JAN By Charles Hendricks ew locations in the United archipelago. These forces were as- Harbor in early June 1942 in an un- States have endured as signed to defend the islands from successful attempt to divert Amer- dramatic a physical impact from the threat of Japanese aggression . ican forces from the critical battle at warfare in this century as Unalaska Bay, on which Dutch Midway Island . Attacking aircraft Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Scene Harbor was situated, had been the destroyed two Army barracks and of the only foreign military oc- commercial hub of the Aleutian Is- four large oil tanks; damaged three cupation and land combat in the lands since Russian traders settled quonset huts, a hospital, and a naval 50 states during World War II, there in the 18th century. radio station; and set the barracks these islands until recently Navy contractors and troops, in- ship Northwestern afire. American remained scarred by the after- cluding the first Seabee construc- fighters at Umnak engaged the effects of hasty military construc- tion regiment, built a $44 million Japanese planes but lost eight air- tion and rapid post-war operating base at Dutch Harbor craft to the enemy's seven. American demobilization . during the period 1940-44 . It in- ground casualties amounted to 43 The Corps of Engineers has now cluded a seaplane station, sub- killed and 50 wounded. begun a broad effort to clean up marine base, Marine barracks, Immediately after this attack, unsightly remnants of World War and radio facilities. The base had Japanese seized the undefended II on these once pristine islands. 17 office buildings, a 200-bed islands of Attu and Kiska, in the At the same time, engineers are hospital, and seven operating western Aleutians. At this point, collecting artifacts and records docks. Navy builders also erected the U.S. Army recognized the that preserve the memory of the a typical Army mobilization-type serious threat that the Japanese area's significant historical garrison for 10,000 men adjacent posed to the predominantly Native events . Alaska's story, although to the Navy base . When the build- American population inhabiting unique, portrays the magnitude of up of forces made it desirable for the island chain. The Army the environmental restoration ef- Navy personnel to occupy those reacted by hastily evacuating fort currently confronting the facilities, Seabees built another most native Aleuts in the Aleutian Department of Defense. Army base on nearby Unalaska Is- and nearby Pribilof Islands to In 1940 the United States began land. Army engineers, meanwhile, camps in the Alaskan panhandle. to build substantial facilities for built an airfield on Umnak Island, The residents of Attu, unfor- naval and land forces at Dutch just west of Unalaska Island . tunately, were interned by the Harbor, near the eastern end of the Japanese planes bombed Dutch Japanese in Japan. Bering Sea Attu Island 'tied d Atka Island Amchitka Island to Kiska Island Adak Island O was t: . D 9dt Islands Andreanot tS ~°s Pacific Ocean Scale: 1 inch = 150 miles Aleutian Islands Engineer 59 ar Buck- Army's and, re- ese attacks bases on the ala and pushing his ' 'rom island to is- anuary which in- Wan troops, T land, 80 ., A_rmy - - meted air- occupied islands, liters ombers to launch destructive s on the Japanese garrisons at Kiska and Attu. 1,000 American forces Btu on May 11, 1943, anew well on the island's rocky Japanese were in no r, and only a combination of intense naval shelling, aerial bombardments, ound attacks eventually it mountain- ore the battle star, the American commander had been relieved, '.60 Americans had been killed, and 1,150 had been wounded. Only 29 Japanese were taken oner. ~leutian campaign came to V11mactic end in August 00 allied troops e assault tro soon learned that the es C : 9 900 to 10,000 Japanese evacuated. The znetheless, suffered m friendly fire in the operati(a. After the Japanese in the were defeated, the num- r ofU.S . and Canadian troops in Alask,a, which had reached 1-44,000 in September 1943, declined steadily, By the war's end, most of Alaska's wartime military installations were aban- doned, except for substantial gar- risons near Anchorage and Fair- banks, on Kodiak Island, and at later 1985 restoration 60 Engineer Adak Island in the Aleutians. toration Account. This account 37,000 cubic yards of wood and The displaced Aleuts returned contained appropriated funds that metal debris. A Corps contractor to their islands in 1944 and 1945 could be used only to clean up haz- removed thousands of 55-gallon only to find their homes ransacked ardous wastes and unsafe and un- oil drums and excavated oil- or destroyed. The Aleuts' Russian sightly buildings and debris at saturated soils from a landfill