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Operation Landgrab - The Battle of Attu

Started by 78CARg , May 11 2012 03:10 AM

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#1 78CARg

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 03:10 AM

Today May 11th, 69 years ago the battle for Attu began. It lasted less then a month, claiming the lives of 549 American service men. It is the only battle of WWII that took place on American soil. It is also credited as the first Allied sea-borne invasion of enemy-held territory.

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Battle of Attu May-June 1943


Private Snafu in the Aleutians


Report from the Aleutians
http://youtu.be/XFGkrT4Vd4E

UNITED NEWSREEL: "U.S. Completes Occupation of Attu Island"
http://youtu.be/jtFkIBrFcQo

the following is an excerpt taken from http://www.hlswilliw...tu-homepage.htm (the best site I have found about Attu)

The Invasion of Attu


The battle of Attu was essentially an infantry battle. The climate greatly limited the use of air power as the island was shrouded in fog and experienced high winds almost every day. The terrain...steep jagged crags, knifelike ridges covered with snow, boggy tundra...made the use of mechanized equipment and of all motorized vehicles impractical. The American GI, thus reduced to moving only on foot, had to blast his way to victory with only the weapons he could carry with him. The American troops, some trained and equipped for fighting in desert climates, some totally inexperienced in combat, had found a most formidable enemy in the Japanese who were fully equipped, thoroughly acclimated, and fanatically determined to hold their strong, well chosen, defensive positions.
The allied Attu attack force was originally scheduled to leave Cold Bay on May 3rd, but bad weather postponed sailing until the 4th of May, 1943. D-day was re-designated to be 8 May, 1943, then, again as a result of bad weather, D-day was postponed to 9 May, 1943, then to Tuesday, 11 May, 1943.
There were numerous "firsts" experienced by the U.S. Forces in the Aleutians. The American 7th Division had embarked on the first Allied sea-borne invasion of enemy-held territory. The 7th had trained in the Mojave Desert expecting eventually to fight the Germans in North Africa. Soon after the defeat of the German Army in North Africa, the 7th began to practice amphibious landings on San Clemente Island. With their training completed and plans in place, the 7th eventually shipped out of San Francisco, destination unknown. As the ships later set a northerly bearing, heading for the Aleutians once out to sea, the GIs were finally informed of their real destination. Cold weather uniforms were then issued to the men, including leather boots that would prove useless in the wet snow and mud soon to be encountered on Attu.
The arrival of American forces off Attu was uneventful. A dense fog obscured the Island and surrounding area. The 7th Scout Co. had safely landed at Beach Scarlet, located on the northern shore of Attu, from their submarine transport. The Northern Force landing took place at 1450 hrs on Beach Red. The Southern Force landings at Massacre Bay proved difficult to the extreme. Some landing craft snagged on outcroppings of rock, sank, and dragged their crews to the bottom. A few landing craft collided with each other in the fog.
The northern force followed the island's coast-line, accompanied by a small flanking scout battalion to their right. The southern force finally pushed upwards from Massacre Bay through what was named Massacre Valley.  The first wave of Americans found snow running all the way down the beach. The first artillery pieces promptly sank into the tundra after being fired. Air support from the nearby CVE Nassau was eliminated by 90% cloud cover over the island. Those fighters that were able to find their way to the island more often than not strafed friendly units. A flight of F4F Wildcats attempted an attack against the Japanese defenders. As they flew through what was to become known as Jarmin Pass, a williwaw blew two of the planes against the mountain. A thick ground fog persisted to a considerable altitude that, while preventing the American invaders from seeing the Japanese defenders, provided protection for the Japanese (invisible in their white clothing) who could clearly see American troop movements below them.
The beaches quickly jammed up with supplies and bogged-down vehicles. The 7th soon realized they wouldn't be able to get their artillery or tracked vehicles across the muskeg. It was apparent the battle would have to be fought by the foot soldiers themselves. Troops in the front lines began to suffer greatly from the effects of the bitter cold. Hundreds of GIs would eventually have their feet amputated as a result of frostbite and trench foot (roughly a quarter of all casualties would be traced to frostbite). American troops, lost in the fog, walked into enemy cross-fires and would be pinned down for hours with no reasonable shelter from the cold.
The American's continued to slug it out for eight days of nearly perpetual combat as the Japanese forged a bloody withdrawal. Finally, on the 18th of May, 1943, with the added help of the "Fighting Fourth," the American northern and southern forces linked up as per the original plan objective.
Badly outnumbered and sensing possible defeat, the Japanese now killed their own wounded by injecting them with morphine. To make sure the job was completed, they then threw hand grenades into their own medical tent.
On the 28th of May, 1943, Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki, commander of the Japanese forces on Attu, formed a plan that could possibly turn the tide of battle in favor of the Japanese. In the middle of the night he would lead his remaining force of 800 men (of an initial 2600) through a weak point in the American lines, capture an American Howitzer emplacement, then use it to pin down the Americans long enough to evacuate his surviving forces (click HERE to view more of this story in detail).
On the 29th of May, 1943 at 3:15a.m., Yamasaki's remaining troops took advantage of the lingering fog and managed to break through the American lines. Ten minutes later, with the artillery battery located on Engineer Hill in sight, the Japanese commander ordered a Banzai attack. They killed several American patients in their field hospital and exploded a propane stove in the mess. The sleeping Americans quickly rallied their forces and threw the Japanese back into the fog after intense close combat. The failure to carry out their plan effectively destroyed the Japanese morale. Five hundred of the remaining Japanese committed mass suicide (gyokusai) with grenades held close to their stomachs, chests, and foreheads. Yamasaki attempted a final but fruitless charge later in the day with what remained of his force. During this charge he lost his own life to a .30-caliber bullet. The battle for Attu was over.
The casualties incurred during the invasion of Attu were appalling. The Americans suffered 3829 casualties, roughly 25% of the invading force, second only in proportion to Iwo Jima. Of these, 549 were killed; 1148 injured; 1200 with severe cold injuries; 614 with disease; and a remaining 318 to miscellaneous causes. On the Japanese side, 2351 men were counted by American burial parties, and hundreds more were presumed already buried. Total prisoners taken: 28 (none of whom were officers). The Japanese fought to virtually the last man.
By May 30th, 1943, unknown to the allied forces at the time, all organized Japanese Army resistance ended in the Aleutians.
On August 15th, 1943 the allied invasion of Kiska finally began. There was no opposition to the invasion of Kiska by the US and Canadian forces as there were no Japanese troops left on the island. The Japanese had been secretly removed from Kiska by I-class submarines and surface vessels prior to the allied attack. Allied casualties during the invasion nevertheless numbered close to 200, all from friendly fire, booby traps set out by the Japanese to inflict damage on the invading allied forces, or disease. There were seventeen Americans and four Canadians killed from either friendly fire or booby traps, fifty more were wounded as a result of friendly fire or booby traps, and an additional 130 men came down with trench foot.
The Japanese were finally ejected from the Aleutians only after 15 months of arduous operations hampered by shortages afloat, ashore, and in the air...not to mention the almost insuperable obstacles of weather and terrain.


