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Good morning all,
Some WWII film of the 1943 battle ...
The video accompanied by a "human interest" story.
The new book on battle titled "The Storm on our Shores".
eastern Virginia, USA
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I found the following reports in a British "Current Reports from Overseas" document and thought they might be of interest:
CURRENT REPORTS FROM OVERSEAS
SECTION 1 – COMMENTS FROM ATTU ISLAND.
This Section contains comments by an observer who landed in ATTU with the American forces on 11 May.
1. We landed on the 11th on the HOLTZ side at Red Beach. We left the ship about 0920 hrs and went ashore in landing barges. There was a heavy fog and landing barges were all over the sea. The troops landed on the HOLTZ side before the Japanese knew it. Red Beach is very small. It has three rock formations running toward the sea. Submerged rocks interrupted the beach so that only two boats could land at a time. The entire beach was encircled
by a 1,500-ft cliff about 100 yds from the water line. Six machine guns could have prevented the entire landing operation. Looking at the beach no one would believe that a boat could get in, but the Navy managed and did an excellent job manoeuvring through the narrow channels. The Navy coxswains were well trained and should be commended for their work. They would direct, “You must weave in like a snake as there are many rocks in there.” “Snake” was the word that was heard over and over during the landing operation.
2. Beach parties were ashore quickly and communication lines established. A loud speaker system was installed on the beach, “Walky talkies” went into immediate operation and telephone lines spread. The “walky talkies” worked fine ashore, but there was no communication with the supporting planes nor the transports.
3. We were in by 0800 hrs and had taken the objective by 1030 or 1100 hrs. By this time the war was over for CHICAGOF, and the men washed their clothes, built fires, and cooked food. The Navy support was excellent. The spotters were landed with the forward units and the Navy gun support was most helpful.
4. The morale of our men was excellent. The operation was most successful. The enlisted men could not say enough good things about their leaders and followed them in every manoeuvre.
Prisoners of War
5. Few prisoners were taken in the operation. As the Japanese were forcefully opposed, many committed suicide and, therefore, offered little resistance. It is estimated that many hundreds gave up in this way. The G-2 (equivalent of British intelligence staff) begged that the American forces capture a few prisoners. Finally some few were picked up. These Japanese prisoners were very interesting, would talk and did respond to kind treatment. Fourteen had been taken and interviewed by the time I left the island. Of that group, I sat in on seven or eight of the interviews. We told them that they were prisoners of war, would be treated as such, and would be cared for by the American soldiers. We then asked if anything could be done for them. The replies were surprising, and several men even asked for jobs in the United States. One whispered, “I want to be a spy”. In all, they seemed to take general pleasure in going over maps and showing the location of installations.
6. One prisoner was a civilian welder employed by the Japanese Navy to work on the radar installations. He, however, had never witnessed their radar equipment in operation. He was over-anxious to talk. He could not speak English, but looked at every-
one in the room, used his hands, and desired to be understood. He told of the order in the last attack that there must be at least one Japanese to remain alive to return to Japan to tell the Japanese people how the Army had fought on ATTU. He began to cry and said that he believed he would be the only one left to return. He was a civilian and could surrender. When asked about his wife and children, he showed no emotion. That question, however, was presented much later, and I would hate to generalize an expression of opinion from a single observation. Generally, there seemed to be an emotional feeling for the wife and particularly the children. This was evidenced by the ever continuing comments and references to families in the captured Japanese diaries.
7. The Japanese prisoners were very happy to be alive and were all surprised at the kind treatment. They all said that they had never been told what would happen after they had been captured. They all thought, however, that they would be killed or enslaved. They did not want their families to know that they had been captured, because they would be disgraced. At first, they did not wish to return to Japan, but later the interpreters said that, after they had rested, they expressed a desire to return to their homeland. In conclusion, we definitely gained the impression that they were humans with all human weaknesses. They certainly were not supermen.
8. Every Japanese soldier was equipped with a gas mask and it was evident that the Japanese expected that the American forces would use gas. To them smoke was gas.
Japanese defence system
9. I was at HOLTZ BAY on the West arm and did not have the opportunity to visit the East arm. I believe, however, that the West arm had the better defence system. HOLTZ is about 1,000 yards wide and there are three terraces back above the beach. The first terrace had the chief trench system and was a mass of fine fox-holes. These holes were connected by shallow trenches and one could easily move from one fox-hole to the other. Ammunition, mainly for machine guns, was stacked along the sides of the trenches between the holes. Some of the covered trenches not only had boxes of ammunition but crates of food. At intervals were large dugouts facing the beach, with narrow slits about 10 ft long and 10 ins wide from which the entire beach could be covered with machine gun fire. Such a defence system covered the entire beach at HOLTZ BAY. Back of the fox-holes were bomb shelters. These were dug chiefly in the sides of the mountains or terraces.
