• Image of four aviators at leisure, playing cribbage

    Aleutian World War II

    National Historic Area Alaska

Harry Bailey

Harry Bailey served with the US Army Harbor Craft Detachment during World War II. Harry’s service was not on the large vessels and supply ships but on the small coastal and inter-island vessels such as the power barges, tugs and freight passenger ships that supplied food and equipment to the bases in the Aleutian Islands.

Through his years of service in Alaska he experienced the weather that the Aleutians are notorious for and recalls some of the most memorable voyages. He describes what life was like for a young service man in the Aleutians during the war; what he ate, where he lived and how he passed the time.

A narrative from Harry Bailey, available here as a 21-page scanned manuscript, tells his story in great detail. His interview is available in text and audio below.

 
 

Transcript summary (complete transcript, all three parts)

Harry Bailey's interview has been separated into three parts.

Part 1 (full audio / transcript)

  1. Trip from Seattle to Attu on a power barge, carrying freight to Shemya, storms off Shemya, loss of a barge off Attu audio / transcript
  2. Navigation equipment on the ship, use of the ship’s radio, morse code, difficulty in transmitting among the islands audio / transcript
  3. Civilians working for the Harbor Craft Detachment, pay differences between civilians and Army enlisted men, inadequate clothing provided by the Army, trading clothes with the Navy audio / transcript
  4. Harbor Craft Detachment, training in Seattle to be a seaman, who was chosen for HCD, civilians in HCD, who the civilian seamen were audio / transcript
  5. Joining the Army in 1943, training at Fort Lawton, Washington, story of a friend who sailed the Bering Sea from Nome to the Aleutians, storms in the Aleutians, Navy priority on anchor buoys audio / transcript
  6. Dragging anchor, working on ship with two railroad men from the White Pass/Yukon Railroad, unloading freighters coming in from San Francisco and Seattle, working for a civilian skipper that woke them up all night long audio / transcript
  7. Harbor on the south side of Shemya, weathering storms in deep water, losing a boat and six men off Attu, sinking of the Dellwood off Attu, getting towed to Chernofsky after losing an engine off Dutch Harbor, taking a radio call from a ship in distress, making operators repeat everything twice for clarity audio / transcript
  8. Size of the power barges, composition of crew on the power barge, trying to salvage a ship off Agattu, Army and Navy rescue operations, marine railroad at Attu for servicing ships, routine maintenance of the power barge audio / transcript
  9. Servicing the task force assigned to bombing Paramushiro audio / transcript
  10. Army vs Navy food, story of two Air Corp guys eating at the Navy’s officers mess, eating steak in Seattle, German POW’s as waiters in Seattle audio / transcript
  11. Internment camp in Southeast Alaska, Aleuts interned in southeast Alaska, working with Aleuts in midget tugs, Orthodox cross on Agattu, hearing about an old village on Agattu a long time ago audio / transcript
  12. Servicing the radar station on Agattu, road to the radar station, radar station on Attu, how people spent their time ashore, shore leave, spending a lot of time on the ship, USO shows, inability to go far ashore, going ashore with a friend and having difficulty returning to the ship after audio / transcript
  13. Playing basketball at the gym on Attu, shopping at the Navy PX, playing dice for money, story of the cook who made money on playing dice after getting drunk on hooch, playing dice for money on board the ship audio / transcript
  14. Crew members on the power barge, changing crew on the barge, working with a miner from Chicken, going through unqualified Skippers, working with two railroad men audio / transcript

Part 2 (full audio / transcript)

  1. Training given to Skippers, who was selected for Skipper, how the Harbor Craft Detachment was formed, story of a bunk mate in Seattle, loose military operations in Seattle, Company reports of men missing for duty audio / transcript
  2. Bailey being reported AWOL in error, people going AWOL in Pennsylvania during basic training, growing up in Massachusetts, being drafted in the Army, age when drafted, basic training in Carolina, Pennsylvania training, train ride to Seattle audio / transcript
  3. Arriving in Fort Lawton, Washington, describing the streets of downtown Seattle and sailors from Britain and Australia, what the servicemen did in downtown Seattle, Yessler Square in Seattle, story of a man chasing a women in the street near the square audio / transcript
  4. Housing on board the ship in Seattle, story of a training ship, Bonhomme, in trouble in the harbor after having been worked on audio / transcript
  5. Using a World War I ship for training, using rubber life suits, story about fear of being put into a rubber suit, seasickness, a cocky 19 year old stands on the open deck in seas audio / transcript
  6. Nearly falling overboard off the barge getting ice cream, man falling overboard trying to get off the barge audio / transcript
  7. Coastal artillery shooting practice in Massacre Bay, sailing the 85 foot power barge to the Aleutians, stories of tugs losing their tow in the crossing from Seattle to Alaska audio / transcript

Part 3 (full audio / transcript)

  1. Wind and weather in the Aleutians, weather reporting and forecasting, lack of experience of Lt. Commander resulting in loss of ship audio / transcript
  2. Leaving Alaska, getting an airplane ride to Anchorage in a storm, navigation for aircraft in the Aleutians, aircraft stranded on Attu while the airfield is built audio / transcript
  3. Removing American and Japanese dead from the islands after the war, transporting bodies with no refrigeration, where Aleutian dead were buried audio / transcript
  4. Working in Seward as a radio man, story of how he convinced his Sergeant to let him go and buying and selling liquor, getting stuck in crowded barracks in Anchorage audio / transcript
  5. Getting a friend to help him get transferred back down to Seward to ride home with his friend, going back to Seattle on a tug and barge, friend Labreck who joined the service two men behind him, arriving in Seattle with Labreck audio / transcript
  6. Discharge from the service, career as a plumber, influence of experiences of WWII on life, willingness to do it again if need be, volunteering for the Second Ranger Battalion, Labreck talks him out of volunteering audio / transcript
  7. Russian lend-lease of ships, seeing Russians at Cold Bay, taking a trip to Chichigof and Holtz Bay on foot audio / transcript
  8. Collecting souvenirs on Attu, cemetery location on Attu, pictures of building the dock at Shemya, using Euclid trucks to build a breakwater at Shemya, storm taking out the breakwater audio / transcript
  9. Seeing the airplanes head off on missions to Paramushiro in the morning, asphault plant on Shemya, short field landing technique for B-24 landing on uncompleted Shemya runway, getting buzzed in the ship by a low flying PBY, getting buzzed by a B-25 in the ship that took off part of the mast audio / transcript

Did You Know?

Photograph of Japanese pilots before the raid on Dutch Harbor, 6 June 1942

When the Japanese invaded the islands of Attu and Kiska in June, 1942, it was the first time that an enemy occupied American soil since the War of 1812.