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  • Writer's pictureLynn Lovegreen

Memorial Day in Alaska

Updated: May 28

Alaskans celebrate Memorial Day like many other Americans. For some of us, it's especially poignant. Alaska has several military posts and bases, and is the state with the highest percentage of veterans.

My family came to Alaska because my dad was stationed at Fort Richardson just outside of Anchorage. (It's now part of JBER, Joint Base Elmendorf-Rcihardson.) Luckily for me, my parents fell in love with Alaska and Dad retired here, so I got to grow up in Alaska.

Enough about me--back to Memorial Day. It's also an important day here because Alaska was invaded during World War II. On June 3-4, 1942, the Japanese military bombed Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island, killing 43 American soldiers and sailors and wounding 50. While the U. S. had started to build its defense of Alaska, much more had to be done. They created airstrips and bases and thousands of military personnel served and many died in the territory. And in one of the worst tragedies of our history, hundreds of indigenous Unangax residents were shipped off to primitive internment camps in Southeast Alaska. Many died there, and some were not allowed to return to their villages. The war changed Alaska forever.

Bunker and ruin of old building on Ballyhoo Mountain, Unalaska

Today, the Aleutian Islands World War II National Historic Area preserves the history in the Dutch Harbor/Unalaska area. Bunkers, gun emplacements, and other structures show how the Americans defended the island and the Aleutian Islands in general. Learn more at the NPS website at

I'm thinking of all who served and gave their life for our country today. May you have a reflective, peaceful Memorial Day.

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