site Orthodox churches had been van- current and formerly used defense used by the military in the Pribilof dalized, and the village on battle- sites. Islands. torn The Attu had been obliterated. The Corps' Alaska District While these cleanup efforts United States spent $250,000 moved quickly to clean up were underway, the National Park after the war rehabilitating the Aleutian and Pribilof Island sites. Service conducted a survey ofwar- Aleut communities, but the money By 1985, the district had awarded time sites in the Aleutians. The did not adequately compensate for contracts totaling $2 .8 million to Park Service's study led to nation- the damage inflicted by souvenir- clean up Dutch Harbor and Un- al historic landmark status for the hungry troops . Many small Aleut alaska Island, $4 .4 million for en- Attu battlefield and Army and settlements were abandoned. vironmental restoration at Atka Navy airfields on Attu Island, the While the federal government and Amchitka Islands, and $21 Japanese occupation site on Kiska built 24 homes on Atka, including million for clean-up work at Cold Island, Army and Navy bases on six for Attuan families returning Bay. Adak Island and at Dutch Harbor, from Japan, most Aleuts had to The Corps maintained a lively and the Umnak Island airfield. rebuild as best they could on their interest in historic preservation The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service own. Many found useful building as it undertook the cleanup now administers the once-oc- materials at abandoned military operations. Joined in its effort by cupied Kiska and Attu Islands as facilities . the State of Alaska's Historic part of its Aleutian Islands Na- The Aleutian economy improved Preservation Office and the Na- tional Wildlife Refuge . significantly in the 1970s, aided by tional Park Service, the Corps The initial defense environmen- the United States' declaration of a carefully documented wartime tal restoration projects in the 200-mile domestic fishing zone in construction in Alaska and Aleutians have been completed, 1976 . Also, the Native Land preserved the best surviving but work continues on recently is- Claims Settlement Act of 1971 structures, Project staff re- sued contracts. These include a provided substantial benefits to corded detailed structural infor- $7 .6 million contract for site res- the Aleut community. In the midst mation about several historic toration at Port Heiden, on the of this prosperity, the continued sites before buildings were Alaska Peninsula, where an Army presence of dilapidated, aban- razed. These included the Navy's base was built after the 1942 doned military buildings formed administrative headquarters at bombing raid at Dutch Harbor. an unsightly contrast. Dutch Harbor, the first Marine Two contracts totaling $1 .7 million Congress asked the Corps of En- barracks erected there in 1940, have been awarded for additional gineers to plan the removal of and the air operations building, restoration work at Dutch Harbor abandoned military buildings in which later served for 37 years and Unalaska Island . the Aleutian Islands and at the as Dutch Harbor's airline ter- More work is in the offing . The two largest wartime installations minal . The group also docu- Alaska District will survey the en- on the Alaska Peninsula in a 1974 mented the standard Pacific hut, vironmental restoration needs of water resources ad. During the a lightweight, easily assembled Attu and Kiska Islands this sum- next five years, the Corps' Alaska plywood structure similar in mer, in advance of anticipated District prepared two inventory design to the steel qaonset hut. work there. These projects, aimed and planning documents for the Pacific huts had proliferated in at removing the scars of war from environmental restoration work. the Aleutians during the war, a land of great natural beauty, It concluded that a respectable proving impervious to the wind form a colorful part of the more cleanup would cost at least $22 and rain for which the islands than $300 million of defense en- million. are renowned, vironmental restoration work Recognizing the magnitude Cleanup operations were espe- which the Corps of Engineers ex- the military cleanup problem cially extensive on isolated Am- ecutes annually. throughout the United States, chitka and Atka Islands, On Am- is Charles Hendricks a historian, Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens pro- chitka, the contractor removed .S Office of History, U . Army Corps posed, and Congress in December 417 frame buildings, more than of Engineers, Fort Beluoir, VA_ He 1983 enacted, legislation creating 1,500 quonset and Pacific huts, earned a PhD in history from Cor- a Defense Environmental Res- 3,300 barrel, 129 tanks, and some nell University.