Book Review: Ghosts in the Fog: The Untold Story of Alaska’s WWII Invasion

Ghosts in the Fog: The Untold Story of Alaska’s WWII Invasion by Samantha Seiple.  2011. 9780545296540. Gr 6-9.

All of us know about the Pearl Harbor bombings, but did you know that on June 7th, 1942, the Japanese invaded Alaska and on June 10th, the US government denied it?  They wanted to avoid widespread panic that the Japanese were invading the United States. Due to this secrecy and security, one of the bloodiest battles of WWII has been forgotten.

In May of that year, US Naval Intelligence intercepted a ciphered message from General Yamamoto, outlining his plan to attack Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands in hopes to draw American forces away from Midway, and leaving it open for the Japanese to invade.  American Admiral Chester W. Nimitz made the difficult decision of sending the majority of the fleet to Midway, while dispatching a small fleet to the Aleutians Islands.  But the leader in charge of the small fleet never went to the Aleutian Islands, believing the invasion to be a hoax.  So while America was victorious at Midway, the Aleutians were left defenseless.

Readers will learn about the terrible raids at Attu, Atka, and Kiska, and how hundreds of Aleutians were forced onto ships and sent to Japan to POW camps. They will also learn about heroic individuals who survived the harsh treatments against all odds, individuals such as Charlie House, a weatherman posted by the Navy at Kiska. Charlie escaped when the Japanese invaded and survived seven weeks in the harsh Alaskan wilderness, but surrendered to avoid starvation and was sent to the Japanese prison camps.

I thought this book was fantastic.  I never learned about the Aleutian Invasion, and so this book came as a complete surprise to me.  I started asking my family and friends about it, and most of them had no idea either.

The narrative of this work is also well executed and many readers will probably forget that they are reading nonfiction.  Seiple weaves personal stories with historical facts to create an engaging tale of hardship and courage.  She also drops clues and foreshadows things to come that will keep readers turning the pages until they get to the end of the story.  I highly recommend this book if you’re looking to read about WWII, and want to read about events closer to home.

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Lindsey L.