Dutch Harbor Bombing, June 1942

Many white two-story white buildings in a town, with four columns of black smoking rising from four locations.
Columns of smoke rise from buildings in Dutch Harbor. The SS Northwestern, a barracks ship and power plant, was also hit by the Japanese.

US Navy

Six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese aircraft struck at U.S. Army and Navy installations at Dutch Harbor on Amaknak Island.

The first flight of Japanese fighters arrived over the island at 5:45 am on June 3rd, 1942 followed five minutes later by bombers. Fourteen bombs fell on Fort Mears, destroying five buildings, killing 25 soldiers, and wounding 25 more. A second strike caused no damage; but a third damaged the radio station and killed one sailor and one soldier. Late on the afternoon of June 4th, a force of nine fighters and seventeen bombers struck. They hit the 3,000-ton S.S. Northwestern, a beached vessel near Dutch Harbor dock that served as housing for civilian workers. The vessel caught fire and was destroyed, as was an adjacent warehouse. A bomb hit a naval gun emplacement, killing four men; and another destroyed an army gun, leaving two dead and two wounded. Four new steel fuel tanks and 22,000 barrels of oil, a month's supply for Dutch Harbor, were destroyed. A naval hangar, still under construction, had a big hole punched through its roof and a Catalina PBY inside was damaged. The total death for the two-day attack was 43 and another 50 were wounded.

The United States had recently completed an airfield, Fort Glenn on Umnak Island, and its aircraft were anticipating the Japanese attack. On June 3rd, however, communications difficulties between the two islands resulted in Umnak being unaware of the attack until after the enemy planes had returned to the carrier. Later in the day, Umnak's P-40 fighters intercepted two Japanese reconnaissance planes, and shot one of them down. On the raid of the 4th, eight P-40s from Fort Glenn met them, shooting down four with a loss of two of their own. During the two-day battle eleven Japanese planes were shot down. Five Army aircraft and six Navy Catalina PBYs were also lost. After the two-day attack on Dutch Harbor the carriers sailed west, to a point off Kiska Island to protect their forces who were landing there.


Seventy-five years later, on June 2-4, 2017, a remarkable three-day event in Unalaska commemorated the intertwined but very different stories of the military campaign and Unangax̂ evacuation. This notable gathering included eight WWII veterans and 31 evacuees returning to the Aleutians from all over the United States. Some of the evacuees had remained in the Aleutians, including nine who lived in Unalaska, and six from the Pribilof Islands. It was a wonderful and powerful time of learning, peace and healing.

The Center of Military History (US Army) published US Army Campaigns of World War II: Aleutian Islands in 2019, which is a good resource for additional information on the Aleutian Campaign, beginning with the attack on Dutch Harbor and ending with the retaking of Attu and Kiska in 1943.

 
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    Stories from People Stationed in Dutch Harbor

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      The rusted and scorched hulk of the bombed barracks ship Northwestern is part of the Dutch Harbor scene as is the whirling snow shipped up by constant williwaw, the eccentric and unpredictable winds of the Aleutians. At the extreme left is a cargo ship.
      William Draper painted this scene of Dutch Harbor after the bombing. The rusted and scorched hulk of the bombed barracks ship Northwestern is part of the Dutch Harbor scene as is the whirling snow shipped up by constant williwaw, the eccentric and unpredictable winds of the Aleutians. At the extreme left a cargo ship unloads at dock.

      US Navy/ William F. Draper

      Last updated: June 3, 2022

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