Category Archives: The RCAF in the Aleutians

First Steps to Tokyo – Revisited

You probably have skimmed through this little booklet a year ago.

It was Clarence Simonsen’s first post on this blog I have created in April 2016, especially to publish his incredible research into the past.

First steps to Tokyo cover page


Well it’s time to revisit the past after preserving it.

Tony Irwin, whose father was a Spitfire pilot with 443 Squadron during the war, wrote me this a few days ago…

I also have a (somewhat dog-eared) copy of a small book by the title of First Steps To Tokyo which chronicles the US-Canadian effort against the Japanese in the early days of WWII. Pictures in it include my father. 

Stay tuned…

After staying tuned, Tony sent me this…

After page 18, sitting in the front seat of a jeep with poles across his lap.

Also a couple of pages further, standing on skiis.

Mentioned on pg 34

I just had to take one more look!


If you are wondering who is Pilot Officer Johnny Irwin from Toronto?

He is featured on this other blog.




First Steps to Tokyo

Updated 5 November 2021

One of my favourite posts on Preserving the Past because it was the first one published. All the credit goes to Clarence Simonsen.



Chapter One

THIS is the story of the Royal Canadian Air Force adventure in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands in 1942-43. It covers months of danger, loneliness, and often hardship, and it reaches its highest points at the beginning and at the end of the adventure. For the R.C.A.F. rushed north from Canada at a time when it was badly needed to plug gaps in the U.S. North Pacific defence and it was R.C.A.F. fliers who dealt the last blows at the Japanese before the little brown men retreated from Kiska, their last foothold on American continental soil.

Canadian fliers went to the Aleutian Islands in June of 1942, just after the Japanese had tried to capture Dutch Harbour with a task force. Dutch Harbour is the big United States naval base on Unalaska Island, and had the Japs succeeded in taking it they could have based there a battle fleet which might have secured for them the domination of the better part of the Pacific Coast. They could have used their naval power to cover progressive invasions that might have taken them as far as California. And their plan, as visualized in the famous Tanaka memoranda, would have been to colonize and exploit the American coastal area, using the Rocky Mountains as a barrier against counter attack. In short, had the Japs succeeded at Dutch Harbour, and had they not been held in check later, with the help of the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Pacific Coast of the North American continent might some day have been a Japanese province.

A handful of Canadian pilots first helped hold them in check, and later played a big part in kicking them right out of the Aleutian chain. In so doing, these Canadian youngsters helped write a new page in the history of aviation, for they flew and fought in one of the strangest parts of the world. They braved fog and storm, hardship and appalling isolation. They braved Japanese fire and possibility of capture by the Japs, with all that that could mean. They had to live in a part of the world that might have been the other side of the moon, so little connection was there between it and the world they knew. And all the time they kept smiling and battling. They made the Canada badges on their shoulders stand for something mighty big in the eyes of U.S. soldiers, sailors and fliers with whom they served.

Few people have any real conception of the Aleutian Islands. If they think of them at all, they see them as a vague collection of dots somewhere on the northern…

First steps to Tokyo cover page


More later about this story written by Flying Officer D.F. Griffin from Clarence Simonsen.