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WWII mass graves confirmed in Alaska

July 19, 2007 at 2:50 AM   |   Comments

, July 19 (UPI) -- Mass graves believed to hold the remains of 2,300 Japanese soldiers killed on the Aleutian island of Attu during World War II have been confirmed.

Maj. Chris Johnson of the Department of Defense says last week's four-day expedition to the Alaskan atoll by U.S. and Japanese delegations turned up clothing and remains that confirmed the burial sites listed in a 1953 report, KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Alaska, reported Tuesday.

"During that first day we found two boots; both left feet and different sizes," Johnson said. "But we found the remains of foot bones in overboots, then we knew we had indeed found the burial sites and it did match the 1953 data."

A memorial ceremony was held at the site, Johnson said.

Confirming the graves was the first step in returning the Japanese soldiers' remains home.

Attu, with a population of about 20 people, is 20 miles by 35 miles in size, and is located about 1,100 miles west of the Alaskan mainland. Japanese troops occupied the island in June 1942 but the following May U.S. forces retook the island. The Americans lost 549 troops while the Japanese, fighting virtually to the last man, sustained at least 2,300 casualties.

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