Wednesday, December 17, 2008

History and Description for the Needed Attuan Justice

Attuans, People of Attu, Alaskan Native Justice Petition of World War II


On June 7th, 1942 during an early morning raid the Japanese 301st Independent Infantry Battalion invaded a non-militarized village that had a population of 43 people at Attu, Alaska. This village consisted of 41 of the last authentic Alaskan Natives known as the Attuans and two non – natives who were part of the community. Forty - two of the villagers became captives of the Japanese for three months on Attu. After the three months the captives were transported to Atka, Alaska and then were transferred to Otaru, Japan on Hokkaido Island, which is 1,506 miles away from Attu.

My family is the Hodikoff family and as Prisoners of War in Japan they endured arduous times and many losses. One of the facts that is known with what happened was that my Grandmother was beaten while in Japan; “Angeline Hodikoff carried scars from beatings she received. One wound was “caused by a stone thrown at her by a Japanese guard because she had stopped working (Kohlhoff, 1995).” In addition to this, my Grandmother faced unspeakable things as a Prisoner of War. She watched her family die and half of her family died in Japan. My Great Grandfather who was the last Chief of Attu, Mike Hodikoff, was medically experimented upon in Japan by the Japanese military. This experimentation weakened him with aiding his death from starvation. The Attuans were forced to work at a clay mine for 12 hour shifts while only been given 6 tablespoons of cooked rice throughout the day. There are more uncertainties than certainties with what occurred in Otaru. It is certain though that my family faced war crimes.

In Japan, most of the Attuans died of starvation as Prisoners of War. Twenty - three of the 42 Attuans survived the struggle as Prisoners of War for three years and 16 died. What helped those who survived was ““optimism and happiness,” their inner strengths, helped to bring them through. The Attuans constantly thought about returning home, and this, too, sustained them (Kohlhoff, 1995).”

At the end of the war the Attuans had not known that the United States – the country they had celebrated – would also inflict forever pain in their hearts by not letting them go back home to Attu, Alaska at the end of the war in 1945. The main reason for this was because there were undetonated war weapons (a.k.a military ordinances) left on the island. The United States government did not want to remediate the island after the war. In addition to this, the United States Department of Interior declined to rebuild the Attuans’ villages by providing schools and other support systems after the war (Kohlkoff, 1995). Since the war, there has been no human occupation on Attu, Alaska with the exception of a few U.S. Coast Guard service people.

While the Prisoners of War were in Japan an immemorable attack occurred. On May 28th, 1943 Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki led the last attack on Attu May 1943. He lead a suicide attack, which included himself and his army, on an American designated hospital during the night where patients were killed and doctors and unarmed people had to defend themselves. During this attack Colonel Yamasaki yelled, “Japanese drink blood like wine.” (Ambrose, 1997) This place was called Engineer Hill where the Japanese 1987 Memorial is currently placed.
(*Banzai Attack: a mass attack of troops without concern of casualties and with the goal of killing oneself for the sacrifice for the Imperial Japanese Army,, 2008.)

Reasons for Petition (Petition will begin later, please email for further questions)

Within the past 20 to 30 years the Japanese government has placed their personal memorials on Attu for both the meaning of peace and their personal favoritism for Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki. The Japanese government did not ask the Attuans for permission to place these memorials on Attu. More importantly, the Japanese government has not asked for forgiveness and peace for what happened to the Attuans, People of Attu, due to their government’s actions and war crimes. The Japanese government aided with the extinction of the Attuans as well as with the destruction of their culture.

There is a need for the Japanese government to not deny any of these actions made during the war. The Japanese government should recognize the Attuans and the descendants of the Attuans. The Japanese government should recognize and ask permission from the Attuans before any current affairs are taken place on Attu.

There are at least three Japanese memorials placed on Attu by the Japanese government with the permission from the United States government and some without authorized permission. Both governments did not request the permission from the descendants of the Attuans for the placement of these memorials.

One of these memorials is the 1987 peace memorial, which was placed on Attu without the recognition of what happened to the Attuans and without general recognition of the Attuans. In addition to this atrocity, both governments did not acknowledge the United States WWII veterans who were stationed on Attu before placing the memorial on Attu. Thus, the 1987 peace memorial misrepresents the meaning of peace.

There are memorials for Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki on Attu again placed by the Japanese without recognition of the Attuans. The Attuans prefer not having a memorial that represents a person who defines immoral values as well as a person who dishonors life. Therefore, Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki memorials require removal from the island.

It is clear that the United States government did not ask for consent from the Attuans, People of Attu, for the placement of the current Japanese WWII memorials on Attu. Also, it is the United States government’s responsibility to clean up the war’s remnants left on an amazing island that was once full of life. It is the United States government’s responsibility to make up for the poor decisions made by their previous government in 1945, which was to leave war items on the island.

The Attuans would like to hold both the Japanese and United States governments responsible for the war remnants. The Attuans hope that these governments can create a common effort to thoroughly remediate Attu as well as having a compatible relationship to achieve these goals. This can be achieved with the aid from the United Nations.

Attu, which is a sacred island, in the near future will be the only reminder for people around the world of what once was of a great culture and peoples, the Attuans. Therefore, it is important that the WWII remains to be removed as it was before the war. The last Chief of Attu, Mike Hodikoff who was my Great Grandfather would like Attu to be remembered as a place of peace.

Attu, an island, has been part of a 9000-year-old culture and peoples. The last thing that the island needs is war remnants left on it, whether that includes memorials, old undetonated weapons or old WWII buildings. The invasion of the Attuans’ homeland lasted from June 7, 1942 to May 30, 1943 – less than year. Attu is remembered for an eleven-month length war, rather than for the Attuans who have lived on Attu for 9000 years or longer.


Kohlhoff, Dr. Dean. When the Wind Was a River: Aleut Evacuation in World War II. 1995.

Ambrose, Stephen E. New History of World War II. Revised by Stephen Ambrose. Original text by C.L. Sulzberger. 1997.

Ed. Chandonnet, Fern. Alaska at War: 1941 - 1945. Alaska at War Committee. 1995.

Cohen, Stan. The Forgotten War Volume One. 1981.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008



I will be adding information explaining the issues that involve my ancestors, my current family, and my own personal ideas about being a descendant of the Attuans of Alaska. There are current issues that wrong us and my ancestors on the island of Attu. The project will be ongoing and I encourage any input from others. There will be a document that I will include on a post soon that explains into depth about the Japanese Government and the United States Government and how both governments ignored the Attuans - illegally putting memorials on my people's land.

Helena A. Pagano