Things Don't Always Work Out The Way You Plan Them



Every once in a while I find someone getting angry because something didn't work out as planned. Sometimes, of course, that someone is me.

When that happens, I just think back to this true, but almost unknown, story of World War II:

On May 3, 1943, as 43 ships crept out of Cold Bay, Alaska to invade and take back the Japanese-held American island of Attu in the Aleutians, word arrived that the enemy, and apparently everybody else, knew the attack was coming.

One of our own people, a popular radio announcer named Walter Winchell, on his Sunday night broadcast, had said, "Attention, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea. Keep your eye on the Aleutian Islands."

An intercepted Japanese message, when decoded, showed that they too were at sea and listening to the radio and were aware of the forthcoming invasion of Attu.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday, May 11, the invasion began. At 3:30 in the afternoon, the first wave of men headed for aptly named Massacre Bay. The result was neither pretty nor swift.

Defeating a small force of 2,351 dug-in, fanatical Japanese soldiers required 100,000 Americans in combat and support forces and took more than two weeks -- from Tuesday, May 11, to Sunday, May 30.

American losses were: 549 killed, 1,148 wounded, 1,200 lost to severe cold and injuries, 614 men down with disease, and 318 men lost to drowning, accidents, psychological breakdown and self-inflicted wounds.

No one was looking forward to invading Kiska, the other, larger, better fortified and better manned, American Island held by the Japanese.

D-day for the invasion of Kiska was set for Aug. 15. More than 34,000 American combat troops were assembled for the job, along with over 250,000 support troops and hundreds of ships and aircraft. Seven thousand assault troops hit the main beach. Others landed elsewhere. Men fanned out and began shooting.

In minutes, 24 men went down under combined rifle and machine-gun fire. Four more died in the explosion of grenades or mines. Fifty more were wounded. The casualty list soon grew to 313 men. A destroyer went down, taking 71 men with it and leaving 34 injured.

But guess what?

There were no Japanese on the island. There hadn't been any Japanese there for more than two weeks.

Nope, not even one.

Next time you plan something that goes wrong you might think of the invasion of Kiska. To paraphrase the poet Robert Burns, "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry."

And do me a favor. Remind me of that fact once in a while.

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