Forgotten hand-to-hand WWII Battle of Attu still haunts vets

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 woke him from his tent at 2 in the morning when word came that the Japs 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.


The Americans ran to a ridge known as Engineer Hill. It was the last remnants of the Japanese during the Battle of Attu, fought 75 years ago in May, 1943 on Attu Island in Alaska’s Aleutian chain.



Joseph Sasser, a 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 3 meters away.


American forces recaptured Attu Island on May 30, 1943, after a three week campaign that is known as World War II’s forgotten battle. Much of the fighting was hand to hand combat and in dense fog and 200 kph winds.


The Battle of Attu was one of the deadliest in the Pacific in terms of troops killed. Almost all the Japanese, about 2,500 soldiers, died. There were only 28 survivors. About 550 or so U.S. soldiers were killed.


American forces were ill-equipped for Alaskan weather and trained for combat in Europe or Africa, recaptured Attu,11 months after the Japanese took it and a nearby island, Kiska. It was the only battle of World War II fought on US soil.


200 Japanese soldiers died in the battle and the remaining 500 held grenades to their bellies and pulled the pins.


It was the first case of gyokusai, a situation where there would be no reinforcements and troops were expected to fight to the death, which increasingly occurred in other Japanese battlefields.


Reference: After 75 years, ‘forgotten’ hand-to-hand WWII battle of Attu still haunts vets


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