Teacher Etta Schureman was over forty years old when she and her sister ventured into Alaska Territory to teach Native Eskimos in primitive rural schools. After one year, the sister returned to the Lower 48, but Etta, who had met Foster Jones, the love of her life and married, settled permanently in Alaska.
Eighteen years later, Etta and her husband were working together in the remote Aleutian island of Attu when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Empire of Japan on December, 7, 1941, “a day that will live in infamy.” They were slated to be evacuated by the U.S. Navy when the island was invaded by Japanese troops. Although the couple were in their sixties, Japanese soldiers killed Foster and removed Etta to an internment camp in Japan, where she was incarcerated with a small group of Australian nurses who were also prisoners of war. The Attuan natives, about three dozen of them, were also taken to Japan, with the apparent intention of assimilating them into the Japanese population. Although the surviving Attuans were repatriated after the war, Etta never saw her students or their families again.
Etta’s intriguing tale of survival is told brilliantly by Mary Breu in her book Last Letters from Attu: The True Story of Etta Jones: Alaska Pioneer and Japanese POW. A fascinating read, to be sure. You can find this book at amazon at the following link: Last Letters from Attu. I have also included a chapter about this fascinating teacher in the book I am currenlty writing, Chalkboard Heroes.