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tv   Reel America Report from the Aleutians - 1943  CSPAN  October 14, 2019 9:08am-9:55am EDT

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thanks so much. [ applause ] 150 years ago on march 30th, 1867, the united states purchased alaska from the russian empire for $7.2 million. after the attack on pearl harbor in 1941, the territory became strategically vital for the american war effort because of its close proximity to japan. up next on american history tv's reel america, report from the aleutians, a 45-minute war department film about the 1,200-mile island chain running between the u.s. and russia.
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the documentary tells the story of the early stages of the aleutian islands campaign during world war ii and depicts the harsh weather and living conditions faced by u.s. forces. [ music playing ] aleutian islands are situated in the north pacific ocean forming a chain which extends about 1,200 miles west-southwest from alaska peninsula towards siberia to form the southern boundary of the bering sea. the aleutians compromised
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comprise four dprums and part of the territory of the alaska, usa. a volcanic origin, there are numerous cones on the chain, many of them still active. the coasts are rocky and terf rise immediately from the water in steep bold mountains the aleutians of the storm cloud of the western world, a permanent low pressure area prevails there. cold air masses from the polar regions flow with the sheering effect against the warm, moisture-laden air masses over the japanese current to form iconic disturbances. the cause of the earth's
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rotation, these disturbances move from west to east. this phenomenon constitutes one of the most dangerous weapons, it enables the japanese to operate beneath the curtain of the storm. in the early days of june, fine they employed this advantage in an attempt to secure absolute domination of the entire pacific ocean. behind eastern moving storms, they dispatched two fleets against mid-way island and dutch harbor, an operation designed for the sea of defense on which the security of the pacific coast depends. american air forces engaged the enemy pass force at mid-way, achieving a historic victory and at dutch harbor, american land planes swarmed down seemingly out of nowhere to knock out one, two, three transports, two
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destroyers and one aircraft carrier. in pursuit of the enemy, our army and navy airmen flew through storm and hurricane, 20 hours out of 24 sometimes, through blind passes by uncharted seas through zero ceilings not knowing if anen my fleet or mountain lay below sweating it out hour after blind hour and directional beam to land on an unlighted runway, to refuel and take off in a grey, blind hell. there is no monument to the many that went out and did not return. they fought and patrolled and in many instances until their fuel was gone. knowing it will be forced down at sea. but unwilling to break off contact they had made when my forces. few are alive of those that flew against the japs in the battle of dutch harbor. if you wish to see their monument, you americans here at
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home, look around you. in the remnants of the defeated japanese task force landed on the undefended islands. we immediately undertook the offenses. broke out along the bridge called asia. in late august of 1942, a large detachment of our troops landed on an island several hundred miles out along the chain and under two hours by bomber from kiska. the name of this south island is abak. it is closer to japan than any other american outpost. typical of the aleutian chain it is wind slept treeless rain soaked, a flat spongy vegetation like under sea growth. which moves as water as every step. the only bird life on the island is scavenger ravens. big black wind guzzle.
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it's hardly more fertile. it's sole value is that of a pin on a staff officer's map. the back value is measured. strategically, abak is one of the most important locations in the world. 11 days after the occupation an air fuel is completed and the first u.s. bombers is came down and three days later a bombing mission to kiska with complete fighter protection. since that time, missions have become a daily affair. the air field is the heart of the island, beating to a half million horse power of heavy and medium bombers. they the amphibians pursued ships for transport. the sound of the engines warming up starts before dawn. echoing back from the mountain, the frank of heat. every day weather committed the bombers take off on at least one
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mission. often on good days, the first flight takes off on sunrise, others following at regular intervals. kiska is under bombardment every hour until nightfall. equal in importance to the air field and without which the air teeld could not exist is abak's excellent harbor, land locked on three sides, it enables heavy draft vessels to come in short unload by lighter under almost any weather condition. if the air field is the heart of abak, the harbor is its hungry mouth. its demands are ever on the increase. by day and by night, tankers,
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transports, deposit new missions on the beach standing guard overall, defense installation, anti-aircraft in placement. machine gun posts. there is nothing vulnerable about abak any longer. [ music playing ] the skies are constantly circled by area controls and never ending relays. in boats, those sea going fighters, for a surprise landing attempt offshore destroyers keep endless vigil, slipping like governments.
