The Capture of Attu: A World War II Battle As Told by the Men Who Fought There
ISBN: 080329557x Global Overview for this book
4 journalers for this copy...
"In 1942 Attu, the westernmost island in the Aleutian chain, was home to two Americans and forty-five Aleut hunters and their families. Located one thousand miles from the Alaska mainland and isolated by year-round damp fogs which manage to survive the constant high winds, Attu was called by an early visitor 'the lonesomest spot this side of hell'.
"In June 1942 Attu and the nearby island of Kiska were invaded by the Japanese in the hopes of accomplishing several goals: forestalling use of the islands by the Americans, hindering U.S.-Soviet cooperation, and establishing bases for attacks on the American mainland. On 11 May 1943, the U.S. effort to retake Attu began. The struggle was essentially an infantry battle. The ever-present fog, rain, and high wind limited the use of air power, and the craggy terrain made mechanized equipment next to useless. The infantry retook the island foot by foot."
I originally bought this book as I'm fascinated with remote locations and was interested to learn that the Japanese actually did set foot in North America during World War II.
The book, original published by the US War Department in 1944, is a collection of tales from the American soldiers, telling the story of how the island of Attu was retaken and what warfare is like in one of the least hospitable places on Earth.
An interesting but heavy-going read.
I looked in the comprehensive index for my father's name, since he was stationed in the Aleutians during WWII but he wasn't there -- looks like his unit didn't see combat in this battle (he was an MP).
Thanks for the great postcard of Roald Dahl and his characters -- including my favorite, Pelly! I'm thinking of putting it in a frame and displaying it in the school library where I work.
The Capture of Attu is very intense, but the editor's pacing is excellent. Just when I was about overcome with misery from reading about, for example, the friendly fire from bomber jets, Mitchell would stick in a cute story like "The Pin-Up" or "The Radio That Turned Jap".
"...these are not the stories of heroes; these are just the stories of guys who win wars and carry the scars on their hands." (page 129)
"Most soldiers who have really been in the thick of battle are reticent about the details. Maybe they can't believe the things they remember themselves, after the memories have grown cold." (page 134)
I'm full of contradictions, because I'm totally anti-war. Any war -- even the American Revolution and World War II could have been avoided with patience and diplomacy. BUT I am fascinated with military history. My dad was in the Army in WWII (in the Aleutians, as I mentioned before) and my stepfather in Korea with the Marines. Just like in the second quote above, they never wanted to talk about their experiences, so I stay interested in reading battle accounts.
This book was more immediate than any I've read before; I suppose because Mitchell interviewed the men so close to the time of the fighting. (As an aside, I think he was right to be angry about the circumstances of his wounding! Reading The Capture of Attu certainly shows that mistakes and bad attitudes are nothing new in wartime.)
The references to food were striking -- I felt terrible for the Americans when their coffee bucket was shot up; and for the Japanese POW when a GI threw his fish back into the sea!
Thanks, gothmarcus, for a wonderful reading opportunity.
For future readers, here's a site that helped me with the terminology, like "OP" and "CP":
And on the map between pages 7 and 8, two important features, Clevesy Pass and Fish Hook Ridge, are barely visible in the "seam" in the middle.
Mailing to Finland this afternoon.
I joined this ring for two purposes. First, because I like reading accounts of military operations (even though, like Megi, I'm completely anti-war in practice). Second, I'm a huge fan of crossword puzzles, and couldn't resist such a familiar word as ATTU--one of those 'empty' words/names one knows next to nothing about, besides the definition 'an Aleutian island'. ATTU is a perennial in Finnish crossword puzzles, and up until now, I haven't had a clear idea of why ATTU, ATKA, KISKA, and ADAK should even appear in crosswords. Obviously, these words first entered crossword puzzles during WWII when the Aleutian Islands made newspaper headlines. The once 'established' words have remained in crossword puzzles and glossaries ever since. Reading The Capture of Attu provided me with so much new information and insight I'm sure to remember every time I come across with ATTU in a crossword puzzle!
Here are some Attu-related websites I found while searching for information on the present-day Attu:
[08/03/06] The bookray is now officially closed. I'm taking the book with me to the Tampere March meetup.
Reserved for MsDefessa.