Attu Island, Alaska.

The easternmost inhabited point in the United States is Attu Island Alaska, an 500-square-mile island so far west of the mainland that it actually sits 14 minutes west of the international date line 180°, placing it in the eastern hemisphere. It’s also the location of the Battle of Attu, the only land battle on U.S. soil during WWII. The fight was to reclaim valueless land from Japan for nothing more than national honor; it was was an utterly pointless fight on both sides. The snowy, cold, Arctic conditions, mountainous terrain, constant rain, ever-present fog and shoals surrounding the island made for extraordinary conditions of battle. The 2,900 Japanese troops put up a hell of a fight, but when cornered, the survivors committed suicide, and only 29 survived to be taken captive. The unusual terrain made for terrible logistical problems The lesson taken by military historians? Don’t fight battles on Attu Island.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

16 replies on “Attu Island, Alaska.”

  1. Small world. My grandfather actually fought in the Battle of Attu and I have some of his photographs of the preparations and aftermath. If anyone is interested, I can scan them and thrown them online. Some are pretty graphic, as you might imagine.

  2. Also, not to be a homer, but it’s worth noting the US took heavy casualties as well: There were 3,929 U.S. casualties: 580 were killed, 1148 were injured, 1200 had severe cold injuries, 614 succumbed to disease, and 318 died of miscellaneous causes – largely from Japanese booby traps and from friendly fire.

    According to some, this battle had the second-highest casualty rate for US forces after Iwo Jima:

    The casualties incurred during the invasion of Attu were appalling. The Americans suffered 3829 casualties, roughly 25% of the invading force, second only in proportion to Iwo Jima.

  3. Wow, I didn’t even take the time to consider how U.S. forces had fared, knowing only that a) we’d won and b) we’d all but eliminated the opposition. Those numbers are stunning.

    You should put your grandfather’s photos on Flickr! If possible, make them available under a Creative Commons license so that others can reproduce them. I’m guessing that there just aren’t many photos of the Battle of Attu out there—you may well be providing a treasure trove of information to historians now and in the years to come.

  4. Note that American forces also invaded a second Aleutian island, Kiska, with a significant force, only to find that the Japanese forces had abandoned the island shortly beforehand.

    My wife’s grandfather, who lives in Augusta County (he’s 90), was part of this campaign: he was the Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Nashville at the time; the Nashville was based in Dutch Harbor and bombarded Kiska on several occasions.

    (Prior to that he served aboard the USS Enterprise (CV-6), where he watched Admiral Halsey take the “Pearl Harbor attacked, this is no drill” message on the Flag Bridge. He was later hit by shrapnel (but not wounded) during the US’s first raids against the Marshall Islands, assisted with the launch of Doolittle’s Raid, and then fought at the Battle of Midway. Later, after the Aleutians, he served on Guadalcanal, nearly drowned wading ashore at Guam as part of the amphibious invasion there, and then went ashore again at Okinawa to implement the antiaircraft plan he had written with Admiral Nimitz et al. in Pearl Harbor. He had quite a war!)

  5. Wait – you said it is/was inhabited? Then it wasn’t a pointless campaign. If there were American citizens who were living under Japanese occupation (and let us remember Nanking when we think of what that could be like), then fighting to give them back their homes and freedom was worthwhile.

  6. The Attu photos are here:

    I also had some unrelated WWII photos with those and put them in

    BTW, while doing some research I found there are a large collection of photos that may be like the ones I scanned here:

    And a detailed history of the battle can be found here:

  7. Wait – you said it is/was inhabited? Then it wasn’t a pointless campaign.

    It’s inhabited now, and I believe that’s only for military purposes. I believe it was totally uninhabited at the time.

  8. Andrew, thanks for providing those pictures! I’ve only had time to glance through them over lunch here, but I look forward to reviewing all of them this evening. No doubt that will be a great resource for some WWII history buffs.

  9. “Massacre Bay?” They named part of the island “Massacre Bay?”

    The 7th ID clearly weren’t the sort to mince words….

  10. That should start as “The westernmost . . .” As I was reading, I was expecting to hear about it being some unexpectedly situated dot of land somewhere near the North Pole . . .

  11. Nope, it’s actually the easternmost, by virtue of being on the other side of the international date line. If it were just a little farther to the east, it would be the westernmost. Strange, eh? :)

  12. Similarly strange is the fact that the easternmost point in the contiguous 48 states is named *West* Quoddy Head (Maine).

  13. For what it’s worth, I have enjoyed quite a few free ones at various watering holes based on knowledge of this factoid. Not that I’m condoning such wagering!

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