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).