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When "Over There" Was Here: World War II in Alaska
Kiska: A WWII Battlefield Landscape

May 4 - October 13, 2012

War Comes to Alaska

Many people find it surprising to learn that a significant chapter of World War II, including bombardments and strafing by enemy aircraft, the capture of land by enemy ground forces, and large scale amphibious invasions with heavy loss of life, occurred on United States soil in the Territory of Alaska. This exhibit presents an overview of this sad chapter in American history, often called "The Forgotten War."

With war with the Japanese Empire on the horizon, the U.S. Government began building up its military forces in Alaska even before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In a move affiliated with the Battle of Midway, the Japanese attacked Dutch Harbor and forcibly occupied Attu and Kiska Islands in the Aleutians. The invasion was intended to divert the U.S. Navy from the central Pacific, prevent the Americans from attacking the Japanese Home Islands from Alaska, and gain a psychological advantage by occupying American soil.

Allied forces, aided by the Alaska Territorial Guard, drove out the Japanese following a year of bombing raids and two major amphibious assaults. Subsequently, as the Japanese had feared, the Americans used the Aleutians to launch bombing raids against northern Japan, forcing them to devote troops and weapons to protect their Home Islands and drawing them away from the defense of conquered lands in the South Pacific.

For Alaska, WWII thrust many of its citizens from the 19th century into the 20th in terms of their way of life. Their isolation from the rest of the world was permanently broken, for better or worse. The facilities and infrastructure built in support of the war effort—buildings, ports, airstrips, and the Alaska Highway—would continue to serve Alaska’s civilian population long after the cessation of hostilities.

Invasion craft unload supplies on beach at Kiska Harbor, August 1943

Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, ASL-p430-33

The Old Razzle Dazzle: Camouflage at Sea

Many warships, including the U.S.S. Alaska, featured an unusual form of camouflage called "Razzle Dazzle." First developed during WWI, the patterns broke up the silhouette and concealed its speed and course of surface ships from German submarines. Early in WWII, the technique was abandoned, as aircraft had become the main threat, and from the air, Razzle Dazzle actually made the ships more visible. In WWII, once Japanese airpower was nullified and sub attack was once again a primary concern, the technique made resurgence—to the chagrin of some of the officers, who didn't consider the abstract patterning "shipshape." Some of the walls of the gallery are painted to suggest this unusual camouflage. Photo by Scott Carrlee

Arms and Equipment of the Imperial Japanese Army Recovered on Attu and Kiska, Aleutian Islands, 1943

Field Parka and Helmet

Gift of Capt. Paul R. Tielk, III-O-175 and 2003-24-3

Field Parka and Fur Hat

Gifts of Private Pablo Valderrama and Capt. Paul R. Tielk, U.S. Army, III-O-174 and 175

Barracks Stove

Gift of J. Simpson (Sim) MacKinnon, 1965, III-O-364

Imperial Japanese Flag


Infantry Field Gun

Gift of General Simon Bolivar Buckner, U.S. Army, 1944, III-O-191

Light Machine Gun, Japanese Type 96

Gift of the United States Army, 1944, III-O-183

Rifle, Model 99 and Bayonet

Gift of J. Simpson MacKinnon and Friends of the Alaska State Museum, III-O-240 and 2010-29-1

Equipment of the United States Navy and Coast Guard Used in Alaska 1941- 1945

Cap and Dress Jumper

United States Coast Guard 2004-70-1

Cap and Dress Blouse

United States Navy, Loan Courtesy Juneau Douglas City Museum

Barracks Box


Shell Housing for Anti-Aircraft Ammunition

U.S. Navy. Gift of Bruce Kato, 99-13-1

Arms and Equipment of the United States Army Used in Alaska 1941- 1945

Field Parka and Helmet

U.S. Army, TD2012 and Loan, Alaska Veterans Museum

Field Parka Shell

U.S. Army. Gift of Jean Bull, 2004-69-1

Dress Uniform Jacket and Garrison Cap

U.S. Army, Alaska Defense Command. Gift of Caren Pauley, 2009-4-9, 98-44-4

Dress Uniform Jacket and Hat

U.S. Army Air Corps, 2005-17-1 & 2

Rifle, M-1 Garand and Bayonet

U.S. Army, Springfield Armory, .30 caliber. Loan Courtesy Ed Lenard


U.S. Army, 2008-29-1

Duffle Bag

U.S. Army, TD2012


U.S. Army, 2003-4-1

Five Sullivan Brothers, They Did Their Part


Soldiers laying down the metal runway (Marsden Mat) at Adak in 1942


U.S. Army Snowshoes


Housing for Anti-Aircraft Ammunition

Gift of Bruce Kato, 1999, 99-13-1

Welcome Mat

Gift of Rear Admiral Jack M. Howel, 1989, III-O-1042

U.S. Army Duffle Bag


On the Home Front

Balloon Fragments

Gift of Al Zenger and Mrs. David Yates, 1949, III-O-12

Rationing Coupons and Booklets


Alaska Travel Permit Application and Identification Card

Loan courtesy Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Gift of Anonymous

Air Raid Siren





Loan Courtesy Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Gift of Bertha Putzman, III-O-2


90-16-1, "Wrangell Civil Defense Police"


The Alaska Territorial Guard

At the beginning of WWII, the Alaska National Guard was federalized and sent out of the territory for active duty elsewhere. The Japanese invasion of Kiska and Attu Islands in the western Aleutians led to fears of imminent attach elsewhere in Alaska. Territorial Governor Ernest Gruening formed the Alaska Territorial Guard to protect the home front. Many Guard members were recruited in Alaska Native villages to protect their homes. C. Rusty Heurlin, a popular Alaska artist, was one of the officers involved in forming the Guard. After WWII, Territorial Guard units were absorbed by the National Guard.

Dress Uniform Jacket

Loan Courtesy University of Alaska Museum of the North. This "Eisenhower" style jacket was used by a Major of the Quartermaster Corps, Alaska Territorial Guard.

Kiska: A WWII Battlefield Landscape

In 1985, the Secretary of the Interior designated National Historic Landmark status to several significant Alaska WWII places including those located in the Aleutians on Attu, Kiska, Adak, Umnak and Amaknak islands.

About the photographs

All the photographs were taken during joint National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field visit projects to Kiska Island in 2007 and 2009. This series of photographs have been digitally dramatized by the photographer.

About the photographer

Dirk Spennemann is a Professor in Historic Preservation and Cultural Heritage Studies with the Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University at Albury (Australia). In addition to being an academic researcher, Dirk is a photographic artist who, in his recent work, aspires to interpret cultural elements through the visual arts. He has had several solo exhibitions in Alaska, Australia, and Micronesia.


This exhibit is provided by the National Park Service-Alaska Regional Office, National Historic Landmarks Program with support from the Aleutian World War II National Historic Area Program. The exhibit was developed in collaboration with the National Park Service-Alaska Regional Office (Janet Clemens) and Charles Sturt University, Albury, Australia (Dirk HR Spennemann).

(gallery photo)

(gallery photo)

Pacific theatre Aleutian Map by Dirk Spennemann

Occupation of Kiska by U.S. and Canadian forces, August 16, 1943

Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, ASL-P175-140

Attu Island howitzers, June 6, 1943

Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, ASL-P01-0874

Japanese prisoners - Attu

Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, ASL-P8-35

Insignia from U.S. Army Units Active in Alaska in World War II

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (starting top row left side). Gifts of Caren Pauley, Dewey Caudle, and Anonymous

Kiska Task Force


11th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Corps


Alaska Air Command


Alaska Support Signal Command


Alaska Defense Command


7th Infantry


Army Air Corps


Alaska Territorial Guard

Loan Courtesy Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Northwest Service Command


44th Infantry Division


10th Mountain Division


Department of Alaska


Medals and "Dog Tags"

Belonging to Raymond S. Lederman (Leran), who served with the 71st Infantry Regiment (New York State Guard), 44th Infantry Division, which saw service in the Aleutians, and Attu. Gift of Caren Pauley, 2006-4-6, 16 to 20
(left to right)

"American Campaign"

For service in the American Theater between 1941-46

"American Defense"

For service prior to Dec. 7, 1941

"World War II"

Victory Medal, issued in 1945 at the end of WWII

"Asiatic-Pacific Campaign"

