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Arctic Warfare

Arctic Warfare. Characterized by subzero temperatures, rapidly shifting weather fronts, and vast expanses of tundra or icefields, the arctic is an especially hostile environment in which to conduct combat operations. The severity of conditions dictates that military operations differ markedly from those in more temperate regions. Virtually all operations are performed by highly trained, specially equipped light infantry units, skilled in the use of skis, snowshoes, ahkios (sledges, either man‐ or dog‐drawn), and, more recently, snowmobiles and tracked personnel carriers.

Prior to 1941, the U.S. military had little experience of arctic warfare. However, in World War II, the military established outposts in Newfoundland, Danish Greenland, and Iceland, from which aircraft were transported to Europe and from which air and sea patrols provided escort, weather intelligence, and early warning for convoys bound for Britain and the Soviet ports of Archangel and Murmansk. In the Pacific theater, some 58,000 troops were stationed in Alaska and islands of the Aleutian chain located along the shortest route from the United States to Japan in terms of defense, and to Vladivostock in terms of Lend‐Lease shipping headed to the USSR.

In June 1942, a Japanese invasion force under Adm. Kakuji Kakuta launched air raids on the U.S. base at Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island, and captured the islands of Attu and Kiska. Not until May 1943 did a joint U.S. task force under Adm. Thomas C. Kincaid and Maj. Gen. Eugene Landrum recapture the island of Attu after almost a month of heavy fighting. Of 2,300 Japanese defenders, only 29 survived; many took their own lives. U.S. losses totaled 549 killed and 1,148 wounded in action. The Japanese garrison on Kiska evacuated without a fight.

During the Cold War, the United States saw the arctic regions as a first line of defense against aerial attack from the Soviet Union across the pole, and undertook the construction (1950s) of remote radar detection sites close to the Arctic Circle. The DEW Line, a chain of fifty‐seven radar sites stretching from Iceland to Alaska, was designed to provide distant early warning (DEW) of manned bomber or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attacks. The DEW Line (1957) supplemented the Mid‐Canada or McGill Line (1955) of microwave detection sites and the Pine Tree Line (1954) of thirty‐four radar stations that straddled the U.S.‐Canada border. These defenses were supplemented (1958–60) by ballistic missile early warning (BMEW) sites at Thule, Greenland, and Clear, Alaska. The Strategic Air Command also established forward‐placed bomber and interceptor bases in Thule and in Elmendorf, Alaska.

The U.S. Army in the 1980s and 1990s maintained arctic training facilities at Alaskan Forts Wainwright and Richardson and reactivated the 10th Mountain Division—specially trained in winter warfare techniques—at Fort Drum, New York.
[See also Canada, U.S. Military Involvement in; Lend‐Lease Act and Agreements.]

Bibliography

John Toland , But Not in Shame, 1961.
U.S. Army Field Manual 37–71, Northern Operations, 1971.
Kenneth Schaffel , The Emerging Shield: The Air Force and the Evolution of Continental Air Defense 1945–1960, 1991.

Frederick J. Chiaventone

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Dewing, Thomas Wilmer

Thomas Wilmer Dewing, 1851–1938, American painter, b. Boston, Mass. Dewing studied in Paris with the academician Jules Lefebvre. Returning to New York City in 1880, he produced hazy, atmospheric, impressionistic compositions. His paintings are moody and introspective, e.g., The Recitation (1891; Detroit Inst. of Arts), and express the quietude often found in the works of Whistler.

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