Tuesday, October 27, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 43 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“I’m proud to be from Crowsnest Pass, and I want everyone else to be proud.”
- Joey Ambrosi  
- on receiving the   
Order of Crowsnest Pass   

 

Looking Back - John Kinnear
A few years ago I studied at length the story of Estevan Point, the West Coast lighthouse just north of Tofino that was supposedly attacked by a Japanese submarine in 1942. At the time I did my research (1995) it was commonly accepted by many that this was not a Japanese attack but was in fact a staged event by others (the US or Ottawa or both). It was designed to spook Canada into letting the Americans build the Alaskan Highway and also helped push through Mackenzie King’s plebiscite on conscription in parliament. I mean, my goodness, there they were on our doorstep.
I did some digging back then and came up with comments from an Elkview geologist who informed me that he had sea kayaked up the coastline to Estevan Point and had spoken to the son of the lighthouse keeper that was on duty at the time of the attack. His father apparently was mystified that whoever it was could fire twenty one shells at the facility and not hit the lighthouse or any of the surrounding buildings. He also claimed to have seen the lights to at least three vessels on the sea that night.
Then I ran into a retired seaman at the Nanaimo Harbour ferry terminal who was on a Canadian corvette at the time of the attack. He claimed they could have responded to the attack zone immediately but instead were sent to Comox to resupply. He found this rather suspicious.  So a conspiracy theory seemed likely and I bought into it.
Then I read Brendan Coyle’s “War on our Doorstep” and got a jaw dropping education on the Estevan story, the little known story of the war in the Aleutians and in the end how it could have gone for Canada and the US has certain events gone the other way.
First off the Estevan story. It seems that chief gunner Saburo Hayashi did fire those twenty one shots from the Japanese submarine I-26 on June 20, 1942 at Estevan. I-26 was eventually sunk in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944 but its crew of 101 survived to tell the tale of Estevan and other sinking’s including the first American vessel sunk by a Japanese sub in World War 2 on December 7, 1941 at the exact same time that Pearl Harbour was happening. That vessel was the SS Cynthia Olson which was hauling lumber from Tacoma, Washington to Hawaii.
Then there is the fact that on June 8, 1973 a shell was discovered on the beach at Estevan. It was a 5.5 inch (140mm) shell, an exact match to the I-26’s deck gun. It was examined and then destroyed by CFB Comox’s Explosives Ordinance Crew. People may lie but forensics do not. My lesson here was to continually re-examine history and to not ever assume that we got it all right the first time.
Incidentally the I-26’s shells were the first enemy shells to land on our shores since 1812 and the reason they chose Estevan was that that 1907 vintage lighthouse had a rdf (radio-direction-finding) device that they believed was part of a radio direction network working to pinpoint their location.
 
Now to the Aleutian’s war. You may or may not know that the Japanese invaded US territory in 1942 and set up bases at Attu and Kiska on the very western tip of this 1600 kilometer long volcanic chain of islands. They also attacked Dutch Harbour, an Aleutian American base about 1200 kilometers from Anchorage in early June of that year. The Aleutians War was for the most part overshadowed by the war in Europe and this first invasion of US territory was fought in some of the ugliest weather conditions imaginable. It claimed more casualties to weather than any other theater of operations. Winds of 160 kilometers per hours were not that unusual. Seasoned Canadian pilots were there in that battle but that is another story for another time.
The Dutch Harbour attack was part of a two-fold plan devised by Admiral Yamamoto the Japanese architect of the Pearl Harbour attack. It came about as a result of what happened or in fact what didn’t happen at Pearl Harbour. What didn’t happen at Pearl Harbour was the destruction of the carrier’s Enterprise, Lexington and Saratoga which were not in the harbour at the time of the attack. Mercifully they were off to the south between Hawaii and Australia.
Yamamoto realized for him to take control of the Pacific he had to find those three carriers and their task forces and dispatched nine submarines in mid-December to the North American West Coast and many more to the area surrounding Hawaii and to Australian waters. All sub groups failed to find the carriers so the Dutch Harbour plan was hatched. It was designed to draw these carrier task forces north to Midway on their way to defend Alaskan territory. They were to be met by and destroyed at Midway by a vastly superior Japanese force.
This would effectively finish off the US Pacific fleet and put Midway in Japanese control from where they could mount further attacks on Hawaii. It would also mean that the Japanese would not be threatened by enemy bases in the Aleutians and that the islands could be used as staging points for attacks on North America.
So the Battle of Midway was a critical point in time that had it gone the other way would have had serious consequences for our West Coast. Midway is a terrific story of US strategic positioning, some unbelievably important intelligence work and a bit of sheer luck.  In any event the Americans managed to wipe out four of the Japanese’s best carriers and six months after Pearl Harbour they were the dominant force in the Pacific. Midway was kind of like a giant chess game played really fast and Admiral Nimitz was a grand master in this game.  We owe the Americans big time on this one folks. Remember them this Armistice when they come to the Pass to pay their respects to our fallen soldiers.
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   Volume 79 - Issue 43 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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