On the 6th of June 1942 Japanese troops invaded the island of Attu which is part of Alaska, it was the first time since 1812 that continental America had been invaded.
In this episode we’re looking at the US attack to recapture the island, the fighting was bitter in a very hostile environment, and the discovery of a diary of a Japanese army surgeon who had been trained before the war in the USA.
NATIONAL BESTSELLER “Mark Obmascik has deftly rescued an important story from the margins of our history—and from our country’s most forbidding frontier. Deeply researched and feelingly told, The Storm on Our Shores is a heartbreaking tale of tragedy and redemption.” —Hampton Sides, bestselling authtion.” —Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers, In the Kingdom of Ice, and On Desperate Ground
The heart-wrenching but ultimately redemptive story of two World War II soldiers—a Japanese surgeon and an American sergeant—during a brutal Alaskan battle in which the sergeant discovers the medic's revelatory and fascinating diary that changed our war-torn society’s perceptions of Japan.
May 1943. The Battle of Attu—called “The Forgotten Battle” by World War II veterans—was raging on the Aleutian island with an Arctic cold, impenetrable fog, and rocketing winds that combined to create some of the worst weather on Earth. Both American and Japanese forces were tirelessly fighting in a yearlong campaign, and both sides would suffer thousands of casualties. Included in this number was a Japanese medic whose war diary would lead a Silver Star-winning American soldier to find solace for his own tortured soul.
The doctor’s name was Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi, a Hiroshima native who had graduated from college and medical school in California. He loved America, but was called to enlist in the Imperial Army of his native Japan. Heartsick, wary of war, yet devoted to Japan, Tatsuguchi performed his duties and kept a diary of events as they unfolded—never knowing that it would be found by an American soldier named Dick Laird.
Laird, a hardy, resilient underground coal miner, enlisted in the US Army to escape the crushing poverty of his native Appalachia. In a devastating mountainside attack in Alaska, Laird was forced to make a fateful decision, one that saved him and his comrades, but haunted him for years.
Tatsuguchi’s diary was later translated and distributed among US soldiers. It showed the common humanity on both sides of the battle. But it also ignited fierce controversy that is still debated today. After forty years, Laird was determined to return it to the family and find peace with Tatsuguchi’s daughter, Laura Tatsuguchi Davis.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Obmascik brings his journalistic acumen, sensitivity, and exemplary narrative skills to tell an extraordinarily moving story of two heroes, the war that pitted them against each other, and the quest to put their past to rest.
I’m joined by Mark Obmascik, author of The Storm on our Shores which traces the story of the fighting on Attu, Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi and an American GI called Dick Laird.