For service in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, 1941-46


For good conduct

The United State Army Air Corps in Alaska


Gift of William Lee Hart, 1988, III-O-1034

Bomber Jacket Insignia

Gift of the John Warren Estate and Joanne Warren, 2007-35-1

Airman's Jacket

Loan Courtesy Museum of the Aleutians, Unalaska


Gift of Anonymous, 2010-22-5


Gift of Vernice Kirchhofer, 96-43-1

(case detail)

Lt. Henry F. Hubbard

Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, ASL-MS225-1-01

Lt. Henry Frank Hubbard (1917-1942)

Purple Heart Medal and "Dog Tags"

2005-17-6a,b & 7

Telegram and Portrait

Loan Courtesy Alaska State Library Historical Collection, MS 225

Untitled [Japanese Propaganda Poster]

Gift of the Friends of the Alaska State Museum, 2012-2

The Alaska-Canada Military Highway


"Magic Dust from the Alaska Highway (100% Pure Western Grit)," 91-46-1

Brochure and Map of the Alaska Highway

Gift of Anonymous, 92-37-3


Gift of Dawn M. Rehbach, TD2012


Gift of Elizabeth J. Jackson, 90-1-2

Hard Hat

Gift of Anonymous, 2009-19-3. Used by a civilian construction worker on the Alaska Highway, early 1940s.

Proportional Dividers

96-30-5. Used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the building the Alaska Highway.

Identification Badge

Gift of Anonymous, 2000-22-3. Used by a civilian contractor engaged in building the Alaska-Canada Military Highway. "The Utah Construction Co./1478/Alaska Military Highway"

The Daily Life of the "G.I."

Mess Kit

Gift of Anonymous, 2009-19-1


Gift of Maynard M. Miller and Anonymous, III-O-206, 207 and 2000-22-2

Prisoner of War Tag, 1942

Gift of Caren Pauley, 2009-4-1

Colt M1911 Pistol

Loan Courtesy Ed Lenard


Gift of J.S. MacKinnon, III-O-243-a

"K-Bar" Knife

Gift of Mr. Dewey Caudle, 94-13-5

Radio "Handie Talkie"

Loan courtesy of Juneau-Douglas City Museum


Gift of Anonymous, TD2012

Ski Goggles

Gift of Anonymous, 2003-13-17

Japanese Flag

Gift of Caren Pauley, 2006-4-2

German Luger Pistol

Model P.08, German Army. Loan courtesy Stewart Estate and Caleb Stewart

(case detail)

Japanese flag shown by Canadian troops on Kiska, August 1943

Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, ASL-P430-84

A Little "R & R"

Coke Bottle

Gift of Don and Carol Lieurance, 96-45-1

Yank Magazine

Gift of Anonymous, TD2012

Theatrical Program

Loan Courtesy of the Museum of the Aleutians, Unalaska


Gift of Dr. Joseph N. Cannon, III-O-164

Saki Bottle

Gift of Anonymous, TD2012

Rice Bowl, Rice Paddle and Mess Kit

Gift of Sgt. Leonard Bonine and Private Roman P. Creziskewick, III-O-161

Mortar Round

Gift of Private P. Goldberg, III-O-182

Letters from Home

Gift of Dorothy Fusik, 2009-35-4,5

"Loose Lips Sink Ships"

Gifts of Anonymous, 2001-2-2, TD 2012

Trench Art


Tobacco Tin

Gift of Dorothy Fusik, 2009-35-45

(case detail)

Life in the Imperial Japanese Army


Gift of S/Sgt. R. W. Arnold, III-O-163

Gas Mask

Gift of Arthur Winget, III-O-165


Gift of S/Sgt. Ray L. Dessens, III-O-178


Collected by T/5 Cleamon Clark, Gift of Gen. Simon Buckner, III-O-167


Gift of Anonymous, TD2012

Holtz Bay, Attu, Aleutian Islands. May 12, 1943

Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, ASL-P175-053

Mukluks and Hood

Gift of Susan E. Dunn and Thomas J. Dunn, 99-11-1 and 2

Wool Mask

Gift of Doc Swan, 2008-41-1

Forced to Leave – Aleut Relocation