Kiska: Alaska's Underwater Battlefield

Background Information

The essays below will help you to understand the goals and objectives of the mission and provide additional context and information about the places being explored and the science, tools, and technologies being used.

  • Mission Plan

    By Eric Terrill

    Kiska Island, Alaska is one of the Rat Islands in the Aleutian chain.

    Kiska remains one of the best preserved historic battlefields from World War II, being one of only two in the world where neither previous nor later settlement obscure military developments. While the terrestrial component is well documented, the maritime component remains largely unexplored.

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  • The Battle of Kiska

    By Andrew Pietruszka

    The 474-feet long Japanese transport ship Nisan Maru sinking in the middle of Kiska Harbor after it was stuck by bombs dropped by the US 11th Air force on 18 June 1942. Two other Japanese ships are visible in the harbor nearby.

    Like the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into World War II, the Aleutian Campaign came suddenly when undetected carrier-based Japanese planes bombed United States installations at Dutch Harbor on June 3rd 1942. The American response to the Japanese invasion was immediate. On June 11th, 1942, a combined force of US Army and Navy aircraft unleashed a near continuous three-day bombing campaign, known as the “Kiska Blitz.”

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  • Finding World War II Wrecks with Robots

    By Eric Gallimore

    High resolution sidescan sonar image of a WWII B-25 discovered by members of Project Recover in 2017.

    While we still use human divers and ship-based sensors when searching for artifacts, we rely heavily on autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to conduct surveys to find and document archaeological sites. AUVs are robots that operate with minimal human interaction; they are programmed with a mission and not driven around using a joystick. Using AUVs allows us to survey vastly more area than we could if we relied solely on humans and boats, and they collect high-quality data that helps us to accurately document sites.

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  • Documenting Historical Underwater Sites

    By Mark Moline

    Orthomosaic of a P-39 aircraft in Papua New Guinea. The orthomosiac was created using specialized software that stitches together hundreds of images captured by divers at the site to form a single comprehensive image.

    Kiska Island remains one of the best preserved historic battlefields from WWII with no settlement prior to or after the war. Applying new technologies and documentation approaches, we hope to explore and digitally preserve one of the least studied, yet most significant campaigns of WWII.

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  • Multidisciplinary Research

    By Heidi Batchelor

    Eric Terrill, and Andrew Pietruszka look on as ROV operator, Bob Hess, expertly manipulates the team’s ROV in the deep waters of Papua New Guinea.

    The research proposed for the Kiska Expedition requires us to be part of a multidisciplinary team—and we must be one of the most diverse teams around. People are participating from several organizations: a group from University of Delaware (UD) consisting of engineers, oceanographers, and a biologist; a team from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) including archaeologists, oceanographers, engineers and a data specialist, and members of the nonprofit organization, The BentProp Project, who specialize in locating United States (US) soldiers missing in action.

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