NONFICTION MONDAY: Ghosts in the Fog by Samantha Seiple

The Untold Story of Alaska's WWII Invasion

by Samantha Seiple
Scholastic Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-545-29654-0
Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction
Grades 4 and up


Few know the story of the Japanese invasion of Alaska during World War II--until now.

GHOSTS IN THE FOG is the first narrative nonfiction book for young adults to tell the riveting story of how the Japanese invaded and occupied the Aleutian Islands in Alaska during World War II. This fascinating little-known piece of American history is told from the point of view of the American civilians who were captured and taken prisoner, along with the American and Japanese soldiers who fought in one of the bloodiest battles of hand-to-hand combat during the war. Complete with more than 80 photographs throughout and first person accounts of this extraordinary event, GHOSTS IN THE FOG is sure to become a must-read for anyone interested in World War II and a perfect tie-in for the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.


I had no idea that Alaska was invaded by the Japanese during World War II until I heard about this book.  I was aware that the weather up there is pretty harsh and just getting to some of the Aleutian Islands is a challenge.  I found the book both fascinating and heartbreaking.  Books like this are a clear reminder that humans make some really foolish decisions sometimes, like ignoring intelligence that Alaska was a target of the Japanese.  Decisions like sending the evacuees from the Aleutians to old abandoned villages that have fallen to pieces and not bothering to take care of them.  Here are some things I learned from this book:
  • The value of maps (lives would have been saved if the U.S. troops had known what they were facing and where they were going)
  • The value of good intelligence (if the U.S. had had better intelligence and paid better attention to the intelligence they did have the whole thing could have been prevented)
  • How poorly the Aleuts were treated by both the Japanese and the United States, some of them spent three years in captivity in Japan, where over half of them died, the others were sent to old abandoned settlements that had no clean running water or electricity, where many of them got sick and died, reparations weren't made until the 1980s, to add insult to injury when some of the Aleuts got home they found their houses completely plundered by the American soldiers.
This is what good nonfiction does, opens the reader's eyes to things they didn't know or didn't fully understand.  Seiple does a great job of this while making her account clear and easy to read. I highly recommend this one.

See here for more great Nonfiction Monday recommendations.


  1. Thanks, Heidi. I added this to my tbr list. Great title!

    I only had the barest inkling of Alaska's part in WWII because I wrote a book a few years ago about the Iditarod and came across some bits about sled dogs and mushers rescuing downed pilots and such. But I know little about it--looking forward to learning more!

  2. This has been hugely popular in my library. I liked the narrative style, and the students are always so surprised that Alaska was invaded, even the most ardent WWII buffs!

  3. Nice review. I read this last year and thought it was really interesting and hope kids do too.

  4. This sounds fascinating and heartbreaking all at once! It's so wonderful that books can bring to life events we might never known about in history, for kid and grownups alike.


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