1. Look at a globe or world map and find the
2. Locate the longitude on the eastern side of
3. Locate the latitude that runs north of Vancouver Island in
4. Follow the longitude north from NZ and the latitude west from
This is the Aleutian Chain, a string of islands stretching 1300 miles towards the
As the saying goes,
It may as well have been the end of the earth for the men stuck on the island in 1943. While their fellow soldiers were flying bombing missions over
So why care about two or three God-forsaken islands out in the middle of nowhere, with abominable weather conditions, and with only a few Aleut natives living there?
Aleut cemetery on Amchitka.
This is what General Billy Mitchell said to Congress in 1935: “I believe that whoever holds
Artillery mount along the coastline.
And so the U.S. Army set up bases at Adak and other islands closer to the mainland, and scouted
Hydrant for water supply.
Fifty miles away was the
Kiska is at the far left.
GIs ill-equipped for the horrendous conditions dug in as best they could. Quonset huts were erected for quarters.
Enterprising young men built fireplaces of rock to warm them, but no trees grew on the island for firewood. Wooden pipes carried water across the tundra. The northern end of the island was a place of steep mountains and from there, on rare days of good weather, the occupied
As time went on, they built a chapel and an officer’s club.
The South Hanger. Photo taken from Reeve Aleutian Airways plane.
A year and a half later,
Another view of Officer's Club and what were thought to be the only trees on the island. They were planted by GIs.
Now, in this month of November when we honor our veterans, when the few remaining survivors of the Alaska Territorial Guard have had to fight Congress for retention of their pittance of a pension, when our country is involved in two wars, and facing far-reaching decisions about troop strength and goals, I think about all the forgotten soldiers and veterans of the Aleutian campaign. Many Americans don’t even know our country was invaded and occupied. Fewer still know what brutal conditions the GIs endured.
Recently, while checking the
“Am I worth fighting for?”
I think about that a lot as young men go off to war and never come home again. I think about the principles on which our country was founded, and how terrible fragile our country was for many years after it declared its independence from an absentee landlord. I consider the Bill of Rights, the Civil War when along with the question of states’ rights, our country chose a path of freedom for all men rather than slavery. I remember the many wars our nation has fought in foreign countries. Maybe we didn’t always go to battle for the right reasons, or maybe not.
Still, young men and now young women go, and they fight for democracy, our country, and for you and me. Am I worth it? Am I worth fighting for? Am I living my life in such a manner as to make it worth someone fighting for, maybe dying for? I ask myself that question every day, and then I strive to do the very best I can.
(to be continued)