Alaska, including Aleutian Islands
by Jack McKillop
Physical Description & History
The U.S. Territory of Alaska is located in the northwest of the North American continent. With an area of 656,425 square-miles (1,700,133 square-kilometers), Alaska is larger than France, Portugal, Spain and Sweden combined.
The first Europeans to land in Alaska were Russians in 1741, when Vitus Bering led an expedition for the Russian Navy. They returned to Russia with sea otter pelts and fur traders began to sail to Alaska for wealth in the fur trade. The first European settlement was established on Kodiak Island in 1784 and in 1799, the governor of Russian America established the capital of the territory at Sitka. Despite these efforts, the Russians never fully colonized Alaska, and the colony was never very profitable. U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward engineered the Alaskan purchase in 1867 for US$7.2 million (US$107.5 million in 2011 dollars) and in 1912, Alaska was granted territorial status. In 1959, Alaska became the 49th state of the United States.
The Aleutian Islands are a division of Alaska. The Aleutians are a chain of more than 300 small volcanic islands forming an island arc in the Northern Pacific Ocean, occupying an area of 6,821 square-miles (17,666 square-kilometers) and extending about 1,700-miles (2,736-kilometers) westward from the Alaska Peninsula, i.e., 163° W to 172°30' E. The five chief island groups from east to west are: Fox Islands; Islands of the Four Mountains; Andreanof Islands; Rat Islands; and Near Islands.
According to the 1 October 1939 Census, the population of Alaska was 72,524. The most populous town was Juneau, the territorial capital, with 5,729 people; other towns with a population of over 1,000 were: Ketchikan (4,695), Anchorage (3,495), Fairbanks (3,455), Sitka (1,987), Nome (1,559), Petersburg (1,323) and Wrangell (1,102).
The U.S. Navy had 25 installations in the Territory, 11 of them in the Aleutian Islands.
Adak, Naval Operating Base
Naval Operating Base Adak (NOB) (51° 52' 33"N, 176° 38' 08"W) was established on Adak Island, a 289 square-mile (749 square-kilometer) island in the central Andreanof Island group of the Aleutian Islands. The island is 30-miles (40-kilometers) long and 3- to-20-miles (4.8- to 32-kilometers) wide. Adak is located 1,198-miles (1,928-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, 445-miles (715-kilometers) west-southwest of Dutch Harbor and 432-miles (695-kilometers) east of Attu Island.
In the summer of 1942, the Army and Navy debated where to build a base halfway between Dutch Harbor and the Japanese-held Attu and Kiska Islands. Washington finally decided on Adak and the island was occupied by a U.S. Army battalion on 30 August 1942. Construction began in September 1942 by a civilian contractor for both the Army and Navy; expansion of the base began in November 1943 and it was finally completed in late 1944.
Davis Army Air Field was built for the U.S. Army Air Forces’ (USAAF) Eleventh Air Force with the first runway completed on 11 September and on the next day, 14 B-24 Liberators moved to the new base. Eventually, two runways were built, one 6,000-feet (1,829-meters) and the second 5,200-feet (1,585-meters) long; both were used by the USAAF and the U.S. Navy.
A Royal Canadian Air Force fighter squadron equipped with Kittyhawk Mk. Is operated from this base in March, April and July 1943 flying missions to Japanese-held Kiska Island.
Construction of Naval Air Facility (NAF) Adak also commenced in September 1942. In October, PBY-5 Catalinas, based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Dutch Harbor, began operating from Adak with the small seaplane tender USS Teal (AVP-5). In February 1943, the NAF was demoted to a Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF). In March it again became an NAF and was upgraded to an NAS on 15 May 1943 and becaming an NOB in August
Naval installations at Adak were planned to provide support for the fleet through an operating
base consisting of an air station, a radio station, a net depot, a motor torpedo boat (PT) base, Marine barracks, and other small activities.
At the air station, which was named Mitchell Field on 2 February 1944, two runways, 5,277- by 200-feet (1,608- by 61-meters) and 7,145- by 200-feet (2,178- by 61-meters), respectively, were constructed. Both the runways and taxiways were surfaced with pierced planking. Hangar space was in five hangars and one smaller building, all of semi-permanent design with one building containing a parachute loft. A semi-permanent, two-story control building and tower was erected and repair facilities for aircraft were provided in four buildings.
