantry Brigade Group, landing at Kiska in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska on Op COTTAGE, 16 Aug 1943.

It was decided that the FSSF would be blooded against the Japanese forse occupying the Aleutian island of Kiska.  The FSSF arrived at the San Francisco Port of Embarkation on 4 July 1943, and sailed for the Aleutian Islands on 10 July 1943.  On 15 August 1943, 1st SSF was part of the invasion force of the island of Kiska, but after discovering the island was recently evacuated by Japanese forces, it re-embarked and left ship at Camp Stoneman, California.  The FSSF returned to Fort Ethan Allen, arriving 9 September 1944.

 The 6th Canadian Infantry Division was raised as part of a home-defence scheme in Canada, the culmination of various mobilizations throughout 1941 and 1942. The 6th was raised in March 1942 with its headquarters on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Various composite units were stationed at Port Alberni, Vancouver Island and Vernon. Throughout 1943, the division lost its artillery units to coastal defence work, and other battalions were shipped overseas. In June 1943, these units were sent to Kiska only to find the island abandoned, and in late 1943, the 7th Canadian Infantry Division was disbanded and various battalions were amalgamated into the 6th. By January 1944, the units had returned from Kiska, having not taken part in any fighting. On 1 December 1944, the need for coastal defence having lessened, it was decided that the division should be disbanded.

However, planning for a proposed Allied invasion of Japan called for a Canadian division to be a component of a combined Commonwealth Corps. Disbandment of the 6th halted and it was re-formed as the main component of the Canadian Army Pacific Force, with the inclusion of units that served with other divisions.

The re-formed division was commanded by Major General Bert Hoffmeister and its primary units were named after the components of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. However, its battalions were to be organized along the lines of a US Army infantry division and would be equipped primarily with US-made weapons, vehicles and equipment. Following the surrender of Japan, the division's disbandment continued. The remaining units were disbanded by 31 January 1946. (Wikipedia)

Order of Battle

August 1943 at Kiska
November 1943
November 1944
  • No. 6 Defence and Employment Platoon (Lorne Scots)
  • 31st (Alberta) Reconnaissance Regiment
  • 1st Battalion, The Saint John Fusiliers (Machine Gun)
  • 20th, 24th, 25th Field Regiments, RCA
  • 22nd Heavy AA Battery (Mobile), RCA
  • 25th, 46th, 48th Light AA Batteries, RCA
  • 15th, 24th, 25th, 26th Field Companies, RCE
  • 14th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group
  • 1st Battalion, The Winnipeg Light Infantry
  • 1st Battalion, Les Fusiliers de Sherbrooke
  • 1st Battalion, The Oxford Rifles
  • No. 14 Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)
  • 15th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group
  • 1st Battalion, The Prince Albert Volunteers
  • 1st Battalion, Les Fusiliers du St-Laurent
  • 1st Battalion, The Prince Edward Island Highlanders
  • No. 15 Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)
  • 16th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group
  • 1st Battalion, The Midland Regiment (Northumberland and Durham)
  • 1st Battalion, The Royal Rifles of Canada
  • 1st Battalion, The Prince of Wales Rangers (Peterborough Regiment)

(http://canadiansoldiers.com/organization/fieldforces/casf/6thdivision.htm)

For more detailed coverage of Operation Cottage check here:

https://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/operations/operationcottage.htm?fbclid=IwAR0-ZpXp8NnjLcpaQFRvHs1eNhsdH-RSwGi3s4Umws63nSlFBOVomC28sZE

(DND Photo)

Major General Harry Wickwire Foster CBE, DSO (April 2, 1902 – August 6, 1964) shown here as a Brigadier, wearing a Kiska patch on his left shoulder.

MGen Foster was a senior Canadian Army officer who commanded two Canadian divisions during the Second World War. He served in both the Pacific and European theatres.  In 1941, promoted to lieutenant colonel, Foster assumed command of 4th Reconnaissance Battalion (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards), the recently activated scout formation assigned to 1st Canadian Infantry Division in England. In 1942, he was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry of Canada.  He led Canadian troops of the the 13th Canadian Infantry Brigade in the Kiska campaign in 1943 (Operation Cottage), for which he was awarded the American Legion of Merit. Unknown to the Allies, the Japanese had withdrawn three weeks before the attack. Foster commented in his diary "I feel bloody silly coming all this way for nothing."  In 1943, he was promoted to brigadier and became the commanding officer of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade which landed on Juno beach on D-Day.  In 1944 he was promoted to major general and took over 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division in Normandy, relieving George Kitching. On September 12, 1944, he entered the historic city of Bruges (Belgium) with his troops. The liberation of this medieval town was done successfully, without fight or damage. In recognition for this achievement, Foster was named an honorary citizen of Bruges, an award bestowed upon only two people since 1900: Foster and Hendrik Brugmans, first rector of the College of Europe. Later, swapping commands with Chris Vokes (because Vokes had a poor relationship with new I Canadian Corps commander Charles Foulkes), he led the 1st Canadian Infantry Division in Italy, then returned with this division to North-West Europe as part of Operation Goldflake.  After the war, Foster (with four brigadiers) presided over the court martial of Canada's top prisoner of war, SS General Kurt Meyer.