All This Will Be Lost – Alaska – Aleutian Islands – Brian Payton

All this will belost

Why a booktrail?

The story of a little known event in the second world war which took place in the Aleutian islands of Alaska

Story in a nutshell

June 3, 1942.

The Aleutian Islands, Alaska

No one would think that this tiny and far away place, so distant from the centre of the WW2 would become embroiled in an international situation but on this day it did. For it was on this day that the Japanese Imperial Navy bombed Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. This was the start of a war which saw some 2500 Japanese troops invade the islands capturing those of Attu and Kiska.

Against this backdrop, married couple John and Helen are separated by the needs of war. John is war journalist covering events whilst his wife Helen remains back in Seattle.

When John’s plane is shot down, he must decide if to surrender or to survive in the Alaskan wilderness before trying to return home.

Place and setting

alaska-map-one

Attu The island which was bombed in the Aleutian campaign of 1943 Kiska The island which was bombed in the Aleutian campaign of 1943 Dutch harbour The Imperial navy bombed this area which started the invasion Pribilof islands (St Paul) People here were evacuated by the US military and takes to south east Alaska where they were interned.
Attu
The island which was bombed in the Aleutian campaign of 1943
Kiska
The island which was bombed in the Aleutian campaign of 1943
Dutch harbour
The Imperial navy bombed this area which started the invasion
Pribilof islands (St Paul)
People here were evacuated by the US military and takes to south east Alaska where they were interned.

The Alaskan wilderness – 

“The fog is better than an ally; it is a close personal friend. It covers his mistakes and spreads its protective wing over him, allowing him to escape detection”

Snow, Fog and the occasional report of Japanese antiaircraft are the only things to define space and time in this cold and unforgiving place. The fog misdirects those it envelopes and distorts the image of your surroundings. It also risks revealing the location of John, the missing war correspondent whose plane has just been shot down. He is there to avenge his brothers death in the Canadian air force

This is a rural and brutal landscape at the best of times but during war time especially so.

That night up in the nest, the boy pulls the parachute to his chin. Storm’s blowin in,” he observes. Easley listens to the fury of the williwaw, the signature gale of the Aleutians

This wind which ‘becomes an avalanche, a full stampeded of sound and sensation that strips the moisture from your eyes, bullies and casts you to the ground.

This is the landscape which acts as the prison John now finds himself in. With the brutality of  war ever present, the story of the Japanese invasion is evoked with raw, naked emotion. The Aleutian Islands must surely be one of the harshest places on earth for survival. How to find one man amidst all this silence and isolation?

This is a part of the world forgotten or blacked out by history – glimpses of the conditions of the American soldiers in WWII in the North Pacific are raw and poignant. Conditions and evacuations of the Aleut Indian natives also help to evoke a time and place little written  about elsewhere.

Such a significant time in US history. When the US forces attempt to take back the island……the result is like having a bird’s eye view of a real piece of US history.

Seattle

Life in Seattle may be far removed from war time bombings yet the isolation felt by Helen as she waits for new from her husband is as isolating as any prison.

At the library she examines the papers for any mention of Alaska

No news and no idea of where he is. Always a couple, now she is forced to live a new life and a very different one with its own set of challenges. She finds strength in her faith and religious beliefs but her life in the dark is a lonely one. So it’s not long before she sets out to Alaska herself to discover the truth.

Bookish musings

A wonderfully evocative novel of a fictional love story  – but not the soppy kind – this one shows the feelings of loss and struggle from both sides of the war – mixed with the very real historical backdrop

I knew nothing of this battle in the war and although had heard of the islands had little knowledge of the landscape there. Well, it was an unforgiving place in WW2 and like the best survival stories, this has all the fictional and factual strands to weave a very believable and challenging tale.

I’d never been to this part of the world before either via a book or for real but now I feel I have tasted the snow, heard the planes and felt the utter despair of having to hide from an invisible enemy.

The struggle of those involved on all sides was heartbreaking to read but inspiring at the same time. The section about the dog and how its written to show  the state of humanity  and what a man is willing to do in order to survive is particularly powerful.

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