Sunday, March 30, 2014

Book Review - Last Letters from Attu

by Mary Breu

There are some stories which must be told.

The true story of Etta Jones is one of those stories. In 1922, at the age of 42, Etta Schureman left a busy life in Pittsburgh to vacation just one year in Alaska. She met and married her soulmate, Charles Foster Jones. Together, for the next 20 years, they became one with the Alaskan people. Etta was a teacher and Foster was always there lending his practical skills and first-hand knowledge of Alaska.

In August, 1941, Etta and Foster accepted positions to Attu, the last island in the Aleutian chain. All 45 people-half of them children-lived in this isolated, wind-swept island continuing the life lived by their ancestors for centuries. Tensions between America and Russia were of little concern to the Attu people or to Etta and Foster.

On June 6, 1942, Attu was invaded by 2,000 Japanese soldiers and Etta became a Japanese prisoner of war. She experienced physical deprivation, mental abuse, and emotional trauma in different Japanese camps where she was supervised by those relentless in their degradation of prisoners of war.

Etta Jones was a letter-writer. For this, we are grateful because Mary Breu, the grand-niece of Etta Jones, took these letters combined them with government documents and archival pictures to make right the story of Etta Jones as a Japanese prisoner-of-war.

Hattie’s Book Club was privileged to have Mary Breu as their guest speaker for the March meeting. Writing about a family member who experienced the horrors of war was not easy, but it needed to be done.