ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Gregory Golodoff spent most of his years on a quiet Alaska island, dwelling an odd life, managing a co-op retailer, fishing for crab and serving because the village council president. However Golodoff’s current demise on the age of 84 has reopened a chapter of American historical past and stirred up recollections of a long-forgotten Japanese invasion that prompted the only World War II battle on North American soil.

Golodoff was the final survivor amongst 41 residents imprisoned in Japan after Japanese troops captured distant Attu Island throughout World Conflict II. He was 3 when the island was taken. He died Nov. 17 in Anchorage, his household stated. His sister, Elizabeth “Liz” Golodoff Kudrin, the second-to-last surviving Attuan, died in February at 82. Three of their siblings died in captivity.

“The eldest era has handed away to the opposite aspect,” stated Helena Schmitz, the great-granddaughter of the final Attu chief, who died in Japan alongside along with his son.

Attu is a desolate, mountainous slab of tundra, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) broad by 35 miles (56 kilometers) lengthy, and sits between the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea on the volcanic Ring of Fireplace. It’s probably the most westerly island within the Aleutian chain — nearer to Russia than mainland Alaska — and was certainly one of just some U.S. territories, together with Guam, the Philippines and the close by island of Kiska, taken by enemy forces throughout the struggle.

The American effort to reclaim Attu in 1943 amid frigid rain, dense fog and hurricane-force winds grew to become often known as World Conflict II’s “forgotten battle.” About 2,500 Japanese troopers perished, many in hand-to-hand fight or by suicide; 28 survived. Roughly 550 U.S. troopers died. Initially skilled and geared up to combat within the North African desert, many suffered from frostbite and publicity attributable to insufficient gear.

Even after the surviving captives have been freed on the shut of the struggle, they weren’t allowed to return to Attu as a result of the U.S. navy determined it could be too costly to rebuild the group. Most have been despatched to the island of Atka, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) away.

With the lack of their homeland, the Attuans’ language, Sakinam Tunuu, is now all however gone, spoken solely by members of Schmitz’s fast household. The distinctive basket-weaving type of the island is practiced by simply three or 4 weavers, and never all are of Attuan descent. Schmitz runs a nonprofit named Atux Forever to revive the cultural heritage.

A lot of what’s recognized concerning the Alaska Natives’ time in Japan is chronicled within the guide “ Attu Boy,” written by Golodoff’s older brother, Nick, with help from his editor, Rachel Mason, a cultural anthropologist with the Nationwide Park Service in Anchorage.

Mason knew the three siblings. Gregory and Liz had little reminiscence of Attu or Japan, and neither favored to speak about it, she stated.

Nick Golodoff, who was 6 when he was captured, had a childlike innocence about his time as a prisoner, Mason famous. The quilt of his guide featured {a photograph} of him using on the again of a Japanese soldier, each smiling.

That have was removed from typical. Of the Attu residents interned in Japan, 22 died from malnutrition, hunger or tuberculosis. Schmitz’s great-grandfather, Mike Hodikoff, died along with his son of meals poisoning from consuming rotten rubbish whereas in Japanese captivity, the guide famous.

Japanese troopers landed on Attu Island on June 7, 1942, when residents have been attending providers on the Russian Orthodox church. Some ran for his or her rifles, however Hodikoff informed them, “Don’t shoot, perhaps the Individuals can save us but,” in response to the guide.

As a substitute, the village radio operator, Charles Foster Jones, was shot and killed earlier than he might alert authorities, changing into the one U.S. civilian killed by the invading forces in North America, in response to a tribute to Jones by the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The opposite residents — all Alaska Natives apart from Jones’ spouse, a white instructor from New Jersey named Etta Jones — have been saved captive of their houses for 3 months earlier than being informed to pack up and convey what meals they may for the journey to Japan.

They first went to Kiska, one other Alaska island; one Attu resident died on the way in which. Stuffed within the cargo maintain of a ship, the others launched into a two-week voyage to Sapporo, the biggest metropolis on Japan’s Hokkaido Island, the place they have been saved in 4 rooms in an deserted dormitory. Solely Etta Jones was separated from them and brought in a unique boat to an internment facility in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

One Japanese guard complained the Attuans ate higher than the Japanese, however circumstances worsened when the Alaskans ran out of the meals they introduced.

The Golodoffs’ mom, Olean, and others have been compelled to work lengthy hours in a clay mine. As their numbers dwindled, she additionally grew to become the prepare dinner for the surviving POWs, although there was little to make. She was diminished to gathering orange peels off the road and cooking them on prime of a heater, stated George Kudrin, who married Olean’s daughter Liz in Atka after he returned from the Vietnam Conflict.

“I fed them to my youngsters, and solely then would they cease crying for some time,” Olean as soon as informed an interviewer.

Her husband, Lawrence, and three of their seven youngsters died in Japan. Nick Golodoff lived till 2013. One other son who survived captivity, John, died in 2009.

Kudrin stated Olean didn’t converse of her experiences in Japan, and his spouse, Liz, was too younger to recollect something.

“She at all times knew that she was a part of the historical past of World Conflict II and she or he at all times stated, ‘I’m a survivor with my mama,’” he stated.

American forces reclaimed Attu on Might 30, 1943, after a brutal 19-day marketing campaign. A lot of the combating was waged in dense fog amid winds of as much as 120 mph (193 kph). Attu Island in the present day is a part of the Alaska Maritime Nationwide Wildlife Refuge and recognized extra for being one of many prime locations in North America for teams devoted to viewing birds, particularly these from Asia.

Greg Golodoff’s spouse of fifty years, Pauline, stated he by no means spoke together with her about his expertise in Japan or about being the final dwelling resident of Attu.

“I attempted to ask him, however he didn’t wish to speak about it,” she stated.

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