Credit: Alaska State Library Collection, H. Marion Thornton Photographs, 1942-1945, ASL-P338-0799
Soldiers baking and pancake serving, Dutch Harbor, c. 1942-1945
In June 1942, the Japanese attacked and occupied the Aleutian Islands of Kiska and Attu, the only North American land invaded by enemy forces during World War II. In response, Black soldiers constructed runways and set up encampments in preparation for a counteroffensive to retake the islands in the spring of 1943. Due to the racist belief that Black troops were unfit for combat, they also prepared meals and worked the mess halls. These labor battalions, as they were known, served an essential function throughout the Aleutian Islands campaign and paved the way for Black veterans to serve as a vanguard for an emerging civil rights movement.