NEW! A SHORT HISTORY OF THE BATTLE OF ATTU
Provided by Ardon Smith
Attu, the westernmost piece of American territory and largest island in the Near Islands grouping of the Aleutian islands, is nearly 1,100 miles from the Alaskan mainland and 750 miles northeast of the northernmost of the Japanese Kurile Islands. Attu is about 20 by 35 miles in size, and is today the home of a small number of U. S. Coastguard personnel operating a Loran station. The western international date line on average lies at the 180 degree line of longitude in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Attu's longitude is a bit more than 173 degrees, very close to the date line. The date line was drawn slightly curved westward around Attu. Some rough calculations show Attu to be around 453km (or 281 miles) from the dateline would it exist at the 180 degree longitude point. Therefore, if you are standing on Attu and look to the west, you can in your mind at least see "tomorrow."
Attu was occupied on June 6th, 1942 by the Japanese, and was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting during W.W.II (second only to Iwo Jima) commencing on "D-Day," 11 May 1943. See the "Brief History" of the war in the Aleutians by clicking on the "W.W.II" menu selection in the top menu.
The battle of Attu ended in May 1943 and the Japanese forces on the island were annihilated. The need for a LORAN station was deemed necessary on the southern most tip of Attu. The equipment to build the station came out of Holtz Bay and was ferried on barges and landing craft to Baxter Cove located about one mile east of the station. Bulldozers were used to cut a road from Baxter Cove to Theodore Point (see map) over which the equipment was hauled. The construction began about November 1943 by a USCG Construction Detachment. The main building consisted of five Quonset huts shaped like an "H" with connecting passageways. The LORAN/Radio Shack was one Quonset hut located on the point next to a 400 ft cliff which dropped down to the Pacific Ocean. The original commanding officer was a Lt. Jg Doster and one of the original crew members is Bob Yeaton of MA. Several crew members who served during the period 1943 to 1947 held their first reunion in 1996 and a second reunion in September 1998. A normal crew consisted of approximately 20 men and the tour of duty was one year more or less. There are seventeen known members who make up the survivors of the most isolated station in the world. In 1960 the station was moved to Casco Cove, near the former Navy Base at Massacre Bay. Later it was changed from a Loran "A" to Loran "C" and moved into a modern building at Massacre Bay. The station was in operation and manned by a crew of 20 up until the 27th of August, 2010 when it was closed as a result of government cost-cutting measures, and in recognition of the fact LORAN was now old technology with GPS having taken its place. This was the only station on the island and the only human inhabitants. A book entitled "Lonely in the Aleutians" by Dick Griessel was recently published giving detailed information on US Coast Guard Unit 62, Theodore Point. Dick served there in 1945-1946. The book was a limited edition and presently not available to the public. (The point of contact for men who served on Theodore Point during 1943 to 1947 is: Ardon W "Smitty" Smith, 250 Stratford Way, Fayetteville, GA 30214 Phone 770-461-8834)
A radio program broadcast by KUCB at the time of Attu's closing can be heard at this link:
The weather on Attu is typical of Aleutian weather in general...cloudy, rainy, foggy, with occasional very high winds. The weather becomes progressively worse as you travel from the easternmost islands to the west. On Attu, five or six days a week are likely to be rainy, with hardly more than eight or ten clear days a year. The rest of the time, even if rain is not falling, fog of varying density is the rule rather than the exception. The average rainfall is around 40 to 50 inches throughout the islands, with the heaviest rains experienced during fall and early winter.
Attu war stories can be found on the "Attu War Stories" page. Photos of Attu during W.W.II can be found by selecting the "Attu W.W.II" menu selection, while photos of Attu after the war can be found by selecting the "Post W.W.II" menu selection.
Links to other Attu sites are located on the "Attu Links" page. If you find some that I don't have, I'd sure appreciate it if you'd email them to me.
For additional stories of Attu from the W.W.II timeframe, go to the Shemya Homepage and select "Shemya Mailbag." There are numerous stories at the Shemya Mailbag site, courtesy of Dan Lange, written by folks that had been stationed on Attu (as well as Shemya) during War II.
Your help would be appreciated if you can in any way contribute information to this site, regardless of whether it is W.W.II vintage, pre-war or post-war material! Click on the "wanted" sign below, and you can email information directly to this site. Thanks for your help! By the way, so long as you're here, you can also either view or sign the Attu Guestbook! Maybe you'll run into someone you knew who was there?
You can now purchase The History Channel's
"The Bloody Aleutians"
Last Updated: 18 February 2014 10:36
Online since 13 Sep 1998
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