This “engrossing” (The Wall Street Journal) national bestseller and true “heartbreaking tale of tragedy and redemption” (Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Ghost Soldiers) reveals how a discovered diary—found during a brutal World War II battle—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 tirelessly fought in a yearlong campaign, with both sides suffering 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 “writes with tremendous grace about a forgotten part of our history, telling the same story from two opposing points of view—perhaps the only way warfare can truly be understood” (Helen Thorpe, author of Soldier Girls).
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Obmascik (The Big Year) serves up a moving, intimate tale of two men, two families, and two countries that intersected at the forgotten WWII battle of Attu, an Alaskan island. Against a backdrop of racist fearmongering (the New York Times referred to the Japanese as "aboriginal savages," and of immigrants from Axis countries only Japanese Americans were singled out for internment), Obmascik introduces readers to Paul Nobuo Tatsuguchi, a Japanese man who moved to California for medical school, and Dick Laird, an Appalachian coal miner who joined the armed forces to escape a dangerous, dead-end life underground. Tatsuguchi returned to Japan during a family crisis and was conscripted into the Japanese military in 1941; the two men's paths crossed at the battle for the sparsely populated island of Attu in 1943. Tatsuguchi kept a diary one that Laird would find after killing him with a grenade. The diary was copied and avidly passed around throughout the American military as a surprising insight into the humanity of the enemy. Laird, still haunted by having killed a man who loved America as much as he did, sought out Tatsuguchi's daughter in 1983. Obmascik's account of their relationship's growth reinforces the compassion of everyone involved. This poignant, dramatic tale will captivate both younger readers less familiar with the details of WWII history and those who are passionate about it. \n