Seaplane facilities were established at Andrew Lagoon, a fresh-water body near the air station. Three hangars were built, providing space for patrol bombers and observation planes Fueling service for all naval planes was by tank trucks from Army supplies. When Andrew Lagoon was frozen, operations were transferred to the salt waters of nearby Clam Lagoon.
Service facilities for ships were located in Sweeper Cove, and those for small craft were divided between the PT base and the section base. Five piers for small craft and 108 concrete anchorages were constructed and placed. Two temporary dry docks were assembled from pontoons and furnished capacities of 100 and 400 tons (91 and 363 metric tonnes), respectively. Fresh-water outlets, a rigging loft, and an optical shop were installed at the section base.
Radio facilities were located in two Quonset huts, and radar equipment occupied a third. The hospital, with all its attendant features, was also established in Quonset huts.
The air station was placed in inactive status on 15 February 1947. NAS Adak was redesignated an NAF on 16 June 1948 and then redesignated a Naval Station (NS) on 1 July 1950. During the Cold War, NS Adak became an important base in anti-submarine operations against the Soviet Union and the base population reached 5,000. The station was redesignated an NAF on 1 July 1994 and finally disestablished on 18 February 1998.
In 2011, this base is known as Adak Airport and is served by Alaska Airlines.
Afognak, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Afognak (58° 10' 01"N, 152° 30' 01"W) was located on 721 square-mile (1,867 square-kilometer) Afognak Island located 31-miles (50-kilometers) north of Naval Operating Base (NOB) Kodiak and 230-miles (370-kilometers) south-southwest of Anchorage. The island is 43-miles (69-kilometers) long and 9- to-23-miles (14- to-37-kilometers) wide. The land rises to 2,548-feet (776-meters) in the northeastern part of the island.
This facility was established in March 1942 as an administration point. The installation included a radio station and a small seaplane-base but there was little flying. The entire area was turned into a recreation center in June 1944, and all personnel stationed at NOB Kodiak were allowed a two- or three-day excursion trip there, based on a rotation program. Excellent hunting and fishing were to be had in the area. The NAAF was disestablished later in 1944.
Akutan, Naval Fueling Depot
This depot was located on Akutan Island (54° 07' 57"N, 165° 47' 16"W) in the Fox Island group of the Aleutian Islands, and is separated from Unalaska Island, the site of Naval Operating Base Dutch Harbor, by the 10-mile (16 kilometer) wide body of water known as Akutan Pass. The island is 19-miles (31-kilometers) long and 15-miles (24-kilometers) wide for a land area of 137 square-miles (355 square-kilometers) and is located at, about 762-miles (1,225-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage. Akutan Peak in the center of the island rises to 4,244-feet (1,294-meters)
In the summer of 1942, the operation of Soviet ships between Siberia and U.S. West Coast ports required a base in the Aleutians to be used as a midway fueling, provisioning, and repair station. Akutan Island was selected and negotiations were under-taken to lease the station of a whaling company. By October 1942, an agreement had been reached and work completed to render a 250-foot (76-meter) docking facility usable by Soviet ships. Transformation of the whaling station into a naval fueling station was soon accomplished. The Akutan station was ready to pump oil or to receive an emergency seaplane landing by 7 November 1942. By June 1945, the need for a fueling point of this type had been practically eliminated. As a result, the Akutan base was reduced to the status of a minor seaplane facility and a U.S. Coast Guard radio-beacon station.
Amchitka, Naval Air Facility
Amchitka Island (51° 22' 44"N, 179° 15' 43"E) is a 40-mile (64-kilometer) long, 121 square-mile (313 square-kilometer) island in the Rat Island group of the Aleutian Islands. The island was located 86-miles (139-kilometers) east-southeast of Japanese-held Kiska Island, 276-miles (445-kilometers) east-southeast of Japanese-held Attu Island and 1,347-miles (2,168-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage.
Both the U.S. Army Forces (USAAF) and U.S. Navy (USN) used the island as an advance base for bombing missions against the Japanese-held islands of Attu and Kiska and later, missions to the Kurile Islands.
On 24 May 1942, a Japanese Glen seaplane (Yokosuka E14Y1, Navy Type0 Small Reconnaissance Seaplane Model 11) was launched from Japanese submarine HIJMS I-9 to reconnoiter Amchitka and Kiska Islands in preparation for their attacks on the Aleutian islands.
On 18 December 1942, a Navy PBY Catalina landed a small party of U.S. Army engineers on the island. After a two-day survey, the engineers reported that a steel-mat fighter strip could be thrown down in two or three weeks; sites existed for an airfield with some dispersion on which a runway 200- by 5,000-feet (610- by 1,524-meters) could be built in three or four months. Prior to building this runway, a detachment of PBY-5A Catalinas operated from Amchitka beginning in December 1942 serviced by a seaplane tender.
On 12 January 1943, 2,000 Army troops landed unopposed and construction work began on an airfield. The Army engineers built two runways on the island for use by both the USAAF and the USN, one 5,000-feet (1,524-meters) and the second 3,000-feet (914-meters) long.
Japanese aircraft began a series of nuisance air raids on 24 January which continued until 16 February. P-38 Lightnings from Adak flew patrols over the islands until a detachment of P-40s arrived on 16 February; these were followed by B-24 Liberators on 18 February.
Naval Air Facility (NAF) Amchitka was established on 24 February 1943. A seaplane ramp was built to accommodate one 12-plane PBY Catalina squadron while one 12-plane PV-1 Ventura squadron used Amchitka Army Air Field. Facilities for the support of a motor torpedo boat (PT) squadron were also built. After the occupation of Attu Island, the role of Amchitka was downgraded to that of aerology reporting.
The NAF was disestablished on 11 January 1946. During the 1960s, Amchitka was used as an underground testing site for nuclear devices.
Annette Island, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Annette Island is in the Gulf of Alaska is located about 6-miles (10-kilometers) southeast of Ketchikan, Alaska and 790-miles (1,271-kilometers) southeast of Anchorage. The island is 20-miles (32-kilometers) long and 7- to 10-miles (11.3- to 16-kilometers) wide with a land area of 132 square-miles (342 square-kilometers). The highest point is 3,610-feet (1,100-meters).
Construction of Annette Island Army Air Field (55° 02' 12"N, 131° 34' 20"W) for the U.S. Army Air Corps [redesignated U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) on 20 June 1941] began in July 1940 to provide an intermediate field and staging base for aircraft flying between the continental U.S. and Alaska.
During the war, five Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons operated from the island. Three fighter squadrons equipped with Hurricane Mk. XIIs and Kittyhawk Mk. Is served at various times between June 1942 and November 1943 providing air defense for Port Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, the main supply base for U.S. forces in Alaska. Two other squadrons, equipped with Bolinbroke Mk IVs and Ventura G.R. Mk. Vs, flew antisubmarine patrols at various times between April 1942 and November 1943.
On 1 March 1943, Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Annette Island was established at the USAAF airbase as one of three auxiliary airfields supporting Naval Air Station Sitka which was located 201-miles (324-kilometers) to the northwest. Naval aviation facilities constructed included a repair hangar for patrol bombers, a seaplane ramp, and revetment areas for landplanes. The facility served inshore patrol squadrons and aircraft flying from the U.S. to Alaska. The NAAF was disestablished on 16 December 1944 and transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard which remained there until 1977 when it moved to Sitka.
As the war moved west, the need for the bases in eastern Alaska decreased and in early 1944, Annette Army Air Field was redesignated an airdrome.
In 2011, the former miliary base is named Annette Island Airport.
Atka, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Atka Island (52° 13'05"N, 174° 12' 25"W), the largest island of the Andreanof Island group of the Aleutian Islands, is 106-miles (171-kilometers) east northeast of Adak Island, 338-miles (545-kilometers) west-southwest of Dutch Harbor and 1,103-miles (1,776-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage. The island is 65-miles (105-kilometers) long and 2- to 20-miles (3.2- to 32-kilometers) wide. Korovin volcano in the northeastern part of the island rises to 4,852-feet (1,479-meters).
