Remembering the Attack on the Aleutian Islands

While most people know something about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, few are aware of the Japanese attack and invasion of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands from June 3 to 7, 1942. Attu is the westernmost of the Aleutian Islands and one of the Near Islands. On Attu Island, the Japanese captured 42 residents of Attu, including the island’s school teacher. Forty people were transported to Otaru, Hokkaido Island, Japan. They were held as prisoners of war from September 1942 until 1945. Twenty-one people died during their internment, including four babies, born in Japan. In 2012, the National Park Service published Nick Golodoff’s Attu Boy. Golodoff was six when his family was captured and sent to Japan. This book combines transcriptions of the oral histories of Attu survivors with Golodoff’s memoir. Sadly, during the war, Golodoff’s village was destroyed, and the United States Government opted to annex the island for military purposes. The Aleuts were not allowed to return.

Today, Attu is part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and the Alaska National Maritime Wildlife Refuge. Want to read more about the Aleutian Islands in World War II? See the Army Corps of Engineer’s View to the past which recounts the history of the Army on Amaknak Island and Unalaska Island. And to learn more about the experience of the native people, check out The National Park Service’s publications, Forced to leave the removal of the Unangax̂ of Unalaska, 22 July 1942 and Lost Villages of the Eastern Aleutians: Biorka, Kashega, Makushin.

In June 1942, the United States launched its first offensive in the Pacific, the Aleutian Campaign. From June 1942 to May 1943 Japan held the Island of Attu. The Battle of Attu took place May 11−30, 1943. With Canadian support, U.S. forces defeated Japanese forces in what was the second deadliest battle in the Pacific Theater. More than 3,000 Japanese and Americans died fighting on Attu. Attu: the Forgotten Battle, a new book by John Haile Cloe, explores that battle and its impact on the island. Aleutian Islands from The U.S. Army Center of Military History provides an overview of the Aleutian Islands Campaign.

Major Fleet-Versus-Fleet Operations in the Pacific War, 1941-1945, a publication of the Naval War College, explores three major naval operations of World War II initiated by imperial Japan that resulted in the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway/Aleutians, and the Philippine Sea.

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About the author: Cynthia Earman is a Cataloging & Metadata Librarian in the Library Services & Content Management division of the U.S. Government Publishing Office.

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