Please feel free to post any Attu related items you may have in your collection.

#2 rr01

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 07:34 AM

My Father flew P~38s from Attu and then Kiska and he left behind a shoebox full of slides and pictures of airbase life that sure looks a lot like the ones you posted. Of course he has his obligatory flying shots but I think the airplanes were the only things they had there that were modern. Thanks for the remembrance.

#3 78CARg

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 08:14 PM

My Father flew P~38s from Attu and then Kiska and he left behind a shoebox full of slides and pictures of airbase life that sure looks a lot like the ones you posted. Of course he has his obligatory flying shots but I think the airplanes were the only things they had there that were modern. Thanks for the remembrance.


Thanks for the reply!

The first and last pictures are from my grandfathers photo album. He served as an ammunition handler for an Anti Aircraft gun crew. The other pictures are out of an Attu Veterans album I bought off eBay.

here are links to the threads I created for the albums.

My Grandfathers Photo Album (200+ Pics)
http://www.usmilitar...d...=136484&hl=

Attu Photo Album
http://www.usmilitar...d...=127572&hl=

#4 squirrely

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 08:14 PM

Training to fight in North Africa, only to end up there - talk about a mixup. Thank you for posting a good read.

#5 78CARg

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 12:05 AM

Training to fight in North Africa, only to end up there - talk about a mixup. Thank you for posting a good read.


