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Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






The Banzai Charge of Massacre Valley

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

"Our outfit moved into an area under cover of fog and darkness. It was extremely hard to dig a foxhole, with the ground almost frozen solid. But when this was done, a breastwork of sod and rocks was packed around the top. We were already wet from fording streams, and falling into sinkholes in the darkness. Now seepage begins trickling into the foxhole, soon we are standing in nearly a foot of bitterly cold water. We have on two pair of long-johns, (wool underwear), two wool shirts, three pairs of socks, a sweater, and a parka. However, no amount of clothing seems enough on the side of the mountain. (for it is at least 40 degrees below zero) You have to be careful not to allow any part of your bare skin to touch metal, for it will stick to it. One stupid soldier did not believe this, so he touched his rifle barrel with his tongue. So I had to cut off part of his tongue in order to free him. I am Master Sergeant John-John Wayne Jarwarski. United States Army, and 'Leader of the Pack.' When I was born, my mother was a big fan of John Wayne, and she also stuttered. She said to name my baby John John, and my dad thought that was cute. So now I am stuck with that name, and mom did not even know that John Wayne was not his real name (it was Marian Morrison)."

The date is May 15, 1943, and the place is Attu Island, the farthest western island in the Aleutian island chain. We invaded this forsaken island on May 11, 1943, and the big brass declared that we would easily take this island in three days. But it would take eighteen days, with some of the hardest bloodiest fighting that takes place anywhere during world war two.

Cecil Owen

The Aleutian Island chain is composed of at least 120 separate islands, stretched out over a 1,000 mile radius. From the southern tip of  Alaska, to within 200 miles of the southern tip of Russia. These islands are some of the coldest, and most barren places on earth.

There are no trees, except a few stunted spruce trees at the base in Dutch Harbor. All of the Aleutians are volcanic in origin, mostly mountainous, and covered with marshy volcanic ash resembling cinders. This forms a spongy carpet, making walking very difficult.

The average rainfall can be at least 50 inches per year. But the mountains are usually covered with ice and snow. The thick fog is a constant nuisance the year round. The sun rarely shines, sometimes

maybe 5 or 6 days at one time. A special hazard is provided by sudden squalls called "williwaws." They sweep down the mountains with great force. Sometimes the "williwaws" reach gale force within half an hour.

Many times the combination of wind, fog, rain, and low temperatures did more harm than the enemy. And the winter of 1942-1943 was one of the coldest on record.

"Old Sarge" John-John remembers that when they arrived at Ladd Army Air Base, just outside Fairbanks, Alaska, the temperature was 65 degrees below zero. The barracks were Quonset huts, half moon shaped metal buildings. In the center a large latrine (army bathhouse) was erected. It was heated by a salamander, a large round stove, often made from a 55 gal oil drum. It burned coal oil (kerosene), but in severe weather the kerosene would freeze. So when the fire went out, it became 35 degrees below zero in the barracks.

We slept in two "down" filled sleeping bags, and most of our clothes.

The Aleutian Islands are an equal distance from the United States west coast, as it is the Japanese homelands, so the Japanese believed the best way to invade the United States would be by way of the Aleutian Islands. And the Americans believed Japan could be invaded the same way. Also, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto wanted to use the Aleutian Islands as bait, to lure some of the U.S. fleet north. That would keep it away from the battle of Midway Island. The Japanese fleet already out numbered the US fleet two to one. And Midway Island was America's last remaining outpost protecting the Hawaiian Islands. But U.S. Navy code-breakers learned of Yamamoto's plans. So U.S. Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz ignored the Aleutian diversion, and kept the entire fleet to defend Midway Island. Here, the U.S. inflicted the first major defeat on the Japanese navy in 350 years. However, this left the Japanese Aleutian invasion force unopposed. Therefore on June 6, 1942 the Japanese  301st Independent Infantry Battalion invaded Attu via Chichagof Harbor.

