British Columbia - Periods - World War II

Aleutian Islands Campaign

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The Aleutian Islands Campaign was a military campaign fought by the United States and Japan during World War II. It began in June 1942, when the Japanese invaded and occupied the Aleutian Islands, a chain of islands located off the coast of Alaska. The U.S. responded by sending troops to retake the islands, and the campaign lasted until August 1943, when the Japanese were finally driven out. The campaign was notable for its harsh weather conditions and the difficult terrain, which made it a challenging and costly battle for both sides.

Canada played a significant role in the Aleutian Islands Campaign during World War II. The Canadian government had declared war on Japan the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Canadian troops were sent to support the United States in the defense of Alaska. The Canadian government also agreed to provide air and naval support to the U.S. in the Aleutian Islands.

Canadian troops were part of the Alaska Defense Command, which was responsible for the defense of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Canadian soldiers were involved in the Battle of Kiska, which was the final and largest battle of the campaign. They were also involved in the construction of military facilities and the maintenance of supply lines.

In addition, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) provided air support for the campaign, with RCAF squadrons flying patrols and reconnaissance missions over the Aleutians. The Royal Canadian Navy also played a role, with ships patrolling the waters around the islands and providing escort for convoys.

Overall, Canada's participation in the Aleutian Islands campaign was important in supporting the U.S. efforts in the region and helping to secure a strategic victory in the campaign.

Esquimalt, located in British Columbia, Canada, served as a major support base during the Aleutian Islands Campaign of World War II. The naval base at Esquimalt was the main base for the Royal Canadian Navy's Pacific Fleet, which played a key role in the campaign. The naval base was used to repair and refit ships, and to provide supplies and support for the ships and troops participating in the campaign.

Esquimalt was also the main base for the Canadian Pacific Fleet's air arm, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). RCAF squadrons based at Esquimalt flew patrols and reconnaissance missions over the Aleutians, as well as providing air cover for ships and troops. The airfield at Esquimalt also served as a training base for RCAF pilots and aircrews, preparing them for operations in the harsh and challenging conditions of the Aleutians.

In addition, Esquimalt was an important port for the transport of troops and supplies to and from the Aleutians. Ships carrying troops and supplies would depart from Esquimalt and make their way to the Aleutians, where they would offload the supplies and troops before returning to Esquimalt for resupply and refit.

Overall, Esquimalt played a crucial role as a support base for the Canadian and U.S. forces participating in the Aleutian Islands Campaign, providing logistical and operational support that was essential to the success of the campaign.


  • June 3–4, 1942: Japan invades and occupies the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska.
  • May 11-30, 1943: The U.S. launches the first of two invasions to retake the islands, starting with Attu. The battle lasted for more than a week with over 2,000 Japanese soldiers and over 500 American soldiers killed.
  • August 15, 1943: The U.S. launches the second invasion of Kiska. The Japanese had already secretly abandoned the island, so the U.S. met no resistance.
  • August 24, 1943: U.S. troops capture Kiska, effectively ending the campaign.
  • Canada's participation in the Aleutian Islands campaign started from the moment Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, and lasted until the end of the campaign, August 24, 1943. Canadian troops, air and naval forces were involved in the defense of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, as well as in the Battle of Kiska and in the construction and maintenance of military facilities. The naval base at Esquimalt served as a major support base for the Canadian and U.S. forces throughout the campaign.

Culture & Politics

During World War II, the naval activities at the base in Esquimalt had a significant impact on the city of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The city, located near the naval base, saw an influx of military personnel and their families, as well as an increase in ship traffic and activity in the harbor.

One of the main effects on Victoria was an increase in population and economic activity. The naval base brought in a large number of military personnel, both Canadian and American, as well as their families. This led to a population boom in the city, with many people moving to Victoria to be close to the base. This also led to an increase in economic activity, as local businesses and industries had to respond to the increased demand for goods and services.

Another effect of the naval activities was an increase in ship traffic and activity in the harbor. Ships coming and going from the base would pass through the harbor, and the city would see a large number of ships arriving and departing. This increased activity in the harbor brought jobs and commerce to the city.

However, the increased population and activity also led to strains on the city's infrastructure and resources. The city had to expand and improve housing, schools, and other public facilities to accommodate the influx of people. Additionally, the city had to deal with the challenges of accommodating shortages and rationing during the war.

Overall, the naval activities at Esquimalt during World War II had a significant impact on the city of Victoria, bringing both economic and social changes to the city.

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Reference: Article by (Staff Historian), 2023

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