From Academic Kids

Kiska is an island in the Rat Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska located at 52.1 N, 177.6 E. It is about 22 miles long and varies in width from 1.5 to 6 miles.

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While returning from his second voyage, Vitus Bering discovered most of the Aleutian Islands including Kiska and a naturalist-physician onboard, Georg Wilhelm Steller, wrote:

"On October 25, 1741 we had very clear weather and sunshine, but even so it hailed at various times in the afternoon. We were surprised in the morning to discover a large tall island at 51 to the north of us."

And so Kiska was found; it, the Aleutians, and Alaska would later become fur outposts for the Russian-American Company managed by Grigory Shelikhov starting from 1775.

In 1867, U.S. Secretary of State, William H. Seward, purchased Alaska and Kiska from the Russians for the United States.

Role in World War II

The Japanese No. 3 Special Landing Party and 500 Marines went ashore at Kiska, on 6 June 1942, as a diversionary part of the Japanese plan for the Battle of Midway. The Japanese captured the sole inhabitants of the island—a small American Naval Weather Detachment consisting of ten men, including a Lieutenant along with their dog. One member of the detachment escaped for 50 days. Starving, thin, and extremely cold he finally surrendered to the Japanese. The next day Attu Island was captured by the Japanese.

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The military importance of this difficult-to-supply frozen island was questionable, but the psychological impact upon the Americans of losing U.S. territory was tangible. During the Winter of 1942–43, the Japanese reinforced and fortified the islands not necessarily to prepare for a leapfrogging operation across the Aleutians but to prevent a United States operation across the Kuril Islands. The United States Navy began operations to deny Kiska supply which would lead to the Battle of the Komandorski Islands. During October 1942, 7 bombings missions are undertaken over Kiska by American forces, 2 were aborted due to weather problems. Following the winter, Attu was liberated and Kiska was bombed once more for 2 1/2 months before a larger American force was allocated to defeat the expected Japanese garrison of 5,200 men. On August 17, 1943, an invasion force of 34,426 Allied troops, 5,300 of whom were Canadian, landed on Kiska to find the island completely abandoned. It turned out that the Japanese, well aware of the loss of Attu and the impending arrival of the larger American force, had successfully removed their troops on July 28, 1943 without the Americans or, and more importantly, their bombers noticing.

Allied casualties during the invasion nevertheless numbered close to 200, all from friendly fire, booby traps set out by the Japanese to inflict damage on the invading allied forces, or disease. There were seventeen Americans and four Canadians killed from either friendly fire or booby traps, fifty more were wounded as a result of friendly fire or booby traps, and an additional 130 men came down with trench foot.

This final removal from the Aleutians spelled the end of any Japanese hopes to invade the United States from the North.

Kiska Volcano

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Kiska Volcano is a stratovolcano, 8.5 by 6.4 km in diameter at its base and 1221 m (about 4000 feet) high, on the northern end of Kiska Island.

An explosive eruption occurred on January 24, 1962 accompanied by lava extrusion and the construction of a cinder cone about 30 m high at Sirius Point on the north flank of Kiska Volcano, 3 km from the summit of the main cone (Anchorage Daily News, January 30, 1962). A second eruption that produced a lava flow was reported to have occurred March 18, 1964 (Bulletin of Volcanic Eruptions, 1964).

Since then the volcano has emitted steam and ash plumes as well as smaller lava flows.

Kiska Today

The island is considered a National Historic Landmark (the highest level of recognition accorded to historic sites in the US, and is protected). Around the harbor, is one of the best preserved historical scenes anywhere. The slow erosion processes on the tundra have had little effect on the bomb craters still visible on the hills surrounding the harbor.

Numerous equipment dumps, tunnels (some concrete-lined and sound!), Japanese gun emplacements, shipwrecks, and so forth can be found all untouched since they were last used in 1943.

There is now a memorial plaque on Kiska placed by the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment in 1983. The plaque's inscription reads:

"To the men of amphibious task force 9 who fell here August 1943 placed here August 1983 by 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment."

The island is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and contains the largest colony of Least and Crested Auklets.

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