Turning Point – 1943

War in the Pacific

Defence of the Pacific Coast and the Invasion of Kiska

Private, Le Régiment de Hull, Alaska, August 1943

Caption: Private, Le Régiment de Hull, Alaska, August 1943

Although five divisions were fighting overseas, three remained in Canada, two of which were stationed on the west coast until the autumn of 1943. After the Japanese had been expelled from the Aleutian Islands, two divisions, the 7th and the 8th, disappeared, and the 6th saw its strength reduced. In autumn 1943, with the Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic, all the Axis forces drew back. When that conflict had been at its height, in June 1943, 18 months after the Hong Kong disaster, 34,316 men of all ranks defended the British Columbia coast, compared to some 24,000 on the east coast. It was from among those remaining on the Pacific coast that the 16,000 conscripts for overseas duty were chosen.

In August 1943, one element of this force, the 13th Infantry Brigade Group, plus part of the 1st American Special Service Force made up in part of Canadian volunteers, would gather to attack the Aleutian island of Kiska.

Among the conscript units deployed was the Hull Regiment, which recorded the fewest AWOLs at the time the ships were boarded on 12 August. Of the 34,000 men in the operation, 5,300 were Canadian, including the 500 or so members of the 1st Special Service Force. Despite the American blockade of the island, the Japanese slipped through a few hours before the Canadians and Americans arrived. Some of the Canadians would stay on Kiska until January 1944.