10. For the Japanese, these bomb shelters were also the living quarters. They were completely equipped and very liveable. They had a coal stove and all the necessary fuel. The usual platform covered the floor of the room. The men slept, with their heads against the wall and their feet towards the passage-way, side by side. Each man had his name on the wall and a small shelf for his personal effects. They had a great quantity of excellent blankets. They were closely woven, warm, and adequate to meet the arctic conditions.
11. As far as I know the Japanese did not have meat. I heard there was a freshly butchered pig on the island, but did not see it. I did, however, see canned meat. The large warehouse at HOLTZ was amply stocked with 100-lb bags of rice, potatoes, carrots, a spinach-like preparation, and dried squid.
12. The troops were told it would take a day and a half for the operation. They then would have a chance to reorganize, to change to dry clothing, and rest, before they were to drive the Japanese out of CHICHAGOF. However, it did not work out this way. The men fought for a day and a half. The fight was not over. I do not believe that it was well to paint such an optimistic picture. The major fault in the entire operation was the underestimation of the terrain. The supply units did an excellent job.
13. The engineers did a tremendous job. The thing that strikes me was that the Japanese had held the island for eleven months and had only made one very short road. They had four trucks and one bulldozer, but little else in engineering machinery. They had not changed the face of the island at all. In three weeks the Americans had roads, a “cat”, jeep supply lines, and everything else.
SECTION 2. – FURTHER COMMENTS FROM ATTU ISLAND
This section contains comments by another observer who landed with the American forces at ATTU.
14. The landing operation was Navy controlled, and Navy shipmasters co-ordinated the shore traffic. The Army personnel was landed in Higgins boats – two boats at a time. Boat confusion off-shore therefore resulted and would have presented an excellent target had the enemy artillery OPs been able to gain observation. The weather was foggy, and so the excellent cover enabled a satisfactory landing to be made, with little opposition and a minimum
loss of life. There was no unusual or unexpected delay in the landing phase. The combat loading of the transports had been well planned, and the necessary equipment was brought ashore within the scheduled times.
15. Had there been much active opposition to this landing operation, it was very apparent that the landing boats would have been extremely vulnerable; they should have been equipped with some armament. The Army began fighting as they left the boats, having not been burdened by the problems of boat control.
16. The tactics of the operation were based on a definite plan with intermediate objectives designated for co-ordinating the over-all operation. One weakness of such a scheme became very evident, however, as the action progressed. On the first day the entire landing force at HOLTZ BAY took their pre-determined objective three hours before dusk. During this time they had only encountered opposition from Japanese patrols.
17. According to the plan, this objective was the first day’s operation. In the delay that followed until the action began the next morning, the Japanese were given time to organize a strong defensive position in the path of the objective for the second day of the operation, and the American units were subsequently forced to overcome on succeeding days the terrain which could otherwise have been taken with such little opposition the first day.
Estimation of the terrain
18. I believe that it was the general opinion of the units participating in the action at ATTU that most of the delays could be attributed to a complete underestimation of the difficulties of terrain. Although the photographs taken by the air forces were the best available information at the time, there is no substitute for actual ground reconnaissance. Future operations must therefore be planned with caution, and I do hope that others can profit by our experience.
19. Throughout the entire operation, Americans did no night fighting. At dark the units slept from sheer exhaustion. Outpost lines and all-round security were established, but even with this precaution Japanese patrols were successful in their attempt at penetration. The one large successful Japanese break-through was achieved by exploiting a night penetration of the American front line. Night security and night fighting therefore cannot be too strongly stressed, since we all know it is a type of warfare that will bring excellent results.
20. The pistol and the carbine were of no value in the long range warfare of the ALEUTIANS. The officers all discarded their weapons for the rifle, which functioned perfectly and furnished the necessary fire power for the ranges at which they were fighting. Apart from the unsuitability of the pistol and carbines for the job, the use of either weapon so distinguished the officers from the men that they soon found it desirable not to carry them.
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Thanks - seems like a fairly admiring report on the US operations. Given the 7th was a green division going into action for the first time, in what must be conceded to have been miserable conditions, and the US (naval) amphibious force for LANDCRAB was very much an extemporized organization, it gives some useful perspective.
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