Understanding Forcible Removal Through Maps

For most people, the Aleutians are a far-away place. Maps help you visualize the places and distances involved in far-away stories.

In the story of the Aleutians theater during World War II, there is a central theme - people being forcibly removed from their homes. Japanese forces took some islanders back to Japan, as prisoners of war, while American forces removed other islanders to Southeast Alaska. Use the sequence of maps below to better understand the scope of this story, and learn more about the evacuation and internment of the Unangax̂ people.

Imprisonment

After invading Attu, Japanese forces took the islanders to Japan as prisoners. Their ordeal lasted several years as they traveled the entire width of the Pacific Ocean.

 
Map of US, Alaska, and USSR with red arrows indicating residents' movement during World War II from Attu to Japan, and yellow arrows after from Japan to San Francisco, Tacoma, Dutch Harbor, and Atka from 1945-1946.
Map of US, Alaska, and USSR with red arrows (during World War II) moving from Attu (Sept 14, 1942) to Kiska (1 week) to Otaru (Sept 28, 1942 to Sept 17, 1945 to Chitose Airbase (Saporro-Sept 20, 1945). Yellow arrows (after World War II) move from the airbase to Atsugi Airbase (Tokyo Sept 21, 1945) to Okinawa (3 week stay) to Manila (Oct 15-20, 1945) to San Francisco (1 week, Nov 3, 1945) to Tacoma and Seattle (1 month, Nov 20 1945) to Dutch Harbor, Unalaska and Atka in early 1946.

NPS with projection WGS 1984 Web Mercator Auxiliary Sphere. Base image from World Shaded Relief Map compiled by ESRI ArcGIS Online and Data Partners.

 

Evacuation and Internment

With the supposed goal of protecting the Unangax̂ (Aleut) people, the American military forced nearly 900 villagers to move from their homes in the Aleutian Islands to Southeast Alaska, a journey of a thousand miles. The military burned their villages, to prevent the Japanese from finding any resources that might aid their war effort. The Unangax̂ spent years in living in makeshift, poor-quality camps in Southeast Alaska before being returned to the Aleutians; and even then, some were not permitted to return to their former villages.

 
Large map showing colorful arrows indicating removal and relocation of Unangax people during and after World War II.
Unangax̂ people were forcibly removed from their homes, first by the Japanese, and then the Americans. Purple arrows leave Attu (42 to Kiska on Yoku Maru, 9-14-1942). From Kiska 41 were taken to Japan on Osada Maru, late Sept 1942. Red arrows leave Atka & take 21 people in Navy planes 6-15-42 to Dutch Harbor (DH), and 62 people on USS Hulbert to Nikolski and then Dutch Harbor. Red arrows leave St Paul (294) and St George (477 people) for Dutch Harbor, and continue to Funter Bay (560 people on

SS Delarof 6-17 to 24-42). Blue arrow from DH (160 ppl on SS Columbia 7-6 to 13-42) to Wrangell Institute (WI). Brown arrow from DH (111 ppl to WI on SS Alaska 7-26-42). Blue & purple return arrows of 350 ppl on USAT David W. Branch Apr and Dec 1945.

 
Close up of relocation camps with red, blue, and brown arrows with boat names and dates.
Routes depicting the relocation of Aleutian Islanders. Detailed views of each relocation area can be found below. Red arrow (SS Delarof June 17-24, 1942) goes to Funter Bay, Funter Mine, and Killisnoo. Blue arrow (SS Columbia July 6-13, 1942) goes to Wrangell Institute and then Ward Lake. Brown arrow (SS Alaska July 26, 1942) goes to Wrangell Institute and then Ward Lake.

NPS

 
map of islands
Burnett Inlet Cannery, roughly 30 miles south of the village of Wrangell, became home to many Unangax̂ refugees.

Burnett Inlet

A disused cannery became home in Burnett Inlet. Food shortages and dreadful conditions awaited the unlucky internees.

 
map of islands
Internment site Killisnoo, near the village of Angoon in Southeast Alaska.

Killisnoo

Accustomed to living in a world without trees, one open to the expansive sky, the Unangax̂ suddenly found themselves crowded under the dense, shadowed canopy of the Southeast rainforest. For two years they would remain in these dark places, struggling to survive.

 
map of islands
Funter Bay is located in Southeast Alaska near Juneau.

Funter Bay

Like in Burnett Inlet, evacuees taken to Funter Bay lived in poor conditions. A disused cannery and old mine became home for them, and buildings often lacked heat, water, electricity - even doors.

 
map of islands
Not far from Ketchikan, Ward Lake served as the southern-most internment camp, or "duration village."

Ward Lake

Though taken so far from their homes, and kept in poor quality "duration villages" during the war, the Unangax̂ remained patriotic and loyal to the United States of America.

 

By 1945, as hostilities came to an end, the Unangax̂ resettled many of their former villages. Some of those villages remain empty, however, no longer a home after the forced removal of villagers.

 

Learn more about forcible removal during World War II

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    Last updated: May 19, 2022

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