On June 1, 2019, the Dedication Ceremony to unveil the new stone Attu War Memorial cenotaph remembering the Japanese war dead was held at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery. Ms. Misa Nishimura, Vice-Chair of the executive committee for the replacement of the wooden cenotaph with a new stone cenotaph, served as the master of ceremony.
Ms. Junco Skinner, Chair of the executive committee; Mr. Masatoshi Sato, Head of the Consular Office of Japan in Anchorage; Lieutenant Colonel Satoshi Nishiguchi, Commander, 1st Infantry Battalion, 1st Airborne Brigade, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF); and Mrs. Virginia M. Walker, Director, Fort Richardson National Cemetery unveiled the new stone cenotaph.
Later at the ceremony, Ms. Skinner, Mr. & Mrs. Sato, and LTC Nishiguchi presented three wreaths.
Those who attended the ceremony included:
- All four members of the executive committee – Ms. Skinner, Ms. Nishimura, Ms. Makiko Boyd, Treasurer of the executive committee, and Professor Hiroko Harada, Secretary of the executive committee
- Mr. & Mrs. Sato and Ms. Tomoko Maybin from the Consular Office
- Approximately 120 Japanese troops who are taking part in Arctic Aurora 2019 – a bilateral joint training exercise organized by the U.S. Army Alaska – under the command of LTC Nishiguchi
- Several Japanese residents of Alaska who have contributed financially to the replacement project
- A guest attendee from Japan – Mr. Masami Sugiyama – a photographer who has visited the Attu Island a few times; the above photos were taken by Mr. Sugiyama
After World War II, thanks to the goodwill of the U.S. government, 235 out of more than 2,600 Japanese soldiers who died in the battle for the Aleutian Islands were buried at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery. The remains of the 235 soldiers were repatriated to Japan in July 1953.
In May 1981, a wooden cenotaph was erected in memory of the 235 Japanese soldiers at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery by a group of Japanese residents in Alaska; a new wooden cenotaph was erected in September 2002 to replace the aging cenotaph that had been in place since May 1981.
In 2018, the 75th anniversary of the battle of Attu, a desire to replace the wooden cenotaph with a stone one became stronger among a group of Japanese residents in Alaska as well as among families and relatives of the soldiers who fell on Attu Island in 1943. In June 2018, an executive committee was formed to complete the replacement of the wooden cenotaph with a new stone cenotaph.
With the support of Mr. Gensho Asano, representing the group of surviving relatives of the Japanese soldiers who fell at Attu, a headstone made by a Japanese mason was shipped to the Fort Richardson National Cemetery at the end of April 2019. It is truly significant that the replacement has been achieved in the very first year of a new era in Japan “Reiwa 1”.