. . . the Battle of Attu raged.
Cpl. Joe Sasser was asleep in his pup tent on a cold, soggy morning 70 years ago when the alarm sounded. "Somebody was shouting, 'The Japs have come through!' " he recalled.
Sasser's outfit, the 50th Engineers, were builders, not fighters. Most of the men -- and there weren't a lot of them -- were what the Army calls noncombatants. Their job was to make roads and move supplies to the soldiers on the front lines. The strung-out line of supply tents was not fortified. The soldiers had rifles, not machine guns.
He struggled into his perpetually damp leather boots -- "Not the right attire" for the snow and mud of Alaska, he said -- grabbed his helmet and M-1 rifle, went to an embankment created when the road was pushed through a few days earlier and peered over the side.
"The Japanese were moving up the hill," he said. "The ravines were full of them" in numbers that far exceeded the Americans at the outpost.
He watched the mass of determined, desperate men swarm toward him in an action no U.S. soldier had faced since the War of 1812 -- a bayonet charge by an enemy invader on American soil.
Thus began the Battle of Engineer Hill, the last battle between warring nations to be fought in North America.
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