No problem,

I'm glad I am able to bring some awareness of this forgotten battle

#6 78CARg

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 11:25 PM

I seen Attu on the forum banner, and thought this could use a bump. Considering this is the only battle to take place on US soil. I am surprised at how many people know nothing about it.

#7 Sabrejet

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 12:50 AM

Excellent...thank you!  ;)  (Love the Pvt. SNAFU clip!!   :lol:  )


Edited by Sabrejet, 17 May 2013 - 12:54 AM.


#8 MPage

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Posted 17 May 2013 - 01:01 AM

 I am surprised at how many people know nothing about it.

 

Yes, so am I. 

 

Not too long ago I finished The Thousand Mile War, a compelling book which I recommend to anyone interested in the forgotten Aleutians Campaign. 



#9 espeed

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 09:34 AM

attu4b.JPG attu6a.JPG

 

My Dad, TSGT Ray Nielsen, 2nd BN, "F" Company, 17th Infantry was a platoon sergeant and landed on

Attu. He is standing at the far right in the bottom picture holding a bottle of sake. Prior to the war, he was a D.I. at Fort Ord. He also participated in the Kwajalein and Leyte campaigns before taking shell shrapnel on Leyte. I have alot more pix of Attu and Kwajalein, and a few of Leyte.



#10 78CARg

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 10:37 AM

attachicon.gifattu4b.JPGattachicon.gifattu6a.JPG
 
My Dad, TSGT Ray Nielsen, 2nd BN, "F" Company, 17th Infantry was a platoon sergeant and landed on
Attu. He is standing at the far right in the bottom picture holding a bottle of sake. Prior to the war, he was a D.I. at Fort Ord. He also participated in the Kwajalein and Leyte campaigns before taking shell shrapnel on Leyte. I have alot more pix of Attu and Kwajalein, and a few of Leyte.


Wow, Great pictures! Thank you for sharing. If you ever get a chance to post them, I would love to see the rest of the Attu ones. Even tho it is a forgotten battle, I am surprised at how many pictures I have found from Attu. Apparently they had a dark room on the island.

#11 MPage

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 12:46 PM

Good stuff!



#12 espeed

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 03:16 AM

78CARg,

I have posted more photos on the topic "Kiska Landing Craft Photo?". I will post more photos on both threads

later today. My dad entered the Army in 1936 and was initially stationed at (then) Fort Crook, Nebraska. He was

born in Blair, Nebraska in 1915, and I was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa and lived in both Nebraska and Iowa before

entering the Navy in 1975. I also have the PUC signed by H.H. "Hap" Arnold for "F" Company's hand-to-hand

combat operations he was involved in on Cold Mountain. If I can "shrink" the citation, I'll post it for all to see.

All of these photos were taken with a small brownie camera and the rolls were finally developed a few years after

the war.



#13 espeed

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 10:53 AM

atu5b.JPG massacrebay2.JPG
 
Additional pix of terrain and just before landing on Massacre Bay.

#14 espeed

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 10:57 AM

attu3g.JPG attu3c.JPG
 
More pix of Attu terrain.

#15 78CARg

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 11:29 AM

78CARg,
I have posted more photos on the topic "Kiska Landing Craft Photo?". I will post more photos on both threads
later today. My dad entered the Army in 1936 and was initially stationed at (then) Fort Crook, Nebraska. He was
born in Blair, Nebraska in 1915, and I was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa and lived in both Nebraska and Iowa before
entering the Navy in 1975. I also have the PUC signed by H.H. "Hap" Arnold for "F" Company's hand-to-hand
combat operations he was involved in on Cold Mountain. If I can "shrink" the citation, I'll post it for all to see.
All of these photos were taken with a small brownie camera and the rolls were finally developed a few years after
the war.


Thank you again for sharing all this about your father. It's interesting that you mention Fort Crook, cause my grandfather was also born in Nebraska. Blue Hill to be exact. And He also entered the Army at Ft. Crook. The picture below is of my grandpa, his aunt and cousins. As you can see, he is wearing a Ft. Crook shirt.

