Alaska at War: World War II and the Aleutian Campaign
At the outbreak of World War II there were fewer than 300 soldiers in Alaska, at Chilkoot Barracks near Haines. There was no naval base to protect a coastline longer than that of the entire United States. In 1939 and 1940, Congressional appropriations finally provided for naval stations at Dutch Harbor, Sitka and Kodiak; for Fort Richardson and its air base, Elmendorf Field, at Anchorage, and for an aircraft cold weather testing station (later Ladd Field) at Fairbanks. Preparations came too late. Japanese forces bombed Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians in June, 1942, and occupied Kiska and Attu without opposition. The few Aleut residents were interned in Japan. The U.S. removed the remaining inhabitants of the Aleutians west of Umiak Island to temporary camps in southeast Alaska, where many died under sub-standard living conditions. The others were returned after the war to homes that had often been looted and vandalized. American troops re-took Attu in May, 1943, and Kiska in August. Later the Aleutians were used as a base for air raids on Japan. A unique aspect of the war was the ferrying of 7,926 American aircraft to the Russian front in Europe, via Great Falls, Montana, Fairbanks, Nome, and Siberia.