• This image shows an example of the 7th Infantry Division "shoulder patch". This insignia was worn form 23 October 1918 to 1994 when the Division was deactiviated. It was revived on 16 Octber 1999 and remained in use until June, 2006 when the Division was again "Stood Down."  The design originated by using two figure sevens, one inverted and superimposed upon the other. Later the familiar "hourglass"  image was developed. The houeglass design  refers to the numerical designation  and nickname of the Division. Another nickname,the "Bayonet Division", appeared during the Korean War. (Army Heritage Museum).

    7th Infantry Division Insignia

    This image shows an example of the 7th Infantry Division "shoulder patch". This insignia was worn form 23 October 1918 to 1994 when the Division was deactiviated. It was revived on 16 Octber 1999 and remained in use until June, 2006 when the Division...

  • Getting the Message Out! Image shows a Division Artillery Camp on Attu , Alaska, 1943.  Shown is communications equipment to include radios and telphones mounted on a Jeep.(WWII Signal Corps Collection).

    Getting the Message Out!

    Getting the Message Out! Image shows a Division Artillery Camp on Attu , Alaska, 1943. Shown is communications equipment to include radios and telphones mounted on a Jeep.(WWII Signal Corps Collection).

  • Assualt Landing, Alaska Style! This Signal Corps image is captioned "When the landing barges hit the beach the men grabbed the anmmunition and headed for cover." This picture shows Soldiers carrying 105 mm Howitzer shells to supply the guns going into action. Other barges can be seen in the fog behind. The weather conditions encountered during the landing are dramatically represented in the image. Holts Bay, Attu, Alaska,  May 11, 1943.(WWII Signal Corps Collection).

    Assualt Landing, Alaska Style!

    Assualt Landing, Alaska Style! This Signal Corps image is captioned "When the landing barges hit the beach the men grabbed the anmmunition and headed for cover." This picture shows Soldiers carrying 105 mm Howitzer shells to supply the guns going into...

  • Traffic Control! An image from the Signal Corps photographer on Attu shows the landings on the beach of Holts Bay, Attu, Alaska. May 1943. (WWII Signal Corps Collection).

    Traffic Control!

    Traffic Control! An image from the Signal Corps photographer on Attu shows the landings on the beach of Holts Bay, Attu, Alaska. May 1943. (WWII Signal Corps Collection).

  • Under Fire in Alaska! This image shows Soldiers on the line and underfire during the battle for Attu, Alaska, 1943.(WWII Signal Corps Collection).

    Under Fire in Alaska!

    Under Fire in Alaska! This image shows Soldiers on the line and underfire during the battle for Attu, Alaska, 1943.(WWII Signal Corps Collection).

Kiska and Attu, two of the United StatesAca,!a,,c most westerly islands in the Aleutian chain, were occupied by Japanese forces in June, 1942. The battle to take Attu back from the Japanese would prove to be a valuable learning experience for the United States Army. The landings on Attu were among the first large-scale amphibious landings of World War II.

The AmericansAca,!a,,c lack of experience was obvious in the many mistakes that were made during the planning phase of the assault on Attu. These mistakes included choosing an uncharted bay for the landing site, forgoing a preliminary bombardment, and not giving sufficient time to acclimate the assault division to the harsh weather conditions encountered in Alaska.

The Seventh Infantry Division was chosen to spearhead the assault of Attu; however, it had been training in Monterey, California, and lacked appropriate cold weather gear. To make matters worse, large ships were unable to operate in the bay chosen for the landing site, leaving the troops in the cold and wet for a longer period of time than was necessary and adding to the number of cold weather casualties suffered by American troops.

The landing was scheduled for May 7, 1943; however, bad weather held the landings up for four days. This actually proved fortuitous, as the Japanese were expecting an assault on May 7. Thinking the threat had passed, the Japanese troops were not as alert on May 11, when the landing began.

From May 11 through May 28, the Americans fought the Japanese, as well as the weather, to take back the island. After seventeen days of hard fighting Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki, the Japanese commander, desperate to drive the Americans from the island, ordered a Banzai charge. In preparation for the charge he burnt all his papers and ordered that all wounded Japanese soldiers unable to take part in the assault be killed. The Banzai charge caught the American Soldiers by surprise and almost succeeded. A mixed group of U.S. Army engineers, medical personnel, and headquarters troops turned the tide against the Japanese when this determined group of Soldiers made a stand on the crest of a hill. This was the first time American Soldiers had encountered the fanatically reckless fighting spirit of the Japanese. This attack was the last organized resistance met on Attu.

The battle for Attu proved to be a learning experience. Intelligence was garnered from letters and diaries of Japanese soldiers, and American ground commanders detailed what tactics the Japanese used and how they could be countered. These lessons learned were applied to the later island-hopping campaigns in the Pacific theaters. The medical corps, moreover, learned a great deal by studying the cases of exposure and trench foot occurred during the battle. These studies led to improvements in the personal equipment that was issued to soldiers. Thus this little battle on a small island in a remote corner of the world provided enduring lessons that helped contribute to American victory in the Second World War.

ABOUT THIS STORY: Many of the sources presented in this article are among 400,000 books, 1.7 million photos and 12.5 million manuscripts available for study through the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI). The artifacts shown are among nearly 50,000 items of the Army Heritage Museum (AHM) collections. MHI and AHM are part of the: Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC),
950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle, PA, 17013-5021

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16