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/39/unknown1i.jpg/

I just looked through the photos you have posted so far, and they are amazing. The pictures before and during the landing are the ones I am most excited to see. All the pics I have are on the Island well after the battle. Grandpas album contains over 200 pictures, and those are just the Attu pics. That's not counting all the ones from his training at Camp Callan. Grandpa was on the island for 20 months total, so I guess taking pictures was what kept him occupied. Sadly he never told me about this album, and I did not learn about it till after he passed away.

Edited by 78CARg, 10 July 2013 - 11:41 AM.


#16 espeed

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 03:49 AM

attu3d.JPG attu3h.JPG
 
78CARg,
More pix of horrible terrain. What year was your Grandfather at Fort Crook? I have a complete regiment photo from June of 1938. Also
go to this web site: http://17thftcrook.blogspot.com for a bit of history and photos of Ft Crook. There was another good friend of my dad's
who was also from Nebraska; Grand Island to be exact, who went all the way through the war, even Okinawa, and stayed in until after
Korea. His name was Eddie Krauter. My dad didn't tell me anything of his war experience until the last year he was alive. We spent
2 days going through every picture he had while I was home on leave. These guys, in my mind, were the toughest of any generation.
 

#17 78CARg

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Posted 11 July 2013 - 04:27 PM

attachicon.gifattu3d.JPGattachicon.gifattu3h.JPG
 
78CARg,
More pix of horrible terrain. What year was your Grandfather at Fort Crook? I have a complete regiment photo from June of 1938. Also
go to this web site: http://17thftcrook.blogspot.com for a bit of history and photos of Ft Crook. There was another good friend of my dad's
who was also from Nebraska; Grand Island to be exact, who went all the way through the war, even Okinawa, and stayed in until after
Korea. His name was Eddie Krauter. My dad didn't tell me anything of his war experience until the last year he was alive. We spent
2 days going through every picture he had while I was home on leave. These guys, in my mind, were the toughest of any generation.
 



Thank you so much for the link! I have never been able to find much info about Ft. Crook.

Grandpa entered active service at Ft. Crook in October of 1942. Your extremely lucky that your father spoke to you about his experiences. My grandfather died when I was 15, so I never got the chance to really talk to him about it. In fact he did not speak to anyone in the family about it. Not even his son Jim who was a Navy veteran. Jim served on the USS Jenkins from 1965 to 1968.

I agree with you that these men were some of the toughest to ever live. Growing up I knew he served on Attu, but that's all, so learning everything I have about that battle and the conditions. Gave me a different view of the grandfather I knew for 15 years. Being around him there was no indication he was a veteran he kept all of his military Items, but they were all tucked away, nothing was displayed. He moved to my hometown after the war, and worked in warehouses for 35+ years. the whole time dealing with his injured feet. They were never right after he left that island. He was there for 20 months, which sounds horrible. However reading about the battles the 7th went onto fight in. He may have been lucky he stayed on Attu.

Edited by 78CARg, 11 July 2013 - 04:29 PM.


#18 espeed

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 08:38 AM

attu4g.JPG attu6b.JPG

78CARg,

A couple more pix; I found a couple of good books that really tell the story of what these guys went through on Attu.

If you can find a copy of it, Bridge To Victory, by Howard Handleman, copyright 1943, is a very descriptive book of

events that were still fresh in the writers memory. Also, The Capture of Attu, compiled by LT. Robert J. Mitchel, is

good as the battle itself is retold by serveral 7th Division combat troops who lived through it.



#19 espeed

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Posted 12 July 2013 - 08:45 AM

attu7c.JPG atu5c.JPG

 

78CARg.

Speaking of your grandfathers feet, my dad had suffered frostbite while there; he almost

lost a couple of toes, but still had feeling in them. He did lose all the hair on both legs and it never

grew back. When I was little, I could never understand how come the house was always so warm

during the winter months; I now know why.

 



#20 78CARg

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Posted 13 July 2013 - 02:31 AM

Thanks for the book suggestions. I will definitely check them out.

The fact that more men were injured due to weather conditions, then from the enemy. Has always been one of the most disturbing facts I have learned about Attu. And then finding out that allot of them were sent there with inadequate gear disturbs me even more. This fact is evident from one of the records left behind by my grandfather. Its a war trophy certificate and as you can see everything listed was taken to survive rather than as souvenirs.

wartrophiescertificatep.jpg


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