THE JAPANESE ON ATTU

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Ian Beaton ("They Also Serve") Ian arrived on Shemya Island in November 1943, and stayed through July 1945. While on Shemya, Ian had a friend who had access to the Shemya Air Base Photo Lab. His friend found a roll of film that had belonged to a Japanese soldier stationed on Attu. The Japanese soldier to whom the film belonged was more than likely killed in the Battle for Attu some time during May of 1943, as there were only 28 surviving Japanese soldiers. There's no evidence the film belonged to any of these 28 survivors. Ian had prints made from this roll of negative film in 1943, with the U.S. Army censor's stamp on the back of each photo. Ian sent these photos home to his family in 1944. For several years Ian has been trying to get these photos to the surviving families of the soldiers seen in these photos. In August of 2003, Ian's story along with two of the photos appeared in "The Yomiuri Shimbun," one of the largest newspapers in Japan, with no results. Ian was kind enough to allow us to publish these photos on our web site, with hopes that perhaps someone in Japan or elsewhere will recognize the soldiers in these photos. These photos were taken on Attu sometime between June 6th of 1942 and May 10th of 1943, when Attu was re-captured by the Allies from the Japanese.
 
1. As we don't know who is in these photos or exactly what's going on, I will provide my best guess as to what we're seeing. This photo appears to be of an individual, perhaps an officer, inside a tent. Could be an office or sleeping tent.


 

2. While I can't determine exactly what's going on in this photo, I can guess that perhaps the soldiers were digging in, preparing defensive positions in the mountains of Attu. As there is an adequate amount of snow on the ground, the date for this photo would be somewhere between October of 1942 and April of 1943.

 

3. This photo appears to be that of two enlisted Japanese soldiers, buddies no doubt, posing in front of a tent on one of Attu's mountains. There were numerous defensive positions set up by the Japanese overlooking Massacre Bay, which may be the location of this encampment. The Japanese had 11 months to get their defenses established prior to the invasion of Attu by the Allied Forces.
 
4. I'm guessing that this photo is one of several of the ranking officers on Attu due to the uniforms being worn. Also...nice quarters!


 


 

5. Apparently this photo was taken in an office environment. The illumination from the background was the sun shining on that side of the tent. These individuals appear to be middle-level management officers.
 
6. Lifetime friendships are forged between individuals while serving in the military, especially between those facing or engaged in battle. These two were obvious friends, enjoying Attu's winter wonderland adventure.



 

7. Hard to say what's going on here. Could be this group of soldiers are discussing defensive positions in and around the mountainous regions of Attu.

 


 

8. There are always those who know how to make the best of any situation. Here's a lad that brought his skis along with him. This indicates that it was not all work and no play during the Japanese Army's 11-month long deployment to Attu.


 

9. I believe this is a picture of a different skier, but I'd be willing to bet it's the same set of skis!


 


 

10. And finally, who could envision the terrible battle that would begin and end in May of 1943 while looking at this beautiful mountain scenery.

 


 


Last Updated: 04 January 2013

Originally published 30 August 2005