Japanese occupation of Attu

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Japanese occupation of Attu
Part of the American Theater and the Pacific Theater of World War II
A6M2-N Rufes Holtz Bay 1942.jpg
Four Japanese seaplanes landed at Holtz Bay, Attu Island on 7 November 1942. Photo taken by American surveillance aircraft.
Date6 June 1942 – 30 May 1943
LocationAttu, Aleutian Islands, Pacific Ocean
Result Japanese occupation commences.
 United States  Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders
N/A Empire of Japan Matsutoshi Hosumi
Empire of Japan Yasuyo Yamasaki
Empire of Japan Boshirō Hosogaya
N/A 1,140 - 2,900
Casualties and losses
1 civilian killed
46 civilians captured

The Japanese occupation of Attu was the result of an invasion of the Aleutian Islands during World War II. Imperial Japanese Army troops landed on 6 June 1942 at the same time as the invasion of Kiska. The occupation ended with the Allied victory in the Battle of Attu on 30 May 1943.


In May 1942, the Japanese began a campaign against Midway, their objective being to occupy the islands and destroy the remaining United States Navy forces in the Pacific. In order to deceive the American Pacific Fleet, an attack was ordered to take place in the Aleutians, thus beginning the Aleutian Islands Campaign. During the Battle of Midway, Japanese forces were repulsed in a decisive action, meanwhile on 6 June, Japanese naval forces under Boshirō Hosogaya landed troops unopposed at Kiska and Attu islands. A force consisting of 1,140 infantry under Major Matsutoshi Hosumi took control of the island and captured Attu’s population, which consisted of 45 Aleuts and two white Americans, Charles Foster Jones (1879-1942), an amateur radio operator and weather reporter, originally from St. Paris, Ohio, and his wife Etta (1879-1965), a teacher and nurse, originally from Vineland, New Jersey.[1] The village consisted of several houses around Chichagof Harbor. The 42 Aleut inhabitants who survived the Japanese invasion were taken to a prison camp near Otaru, Hokkaido. Sixteen of them died while they were imprisoned. Charles Jones was killed by the Japanese forces almost immediately after the invasion. His wife was subsequently taken to the Bund Hotel, which housed Australian prisoners of war from the 1942 Battle of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, in Yokohama, Japan. Sometime later, she and the Australian prisoners were taken to the Yokohama Yacht Club and kept there from 1942 to 1944 and then the Totsuka prisoner of war camp from 1944 to 1945 in Japan before their release in August 1945. Etta Jones died in December 1965 at age 86 in Bradenton, Florida.[2]

Attu village, occupied by the Japanese and retaken during the Battle of Attu.

After landing, the soldiers began constructing an airbase and fortifications. The nearest American forces were on Unalaska Island at Dutch Harbor and at an airbase on Adak Island. Throughout the occupation, American air and naval forces bombarded the island. Initially the Japanese intended to hold the Aleutians only until the winter of 1942; however, the occupation continued into 1943 in order to deny the Americans use of the islands. In August 1942, the garrison of Attu was moved to Kiska to help repel a suspected American attack. From August to October 1942, Attu was unoccupied until a 2,900-man force under Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki arrived. The new garrison of Attu continued constructing the airfield and fortifications until 11 May 1943, when a 15,000 man army of American troops landed. On 12 May, I-31 was forced to surface five miles northeast of Chichagof Harbor, she was then sunk in a surface engagement with USS Edwards.

Chichagof Harbor under attack during the Allied liberation of Attu.

Allied forces under General John L. DeWitt took control of the island on 30 May after the remaining Japanese troops conducted a massive banzai charge. American forces lost 549 killed and 1,148 wounded, another 2,100 evacuated due to weather-related injuries. During the Battle of Attu, all but 29 men of the Japanese garrison were killed. The occupation ended with an American victory and American forces deemed the half-completed airfield as not ideally situated. After building a new airfield the Americans launched bomber attacks against the Japanese home islands for the remainder of the war [3]

Attu village was abandoned after the war, and surviving members of Japanese internment were moved to other islands after the war. In 2012, for the 70th anniversary of the occupation, a memorial to Attu village was dedicated at the former site of the town.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mary Breu (2009) Last Letters from Attu, Alaska Northwest Books, ISBN 0882408100
  2. ^ Mary Breu (2009) Last Letters from Attu, Alaska Northwest Books, ISBN 0882408100
  3. ^ Brian Garfield, The Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians