Al Gentle

Al Gentle joined the US Navy in 1941 in Birmingham Alabama and served significant time at NTS Norfolk, VA, NTS San Diego, CA, NAS Alameda, CA, and at Adak, Attu and Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands. He was discharged in 1946. During his tour he received the America Defense Service Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with star, Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

Read Al's remembrance of Pearl Harbor and his introduction to World War II.
composite image of Al Gentle from the 1940s, in uniform, and in more recent years

Courtesy Gentle


Download a complete transcript Al Gentle's interview from February, 2011.


Al Gentle also saved a number of editions of the Harbor News, a newspaper published roughly each week in the Aleutian Islands for servicemen to keep abreast of the larger war effort.

multi-generational family surrounding two elderly individuals with signs and balloons
Al Gentle's family celebrates his experiences in WWII during an 'Honor Flight'

Photo courtesy Al Gentle


Al Gentle remembers Pearl Harbor

My abrupt introduction to WWII

I remember that Sunday morning vividly, Decemeber 7, 1941- I was an 18 year-old Seaman first class in the Regular Navy having enlisted under a Minority Enlistment (17) in June 1941 as a graduate of West End High School in Birmingham, Alabama.

At the time I was in a U.S. Navy Communications School at the Naval Training Station in San Diego, California studying radio operating. I was partially dressed, sitting on my bunk, reading the newspaper, and waiting to go to mass when the PA system blurted out "we are being attacked by the Japanese, they are bombing Pearl Harbor - EVACUATE immediately." I hurriedly finished dressing, put on my shoes, and left the barracks.

My best friend at the time, Bill Brown, and I went flying out one of the gates and headed for the hills above the base-we didn't stop running until we were about a half mile away. A very nice lady, a widow, who had a large Spanish-style house welcomed us as guests and fed us lunch. At dusk, sound trucks were circulating through the area ordering us back to base (for a meal of baloney and cheese which was our fare for several meals).

That night we were issued English Enfield rifles that had been packed in cosmoline (grease) since WWI. We were also given two bandoliers of ammunition, bayonets, and gas masks. We spent most of the night cleaning the weapons on the wash racks and at dawn left the base again- we returned to our benefactor (she had great food and desserts).

At dusk we returned to base and as ordered that second night we teamed up with a squad of U.S. marines - Bill Brown and I had a walkie-talkie radio (large pack-with whip antenna). We patrolled with the Marines the nearby beaches for several days thereafter. I went on to serve in the Pacific Theater much of it in the Aleutian Islands, primarily Dutch Harbor for the rest of the war attaining the rank of Chief Radioman USN.

Last updated: November 9, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Affiliated Areas, Alaska Regional Office
National Park Service
240 W 5th Avenue

Anchorage, AK 99501


(907) 644-3472

Contact Us