World War II Battles at Amaknak and Umnak Islands
World War II came to Alaska with the Japanese bombing of Dutch Harbor on Amaknak Island on June 3 and 4, 1942. Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and Fort Mears, U.S. Army is one of eight historic landmarks that commemorate World War II in Alaska.
Commissioned in September 1941, Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and Fort Mears were the first bases the Japanese attacked during the Aleutian campaign on June 3 and 4, 1942. The first flight of Japanese fighters arrived over the island at 5:45am, followed five minutes later by bombers. Fourteen bombs fell on Fort Mears, destroying five buildings, killing 25 soldiers, and wounding 25 more. A second strike caused no damage; but a third damaged the radio station and killed one sailor and one soldier. Late on the afternoon of June 4th, a force of nine fighters and seventeen bombers struck. They hit the 3,000-ton S.S. Northwestern, a beached vessel near Dutch Harbor dock that served as housing for civilian workers. The vessel caught fire and was destroyed, as was an adjacent warehouse. A bomb hit a naval gun emplacement, killing four men; and another destroyed an army gun, leaving two dead and two wounded. Four new steel fuel tanks and 22,000 barrels of oil, a month's supply for Dutch Harbor, were destroyed. A naval hangar, still under construction, had a big hole punched through its roof and a Catalina PBY inside was damaged. The total death for the two-day attack was 43 and another 50 were wounded.
The United States had recently completed an airfield, Fort Glenn on Umnak Island, and its aircraft were anticipating the Japanese attack. On June 3rd, however, communications difficulties between the two islands resulted in Umnak being unaware of the attack until after the enemy planes had returned to the carrier. Later in the day, Umnak's P-40 fighters intercepted two Japanese reconnaissance planes, and shot one of them down. On the raid of the 4th, eight P-40s from Fort Glenn met them, shooting down four with a loss of two of their own. During the two-day battle eleven Japanese planes were shot down. Five Army aircraft and six Navy Catalina PBYs were also lost. After the two-day attack on Dutch Harbor the carriers sailed west, to a point off Kiska Island to protect their forces who were landing there.
Learn More About WWII in Alaska
World War II had a major impact on Alaska. At the height of the War more than 100,000 American and Canadian soldiers were stationed in Alaska. Alaska's infrastructure grew immensely as a result. Roads, ports, and airfields were improved or constructed to facilitate the transportation of troops and supplies. An impact that many people are unaware of is the forced evacuation of the Native population of the Aleutian Islands by Japanese and American forces.
- The Aleutian Campaign
- WWII in Alaska: A Resource Guide, 2013
- Aleutian pilot Bill Thies interview - finding the Akutan Zero
- Harrel Chancellor Remembers the Attack on Dutch Harbor
- Lost Villages of the Eastern Aleutians
- National Register of Historic Places - Official Nomination Form
- More National Historic Landmarks in Alaska