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approaching vessel on the horizon, listening with our under sea years, the beat of an engine. scanning the seas of a periscope, scanning another duty on the bering control or slipping at a port on the flank of a convoy. although the feelings are constantly traveled by convoys and contact when my submarines is a daily occurrence. sinking in these waters have been few and far between. cop tact with an enemy submarine that continue on and off for hours during which the undersea craft maneuvers for attack, venturing the convoys under sea detectors only to crash dive then kill engines and lie silent on the pot to him as our destroyers bear down on step charges. our destroyers and navy
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reconnaissance withheld the under sea enemy well in check. the flow of man and supplies flows ceaselessly on. the gigantic pack to furnishing every american expeditionary force is needed in carrying the fight to the enemy falls to the army service forces. aff is our whole military body maintaining its every order and muscle. abak presents a special problem as the baron island produces nothing for human need, say drinking water. everything else must be brought here. fuel, food, men and motors, machinery, raise these basic requirements to the nth power. add parts and replacements for everything from caterpillar tractors to can openers. plus the operation of
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estimating, purchasing, transporting, delivery. it becomes apparent why the job of supplying a military force is now dignified by a $12 word lack logistics. the original demand of abak has been constantly augmented, where before it was hundreds, now it is thousands. troops arrive that take anywhere from a week to a month depending on the fielding, but it took more than a single month to land them here. the months of training, the rigors of wind and weather that taught them to handle their weapons that made them into soldiers, add those to the period of the voids from the state.
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on abak, eastern accents mix the texas drawls and mid-western twangs, book people, grocery clerks, college men and dirt marmers, that is, of course, exbook keepers, excollege men, soldiers now, as all of their lives they have been nothing but. motorists of the day, special orders and news appear in the
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bulletin board. these radio news flashes are the only means by which the soldier knows what's going on outside. no fresh meat, no clean vegetables, powdered eggs, potato, canned tomatoes. peanut butter canned food and coffee make up the basic diet. and biscuits, barrels full of biscuits. appetites are huge. osis and man attend the same mass as often not an officer doesn't display the insignia of his rank. the discipline does not suffer. custom military formality is relaxed. after months at an outpost on
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abak this is a part of the soldier to think and live in his presence. >> that part of the world seems like a dream toy. it's proof of the reality of that word a saturday night dance, jalopi, sports pages, shaving in the same mirror with the old man. a letter means more than a pay check to a soldier. if he happens to be int air core, he'd gladly make an extra flight over to kiska for one more letter. no moving pictures. no state of mind door can teens or uso. no girls pretty or otherwise nothing to drink, not even a echo. candy bar, cigarettes and chewing gums are random. but you never hear any belly aching. the extraordinary fact is morale actually gets strong the closer troops come to the enemy.
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morale is first rate the front of the air field was originally a shallow title. army engineers drandz off its waters by means of a channel of a feed. it was there they were exploiting an actual formation which made possible the completion of the field in ten days and 11 nights. but the work never ceased. bulldozers shifted thousands of tons of the lava ash which composed the bed of the lagoon. not the core that built the
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panama canal. >> as the waters receded, draining crews followed it, leveling and impacting the area in preparation for the final service. the service was not to be the usual concrete runway of an airport. a steel one, sections had been prefabricated. it was put down by the infantry, okay, in 36 hours. a million-and-a-half square feet of it.
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. from then on only the severest weather kept our planes grounded. they all dissipate in a few short minutes. it's a happened of cloud bursts and rainbows. if you don't like the weather, wait a minute, the soldier says, everything the weatherman has to offer can be had in a single day, downpour, hurricane winds, hail, snow, fog, sleet and s sunshine. it is not so much bad weather as changing weather that makes flying hazardous to be uninitiated there. a new pilot must learn besides local squalls under a half foot of water.
