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.


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 showing the Pacific ocean and routes of prisoners, taken from Attu to Japan, then returning to America
The routes depict the path of Attu residents, taken from Attu to Japan as prisoners during World War II, and then returning to America via a convoluted path.

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.

map of Alaska depicting routes from Aleutian Islands to Southeast Alaska
Routes depicted show the forced removal of Aleutian Islanders to Southeast Alaska, and their eventual return
map of Southeast Alaska
Routes depicting the relocation of Aleutian Islanders. Detailed views of each relocation area can be found below.
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.

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: February 22, 2019

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