Dutch Harbor



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Unalaska Photo by Russ Marvin

Online as of 7 July 2005

Panoramic view - Amaknak Island and the Dutch Harbor facilities can be seen across the bay. The airport and the Grand Aleutian Hotel are also on the island. The City of Unalaska is on the left. Click on image for enlarged view.

The island of Unalaska, in the heart of the Aleutian Chain, is approximately 80 square miles in size with an elevation as high as 6,680 feet at the top of Makushin Volcano. The Port of Dutch Harbor, which is part of the City of Unalaska, is located on Amaknak Island and is connected to Unalaska by bridge. The current day population of the City of Unalaska is about 4,300. 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 Anchorage.

December 7th, 1941 was proclaimed to be a day that would live in infamy by then President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, as a result of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Hawaii of course isn't  connected to nor is it physically part of the contiguous 48 States. The attack on Pearl Harbor thus presented itself to Americans living on the "mainland" as an event that took place in a somewhat detached and remote location, given that Hawaii is located some 2,400 miles to the west of San Francisco by air.

 Dutch Harbor Photo by Ian Beaton, 1943
Click on image for enlarged view

On the 3rd and 4th of June, 1942, six months after the attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, they attacked and bombed the port of Dutch Harbor. Now, Dutch Harbor, being around 792 miles from Anchorage, AK, is a little closer to home. You'd think that the mainland Americans would be outraged, concerned to the maximum extent...but given that American soil was attacked directly by the Japanese, and that this was seen as a demoralizing factor, the military clamped down on any news reporting of this event. Little was known at the time in the lower 48 about this attack on Dutch Harbor.

According to Admiral James S. Russell, USN (ret.), Commander, VP-42, Dutch Harbor, these attacks were but small parts of a large overall plan to take the Central Pacific island of Midway (located 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu), draw the U.S. Pacific Fleet into a decisive battle at sea, and to occupy the outer islands of the Aleutian Chain. Almost concurrently with attacks on Dutch Harbor, the western-most Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska were captured and occupied by Japanese forces on the 6th and 7th of June of 1942.

Ken Claypool and PBY Crew, Fall of 1944

Dutch Harbor, fall of 1944. Back Row (L to R) Lt. Furgeson 1st Pilot, Lt. Juliana PPC, Ens Gonska Navigator. Front Row (L to R) Robert Siebels ARM, Shafer AMM, W.D. Glendinning AMM, Ken Claypool AOM, Brookover ARM. Crew placed on inshore patrol duty at Dutch Harbor after flying patrols out of Attu for five months straight. (Courtesy Ken Claypool)

For a comprehensive read regarding the events as they unfolded at Dutch Harbor, be sure to check Norman Rourke's book, "War Comes To Alaska...The Dutch Harbor Attack, June 3-4, 1942." Also, additional reading material can be found on our Bibliography Page.

Online since 7 July 2005