World War II battle for Aleutian Attu Island forgotten but still haunts soldiers, Japanese surprise attack off Alaska coast, Only WWII battle on US soil, Mostly hand to hand combat
“If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed,
If you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly,
You may come to the moment when you will have to fight
with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival.”…Winston Churchill
“We owe the World War II generation more than we can ever repay them. We must not let them and their sacrifices be forgotten.” …Citizen Wells
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”…Winston Churchill
From the Greensboro News Record.
“Bloody but forgotten WWII battle still haunts soldiers
William Roy Dover’s memory of the World War II battle is as sharp as it was 75 years ago, even though it’s been long forgotten by most everyone else.
His first sergeant rousted him from his pup tent around 2 a.m. when word came the Japanese were attacking and had maybe even gotten behind the American front line, on a desolate, unforgiving slab of an occupied island in the North Pacific.
“He was shouting, ‘Get up! Get out!'” Dover said.
Dover and most of the American soldiers rushed to an embankment on what became known as Engineer Hill, the last gasp of the Japanese during the Battle of Attu , fought 75 years ago this month on Attu Island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain.
“I had two friends that were too slow to get out,” the 95-year-old Alabama farmer recalled. “They both got bayonetted in their pup tents.”
Joseph Sasser, then a skinny 20-year-old from Cartharge, Mississippi, also found himself perched against the berm on Engineer Hill when a captain with a rifle took up a position about 10 feet (3 meters) away.
“I noticed about after 30 minutes or so, he was awfully quiet,” Sasser said. “We checked to see if he had a pulse and if he was alive, and he was not.
“We didn’t even know he had been shot,” said Sasser, also 95.
American forces reclaimed remote Attu Island on May 30, 1943, after a 19-day campaign that is known as World War II’s forgotten battle. Much of the fighting was hand-to-hand, waged in dense fog and winds of up to 120 mph (193 kph).
The battle for the Aleutian island was one of the deadliest in the Pacific in terms of the percentage of troops killed. Nearly all the Japanese forces, estimated at about 2,500 soldiers, died with only 28 survivors. About 550 or so U.S. soldiers were killed.
American forces, many poorly outfitted for Alaska weather and trained in California for desert combat, recaptured Attu 11 months after the Japanese took it and a nearby island, Kiska. It was the only WWII battle fought on North American soil.
The Japanese staged a last-ditch, desperate offensive May 29 at Engineer Hill.
“Japanese soldiers surprise American forces on Attu with a fanatical charge out of the mountains,” recounts an Associated Press chronology of WWII events in 1943. “Savage fighting rages throughout the day and into the following night.”
God bless those who fought and died for our country and their families.