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Death of last surviving Alaskan taken by Japan during WWII rekindles memories of forgotten battle

by Andrew Wright
2 comments
Forgotten Battle

The passing of Gregory Golodoff, who lived most of his life on a quiet Alaskan island, has brought to light a forgotten chapter of American history. Golodoff, who recently passed away at the age of 84, was the last surviving member of a group of 41 residents who were taken by Japanese troops during World War II from remote Attu Island. This event led to the only World War II battle on North American soil.

Attu Island, a desolate and mountainous expanse of tundra located in the Aleutian chain, was captured by Japanese forces during the war. The subsequent American effort to reclaim Attu in 1943, known as the “forgotten battle” of World War II, was a challenging endeavor marked by harsh weather conditions and fierce combat. Approximately 2,500 Japanese soldiers perished, along with roughly 550 U.S. soldiers. Many of the American troops, originally trained for desert warfare, suffered from frostbite and exposure due to inadequate gear.

After the surviving captives were liberated at the end of the war, they were not allowed to return to Attu due to the high cost of rebuilding the community. Instead, most of them were relocated to the island of Atka, about 200 miles away.

The impact of this displacement went beyond the physical; it also led to the loss of the Attuans’ language, Sakinam Tunuu, which is now spoken only by members of a few families. Additionally, the unique basket-weaving tradition of the island is practiced by only a handful of individuals.

Much of what we know about the experience of the Alaska Natives in Japan during that time is documented in the book “Attu Boy,” written by Nick Golodoff, Gregory’s older brother. Gregory and his sister Liz, who was the second-to-last surviving Attuan, had little memory of Attu or Japan and rarely discussed it.

The journey of the Attu residents from their homeland to Japan was a harrowing one, marked by hardships and tragedy. Yet, despite the challenges they faced, their resilience and survival against the odds serve as a testament to the enduring spirit of those who experienced this forgotten chapter of World War II history.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Forgotten Battle

Q: What is the significance of Gregory Golodoff’s recent passing?

A: Gregory Golodoff’s death holds significance as he was the last survivor among 41 residents taken by Japanese troops during World War II from remote Attu Island. His passing rekindles memories of a long-forgotten Japanese invasion on North American soil.

Q: Can you provide more details about the “forgotten battle” of Attu Island?

A: Certainly. The “forgotten battle” of Attu Island occurred in 1943 when American forces sought to reclaim Attu from Japanese occupation. It was marked by extreme weather conditions, with approximately 2,500 Japanese soldiers and around 550 U.S. soldiers losing their lives during the campaign.

Q: What were the consequences of the Attu residents’ relocation after their liberation?

A: After being freed at the end of World War II, the Attu residents were not allowed to return to their island due to the high cost of rebuilding. Instead, most of them were relocated to the island of Atka, leading to the loss of their language and cultural traditions.

Q: Is there a book that documents this history?

A: Yes, “Attu Boy” is a book written by Nick Golodoff, the older brother of Gregory Golodoff. It provides valuable insights into the experiences of the Attu residents during their time in Japan and their journey.

Q: What happened to the Attu residents during their captivity in Japan?

A: The Attu residents faced hardships during their captivity in Japan, including forced labor, food shortages, and poor living conditions. Tragically, some of them died from malnutrition, starvation, or disease during this period.

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2 comments

Bookworm123 December 10, 2023 - 3:24 pm

gonna check out “attu boy” book. curious abt their experience in japan.

Reply
HistoryBuff82 December 10, 2023 - 10:46 pm

attu battle sounds intense! lots of lives lost. thx for sharing.

Reply

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