Sen. Lisa Murkowski with U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo pose at the memorial dedication on Aug. 20. - Photo Provided

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Memorial placed in Attu honoring villagers

August 31st, 2012 | Jim Paulin Print this article   Email this article  

World War II left a lasting mark on the Aleutians, which was both bombed and occupied by Japanese forces. Memorials continue to be erected in the region, most recently on the westernmost island of Attu.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski this month traveled with U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo to the Aleutians - including Attu - to dedicate a permanent memorial that honors the sacrifice of the Attu villagers on the 70th anniversary of Attu being invaded by Japanese troops.

On Sunday, June 7, 1942 Japanese troops invaded Attu Island, and the Native Aleuts were kept at the village, in their homes, until September when they were herded into the hold of a coal freighter and taken to internment camps in Japan.

"Almost half would die in captivity and none of the villagers would see Attu Village again, for upon repatriation, they were relocated to Atka as there were not enough of them to sustain a village," Ostebo said during the dedication, according to a Murkowski press release. "We commemorate their sacrifice and honor their memories. They shall not be forgotten."

"With the names of those killed and the names of those who survived, but would never return, forever etched on this memorial; all who walk the hills of Attu will be reminded of the sacrifice Attu village residents and Alaskans made during World War II," said Murkowski. "Thank you to those who worked so hard to make this memorial happen, and to the Coast Guard for helping place it on this hallowed ground."

The Attu Village Memorial was conceived by the Alaska Veterans Museum and funded by a partnership of that museum, the Aleut and Pribilof Island Trust, the Anchorage International Rotary Club, The Aleut Corporation, Legacy Funeral Homes and Alfred Kehl.

The Japanese troops occupied two Aleutian islands, Attu and Kiska.

Numerous memorials in Unalaska mark the impacts of World War II. Behind city hall, a stone monument commemorates the forced evacuation by the U.S. military of Aleuts to Southeast Alaska. On Airport Beach Road, opposite the original small boat harbor, a sign provides history of the former Expedition Island at the present site of Unisea. Another historic marker on Haystack Hill overlooks Alyeska Seafoods and the former site of the Native hospital destroyed by the 1942 Japanese bombing from planes launched from aircraft carriers. Exhibits at the Museum of the Aleutians give extensive local war history.

Military relics dot the Unalaska landscape, including concrete bunkers and pillboxes. A crater from the June 1942 bombing, though overgrown, is still visible on a small hill on the south side of Biorka Drive near the espresso shop.


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