Into the Endless Mist Volume 1: The Aleutian Campaign, June-August 1942

Published on
February 20, 2024
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Michał A. Piegzik
Other Publication Information
Paperback (8.3”x11.7”), 106 pages with 68 black and white photographs, 15 color profiles, one color map, five black and white maps, seven diagrams, and 39 tables.
Product / Stock #
Asia@War No. 37(HEL 1746)
Company: Helion & Company - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site

“In far Alaska’s icy spray, I stand beside my binnacle
And scan the waters through the fog for fear some rocky pinnacle
Projecting from unfathomed depths may break my hull asunder
And place my name upon the list of those who made a blunder
Volcanic peaks beneath the waves are likely any morning
To smash my ships to tiny bits without the slightest warning
I dread the toll from reef and shoal that rip off keel and rudder
And send our bones to Davey Jones – the prospect
makes me shudder
The Bering Sea is not for me nor my fleet headquarters
In mortal dread I look ahead in wild Aleutian waters
Where hidden reefs and williwaws and terrifying critters
Unnerve me quite with woeful fright and give me fits and jitters.”

This poem, the “so-called ‘Ode to Theobald”, was penned by the Commander of the Alaska Defense Command, Major General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr and was aimed at Navy Admiral Robert Alfred “Fuzzy” Theobald, the Commander of Task Force 8, the Navy 1942 Naval and Army Staff Meeting as he wanted to express his views on the US Navy’s actions in the North Pacific over the past several months. This mocking, “extremely malicious and unprofessional personal criticism” highlighted the rifts between Army land and air forces and their naval counterparts, primarily among the two commanders, instead of focusing on working together against a common enemy.

The Aleutian Campaign is often overshadowed with other titanic fights against the Japanese in the Pacific. Coming just months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the successful Japanese conquest of the Central and Southern Pacific, Japanese Mobile Force” (Kidō Butai -the name for the combined carrier battle group composing most of the aircraft carriers and carrier air groups of the Imperial Japanese Navy) operations, and the Battle of the Coral Sea, this crucial campaign is often forgotten.The Battle of Midway was not mentioned as this invasion was linked to the Aleutian campaign. The Japanese sought to increase their Pacific Ocean defensive perimeter, with the Aleutian and Midway Islands as key strongholds.

Into the Endless Mist Volume 1: The Aleutian Campaign, June-August 1942, does an amazing job of explaining the history of the isolated island chain with an area of approximately 17,700 km2, stretching for 1,900km between Russia’s Kamchatka and America’s Alaska Peninsulas. The island chain comprises six smaller groups of islands: the Fox Islands, the Islands of Four Mountains, the Andreanof Islands, the Rat Islands, the Near Islands, and the Komandorski Islands. As for the weather,

“The whole chain has a subpolar maritime climate, which derives from the collision of air masses from the North Pacific and the Siberian Plain – frequent low atmospheric pressure results in long winters and short, cool, rainy summers. Gusty winds are recorded for most of the year, and the average annual temperature in Unalaska is only 3oC. This area is known primarily for the frequent dense fog, significantly reducing visibility and causing navigational troubles among seafarers.”

With this terrain and weather, the Japanese determined that the local climate could be divided into three seasons: “(1) from October to March – terrible weather; (2) from April to July – decent weather; (3) from August to September – fine weather.” These three seasons became key to the operations on both sides.

This book perhaps earned its title by a pilot of the 2nd Kidō Butai (the first was committed to the Battle of Midway) who stated, “Looking at the 2nd Kidō Butai ships’ hulls from above, Lt Abe shared the sensation that the North Pacific was ‘itsumade tsuzuku kiri’ – ‘an endless mist.’”

This amazingly detailed book is authored by a Polish Juris Doctor, living in Japan, writing about the Japanese in the North Pacific. As if that isn’t intriguing enough, author Michał A. Piegzik covers a little known (at least to most Americans) subject in a much larger backdrop of Allied defeats in the early Pacific War. His previous books in this series, The Darkest Hour – The Japanese Offensive in the Indian Ocean 1942 (two volumes), tie in nicely with this new two volume set, both of which were based on the Kidō Butai. This volume does not disappoint, and the pages turn quickly as more information is absorbed in an easy to comprehend format.

The book is complete with extensive photographs, technical details and specifications, and detailed illustrations, composing the following ten chapters:

  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 – Aleutian Islands: Geography and History
  • Chapter 2 – American Defence Preparations
  • Chapter 3 – 3 June 1942, the First Raid on Dutch Harbor
  • Chapter 4 – 4 June 1942, the Second Raid on Dutch Harbor
  • Chapter 5 – 6-7 June 1942, Invasion of Attu and Kiska
  • Chapter 6 – Summer Campaign of 1942
  • Chapter 7 – 5 July 1942, Action off Kiska
  • Chapter 8 – Summer Exchange of Blows
  • Chapter 9 – Americans Land on Adak; Japanese Withdraw from Attu
  • Appendices
    1. Ryūjō’s and Jun'yō’s Air Group Rosters during Operation AI, June 1942
    2. List of Japanese Aircraft
    3. Terminology Relating to the Aleutian Islands Campaign
  • Bibliography
  • Notes
  • About the Author

While there is a lot of background information and highly researched details, there are several poignant, human interest and actions that have a huge impact in the war in general. Of interest was the recovery of a relatively intact Mitsubishi A6M model 21 (serial number 4593 flown by PO1c Koga) that was the first Zero to be analyzed to find its strengths and weakness to better counter it. It was also the theater for the combat debut of the P-38 Lightning fighter and gave Americans the experience of rapidly building airstrips that would be crucial to operations.

This book fills in a lot of gaps in the Pacific War timeline and strategies. This often-overlooked theater was often described as a diversion and has been subject to many misconceptions. The author and his research prove that the Japanese had a deep interest in the North Pacific, even before Pearl Harbor. Both sides were forced to fight in the Aleutians with what they had on hand as other factors required the bulk of forces in other theaters. While small in scale, the fight had huge ramifications for both sides. This story is fascinating and well told.

Modelers will appreciate the plethora of black and white period photographs of Japanese and American aircraft and warships that took part in the Aleutians Campaign. The color profile section, for which Helion’s @War series is known, does not disappoint with its images of both the Jun'yō and Shōkaku Japanese aircraft carriers, Japanese carrier airplanes (Type 0 Mitsubishi A6M2 “Zero”/”Zeke”, Type 99 Aichi D3A “Val”, and Type 97 Nakajima B5N “Kate”), Japanese flying boat Type 97 Kawanishi H3K “Mavis”, Japanese floatplanes (Type 0 Aichi E13A “Jake, Type 0 Mitsubishi F1M2 “Pete”, and Type 95 Nakajima E8NM2 “Dave”), American PBY-5 Catalina, Curtis SOC Seagull, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated B-24 Liberator, and Martin B-26 Marauder (with torpedo). The author and illustrators have provided a fantastic reference source for modelers, vignettes, and dioramas for an often neglected, yet crucial theater of the Pacific War.

Profuse thanks to Casemate and IPMS/USA for providing the review sample.


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