Early in 1942, the Navy sent a seaplane tender to Nazan Bay on the northeastern coast of Atka to service PBY Catalinas that were patrolling the Pacific Ocean. When the Japanese invaded Kiska and Attu Islands in June 1942, the PBYs were withdrawn to the east however, a seaplane tender was sent back to the bay in July 1942. In September, 1942, construction began on Atka Army Air Field for the U.S. Army Air Forces’ (USAAF) Eleventh Air Force. The airfield served as an intermediate airfield between Umnak and Adak Islands and the airstrip was ready for use by December. The base also had housing for 1,060 men and a 50-bed hospital.
In November 1942, Naval Air Facility Atka was established and was re-established as an Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) on 18 February 1943. It was intended that a few PBY Catalinas could operate from here and a 50- by 80-foot (15- by 24-meter) nose hangar was built for land based Navy aircraft. All other services and runways were provided by the USAAF. When Naval Air Station Adak became fully operational and the capture of Attu and Kiska Islands from the Japanese was accomplished, the need for this base lessened and NAAF Atka was decommissioned on 1 September 1943. A weather unit remained as the only naval activity.
As the war moved west, the need for the bases in eastern Alaska decreased and in early 1944, Atka was redesignated an airdrome.
In 2011, this former station is named Atka Airport.
Attu, Naval Air Station
Attu Island (52° 49' 30"N, 173° 10' 20E) is a 338 square-mile (875 square-kilometer) island in the Near Island group of the Aleutian Islands; it is the largest island in this island group. Attu is the westernmost island of the Aleutian Islands and is 1,483-miles (2,386-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage and 770-miles (1,239-kilometers) east-northeast of Paramushiru (now Paramushir) Island in the Japanese Kurile (now Russian Kuril) Islands. The highest point on the island is 2,820-feet (860-meters).
On 7 June 1942, 1,143 men of the Japanese Army’s North Sea Detachment landed on Attu at 0300 hours local. The only inhabitants of the island were 42 Aleut Indians and a 60-year-old American teacher and his wife. The teacher probably committed suicide but another story is that he tried to escape and was shot by the Japanese. All 43 people were taken to Japan. The Attuans were interned at Otaru City on Hokkaido Island and 19 of them died in captivity. The wife of the teacher was interned with Australian nurses at Yokohama, Japan, until August 1945.
On 11 May 1943, the U.S. Army’s 7th Infantry Division landed at widely separated points on Attu. The Americans had estimated that there were 500 Japanese troops on the island; actually, there were 2,650. The Americans also estimated that it would take three days to capture the island; it took 18-days. Only 28 Japanese were taken prisoner while the U.S. suffered 3,829 casualties including 549 deaths. Many of the casualties were caused by exposure.
Construction of Alexai Point Army Air Field by Army engineers commenced before the battle ended. Within two weeks, a 3,000-foot (914-meter) runway had been completed. Eventually, the airfield had housing for 8,500 men and a 400-bed hospital.
On 7 June 1943, Naval Air Facility Attu was established but was redesignated a Naval Air Station (NAS) in September 1943. Both the USAAF and U.S. Navy used this airbase to bomb the Japanese Kurile Islands. Eventually, this island served submarines, motor torpedo boats (PTs) and PBY Catalina and PV Ventura squadrons. Seaplane facilities for the Navy included 15 anchorages in Casco Cove for patrol bombers, a ramp of pierced plank, a parking area, a finger pier, and eight hangars. Two runways, 150- by 5000-feet (46- by 1,524-meters) and 150- by 4200-feet (46- by 1,280-meters), were constructed of pierced planks.
Small-craft piers were built, together with two material piers at the Seabee base and a pier at the net depot. Two large-craft piers were constructed at the air station, each provided with fresh-water service and with aviation gasoline service for PT boats and a submarine pier with fueling connections, was built at the submarine base. (The submarine repair facility had been established in February 1944.) Radio facilities consisted of transmitter, receiver, direction finder, and radar buildings. Hospital facilities included a hospital located at the air station and dispensaries at various activities.
This NAS was disestablished on 1 November 1948 but a U.S. Coast Guard LORAN station operated here for years.