The Attu village consisted of 45 native Aleutians, and just 2 Americans... A 60 year old School teacher Foster Jones and his wife. Foster Jones promptly committed suicide after the Japanese invasion.

For a short time, the Japanese used the services of the Attu fishermen to help supply them with food. But soon Mrs. Jones and the entire Attu population were shipped to a concentration camp in Hokkaido, Japan. 

Eventually 2,400 Japanese troops were stationed on Attu Island, and 6,000 more were stationed on Kiska Island. In a year, Attu

and Kiska became well fortified. The Japanese constructed bunkers that they could shelter in during air raids. Their artillery and anti-aircraft guns were in chambers dug into the mountainside. These protected areas were all connected with secure tunnels, so U.S. shells or bombs could not reach them.

U.S. army brass decided that it would need at least 27,000 troops to invade Attu Island.

Old Sarge John-John recalls, "I was attached to the U.S. Army's 7th Division combat team, but the 17th Infantry combat team, and the 32nd Infantry combat team was with us. We all went ashore on Massacre Bay, and to our surprise... there was no resistance. So we cautiously started up Massacre Valley, and about a 1,000 yards, all Hades broke loose. The Japanese troops came out of their foxholes, and caught us in a terrific cross-fire. And they also had snipers dressed in white, because of the snow. It was almost impossible to locate them, unless we spotted the flash of their gunfire. It was a good thing for us that they were not using smoke-less gun powder. We lost a bunch of good men, but the Japanese lost even more. It was a very bloody and hard fought "stale-mate."

Seventeen days later, May 28th, 1943, the Japanese high command decided to obey the "Imperial Edict" (go Banzai for the Emperor) Banzai means "may you live 10 thousand years" and after all, the emperor was supposed to be a Japanese Sun God. Therefore, to die for him would give a soldier a special place in the Japanese paradise.

First, all of their unconscious wounded were given shots of morphine to kill them. The rest were ordered to commit "hari-kari", to kill themselves by suicide. And for the ones who refused, hand grenades were tossed in among them.

Then, just before dawn, it happened.... On a wide two mile front, over one thousand Japanese charged into the American front lines. It was one of the largest Banzai (suicide assaults) of World War Two.

Most of the soldiers were hopped up on opium and Saiki, a Japanese wine. They continued the attack until they were all dead.

It was a horrible sight, dead Japanese soldiers were stacked up like cord-wood.

When all of the fighting to secure Attu Island was finally over, only 24 soldiers of the 2,400 Japanese Garrison survived. American forces also paid a terrific price to take this little 338 square mile island. The American's had 1,148 wounded, and 2,649 casualties - but unfortunately 2,100 of these were lost to exposure, disease, and nonbattle injuries.

U.S. forces  learned some valuable lessons from this Attu invasion. For example, you cannot cope with weather 45 degrees below zero with mosquito netting. Many American troops had been training for warfare in the jungle. so they were issued battle gear for that climate.  The Japanese Garrison there had been reinforced from 6,000 men to 7,500. They were expected to fight to the last man, just as the Attu troops had done. Old Sarge John-John believed that this time we were over-prepared. 34,426 troops were assembled to invade Kiska Island. As well as tons and tons of equipment and supplies.

At 0630 (6:30 am) on August, 15th, 1943, U.S. troops landed at Kiska Harbor and Gertrude Cove. A heavy fog covered the whole island, making air spotting impossible. Again, as on Attu, there was no Japanese resistance at all. But they were expected to open fire any moment, as the Americans proceeded inland.

Surprise-Surprise.... There was not a single Japanese left on the whole island of Kiska. Because of the bad weather, and especially the heavy fog, Japanese troop ships and submarines had slipped past the U.S. battle fleet. Every person on Kiska had been evacuated.

What a contrast in the military tactics of the Japanese Imperial Command. On Attu Island everyone died for the Emperor, while on Kiska Island everyone vanished in the fog, for the Emperor???

(Master Sergeant John-John Wayne Jarwarski was there, and took part in some heavy combat. Part of his name has been changed, as he did not wish to be identified.)

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