Things To Do
Walk through the Past
The Aleutian World War II National Historic Area follows the historic footprint of the U.S. Army Fort Schwatka, located at Ulakta Head on Mount Ballyhoo. Named for Lt. Frederick Schwatcka, the fort is one of four coastal defense posts built in 1942 and 1943 to protect the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base. Lt. Schwatcka conducted several military surveys in Alaska in the 1880s, including in Unalaska.
Visitors to the area may explore the remaining structures and ruins of Fort Schwatka, and sense the scope of the war effort mounted in the Aleutians to protect the United States from the Japanese invasion. There are also opportunities for self-led driving tours on Amaknak and Unalaska Islands.
Built to Last
The army built over a hundred buildings at Fort Schwatka. At 897 feet above sea level, the installations on Mount Ballyhoo were the highest coastal defenses in the United States. Engineers designed the concrete observation posts and command stations to withstand earthquakes and 100 mile-per-hour winds.
The fort overlooks Dutch Harbor and was key to its protection. Although many of the bunkers and wooden structures of Fort Schwatka have collapsed, the gun mounts and lookouts are among the most intact of their era in the country.
Did You Know?
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.