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Remembering the Aleutian Campaign

Posted by Greg on Nov 6, 2009 in Op-Ed

The Forgotten Battle of World War II:
Remembering the Aleutian Campaign
By Dr. Paul Kengor

Every Veterans Day presents an opportunity to commemorate those who served in some faraway place long ago, many of whom paid that ultimate sacrifice. World War II offers its share of remembrances: Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941; Normandy, June 6, 1944; the Battle of the Bulge, December 16, 1944; to name a few.

Sadly, however, one series of battles continues to be ignored.

On June 3, 1942, the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor, located at the Aleutian Islands, west of the Alaskan peninsula. Three days later, they landed on the islands of Kiska and Attu, culminating in the only battles of the war fought in North America. Many of the men there went through hell.

Remarkably, the battle is barely known.

One person who has not forgotten is renowned World War II historian, Donald Goldstein. Goldstein, a retired University of Pittsburgh professor, authored one of the only books on the campaign, called the Williwaw War, named for the freezing, high-velocity winds flowing from Siberia and the Bering Sea, which made service in the Aleutians a constant misery.

“It was strategically very important who controlled those islands,” says Goldstein. The Americans stationed there “kept the Japanese from the West Coast and from invading the U.S. mainland…. From a strategic point of view, you can’t underestimate the situation there. Look at a map! The Aleutians aren’t very far from Seattle.”

In the Aleutians, American troops battled not only the Japanese, but debilitating weather and boredom. To combat the fierce and unpredictable williwaws, soldiers leaned forward as they walked, before falling on their faces as the winds abruptly ended. They battled blinding, waste-deep snow, dense fog, sleet that felt like a sandblaster.

To escape the climate, troops spent hours inside. The boredom was so bad that some drank anything they could find. There were stories of casualties from “torpedo juice.” Morale was awful.

“War is boredom mixed with moments of stark terror,” says Goldstein. “You sit and wait. And then all at once it comes.”

And when it came to the Aleutians, it came with ferocity. Shortly after bombing Dutch Harbor, the Japanese took Attu and Kiska. Thirteen months later, in August 1943, American forces sought to drive them out. Kiska was easy, since Japanese forces had bailed out two weeks earlier. Attu, however, was another story.

Attu was taken back only after a horrible fight. Japan fought to the last man. Facing defeat, 500 Japanese soldiers committed suicide with their own grenades. Whereas Dutch Harbor witnessed fewer than 100 casualties, U.S. burial patrols at Attu counted 2,351 Japanese bodies. Total U.S. casualties were 3,829549 killed. Some believe it was the bloodiest battle of World War II.

And yet, few Americans have heard of the battle. Notes Goldstein: “Even [at the time] there was hardly any press coverage. If you ask most people today where Attu is they have no idea…. It’s forgotten.”

Do the veterans of this campaign feel neglected?

“Oh, yes,” says Goldstein. “They’re bitter. These guys never got the credit they deserve.”

Many of the unrecognized survivors suffered premature deaths once they got home. One was Andrew Boggs Covert, a tall, lanky fellow who had worked at Pullman Standard in Butler, Pennsylvania prior to the war. Boggs found himself drafted into the Marines Corps as a 30-year-old with seven children. His surviving son, Jim, recalls riding to Pittsburgh to say goodbye to his father in 1942.

It was not a permanent goodbye, as Andrew survived the brutal combat. He told me about some of the hand-to-hand stuff, says his son today. It was traumatic. But he was matter of fact: Do it, take care of it, serve your country, get over it.

Still, getting over it was not that easy. Andrew died in October 1966 at age 54.

A survivor who outlived Andrew was Leonard Levandoski of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a member of the 11th Fighter Squadron, who spent two grueling years at Attu.

A few years back, while writing for a newspaper, I tried to track down Leonard on a tip from the Department of Veterans Affairs: This guy is perfect for you to interview, said the press person. Every year he writes letters-to-the-editor trying to get people to remember what happened. Hell be thrilled to get your call.

When I called, Leonards wife, Geraldine, answered. Who is this? she said slowly. When I gave my name and purpose, Geraldine began to cry. Leonard just passed away, she told me. He waited years for someone to call.

Many of those veterans have now passed away. The years have slowly faded, with no one calling about the Aleutians. It is about time we remember.

Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include “The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand” and “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism.”

 
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Open Letter to Barack Obama

Posted by Greg on Nov 6, 2009 in Op-Ed

Mr. President, Do Not Let Dreams Die in Your Hands

Dear President Barack Obama,

On the eve of your visit to China, we urge you to take a firm stand on human rights issues to reaffirm to the world the core values of the United States of America and its dedication to those values.

Dear Mr. President, you challenged Americans to enact a change, and Americans have responded and sent you to the White House to be the catalyst of change. You took the message of change to Europe, and Europeans have responded and reengaged with the leader of the free world.

We now challenge you: Will you bring change to the US policy toward China, a policy of economic engagement that has tainted our nation’s image for the past twenty years, or will you maintain the status quo?

The United States’ engagement with China originally donned a pretext of helping to improve China’s human rights. Over time, however, its true motive and consequence has emerged: with the passing of one so-called opportunity after another to improve human rights in China, including the granting of PNTR to China, the admission of China into the WTO, and the Beijing Olympics, more and more Chinese people have fallen victim to the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses. As such, this policy has turned into our nation’s worst example of hypocrisy, and the complete lack of acknowledgement of and accountability for its failure also makes it our worst example of irresponsible politics.

At the same time the US has been losing its moral standing. The former Soviet bloc was far more powerful then than China is now, and it took thirty-eight years for the Berlin Wall to fall. The US was never weak or vulnerable during the Cold War, and was a source of inspiration and hope for people in Eastern Europe. Now the US is not only increasingly timid about mentioning human rights to China, it is on its knees supplicating China to buy its debt. Internationally, the US has helped to fund the Chinese regime to become a new anti-human rights ringleader and has to face it on multiple continents. Domestically, we are suffering the consequences of our own deeds: We ignored China’s suppression of workers’ unions, and we lose our jobs to China’s slave laborers who work under unsafe conditions; we ignore China’s persecution of Christians and Falun Gong practitioners who merely want their right to conscience, and we receive unconscionable toxic products from China.

Most alarmingly, we are losing sight of our real national interest – our American values. Had Abraham Lincoln not been so dedicated to the founding principles of America, had he instead carried on a policy of economic engagement with the South, rationalizing that the profit would somehow trickle down in the form of greater freedom for the slaves, that would be equivalent to today’s China policy, and there would be no President Obama. Today, our founding principles and values have eroded to the point where we have accepted a China policy based on greed rather than principle for the past twenty years.

Mr. President, in those twenty years how many of China’s Obamas have been locked up and lynched in jail? How many of China’s Obamas have been exiled to the US and cannot go back home to pursue their dreams? Over the globe, how many Obamas have suffered under various regimes that remain in power only because of the support of the Chinese regime?

Mr. President, we take it to heart when you claim Lincoln as your role model, so we ask you to carry on Abraham Lincoln’s legacy to give people in China and around the world the opportunity to see their Obama’s dream to come true.

Please do not let Obama’s dream die in your hands.

Please Sign the Petition to the President:
http://www.consciencefoundation.org/index.php?option=com_rsmonials

This message was sent by: The Conscience Foundation, 3186 Adams Ave., Suite 202, San Diego, CA 92116

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