Canon S110
©Tim P

This photo was taken atop Engineer Hill on the Aleutian island of Attu. On this spot at the end of May 1943, American and Japanese forces fought a bloody battle. This is the sight of one of the largest 'Banzai' charges of the second world war. It was also the only major battle of WWII that took place on US soil.

The outnumbered Japanese forces had been slowly decimated after several months of attrition from fighting the Americans. Realizing that their only hope was to escape from the penninsula that the Americans had trapped them on, they decided to attempt to break out and head to the southern part of the island and await evacuation by the Japanese navy. The night before the battle, the remaining stocks of liquor were distributed to the troops. Wounded soldiers who would be unable to participate killed themselves. The rest prepared for battle. The following night, in thick fog, the entire Japanese force came up this hill and a desperate close quarters and often hand to hand fight ensued. All available American forces were thrown into the fight. The Japanese were repulsed. Of a total garrison of 2800, only eight Japanese eventually survived the campaign. The Americans suffered approximately 630 deaths and over 2000 none lethal casualties in three months of fighting. The exact numbers, I don't remember.

I took this photo in 2003, almost 60 years to the day after the battle. Standing there on a peaceful and sunny afternoon, it's hard to imagine what happened here. Today, the only inhabitants of Attu are a small Coast Guard contingent that mans the LORAN installation. There are no commercial flights to Attu. On the battle field, there is a Japanese monument to those who fell in battle. Perhaps its time that we placed a monument to our fallen soldiers there too.