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Atux̂ Invasion and Imprisonment

World War II began for Attu on June 7th, 1942. A year or so before Japanese crept around the area to research these islands. A survivor, Alex Prosoff explains the scene, “ We were having church services in the little Russian church in Attu on Sunday morning, June 7, 1942, when boats entered the harbor. When the gunboats got closer to the village, we saw that they were Japs. They started machine-gun fire on the village. Some of our boys ran for their rifles to fight the Japs but Mike Hodikoff, our Chief, said, ‘Do not shoot, maybe the Americans can save us yet.’" "A few of the boys ran away. Japs landed and came running into the village, shooting. Lucky only one woman get hurt. She is shot in leg. So much shooting and machine gun bullets flying all around Japs kill some of their own men. They capture the village. Some Japs take Mr. and Mrs. Jones and all the natives to schoolhouse and keep us there whole day without food and water. The Japs keep us there until nine o’clock at night. Japs have taken down our flag but Innokenty gets it and hides it. I hide the church money. The Japs go through our houses and take many things until one officer stop them. They put lines around our houses and Jap soldiers are not allowed to bother us. More and more Japs come to Attu. Many of their men get sick. They make their camp all around our village. They pile their things on the beach. One time I tell them wrong thing and storm comes and they lose lots of their things. They get very mad and tell me next time I tell them wrong thing they kill me. All summer long the Japs stayed on Attu (Oliver, 1988).” A total of 1200 Japanese armed forces invaded Attu through Holtz Bay, which was about three miles away from the village. Martha, a Saskinax̂, came running ‘“Japs coming,” she yelled and pointed to the hills. They were swarming down like an army of ants! They must have surrounded the island in their landing barges, closing in from all sides at once. Consumed with sheer terror, Attu adults quickly gathered their frightened families and barricaded themselves in their houses while the gunfire and yelling continued to assault the village (Breu, 2009).’ The Japanese armed forces were a total of 1200. This was a 1200 to 42 ratio, which is 0.035%. Yet the violence and control began without hesitation. Once the armed forces footed themselves into the village, they gathered all the people into the school. After a day they were allowed to return to their homes. Their homes inside were destroyed by the armed forces. They were confined in house arrest and had each activity controlled, so much so that they were not able to go to the beach to collect firewood. The people were not allowed to fish and when they were allowed the Japanese would take the fish for themselves. The Attuans, Saskinax̂, were prisoners in their own homes of Attu for fourteen weeks.


1936 Alan G. May papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.

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