Skip to comments.Bloody but forgotten WWII battle still haunts soldiers
Posted on 05/28/2018 2:39:19 PM PDT by BBell
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) 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.
(Excerpt) Read more at wnct.com ...
Memorial Day Alaska Ping.
The Aleutian campaign was a Japanese “Faint” to draw the Americans away from Midway Attack!
Story needs to be told to recruits who feel like the Drill Sergeant is just being sassy telling them to get up and move
I’m a history buff and did not know this. Thanks for posting.
As a vet myself I feel this man’s pain. We must never forget. We have a debt we can’t repay, but we owe to never let freedom slip away on our watch.
I didn’t know about this battle. Thanks for posting.
My father being from Massachusetts, I remember the incident where 2 or 3 German spies or saboteurs sneaked ashore in New England, deploying from a mini-sub or some such, with the goal of sabotaging infrastructure and/or gathering intelligence. If I recall correctly, they were all apprehended or killed rather quickly.
Many Americans don't realize that there were also some German-American citizens who were put into internment camps during WWII. Most believe that only the Japanese were the victims of such wrong-headed (IMHO, whether "Constitutional" or not) policies.
History has demonstrated that America had little or nothing to fear from its ethnic minority citizens who happened to match the ethnicity of the Enemy—certainly not anywhere near enough to justify mass interments. Wartime hysteria is a powerful—and often atrociously unjust—mob phenomenon.
I always chuckle at the "conservatives" who—then and now—enthusiastically supported FDR's patently un-American policy on mass internment of select ethnicities. As I mentioned, history has compellingly shown the notion to be abject hysteria...
You might be interested in “The Thousand Mile Watr” by Brian Garfield (circa 1999?). It is a thorough-going history of this little known, but important front in WWII. The US had little to gain by a big victory, but it could not afford to lose, either.
As an aside, compare the terrain on Attu with the terrain of Kiska.
We almost lost. The Japanese attack came very close to capturing a battery of US howitzers. If they had they could have turned those guns on the defenseless support ships that were anchored beneath them. At Guadalcanal the Japanese might have won if their Navy had been a bit more aggressive. They bombarded Hickman Field and Marine positions with WW I battleships. About six miles beyond, the American supply fleet lay defenseless at anchor. The Japanese commander fearful of air attacks from an American carrier ( that had been withdrawn) did not press the attack. Japanese army commanders often with foolish bravado sacrificed their troops in massive frontal attacks. Other than a few commanders, the Japanese Navy did not demonstrate the same aggressive spirit.
Back in the seventies when I was stationed on Adak in the aleutians, which was a US held Island and operational Airbase during the war. There was a book that we had access to and it was in print called “the thousand-mile war” on quote and it was about the Aleutian campaign pretty good read. We used to send out Notice to Mariners routinely for the area in and around Kiska Island which was full of ordinance after ferocious battles had occurred there. Fishermen were dragging up bombs in fishing nets and required EOD assists - that happened fairly often. On a Adak there was lots of old buildings that supported the Army Air corps and its operations in the Aleutians. It was a full-time long-term effort maintaining vigilance up there and it was dangerous - mostly because the weather (and high velocity wind shear) was absolutely terrible and unpredictable.
...and boots that weren’t worth a GD, as one GI famously said.
Just some picture I posted at the link.
Bump for later...
Being from Alaska, I was always interested in the war in The Aleutians. Many years ago, I worked with a man who was in the war on Kiska.
He piqued my interest, so when I found this book, I had to read it. Very good book! It told of the hardships they had to contend with, including the weather. There is none worse on earth. Good read...
You are correct. Not until it was too late to make any difference (Leyte Gulf, Okinawa) did the Imperial Japanese Navy throw in its capital ships - by which time the air and Naval superiority of the USN was overwhelming and the Japanese ships became target practice for it ... but you are right - the same spirit at Guadalcanal could have won that battle - and prolonged the war in the Pacific by a year, in all likelihood ... with the same inevitable outcome ... but even more lives lost on both sides ...
“History has demonstrated that America had little or nothing to fear from its ethnic minority citizens who happened to match the ethnicity of the Enemycertainly not anywhere near enough to justify mass interments. Wartime hysteria is a powerfuland often atrociously unjustmob phenomenon.”
I don’t totally disagree with your perspective. However . . .
In the heat of war, one set of people were sent to camps in the U.S. and required to stay inside the wire until the war was over. Following those orders was considered their duty.
Other groups of people were sent to camps overseas and required to get into ships, and tanks, and planes to be drowned or burned alive. Following those orders was considered their duty.
Which group of people do you think got the short end of the stick?
Years ago I dated the daughter of a man who had been stationed on an air base there. From the way he spoke it has to be one of the most miserable and inhospitable places on Earth!
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