KUCB KIAL Unalaska Community Broadcasting

attu

Lisa Hupp/USFWS

 

It’s been 75 years since thousands of young soldiers lost their lives fighting over the westernmost point of the United States. Seventy-five years since the Alaska Native people of Attu were taken from their homes never to return again.

 

This weekend, former Attu residents, as well as veterans of the Aleutian campaign and descendants of the Japanese soldiers joined together to commemorate the tragedy and honor the legacy of those lost.

 

 

Zoë Sobel / KUCB

Seventy-five years after Japan invaded the furthest tip of the Aleutian chain, Attuans are returning home.

In 1942, there were 44 people living on Attu Island, nearly all Alaska Natives. They were taken as captives to Japan, where half of them died. And after the war, the federal government forbade them from returning.

But in August, a group of 11 descendants finally visited their ancestral home for the first time.

Alaska State Library, Aleutian/Pribilof Project Collection, ASL-P233-V111

Seventy-five years ago, Japan and the United States were locked in one of the bloodiest battles fought on American soil: the Battle of Attu.

Army veteran Allan Serroll served on Attu Island, which sits at the westernmost end of the Aleutian Islands — closer to Japan than Seattle.

Serroll is now 102. But he’s still haunted by the experience of staring down young men like himself.

“Some of the guys noticed that it was bothering me,” Serroll said. “They said, ‘Look, it’s kill or be killed. It’s your life you’re protecting.’ And they were right.”