Author Topic: Operation Wedlock  (Read 144 times)

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Offline besilarius

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Operation Wedlock
« on: January 05, 2020, 07:18:04 AM »

"Operation Wedlock"

In June of 1942, during the Midway Campaign, strong Japanese forces captured Attu and Kiska, at the westernmost end of the Aleutian Islands.

This "threat" to Alaska set in train a protracted campaign to regain the two islands.  In the months following, strong American and Canadian forces  began concentrating in Alaska in anticipation of blocking further Japanese advances and then recovering the islands.  Of course the almost complete lack of infrastructure in Alaska and the Aleutians required an enormous investment, and that took time.  Nevertheless, in May of 1943 Attu was successfully recovered, and two months later the Japanese quietly withdrew from Kiska; so quietly, in fact, that the U.S. didn't realize what had happened until several days after a major amphibious landing took place on the island, with contingent casualties among the troops due to "friendly fire."

Having cleared the Aleutians of the Japanese, some American and Canadian military planners thought about using the islands as a base for amphibious operations against the Kuriles, the northernmost islands in Japan.  Preliminary planning soon demonstrated the futility of such an undertaking, given the environmental obstacles, and so from then until the end of the war operations in the theater were largely characterized by occasional air raids against northern Japan and, once or twice, a sortie by American surface forces to shoot up coastal installations.

But the Allied planners also realized that since they had thought about the possibility of an attack on Japan from the Aleutians, the Japanese might also be concerned about the possibility.  So they initiated "Operation Wedlock," one of the most successful deceptions of the Pacific War.

"Operation Wedlock" was an elaborate scheme to convince the Japanese that the Aleutians were to be the staging point for a major US-Canadian offensive was planned against the Kurile Islands in 1944 or 1945.  So even as very real Allied forces in the northern areas were cut drastically from over one hundred thousand to only about half that, "strong" notional forces were stationed there.

A largely notional Ninth Fleet was established, with a supporting IX Amphibious Command that supposedly controlled five American (108th, 119th, 130th, 141st, and 157th Infantry Divisions, all bogus but with officially announced insignia, etc.), with hints of participation by some Canadian ground forces.  Small numbers of troops were assigned to produce volumes of dummy radio traffic appropriate to the large forces supposedly in the area, while dummy bases were set up on Attu, complete with concentrations of dummy landing craft, and occasional "rehearsals" for landings were held, and hints were dropped in the press about large orders for arctic gear and specialized equipment.  Meanwhile the date for the invasion was set and then reset several times, each time "leaked" to the enemy through double agents purportedly working for Germany or to Soviet fishermen making occasional stops, who would often later be intercepted by Japanese patrols.  In addition, American troops shipping out from West Coast ports were often issued winter underwear and the shoulder patches of units “stationed” in Alaska in the furtherance of this deception.

The ruse worked very well.  During 1944 the Japanese estimated the number of Allied troops in Alaska at over 400,000, supported by some 700 aircraft and a very strong naval force, when in fact personnel had fallen to about 65,000 troops, with about 350 aircraft and only a half-dozen warships.  Meanwhile the Japanese increased their forces in the Kuriles from about 14,000 to over 80,000, and in the northernmost islands from about 8,000 to over 40,000, while several hundred aircraft were held in northern Japan for contingencies in the Kuriles

Operation Wedlock was useful in forcing the Japanese to spread themselves a little thinner during 1943, but it may have been most valuable in mid-1944.  While preparing for his campaign in the Marianas and Guam in mid-1944 CINCPAC Chester W. Nimitz had laid on a deception that suggested shipping limitations would impede any American operations in the Central Pacific by several months.  This coincided with the peak of deception activity in the Aleutians, where bogus preparations were at fever pitch for a D-Day of August 15th in the Kuriles.   As a result, the Japanese transferred strong air forces to the Kuriles, raising air strength there from fewer than 50 to nearly 600 aircraft, aircraft which were not available for operations against Nimitz when he struck the Marianas in June
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