Missing on Attu
I enjoyed the article “Aleutian Battleground” [January 2019], especially after reading Last Letters From Attu, by Mary Breu, in which she shares the story of the Japanese attack from the point of view of her great-aunt Etta Jones. Mrs. Jones, a schoolteacher, survived the Japanese invasion and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner, while her husband was executed by the Japanese on the first day. By the way, the only firearm on the island when the Japanese arrived was Mr. Jones’ hunting rifle, which was never used against the invaders.
I have a question about Japanese casualties when the Americans recaptured Attu. It was noted that 2,351 were killed and 28 taken prisoner out of the 2,900 defenders. What happened to the 521 other defenders?
Editor responds: The missing hundreds of Japanese troops on Attu were just that—missing bodies, perhaps killed in battle earlier and buried by their countrymen in the interior hills of Attu. American burial details interred only 2,351 Japanese bodies.
The article “Crusader Down” [by Paul X. Rutz], in your November 2018 issue, reminded me of a helicopter medevac mission to my first ship, USS Lowe (DER-325), off the coast of Vietnam in either late 1967 or early 1968. Lowe was on Operation Market Time patrol up close to the DMZ when we hit some bad weather and experienced heavy seas. One of our radiomen (RM) lost his balance in the radio shack, and his wrist, including an artery, was torn open by the corner of the gear against which he fell. Our corpsman could slow the bleeding but couldn’t completely stop it, nor could he suture the wound, so we radioed Da Nang for a medevac.
The helo arrived fairly quickly, and the plan was to lower a collar from the hoist and winch him up, but the hoist jammed. Lowe was an old ship, and there was no clear deck space. The most open area was the stern, where, among other things, we still had a depth charge rack. The ship was still pitching and rolling in the heavy seas. The pilot asked if our RM was ambulatory. He was. The pilot said to get him on the fantail near the DC rack and wait. His new plan was to have the RM get up on the DC rack and climb into the chopper. The pilot slowly edged the helo closer and started to time the motion of the stern and match it with the helo’s motion. He moved in slowly, adjusting to the stern’s rise and fall, then edged in, said to get the RM and our corpsman up on the DC rack to help steady the RM, and the RM stepped from the DC rack to the helo’s landing strut and into the chopper just like he was climbing a flight of stairs. A crewman grabbed the RM, and the chopper took off and got him to the hospital in Da Nang, where they patched him up and later returned him to us. I was only an ensign then, and I’ve seen many helo ops since that medevac, but I have never seen anything to equal the skill and guts of that pilot. His landing strut was less that a foot and a half from our DC rack as he matched his helo’s motion to ours.
I would guess the only official record of that flight shows just a routine medevac mission to a ship off the coast, but for the RM with a severed artery, and for those of us watching, it was a great example of what went on in Nam all the time without recognition. I have no idea who the medevac pilot was, but if he sees this, thanks, brother.
Capt. Ken Morgan
U.S. Navy Reserve (Ret.)
Williston Park, N.Y.
I was 3 years old and living in Budapest when I became a refugee from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. My mother talks about that time, and she said the article “The Beasts of Budapest” [by Nicholas Smith, September 2018] accurately states how the revolution started. Something was going to happen, she said, because “you could feel the tension in the air.” Luckily, my parents, my sister and I were one of the first families to come to the United States after the sad defeat of the Hungarian revolutionaries.
An aside: I read your magazine cover to cover, enjoying each article. Human history seems to be written by wars, fought everywhere since Day 1.