SHEMYA, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, AK The “Black Pearl” of the Aleutians
Until 1995, if you happened to be in the U. S. military, worked for the U.S. government, or were a DoD contractor, you could have won an all expense paid vacation to Shemya, Alaska. This would include round trip air fare, shelter, and three square meals a day thrown in for good measure. Shemya is located near the western end of the Aleutian chain, 1,259.2 nautical miles away from Anchorage, Alaska (see map). The island of Attu is 34.8 nautical miles NW from Shemya, while Agattu is just off to the west and can be seen from Shemya on a clear day. On March 31st, 1995, after 50 years of being a haven for U.S. military and military support personnel, Shemya was turned over to caretaker status to be operated by the DoD contractor firm PMC. The Island is now a strategic refueling stop for military aircraft as well as link in the United State's long-range early warning radar system. Active duty military personnel would receive anywhere from a 1-year remote duty assignment on the Rock to a 4 year tour in Anchorage with frequent visits to the Rock, while contractor personnel would receive varying length assignments, usually no longer than a year. This of course, was the scenario after the war. The Japanese occupied Attu island as well as several others in the Aleutian chain during WWII. For an interesting read, check out the book titled "The Thousand Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians" by Brian Garfield. It appears that more men and equipment were lost to mother nature's rage than to the physical fighting between warring sides! While cruising the 'net one day, I wondered if some obscure place like Shemya would have a web page...certainly the folks on the Island would have adequate time on their hands to do something creative like a web page...and cranked up the search engines to see what was available. Sure enough, true to form, the web offered up several hits on "Shemya," however, none originated from the Island. To help fill the void, I created this web site in 1996. To see a collection of pictures of post-war life on Shemya, click on the "Post-WWII" menu link above. Click on the "WWII" menu link to see how folks lived during the war, and visit the Shemya Mailbag menu link under “Features.” The "Links" menu item will take you to both internal and external links to pertinent Shemya info. To learn a little history of Shemya, click on the "book" icons below. If you missed the ominous clouds over the picture of Shemya at the top of the page, click on it and you can see the weather Shemya’s experiencing. Oh, by the way, if you've got a sound card, turn up the volume and listen to the waves...sounds like the northwestern side of the island during high seas...hear the rocks rolling around?
Badges, Patches, and Symbols of Shemya, AK