Neil Fugate

Older man and woman open a present
Neil Fugate and his wife celebrating his 95th birthday in 2015.

Photo courtesy of Neil Fugate

Neil Luther Fugate entered military service in September 1941. He was sent to Fort Leavenworth, KS for induction and then to San Diego, CA for training in the coastal artillery. He was not able to deploy with his unit after training as his barracks was under medical quarantine at the time. Instead, he was sent to the Aleutian Islands in January 1942 as part of the build up there in anticipation of a Japanese attack.

In Alaska, his woodworking and building skills were put to immediate use as he was given the responsibility to organize a building crew and workshop. Within a year, he was promoted to Technical Sergeant. The soldiers in the workshop produced everything from small functional items to officer's quarters. Neil Fugate was stationed at Dutch Harbor, Alaska for 38 months. While on leave in Missouri to see his new son in early 1945, he was notified that he had enough service points for release from active duty. He left the U.S. Army in May 1945 at the rank of Master Sergeant.

Learn about Neil's service in Alaska by browsing his extensive collection of photos, reading some of his short anecdotes, or downloading a transcript (accessible PDF 137KB) of Neil talking with his son about his life and time in Alaska.

 
 
Portrait of a young man in uniform

Chauffeuring for a Colonel
One evening, one of the colonels ordered the young soldier Fugate to drive him to another part of Dutch Harbor where he could buy tobacco, drink, and play poker with other officers. They had to detour around a dredging and rock crushing operation along the bay.

The rock crusher itself sat in the road as it was the only flat spot around. The conveyor belt carrying the material from the bay went from the edge of the water to the crusher. The road detoured off the road, down to the gravel beach and back up to the road again. Road traffic passed underneath the conveyor belt.

When they got to the location [of the evening game], the colonel told Fugate to wait for him, to go to sleep in a nearby (and as yet mostly unoccupied) building. That he would wake him up when he wanted to go back to camp. Fugate went to bed and later on that night was shaken awake by a somewhat drunk colonel who was anxious to get him up and going. It seems Neil was sleeping in another colonel's (Col Robinson) bed (who was also on his way back from the poker game). The first colonel helped Fugate get his clothes and boots on so they could hurry out of there. Off they went.

When they got back to the rock crusher, over the bank they went on the detour but this time the tide was in and they drove into three feet of seawater that had covered the beach. The colonel got pretty wet. He told Fugate, "when we get back, get those #*#*# lights fixed!" In fact, Neil didn't know where the light switch was. They were driving under "blackout" conditions and had the lights been on, just a slit of light would have been allowed.

 
An Honest Answer for the General
The garrison at Dutch Harbor got a general early in the war. When news of his arrival came, the camp commander tried to get together a welcoming party and troops to inspect. Unfortunately, there were very few people with complete uniforms so it was only two rows with about a half dozen soldiers in each row that stood in formation for the general's inspection. He asked the usual questions and when he got to Neil, he asked him how he liked duty in Alaska. Neil answered that he "didn't like it one damn bit."

Some months later, Neil was working on the roof of a building used for officer's quarters when a staff jeep came up the road from camp. The quarters were up on a hillside above Dutch Harbor. Out of the car came a driver and the general as before. As he approached the house, the general looked up, recognized him, and asked Neil if he liked the army any better now than before. Neil replied, "No, Sir."

Last updated: November 16, 2017

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