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the greater percentage of casualties occur in the anti-aircraft file over kiska as our bombers make it back, often they are sorely crippled or wounded with the dead aboard. >> i go to the place and in my goal i will come again and where
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i am the day's mission is a highlight of each 24 hours. eyes turn skyward, years strained for the faint beat of a proeching engine. at the first sound, the ground event. units cleared for action. anti-aircraft machine guns are stripped. ammunition broken out and everything is put in readiness for an enemy who may be tailing our flights home six bombers went out and six are coming back
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they remain a circle of earth each time around. both damage taking priority. it's a revelation how much punishment how much these big bombers can take and still first half gait unless both sets of controls are shot away or an explosive shell finds the gas tank, the odds are all of her making it safe ly home anyone wo has been over will tell you that the most wonderful ride in the
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world is the ride back from kiska. no matter if daylight is pulling through the winds, there was something about the scene write on the way home. crews proceed to the field operations tent command, where they will be questioned with results and observations. their jigsaw reports are compared and cross checked. the operation has been assembled. thereafter, they're dismissed with nothing to do until
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tomorrow. [ music playing ] but the acts tomorrow begins today from the coney island intelligence center. kiska is tasked with reporting the immediate results of bombardment and installations and camouflage. these photographs are studied by specialist interpreters and submitted with comments to the
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general staff officer. here they have one of the hottest spots on the earth or abov above. >> the destruction en route to kiska. arising out of personnel. when the broader asuspects have been decided upon, fighter units work out its details. among considerations in planning emission are the type of aircraft to be employed. the weight and bombs, the time, altitude and direction of the attack. all of these are interrelated. a change of one influencing all of the others. the overall determining factor is weather. for this reason, the navy meteorologist plots his charts up to the very time of takeoff. a change of weather at the last moment may be the complete
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debating of tomorrow's plans, tomorrow is sunday at the outposts on the island, catholics, chaplains are leading fighting men of devotion. under the snow, these defenders of the faith exercise the first of their fuller freedoms. as far as the business of war is concerned, sunday on abak is like any other day. there is a mission going out at 8:00.
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bombs must be brought down to the field as camouflaged ducks. heavy bomber carries 1 16 250-pounders, 12 500-pounders or eight 100 pounders. the size depends on the nature of the target. since the target is small, there is a better chance of hitting it with a salvo of 250-pounders. on the other hand, congested areas, such as the campsite at kiska, a blockbuster comes into its own, tail fins and fuse are put on as the bomb is hoisted into the bomb bay. when the time comes, bombs can be used individually, in sticks or in salvos. am mission and machine guns are fed into receivers ready for fire. the rounds are put onto the belts in threes. each moving part of each gun has
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tainted with watch maker's care and every belt of ammunition is cleaned, oiled and checked before the takeoff. it is 12:2004 o'clock. >> three flights, b-24 hours and bun b-17s are to go over. the first to drop 500 pounders on anti-aircraft installations and to proceed across the coastline. the second flight of 7500 feet could drop 100 pound bombs on the area. a third flight is 4500 into et to destroy hangars with 500 pound bombs. second and third flights go to 45 seconds. three fighters to precede each bomber fight to 600 feet and overhead protection into the
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aircraft. crews begin to assemble around the ships awaiting the appearance of our officers. a bomber crew is a team and a long list together the better teamwork. theirs is a mutual responsibility. the safety of the ship and the lives of all the others may depend on any single member. trust, respect are implicit in such a relationship if it is to endure. maybe in the beginning you don't like the color of a guy's hair a
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list of men eat, sleep and fly together. their voices on the intercom become familiar. easy to understand. understanding is vital. every gunner knows the other of every other's marksmanship and courage. a navigator can make a landfall. eight men can testify triumphant and respect for the bomb dardier, the co-pilot and trust and respect for the ship they fly. a monument ought to be put up for that pre war eternity of high speed maniacs. our pilots are largely drawn. they have been to their hazardous undertaking. inspiration, daring. leiutenant george wad dell, 12 strapping missions over kiska. leiutenant holly mill, 14 mixes.
