Tokyo, Japan, Jan. 15th, Yr. Unknown
An American Navy Captain and a Japanese Admiral pushed matchsticks to and fro on their table
yesterday --- fighting again the famous battle of the Komandorski Island in which both had
participated March 26th, 1943, and both were learning for the first time, the answers to
several puzzles that had baffled them from that day to this.
Kiska Evacuation Explained
"We were here," said Captain Peyton Harrison, arranging his battle line of matchsticks, "when
you opened fire. Did you know how close you came?"
"No", replied Rear Admiral Akira Soji, "but you hit us with your first salvo."
Fire Control Knocked Out
The officers met in purely social fashion this time, but in the icy Aleutians in '43, Harrison
had been operations officer for Rear Adm. Charles H. McMorris, then commander of the United
States Naval Task Force in the Aleutians. Soji, then a captain, commanded the enemy heavy
cruiser NACHI, flagship of a Japanese task force attempting to convoy three transports of
reinforcements to Attu Island.
Among other things, Soji revealed that two cruisers and seven or eight destroyers took all the
Japanese off Kiska in less than two hours, slipping away undetected.
Of the Komandorski battle, Soji went on to say that one shell "landed in our charthouse. I
was on the bridge about 15 feet away."
"Well, your first two rounds came close," Harrison told him. "We turned, and the third round
landed exactly where we would have been, but the light cruiser RICHMOND wasn't hit throughout
Soji then clarified one phase of the battle which long had mystified the Americans -- why the
NACHI, with guns pointing skyward, suddenly stopped firing for several minutes.
"Our fire-control system was knocked out by your first hit," Soji said, "and our orders
weren't transmitted to our gunners. At about the same time, someone closed a power valve so
we had no power and couldn't get the guns back to proper level."
"Another thing that always puzzled us was why the Japanese broke off the engagement when they
did," Harrison remarked.
"We were running short on fuel and ammunition," Soji replied, "and we thought your planes from
Adak might attack us soon, and maybe we would have to fight another engagement."
Besides the light cruiser RICHMOND, the Americans had the heavy cruiser SALT LAKE CITY and
four destroyers. Against this slender force, the Japanese had two heavy, two light cruisers
and at least four destroyers.
Soji acknowledged that the results of the battle convinced Tokyo the Aleutian outposts
couldn't be supplied by ordinary surface craft. Consequently orders soon were given for
evacuation of Kiska Island, he said.
Soji added that the fact the battle of Komandorski Island kept transports from taking
reinforcements to Attu decreased to some extent the subsequent bitter fighting when Americans
"By the way, where were your transports during the battle?" asked Harrison.
"They turned away and waited around Komandorski Island for a while, then returned to
Paramushiro. They were luck, because they were unprotected all that time," Soji told him.
"We'd have liked to have known that!" Harrison exclaimed.
The bespectacled, civilian-suited Soji laughed. "Maybe it was a mutually poor battle," he
Battle of the Komandorski Island Index