In late May 1942, the USS Casco, a seaplane tender, arrived at the village of Attu to pick up an Army survey crew. While there, Cmdr. Theda Combs asked the Aleut villagers if they would like to be evacuated. The villagers chose to stay with their homes.
On June 7, a Japanese invasion force took the village. Forty-nine American civilians were captured, 26 of whom survived the war in prison camps on Hokaido. In response, the military made subsequent evacuations of Aleut villages mandatory. Many were sent to internment camps in Southeast Alaska where they died as a result of inadequate medical treatment, food and substandard living conditions.
At the end of the war, Attu survivors were not returned to their island, but sent to Atka. The pretty little settlement of about a dozen neat, white-washed homes, a BIA school and Orthodox church no longer exists. A plaque erected at the site has been eroded by the elements and is almost unreadable, according to reports.
Later this summer, as part of its "Lost Villages" project, the National Park Service plans to bring surviving villagers capable of making the trip back for a visit. In conjunction with that visit, the Alaska Veterans Museum, Anchorage International Rotary Club, Legacy Funeral Homes, Aleut Corporation and Aleut and Pribilof Islands Trust want to replace the plaque with a more durable monument in bronze. A steel cage will protect the bronze from thieves.
However, transportation plans are in flux and at this time it may not be possible to get the monument to the village site. Col. Suellen Novak, president of the museum, said her group is looking for ideas and support to get the new piece installed.
Persons interested in helping can call her at 907-677-8802.
The fate of the carriers
The Ryujo was sunk on Aug. 24, 1942, in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons, when it was swarmed by torpedo bombers from the U.S. aircraft carrier Saratoga. The Junyo survived the war. It was harbored in Japan undergoing repairs when Japan surrendered and was eventually scrapped.
The Junyo's ship's bell, however, is still in service -- at Fordham University in New York. It was given to the school by Adm. Chester W. Nimitz "as a Memorial to Our Dear Young Dead of World War II." President Harry Truman was the first to ring it in its new role.
Now called the Victory Bell, it is mounted outside the Rose Hill Gymnasium. It is sounded to begin the processional of graduates during commencement ceremonies and after victories by Fordham athletic teams.