Cold Bay, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Cold Bay (55° 11' 56" N, 162° 43' 15"W) was located on the extreme southwestern part of the Alaskan Peninsula, 187-miles (301-kilometers) east-northeast of Dutch Harbor and 624-miles (1,004-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage.
In 1929, the large bay became a Naval reservation because it could harbor deep draft ships. In July 1942, it was designated a section base and was redesignated an Naval Air Facility (NAF) in September and intended to support a squadron of PBY Catalinas and service transient aircraft.
The Army built Fort Randall and Thornborough Army Air Field that eventually had three 5,000-foot (1,524 meter) runways used by both services but there was little room for dispersion.
NAF Cold Bay was redesignated an NAAF on 1 April 1943 and was disestablished on 7 November 1944 but a few months later, the Navy used it as a training and transfer point for small craft going to the Soviet Union under Lend Lease. Repair facilities for small craft had been built at King Cove, considered a part of Cold Bay, including a marine railway. A total of 149 vessels were transferred here.
In 2011, the former Army Air Field is named Cold Bay Airport and is served by PenAir (Peninsula Airways).
Cordova, Naval Section Base
Cordova (60° 33' 04"N, 145° 45' 43"W) was located in Cordova Bay on the Gulf of Alaska about 149-miles (240-kilometers) east-southeast of Anchorage. In 1910, the Navy had acquired land for a coaling station and in 1917, they built a radio station here. It was designated a section base in 1941 but was never commissioned and was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard in October 1942.
Dutch Harbor, Naval Operating Base
Naval Operating Base (NOB) Dutch Harbor (53° 53' 57"N, 166° 32' 43"W) was located on Amaknak Island, a small islet in Unalaska Bay in the Fox Island group of the Aleutian Islands. This island, just off Unalaska Island, is 789-miles (1 270-kilometers) west-southwest of Anchorage. The first work for the Navy began in 1902 when a small area was set aside for a lighthouse followed ten years later when a radio station was constructed.
The purpose of the naval installations at Dutch Harbor was to provide a naval operating base farther west in the Aleutian chain than Kodiak. Air facilities, a submarine base, and numerous minor activities were included. Construction began in September 1940 and the new base was designated a section base in January 1941 and an Naval Air Station (NAS) on 1 September 1941. By early 1942, two submarines were operating from Dutch Harbor along with three PBY Catalinas. NAS Dutch Harbor was attacked by Japanese carrier-based aircraft on 3 and 4 June 1942 as part of the overall Midway attack plan and extensive damage resulted from these attacks with American losses of 78 men and 14 planes.
The status of the base changed in July 1942 when it was redesignated an NOB. The NAS had one 300- by 4,385-foot (91- by 1,337-meter) emergency runway and concrete parking area, a concrete seaplane ramp and its facilities, for patrol bombers, and scout planes. Hangar space was provided in a permanent blast-pen-type hangar and a semi-permanent hangar. Installed as a part of the air station equipment was a catapult with a launching platform and arresting gear.
The submarine base possessed facilities equivalent to a submarine tender, including hull, machine, electrical, optical, and radio shops. In addition, a large torpedo shop and storehouse and three magazines to store types of ammunition other than torpedoes were provided.
Repair facilities for ships and small craft provided half the equivalent of a destroyer tender. The boat shop was equipped to construct small boats; its slip was capable of taking landing barges or boats for repairs or major overhaul.
A small marine railway, put into operation during November 1943, was capable of taking craft up to 50 tons (45 metric tonnes). The 250 ton (227 metric tonne) marine railway, operated by a maintenance unit, was capable of handling yard mine-sweepers.
Docking facilities, provided by various docks and piers, included the Dutch Harbor pier, the Advance Base Depot pier, the Ballyhoo Pier, the fuel pier, the patrol craft (YP) pier, the submarine base pier, and a marine-railway pier. In addition, several small-boat and finger floats were constructed.
The submarine base was decommissioned on 22 May 1945 and the air station was reduced to the status of a Naval Air Facility (NAF) by June 1945. A fueling point for Soviet ships had been established to replace the station at Akutan but other facilities remained largely in their designed status until the end of the war. NAF Dutch Harbor was decommissioned in November 1947.
