Although outgunned two to one by the Japanese cruisers, the Americans pursued the convoy and
the Japanese opened fire at a range of about 10 miles. Thus began the four hour long Battle
of the Komandorski Islands, named for the nearby Russian islands located west of the
Without air support or submarines, the opponents fought a running battle with guns and surface
launched torpedoes. After opening fire with eight-inch guns, NACHI and MAYA launched torpedoes
which ran wide. RICHMOND was straddled by either-inch shells but remained unscathed. Then
the Japanese heavy cruisers turned their guns on SALT LAKE CITY.
The American cruiser responded with eight-inch salvos that hit NACHI's superstructure,
penetrating the after end of the bridge. Then the American ships turned away with the enemy
cruisers in hot pursuit, pressing their firepower advantage. Zigzagging to bring after
turrets to bear, the Japanese could not overtake the Americans who dodged enemy shells by
steering toward the water splashes of the previous rounds just as the Japanese gunners
corrected their aim.
Most of the fire was directed at SALT LAKE CITY and the cruiser took a series of hits which
carried away the rudder stops, flooded forward compartments, and temporarily disabled the ship
when seawater entered fuel feed lines and extinguished the boiler burners.
SALT LAKE CITY, BAILEY and COGHLAN had laid a thick smoke screen, changed course behind it,
and opened the range. When the cruiser went dead in the water, DALE circled it laying smoke
and keeping it hidden from the enemy.
To divert the Japanese and allow SALT LAKE CITY time to fire boilers, BAILEY, COGHLAN and
MONAGHAN were ordered to delay the enemy cruisers. Three destroyers against four cruisers
amounted to awesome, almost suicidal odds yet BAILEY steamed boldly into the enemy eight-inch
guns. With five-inch guns blazing, the destroyer closed to 9500 yards despite taking three
direct hits by eight-inch shells and launched five torpedoes. At the same time COGHLAN was
firing on MAYA and MONAGHAN was shelling NACHI.
The heavily hit BAILEY and the two other US destroyers turned back after delivering their
barrage and, surprisingly, the Japanese commander had already broken off action - unable to
see the crippled SALT LAKE CITY, two of his cruisers severely damaged, low on fuel and
ammunition, and fearful that American bombers might arrive to enter the battle. Meanwhile,
SALT LAKE CITY had purged fuel lines, lit off the boilers, built up steam and was preparing to
Although the Japanese transports remained intact, the convoy had been confronted by a
determined though smaller US surface action group and was forced to withdraw. Thus, the
supplies and troop reinforcements intended for Attu never arrived. The blockade continued and
in May 1943 a US assault force of three battleships, six cruisers, 19 destroyers, five
transports and an escort aircraft carrier brought 11,000 troops of Army 7th Infantry Division
When the troops began landing on May 11, the Japanese fought with concealed artillery from
mountain passes while their positions were shelled by the ships off shore. By the end of the
month, the Japanese had exhausted their shells and most of their bullets. Then they launched
a 1000 man charge, with knives and bayonets, fighting fanatically. About half of them
survived only long enough to commit suicide with hand grenades rather than be captured. The
Americans took 28 prisoners and counted their own losses: 600 killed, 1200 wounded and 1500
disabled due to shoes, clothing and training that were inadequate in the Aleutian climate.
Kiska became the target for US assault on August 15, 1943. The Japanese positions were bombed
by Army Air Corps planes and shelled by Navy battleships, cruisers and destroyers. A landing
force of 29,000 US Army and 5300 Canadian troops supported by nearly 100 men of war stood off
shore. At dawn LST's, LCI's and LCT's headed for the beach.
They met no resistance. Later it was learned that some three weeks previously Japanese
cruisers and destroyers had slipped in under heavy fog and evacuated the entire garrison.
In the northern Atlantic during WWII, US navy ships often escorted convoys to Europe through
frigid weather, snow, fog and raging storms. Several years after the war, DDR's and DER's ---
radar picket ships --- patrolled the same north latitudes in the same kind of weather. Recent
NATO exercises in the northern Atlantic area included triple- threat (AAW, ASW, ASUW) convoy
escort scenarios and amphibious assault exercises against shorelines.
These and similar experiences demonstrate that specialized knowledge, training, procedures and
equipment are needed to operate successfully in the severe winters of the high latitudes,
north and south.