Credit: PhotoQuest/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Historical Insights World War II on the West Coast

During the 14-month campaign almost 150,000 American soldiers confronted less than 10,000 Japanese in the Alaskan tundra, battling it out over crucial transportation routes to the Pacific. 1944, Adak Island, Alaskan Territory. Credit: PhotoQuest/Archive Photos/Getty Images

World War II on the West Coast

During World War II, Japan brought the war to American soil, launching a series of attacks by land, air, and sea on the Pacific Coast.

Hoping to bring the conflict home, the Japanese carried out a series of attacks on the West Coast during World War II. The first assault took place on February 23, 1942, when just north of Santa Barbara, California, a Japanese submarine torpedoed the Ellwood Oil Field, virtually missing the target. That summer, the Japanese regrouped, launching a ground invasion of the Aleutian Islands in the Alaskan Territory on June 3. The diversionary offensive designed to lure U.S. troops away from the Battle at Midway, failed to prevent an American victory in the Pacific, but because of the harsh terrain, it took U.S. Forces almost a year to recapture the islands. Until the war’s end, assaults from the seas and skies continued—fighter jets dropped bombs over Oregon and launched 10,000 fire balloons toward North America. Surprisingly, the attacks caused minimal damage and received little coverage in the press, but became an influential justification for the internment of Japanese Americans.