The Lands of 50 mph Fog
Adak was one of the most populated of the Aleutian Islands during
WWII, which also became a major base for the U. S. Navy after WWII.
The movie "Report from the Aleutians," a WWII Documentary
directed by John Huston, shows fairly well the daily routine
experienced by the GIs living on Adak at that time. The movie also
includes a segment where you can view the war effort from a B-24 as
you "ride along" on Kiska bombing runs (you can find this movie on
our Bibliography page).
Amchitka, so named by the Aleuts who've inhabited the Aleutian
Islands for at least 9000 years, is one of the North Pacific Aleutian
Chain's Rat Islands. It is located approximately 1340 miles west
southwest from Anchorage, Alaska, and 870 miles east of
Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka, of the Russian Far East. It is 35 miles
long, and almost 3 miles wide. Early Russians referred to this island
as Ostrov Amchitka. WWII saw significant activity on Amchitka as U.
S. Forces moved west down the Aleutian chain to recover the islands
of Attu and Kiska.
Attu is the westernmost piece of American territory andthe largest
island in the Aleutian Islands' "Near Islands" grouping. It is nearly
1,100 miles from the Alaskan mainland and 750 miles northeast of
the northernmost of Russia's Kurile Islands, and 4,800 miles from
Washington DC! Attu is about 20 by 35 miles in size,the highest
elevation being 2,946'(Attu Mountain), and until 1 August 2010 was
the home of a small number of U. S. Coastguard personnel operating
a LORAN station. Attu was occupied on 6 June 1942 by the Japanese
and was the site of some of the bloodiest fighting during WWII,
second only to Iwo Jima. The battle for Attu began on 11 May 1943
and ended on 30 May 1943.
The island of Unalaska, part of the Fox Island grouping of islands
along the Aleutian chain, consists of 111 square miles of land and
101 square miles of water. The highest elevation of 5,691 feet can be
found on the island at the top of Makushin Volcano, which is not
visible from the town of Unalaska. The Port of Dutch Harbor, which is
part of the City of Unalaska, is located on Amaknak Island which is
connected to Unalaska by a bridge. Unalaska’s population was 4,376
according to the 2010 U. S. Census. The population triples between
August and May due to the arrival of commercial fisherman.
Unalaska is approximately 792 miles by air south and west of
Kiska is an island in the Rat Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of
Alaska. It is about 22 miles (35 km) long and varies in width from 1.5
to 6 miles (2.4 to 9.7 km). It is part of Aleutian Islands Wilderness and
as such, special permissions are required to visit it. The island has
no permanent population.
Kodiak is the primary community located on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
The 2020 census indicates a population of 5,581 citizens. Originally
inhabited by the Alutiiq natives for over 7,000 years (some say 9,000
years!), the community was settled in the 18th century by subjects of
the Russian crown and became the capital of Russian Alaska.
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
Umnak is part of the "Fox" islands grouping, southwest of mainland
Alaska in the Aleutian chain. It is the third largest of the Aleutian
islands, having a land mass of around 675 square miles. At this time
in it's history, Umnak supported about 50 Aleut residents, about
15,000 sheep, and a heard of imported reindeer. Umnak has no
natural harbor, supports no trees, and is very mountainous. There
were serious doubts that a runway could in fact be constructed here.
General Buckner solved the runway problem by importing to Umnak
3,000,000 square feet of Marsden Matting, perforated-steel plating
(PSP) that could be assembled with other steel plates to create a flat
surface upon which aircraft could take off and land. On March 31st,
1942 the 807th had completed the 3,000 by 100 foot runway on
Umnak for use by Jack Chenault's P-40 fighter aircraft
On occasion we get also get nifty photos of other sites around
Alaska. The lucky few to experience living on one of these
miscellaneous sites share much in common with those in the
Aleutians, most notably the isolation from the rest of humanity. This
is the beginning of links to these sites as well.Murphy Dome is one
such site. I learned about the Dome from Walt Pate, a former
supervisor who was stationed there in 1963.
In 1996 I created the original Shemya website as part of an effort to learn how to build websites. As soon as I posted the Shemya
website, WWII veterans who managed to find their way to the site asked, wondered, requested additional pages to be
constructed using material they had accumulated from their tours of duty during and after WWII*. The second island, Attu,
evolved from that original beginning. The other islands soon followed, with individuals sharing their material with me which has
resulted in an interesting collection of stories, photos, and experiences. I thank all who’ve contributed over the past years to this
Last Update: 6 Dec 2021
Current Update: 03/12/2022 09:46