I’d like to tell you a soldier’s story.

There was this guy a long time ago at the age of 17 who went to war. Didn’t like the thought of it very much, never thought in 1939 he’d ever have to kill someone or in 1943 wind up at a place no one, not even he, knew of its existence.

But he did have to kill people to defend an idea and to protect our freedoms. And he did go to a place that all who have been there in winter, past or present, refer to it as a living hell!

He wasn’t given even the bare essentials to endure the bitter winds and freezing temperatures. He lacked proper food, proper clothing, proper bedding, supplies always got to him too late and there never seemed to be a medic around when he needed one.

Sometime at the beginning of the battle, near 14 may 43, he was nicked in the arm by sniper fire. But, being so cold, he never realized it until later that day.

On 19 May 43, a piece of shrapnel hit him in the mouth knocking out a couple of his teeth exposing the roots to the extreme cold - the pain this must have caused goes beyond all imagination. It also tore a hole in his jaw you could stick a quarter in. He got through this, on his own, and still kept fighting!

Sometime on the afternoon of 27 May 43, he took a bullet in his lower leg. There was no one around to help him so he painfully crawled or limped for over a mile, in fog so thick you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, to a medical clearing station, at a place called Engineer Hill where his wounds were looked after by Army Medics. (By the time he got here, his leg had swollen to twice its size and the wound was covered over with dry frozen blood.)

THEN, on 29 May 43, around 0400, he awoke to blood curdling screams coming from outside the tent where he lay helpless and wounded. “You Die - We Die, We Die-You Die” over and over again! For you see, nearly 800 fanatical Japanese soldiers, drunk on sake or doped on morphine made one last attempt to gain the high ground in a banzai attack.

Was he scared as bullets ripped through the tent killing one wounded soldier? You bet, so damn scared he almost shit his pants!

But what scared him the most was he had no idea what was going on outside. At Some point shortly after the attack started, he saw one of the medics place the body of the wounded man that was killed at the tent’s entrance. And the medic whispered to everyone, “stay still, don’t even breathe”. This lone act saved his life and the others because it tricked the enemy into believing they had already been killed, like all those that were slaughtered in two other medical tents (24 of them murdered), saving them from further harm and certain death.

The place was the Island of Attu, Alaska and

I’d like to introduce you to S/Sgt Bill Jones, Company G 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, United States Army

More about this man…..,

Received the Purple Heart w/5 Oak Leaf Clusters (meaning six times total) for wounds received in battle on Attu, Lahti (Ikusa Islands), Kwajalein and Okinawa.

Awarded the Bronze Star Medal -- with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters (meaning three times for bravery or acts of merit)

Awarded the Distinguished Service Medal--with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster for meritorious service in ground combat, Asiatic Pacific and American Theaters of Operation.

Also, Bill wore his Combat Infantry Badge with pride and honor.

As a leader in battle, his first loss of one of his men on Attu, a man who would have been notified he was being discharged because of his age, just 45 minutes later, died in Bill’s arms. Bill has never gotten over this. He has carried this painful memory in his heart for over 65 years! Who says that brave tough men don’t cry……..?

An American patriot and hero in the truest sense of the word, and now.....

he’s old, 86 and ill, Emphysema to the stage he’s now on oxygen. His Arthritis is in its advanced stages. With Diabetes too, bones in his spine have deteriorated due to Osteoporosis; his back has broken on two different occasions - and when the old start breaking bones, it is usually the sign of the “beginning of the end”.

Bill has fought long and hard to have four Japanese memorials removed from Engineer Hill, Attu, Alaska. By their presence on Engineer Hill, they insult the memory of not only the 580 Americans who lost their lives in the Battle for Attu, May 11-29, 1943, but for the Attuans, the native-Americans of Attu who not only lost 16 of their people to Japanese War Crimes but forever lost their homeland.

Bill Jones is my friend and one of the nicest guys on the planet.

John E Jonas, TSgt, USAF (Ret)
[1957-1977, and I thank my God everyday for not having to endure one day of combat]

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Comment by jejonas on March 8, 2009 at 2:16pm
So true and so many atrocities occurred on Attu by the Japanese that very few of us knew about. When Bill returned to Attu for a visit in 2000, he couldn't believe what he saw - a huge Japanese memorial. And from that time on, he has tried to have it removed, at least from Engineer Hill. We have made some progress in the past couple of months of having this done, but it is a slow, very slow process.
Comment by David on March 8, 2009 at 12:49pm
Nice, thanks for sharing another hero's story. The battles of the Alaskan islands are not told much. It was like we did not want to talk about a piece of America getting occupied.

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