Many of the objects, quotes, and information in the visitor center came directly from Aleutian residents and World War II veterans who have shepherded this project along from the beginning. Exhibits on the Aleutian Campaign and the evacuation and internment of the Unangax̂ (Aleut) people are on display on the lower level of the Aerology Building. The radio room uptairs in the has been reconstructed from 1940s photographs to look as it did during World War II.
The visitor center regularly shows World War II-era films in its 1940s-style theatre, including "Report from the Aleutians" and "Alaska at War."
Take a virtual tour of the building and exhibits.
All self-guided driving tours for Aleutian Islands World War II National Historic Area begin at the visitor center.
About the Aerology Building
The Aerology Building is one of the most intact and architecturally significant World War II buildings in the Aleutian Islands. Built in 1943 by the Navy, it is a Loxstave frame building. Loxstave buildings, an early form of prefabricated construction, are rare. The Aerology building is nationally significant as a contributing feature to the Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and Fort Mears, U.S. Army National Historic Landmark (NHL) designated in 1985.
During World War II, the upstairs of the building housed meteorological equipment used to provide navy pilots and ship captains with weather forecasts, including information on wind speed and direction, impending storms, and the height of ocean swells. The Naval Air Transport Service operated on the first floor. The building served as the central station from which to monitor the unpredictable and harsh weather of Aleutians. Not all aerographers worked in Dutch Harbor--many were stationed on outlying islands to provide accurate weather information.
Windows on the octagonal upper floor allowed radio operators a 360-degree view of Mount Ballyhoo to the north, Dutch Harbor to the east, the airfield to the west, and Fort Mears and Unalaska Bay to the southeast. After the naval base was decommissioned, the City of Unalaska used the Aerology Operations Building as an airport terminal until 1985.
The unique 1940s terrazzo flooring with the insignia of the Naval Air Transport Service was designed by Armand Rizan, a Seabee and artisan from New Orleans whose family had a long tradition in this art form. He used all local materials and labor and also designed the other terrazzo currently on display at the Museum of the Aleutians. In the 1990s, his son came back to the Aleutians to see his father's work.
The National Park Service, in cooperation with the land owner, Ounalashka Corporation, has restored the exterior of the Aerology Operations Building to its original 1940s-era appearance, and rehabilitated the interior as an interpretive center. The Aleutian World War II Visitors Center was dedicated in July 2002.