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leiutenant lysle. a dean, 13 missions. major nelson, 15 missions. are the lot henry j. australiankovski 11 missions president a general of the flying tigers. general jack has a zero on a submarine to his credit. a last-minute weather observation is made. the word is given to go. it's good luck and over the hill the aerial camera goes aboard. the bomber pilot informs his crew of the exact part their
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ship is to play in the mission. the bomber pilot is a different breed, your fighter, where the pilot is reckless and inspired. the bomber pilot is responsible, determined. because of the ability of this ship, there are no last minute decisions. besides the big piece of machinery he has the lives of six or eight others to think about. 100 men, nine bombers, 12 fighters are setting out to attack and immobilize 10,000 men behind naval and military defenses. this is the significance of aerial supremacy. but behind this supremacy lies the enormous system which makes it possible for the ships to take off, aff, naval convoy, army air transport. the score of engineers, army and
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navy intelligence signal call, ordinance and ground forces. these have done their part for the day. the stage is set. rehearsals are over. the actors are ready. the curtain is going up. but this is no make believe drama. they will be playing for keeps
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colonel william o. eric stopped the first bomber down and led the original mission of kiska.
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. >> the thunder of engines makes the earth tremble and the ravens rise the echelon proceeds towards kiska. it's about an hour and three-quarters from abak to kiska. one of the most heavily defended areas, kiska is one of the most fortified. the jap versus dug in like an estimated moles. 10,000 goes on the ground at the sound of our engine. we cannot by air attack hope to annihilate. we can only harass the force on
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kiska, cripple the island's defense, keep the enemy from adding to its resources while we build our own fighting strength to the day and the hour where we shall undertake a landing operation radio contact is maintained between the bombers and abak throughout the flight, which proceeds at speed of 165 miles per hour. >> during the first part of the journey the waist guns are
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tested and trial rounds fired. time moves slowly going out to the target. crew members have even been known to play stud poker. the mood is quite familiar by now. many pilots and crews have played the flight 25, 30 times. long about the time they were silent they begin to look out for enemy planes. the men whose regular job say no matter how long a guy goes over he always feels funny over there at kiska. at a signal, the pilots will open throttle and the planes will go into the bombing run. for a minute-and-a-half to two minutes they will proceed in an absolutely straight line towards the target, thereby allowing them to make the complications.
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wind velocity, speed, temperature, altitude, drift. there can be no deviation whatsoever in the flights if the bombs are to find the target. >> before kiska volcano, the mission deploys, each flight going to its designated altitude in preparation for the run. the enemy will endeavor to throw the flights off their run. and he will bring all his fire power to blair. the earth below will blair with hatred. machine gun bullets made of fill gree of their wings, high explosives will open up holes big enough for a man to crawl through. little kiska, outer defence of kiska harbor. >> bomb bay doors open.
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bomb bay doors open. >> the object is to hit the target, not anti-aircraft. the best way is to forget what's happening outside and make the run by instance. >> that way if it comes, you just look of your shoulder and see a man with a long beard and say good morning, father abraham. >> i want every man to stick by a gun until i say he can leave. every round on this ammunition on the ship fires three rounds. if we have to bail out, there will be plenty navy rounds around to bic pick us up. okay. should we give it a tone. >> kiska.
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>> the enemy aircraft is upon u us. >> second flight, low altitude.
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>> third flight at 4500 feet. >> bombs away. >> bombs away.
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>> check in, gunner. >> okay. >> i'm okay. nose, okay. >> hangars are destroyed, burning. our bombs found the target. nine bombers came out and nine are going home.
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♪ ♪
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today, columbus day, on american history tv, at noon, supreme court justices ruth bader ginsburg and sonia sotomayor discuss the judicial impact of the first woman on the u.s. supreme court. sand sandra day o'connor. >> sandsandra, if you read betw the lines, what she's saying is if you want to improve the status of women in the nursing profession, the best way to do it is to get men to want to do the job because the pay inevitably will go up. >> explore our nation's past morning history tv every weekend on c-span3. tonight on "the
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communicators," former senior advisor to fcc chair tom wheeler and patrick hallie talk about the recent d.c. appeals court decision on net neutrality. >> what the court said was that the fcc's decision to regulate broadband internet access as an information service as it largely has been outside of the last 20 years was permissible. >> when the fcc deregulated broadband, reclassified broadband internet access as an information service rather than telecommunication service and also said that another part of the telecommunications act section 706 does not provide authority for regulation, it washed its hands, it abdicated its ability to oversee the broadband market. >> tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span2. coming up, our

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