Office of Public Affairs
Date: July 17, 2007
COAST GUARD ASSISTS JAPANESE DELEGATION LOCATE WWII MASS GRAVES
KODIAK, Alaska - The Coast Guard assisted a small team of Japanese and U.S. specialists who visited Attu Island July 11-14 in search of information which led to the identification of several mass grave sites and remains believed to be those of missing Japanese soldiers.
The team of five Japanese and three Americans embarked on a four day mission with support from the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Defense and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The team investigated potential loss or burial sites where the remains of Japanese soldiers were likely to be found. A Coast Guardsman located two left shoes, one that contained several bones, and a piece of leather equipment.
The team's findings will be evaluated by the U.S. and Japanese governments to determine if follow-on excavations are called for.
A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane from Air Station Kodiak transported the team to and from the remote island. While visiting the island, the team stayed at Coast Guard Loran Station Attu, a long range navigation station. Several Coast Guardsmen from the station volunteered to assist in digging at the grave sites and with transportation around the island.
A representative form the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accompanied the team to oversee its environmental impact. Attu Island is under the management and protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which administers the Aleutian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. At the end of Alaska's Aleutian island chain, Attu is the westernmost point of land of the United States.
In June 1942, a unit of the Japanese Army occupied Attu, capturing and imprisoning many of its inhabitants. U.S. forces began action to recapture the small island in May 1943, where fierce hand-to-hand battles led to about 540 American and 2,300 Japanese deaths. It was the site of the only land battle in WWII in North America.
Shortly after the war, 235 sets of Japanese remains were recovered on Attu by U.S. forces and reburied at Ft. Richardson, near Anchorage, Alaska. The Japanese later disinterred those remains, cremated them as part of a religious ceremony and reburied them at the same location.
The Japanese government assisted U.S. investigators last month in a visit to Iwo Jima in search of information related to American WWII MIAs.
Official U.S. Coast Guard video of the mission can be downloaded from the following link. Official U.S. Coast Guard video by PA1 Kurt Fredrickson. http://cgvi.uscg.mil/media/main.php?g2_itemId=148686
ATTU ISLAND, Alaska-Coast Guardsmen from Loran Station Attu, representatives of the Japanese Government, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and U.S. Department of Defense gather in front of the Loran Station. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak provided transportation on a HC-130 Hercules airplane, and the Loran Station provided lodging, food, transportation, knowledge of the island and manpower during the expedition to identify mass burial sites of Japanese soldiers. Four sites are believed to contain the remains of several hundred Japanese soldiers. (Official Coast Guard photo By PA1 Kurt Fredrickson)
ATTU ISLAND, Alaska-Kohei Niitsu, left, and Kazushige Hanaguri of the Japanese Social Welfare and War Victims Relief Bureau, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, examine a shoe found by a Coast Guardsman at a mass grave on Attu Island. The shoe contained several bones believed to be the remains of a Japanese soldier. A second shoe and a piece of leather equipment were also found. The Japanese delegation was attempting to identify several mass graves previously located in 1953 which are believed to contain the remains of several hundred Japanese soldiers. (Official Coast Guard photo By PA1 Kurt Fredrickson)
ATTU ISLAND, Alaska-Coast Guardsmen from Loran Station Attu, representatives of the Japanese Government, U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and U.S. Department of Defense dig at one of four possible WWII mass graves sites on Attu Island July 12, 2006. The four sites are believed to contain the remains of several hundred Japanese soldiers. (Official Coast Guard photo By PA1 Kurt Fredrickson)