• Image of four aviators at leisure, playing cribbage

    Aleutian World War II

    National Historic Area Alaska

Charles Donovan

Charles Donovan joined the US Navy prior to WWII and was trained as a radio operator. He traveled to Alaska aboard the USS Spica arriving in the Aleutian Islands in 1942 just prior to the attack on Dutch Harbor.

In his interview, he talks about his life as a 19 year old stationed at Otter Point on Umnak Island and at Chernofsky in the Aleutians, work in Seattle and Guam and then mine sweeping in Japan aboard the USS Concise until the end of the war.

 
Two images of Charles Donovan, from WWII and 2009
Charles Donovan, during WWII and in 2009. Click the image to view a larger version of it.
courtesy charles donovan
 
  • Complete transcript, no audio or images (90 KB)

  • Complete transcript, includes images (1.6 MB)

  • Complete interview (12.3 MB) -- Left-click the link once to begin streaming the interview. This may take just a few moments for fast connections, or several minutes for dial-up connections.

    Right-click the link and choose "Save link as ..." to save the file to your desktop. This will take considerable time, even for broadband connections.
 

The interview is also available in smaller portions, with the relevant transcript available for each clip. Each audio clip is less than 1 MB, facilitating access for slower internet connections.

Transcript summary

  1. Joining the navy, his first assignment on a cargo ship in Central America audio / transcript
  2. Sailing to San Diego via the Panama Canal, attending radio school, becoming a Radioman Third Class, supplying bases in Alaska, age at enlistment, initial ship assignment audio / transcript
  3. Six radiomen sent to Aleutians, reporting the weather audio / transcript
  4. Station at Chernofski Bay and Umnak, story of making coffee with objects found on the island, exploring the island, secret base at Otter Point audio / transcript
  5. Personnel stationed at Otter Point, staying in touch with others, 503rd Coast Guard Artillery audio / transcript
  6. Clothing issued in Kodiak and Umnak, first breakfast in Kodiak, story of having to eat mutton from the sheep ranch in the Aleutians, getting supplies, sleeping quarters audio / transcript
  7. Mail, knowledge of other battles in the war, knowledge of Dutch Harbor bombing, dog fights over Umnak, planes not returning, radio weather reports audio / transcript
  8. Feeling isolated on Umnak, Seabee commander crash, what Seabees did on Umnak, changes to the Umnak base over the course of the war audio / transcript
  9. Layout at Chernofski, three men stationed at Chernofski, getting supplies by boat, memorable experiences, getting along with fellow service men audio / transcript
  10. Learning to drive at Chernofski, driving on the island audio / transcript
  11. Leaving the Aleutians, knowledge of Kiska and Attu limited to what pilots told him and radio messages, feeling safe in the Aleutians, seeing Japanese planes and ships audio / transcript
  12. Assignment to the 13th District Headquarters in Seattle after the Aleutians, transmitting naval communications, knowledge of the war theaters audio / transcript
  13. Assignment to Guam after Seattle, assignment to the USS Concise as the senior radioman, mine sweeping in Japan audio / transcript
  14. Aboard USS Concise at wars end, learning the war was over, military service for six years, loved the peacetime Navy (before the US entered WWII) audio / transcript
  15. Usefulness of radio skills after the war, working in department stores, becoming a salesman audio / transcript
  16. Getting married audio / transcript
 

Did You Know?

A PBY plane surrounded by crew

A PBY plane piloted by Lt. Jean Cusick was sent from Dutch Harbor, on June 3, 1942, to locate Japanese forces in the Pacific. He was shot down by enemy fighters en route. Five men out of the seven-man crew survived the crash and got into life rafts. Cusick and his enlisted pilot died on the rafts from their wounds. The other three were captured by the Japanese, and became the first prisoners of war in the Aleutian Campaign.