Last desperate hours of Japanese on Attu

Aerial photo of Chichagof harbor on Attu island, Alaska (USA), during the Battle of Attu, 11 to 30 May 1943.

Aerial photo of Chichagof harbor on Attu island, Alaska (USA), during the Battle of Attu, 11 to 30 May 1943.

The U.S. assault to retake the island of Attu was now making a significant impact on the Japanese, with many of their units decimated. The increasing desperateness of the situation was now leading to many men committing suicide. Individually and as a group they could not contemplate surrender. There could be no exception even for the wounded.

This is from the diary of an unknown Japanese soldier, discovered on his body after the final Japanese attack which commenced at 0400 on 29th May 1943. From the context it is understood that he was a medical assistant in one of the Japanese field hospitals.

In this sequence he appears to have got ahead of himself with respect to the actual dates – the entry dated 29th would have been on the 28th. This would not have been surprising in the circumstances. The original dates are reproduced here, telling the story of the final few days of the Japanese resistance on Attu

Japanese troops on Attu train with artillery sometime in 1943. Photograph later captured by US troops.

Japanese troops on Attu train with artillery sometime in 1943. Photograph later captured by US troops.

27 May:

Battle. Diarrhoea continues. The pain is severe. I took a number of pills, then slept pretty well. Planes strafed us. Roff broke through. There was less than 1,000 left from more than 2,000 troops — wounded from the coastal defence unit field hospital headquarters, the post office and the rest in the front lines.

28 May:

Battle. We only have two days’ rations left. Our artillery has been completely destroyed. There is a sound of trench mortar also of anti-aircraft guns. The company at the bottom of Attu has been completely annihilated except one. I wonder if Commander Yenagawa and some of the men are still living. Other companies have been completely annihilated except for one or two men.

The 303rd Brigade has been defeated. Yenagawa is still holding Ananous. There are many cases of suicide. Half the Sector Unit Headquarters has been blown away. I gave 400 shots of morphine to the severely wounded to kill them. Ate half fried thistle. It is the first time I have eaten anything fresh in six months. It is a delicacy. Orders came from the Sector Commander to move the field hospital to the island, but it was called off.

29 May:

Today at 2000 we assembled in the front of headquarters. The field hospital took part too. The last assault is to be carried out. All patients in the hospital were made to commit suicide.

Only 33 years old and I am to die here. I have no regrets. Banzai to the Emperor, I am grateful I have kept peace in my soul. At 1800 took care of all the patients with grenades.

Goodbye Taeke, my beloved wife who loved me to the last. Until we meet again grant you God speed. Misaka who just becaine four years old will grow up unhindered. I feel sorry for you. Tokika, born February of this year and gone without seeing your father. Be good Mataur, brother Kachair, Sukechen Masachan, Mitlicher, goodbye.

The number participating in this attack is a little over 1,000 to take enemy artillery positions. It seems that the enemy is expecting an all-out attack tomorrow.

This account appears in Nigel Cawthorne: Reaping the Whirlwind

Attu Invasion - Soldiers unload landing craft on the beach at Massacre Bay, Attu, on 13 May 1943. LCVPs in the foreground are from USS Zeilin (APA-3) and USS Heywood (APA-6).

Attu Invasion – Soldiers unload landing craft on the beach at Massacre Bay, Attu, on 13 May 1943. LCVPs in the foreground are from USS Zeilin (APA-3) and USS Heywood (APA-6).

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