Alaska's World War II History
It's a little-known chapter in U.S. history: Alaska was an active theater during World War II, and Hawaii wasn't the only place bombed by the Japanese. In fact, just six months after the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military attacked and occupied two remote islands in Alaska's Aleutian Chain, Attu and Kiska. For more than a year, the U.S. fought Japan in what became known as the Aleutian Islands Campaign, eventually retaking the U.S. territory from Japan and leaving a lasting impact on the state, the soldiers who fought in the Aleutians and the indigenous Aleuts of the Aleutian Islands.
Before the initial Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor on June 3, 1942, the U.S. military and Congress had already recognized Alaska's strategic importance in the Pacific and began shoring up the state's military infrastructure. In March of 1942, construction of the Alaska Highway was initiated as a means to better fortify the state with military vehicles and equipment. Construction crews building the highway were spurred on through incredibly difficult conditions by news of the Japanese attack that summer, and finished the 1,700-mile highway in a remarkable 10 months. Indigenous Aleuts living in villages in the Aleutian Islands were evacuated and interned – much like Japanese Americans in other parts of the country – in camps in Southeast Alaska. Inadequate food, shelter and medical care led to widespread disease and death among the interred.
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Tips from an Alaskan
Toby Sullivan is a commercial fisherman who lives in Kodiak and has fished the waters of the North Pacific from Kodiak to the Aleutian Chain for 30 years. His essays on the lives of Alaska fisherman have been published in numerous publications, including Alaska Magazine, the Anchorage Press and several anthologies.
Read on to learn about Sullivan’s favorite spots on Kodiak Island.
A tour of WWII historical sites
Travel by jet to the twin communities of Unalaska and the Port of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Chain via Anchorage. Take a tour of local World War II sites with a local guide to get your bearings, which will include a visit to Fort Schwatka on Mount Ballyhoo.
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