Stepping Stones to Nowhere: The Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and American Military Strategy, 1867–1945


274 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0990-6
DDC 940.54'28





Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a professor of history at Laurentian University. He
is the author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable
Kingdom, Chile and the Nazis, and The Diplomacy of War: The Case of


Perras has written about one of Canada’s most controversial campaigns
of World War II. Japanese forces had occupied some of the Aleutian
Islands, and in dislodging them from one, Attu, U.S. forces found that
enemy forces were fanatical. Because of the Attu experience, U.S.
strategists assumed that resistance from the Japanese soldiers on Kiska
(thought to have numbered as many as 10,000) would be equally fierce, so
Canadian troops joined forces with the Americans to oust them. Before
the Kiska landing (August 15, 1943), the Canadian Army had had two
disasters: Hong Kong and Dieppe. Kiska offered an opportunity for
success. However, before tens of thousands of Americans and 500
Canadians landed on Kiska, the Japanese forces withdrew, in order to
fight in some more important place. Their withdrawal had been so recent
that U.S. soldiers found hot coffee. In the fog, however, the Americans
could not tell that the Japanese had departed and shot each other,
killing 24 and wounding almost 50. As for the Canadian soldiers, for
decades thereafter they fought the Department of Veterans Affairs, which
argued that, never having left North America, they had not been to a
real combat zone and therefore did not deserve the benefits reserved for
combat veterans. Another controversy was that at Kiska the Canadians
prepared to fight alongside Americans, not their usual British allies.

Perras understands warfare and explains the background of the Kiska
operation, the logistics of putting everyone and everything into place,
and the events that happened on the island. He also discusses the
attitudes of political authorities and commanding officers, including
George Pearkes (later Diefenbaker’s Minister of National Defence), who
would have preferred to be in Europe. Perras thinks that the Canadian
forces acquitted themselves well in the cold, wet environment.

The bibliography is exhaustive and cites primary sources from archives
across Canada, the United States, and Australia. There are several
black-and-white photographs. Stepping Stones to Nowhere is essential
reading for anyone seeking to understand the military significance of
the Aleutians.


Perras, Galen Roger., “Stepping Stones to Nowhere: The Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and American Military Strategy, 1867–1945,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 12, 2024,