Stepping Stones to Nowhere
288 pages, 6 x 9
14 b&w photos, 1 map
Release Date:01 Jan 2004
Release Date:21 Mar 2003
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Stepping Stones to Nowhere

The Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and American Military Strategy, 1867-1945

UBC Press

The Aleutian Islands, a mostly forgotten portion of the UnitedStates on the southwest coast of Alaska, have often assumed a key rolein American military strategy. W.H. Seward, the US secretary of statewho brokered the purchase of Alaska, believed that the acquisitionwould permit the United States to dominate the Pacific. In the 1990s,Bill Clinton attempted to install an American ballistic missile defencesystem on the islands. But for most Americans, prior to the SecondWorld War, the bleak and barren islands were of far less interest thanthe Philippines.

In Stepping Stones to Nowhere, Galen Perras shows how thatchanged with the Japanese occupation of the western Aleutians, whichclimaxed in the horrendous battle for Attu. Efforts to make the area amajor theatre of war rivalling Europe or the South Pacific foundered,but certainly not for lack of effort. The campaign was unique in itsinvolvement of Britain, the Soviet Union, and Canada. Perras revealshow this clash in the North Pacific demonstrated serious problems withthe way that American civilian and military decision makers sought toincite a global conflict.

Thoroughly researched and accessible, this book will be invaluableto military and naval historians as well as those with a generalinterest in the history of the Second World War.

Recommended. Choice, Vol. 41, No. 03
In this insightful, stimulating, and extraordinarily well-researched new book, Galen Roger Perras explores the dimensions of the long-vanished Mercator Projection world before the 1940s, when the northernmost reaches of the planet, and in particular the Aleutian Islands, were still a strategic dead end. Perras look in detail at the evolution of the Aleutian Chain and Alaska in US military thinking during the critical years of the 1930s and 1940s. This book is a wonderful reminder that in war, as in the rest of life, a compelling idea need not have any basis in reality to shape the world in which we live. Terence M. Cole, University of Alaska Fairbanks, The International History Review
This interesting, important, and largely untold story gets the attention it deserves in this carefully detailed book. Allan Smith, University of Toronto Quarterly, Winter 2004/05
The result is a comprehensive study which, rather than portraying the Aleutian campaign merely as a quixotic and ultimately inconsequential operation, explores the competing opinions and interests that led to the battles of Attu and Kiska. Stepping Stones to Nowhere succeeds in placing American activities in Alaska and the Aleutians during the Second World War, often dismissed as trivial in the historiography, into a broader context than has hitherto been recognized. FDP, Canadian Military History, Book Review Supplement, Summer 2005
The book is well written, well argued, and an astonishingly interesting read. A.M. Jack Hyatt, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Western Ontario
This is something of an international history, drawing on materials from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. It will be a major contribution to the field ... truly impressive research. Brian McAllister Linn, author of Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940
Galen Perras is an archivist at the National Archivesof Canada and the author of Franklin Roosevelt and the Origins ofthe Canadian-American Security Alliance, 1933-1945.


1 One of Our Great Strategic Points: Alaskan Defence, 1867-1934

2 He Who Holds Alaska Will Hold the World: Alaskan Security,1934-41

3 Entirely Open to Attack: Aleutian Defence, December 1941 to June1942

4 All commanders on minor fronts regard their own actions as highlyimportant: July 1942 to January 1943

5 Total Destruction Is the Only Answer: Westward to Attu

6 A Strong Alaska Means a Foot-Loose Fleet: Kiska’sCapture

7 We Have Opened the Door to Tokyo: Plans to Take the KurileIslands, 1943-5

8 Stepping Stones to Nowhere




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