Like precarious stepping stones, the Aleutian Islands span the seas between the New and Old Worlds - reaching westward from the Alaska Peninsula to within 500 miles of the Asian peninsula of Kamchatka (in Russia). Situated between the Bearing Sea and the Pacific Ocean, along the seam of the Pacific and American geologic plates, this 1,100 mile long archipelago has been, and continues to be, the locus of climatic and tectonic events.

During World War II the remote Aleutian Islands, home to the Unangax̂ (Aleut) people for over 8,000 years, became a fiercely contested battleground in the Pacific. This thousand-mile-long archipelago saw invasion by Japanese forces, the occupation of two islands; a mass relocation of Unangax̂ civilians; a 15-month air war; and one of the deadliest battles in the Pacific Theater.

map of Aleutian Island Chain with military locations highlighted
A section of the larger Aleutian Islands Chain, the Andreanof Islands included Adak Island, where Army and Naval bases were located. The Rat Islands (named for the invasive rats shipwrecked there) include Kiska Island, which the Japanese occupied in 1942-1943.

Maps of Forcible Removal

For most people, the Aleutians are a far-away place. Maps help you visualize the places and distances involved in far-away stories. Learn about the forcible removal of the Unangax̂ (Aleut) people through maps.

The Iron Ring

The many strategically placed observation outposts and defense fortifications constructed along the coastlines of Amaknak and Unalaska islands during World War II formed what was known as the “Iron Ring.” Explore some of the fortifications of the Iron Ring by car or foot.


Last updated: January 18, 2024

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