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In the evening hours of May 28, American forces occupied the high ground in Chichagof Valley, controlling three critical hills: Fish Hook, Buffalo, and Engineer. The Japanese forces were pushed to the sea, and the Americans planned to bombard them the next day.

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Colonel Yamasaki, the Japanese commanding officer on Attu, had 2, able-bodied soldiers when the Americans landed. On May 28, he had only men available for combat, plus men who had been wounded over the last two weeks of fighting. Rather than surrendering, which was considered dishonorable, Yamasaki chose to make a daring move. He and his men would counterattack the Americans at their weakest point, capture their artillery on Engineer Hill, and use it against them.

Most Japanese soldiers saw the plan as a chance for an honorable death, not a great victory. That night, Dr. All the patients in the hospital are to commit suicide. Only 33 years of living and I am to die here At hours took care of all the patients with grenades.

Retaking Attu

Good-bye, Taeki, my beloved wife, who loved me to the last.. Suddenly, the Japanese attacked. Startled, many Americans retreated to the comparative safety of Fish Hook and Buffalo hills to regroup. Consequently, Yamasaki and his men were able to advance on the artillery on Engineer Hill without meeting any organized resistance. A small number of noncombatant units were stationed on top of Engineer Hill.

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Under the command of General Archibald V. Arnold, they quickly organized a defense made up of medics, engineers, and service personnel who began hurling hand grenades at the Japanese. Unfazed, the Japanese continued to advance, and desperate hand-to-hand combat erupted as the defenders fought for their lives.

Retaking Attu

The tide turned when the 50th Engineers arrived and forced the attackers back with bayonets and rifle butts, preventing them from reaching the critical artillery. Although the battle continued throughout the day, the Japanese were not able to mount another concentrated attack. Colonel Yamasaki was killed late in the day as he led another wave up Engineer Hill.

The Japanese armed forces followed a Samurai warrior code, known as the "Bushido Code. Surrender was profoundly dishonorable, and soldiers were instructed to commit suicide rather than be captured. If a soldier chose to surrender, his dishonor spread to his family; some wives of POWs killed themselves to escape the shame brought on them by their husbands.

Much of what is known about the daily life of Japanese soldiers on Attu comes from the war diary of Paul Nebu Tatsuguchi. Tatsuguchi studied medicine in California before the war. He converted to Christianity and served as a medical missionary of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Japan before being drafted into the Imperial Army in Tatsuguchi died on May 29 when his field hospital was overrun by U.

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Read an excerpt from Dr. On May 30, only 28 of the roughly 1, Japanese who had been in the valley the day before survived. The rest had been killed in battle or had committed suicide by holding hand grenades to their chests.

When the Americans came across the Japanese hospital tents, they made the horrific discovery that all of the wounded had been killed by their doctors. The Americans buried 2, Japanese in mass graves on Attu, and it is thought that several hundred more were buried in the hills. The Battle of Attu ranks as the second deadliest battle in the Pacific Theatre in proportion to the number of troops engaged falling just behind Iwo Jima.

Seventy-five years after the Battle of Attu, veterans reflect on the cost of reclaiming US soil

As a result, major changes in Army footwear, outdoor gear, tents, and food occured. When the surviving Attuans were released by Japan in , they embarked on a long journey home via the Phillipines, San Francisco, and Seattle. When they reached Seattle, they were told that they would not be allowed to return to Attu, as the U. The battlefield area on Attu was designated a National Historic Landmark in The U. American Dead Wounded Severe cold injuries Disease including exposure. Cloe, John Haile.

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Garfield, Brian. Northern History Library. Homer: 95 Sterling Hwy. Explore This Park. The Battle of Attu: 60 Years Later. American troops transporting the wounded on Attu in May, First Among Men is a fictionalized account of the battle no one ever heard of, remembered and developed because the author, Jerry Coker, listened to his father slowly unravel and dispel his demons releasing bits and pieces of the story over his lifetime. A regular Army infantryman with the US Army's 7th Infantry Division in May of , his father could not forget the horrors of those bloody weeks in the snow and freezing rain.

A combat veteran himself as a US Marine rifleman during the Vietnam War, Jerry Coker decided, after shelving a corporate and business career, the story needed to be told. After ten months of meticulous research and another six writing, the story captures a battle that would be characterized later in official Army records as a battle of honor over an island nobody wanted. This is a painful, yet poignant tale of incredible suffering and sacrifice, where the two sides not only fought one another, but faced constant rain, wind, snow, and some of the toughest terrain in the world.