In 2008, the former NAS Dutch Harbor is known as the Unalaska Airport, a municipal airport.
Juneau, Naval Section Base
In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed an executive order giving Douglas Island (58° 20'N, 134° 35'W) to the Navy; this island is across the Gastineau Strait from Juneau. The Navy established a radio transmitter site here during World War I but it was transferred to the U.S. Army in 1924. In July 1941, the Navy established a section base here and leased a private dock and built a magazine; all of these were to support Naval Operating Base Sitka located 93-miles (150-kilometers) to the south-southwest. Since the base was so far from the war in the Pacific, the Navy transferred this facility to the U.S. Coast Guard in November 1942.
Ketchikan, Naval Section Base
Ketchikan (55° 19' 56"N, 131° 37' 33"W) is located in southeastern Alaska about 775-miles (1,248-kilometers) east-southeast of Anchorage and 88-miles (142-kilometers) northwest of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada. The Navy had built a radio transmitter here during World War I and this facility was designated a section base on 8 July 1941. The radio transmitter was transferred to the Army in 1942 and the entire facility was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard in October 1942.
Kiska, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Kiska Island is the most westerly, and at 110 square-miles (285 square-kilometers), the largest of the Rat Island group of the Aleutian Islands. It is located 203-miles (326-kilometers) east-southeast of Attu Island, 86-miles (139-kilometers) west-northwest of Amchitka Island and 1,377-miles (2,217-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage.
On 24 May 1942, a Japanese Glen seaplane (Yokosuka E14Y1, Navy Type 0 Small Reconnaissance Seaplane Model 11) was launched from Japanese submarine HIJMS I-9 to reconnoiter Amchitka and Kiska Islands.
The only inhabitants of the island in June 1942 were ten Navy sailors manning a radio station. On 6 June, the Japanese Kiska Occupation Force consisting and 700 laborers occupied the island. The ten Navy sailors fled into the hills but the Japanese found their emergency supplies that had been hidden beforehand. Nine of the Navy sailors were soon captured and the tenth surrendered after spending 50 days in hiding. All of the sailors were taken to Japan as POWs and all survived the war. On 24 August 1942, the Japanese garrison on Attu was transported to Kiska Island because of a Japanese belief that Kiska would be invaded shortly. Attu was reoccupied in October.
On 15 August 1943, 34,000 Canadian and U.S. troops landed on Kiska only to find that the Japanese had evacuated the island. After the invasion, abandoned Japanese fighter strip was rebuilt as Kiska Army Air Field (51° 58' 20"N, 177° 31' 10"E) for the U.S. Army Air Forces and Navy landplanes. Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Kiska (51° 58' 16"N, 177° 31' 59"E) was established on 11 September and a hangar and a ramp with a steel-mat surface were built. A parking area was also surfaced with steel matting. Service facilities for small craft were limited to a single pier. The NAAF was disestablished on 19 September 1944 because of the island’s small harbor and better facilities on Attu Island.
Kodiak, Naval Operating Base
Naval Operating Base (NOB) Kodiak (57° 45' 07"N, 152° 30' 01"W) is on Kodiak Island, the largest island in Alaska at 5,363 square-mile (13,890 square-kilometer). The island is about 100-miles (160-kilometers) long and 10- to 60-miles (16- to 97-kilometers) wide. Located in the Gulf of Alaska, it is about 267-miles (463-kilometers) south-southwest of Anchorage and 563-miles (906-kilometers) east-northeast of Dutch Harbor. The island is mountainouss and heavily forested in the north and east.
Work on an air base began in September 1939 and Kodiak was designated a section base in January 1941 and Naval Air Station (NAS) Kodiak in February. Kodiak was redesignated an NOB in June 1942 and in the following month, a submarine base and a motor torpedo boat (PT) base were commissioned.
In addition to the air base, submarine base and PT base, the original plans called for a net depot, a dispensary, docks, ammunition and fuel storage facilities, provisioning, administration, and personnel facilities. The air station was to include facilities for both landplanes and seaplanes, to consist of ramps, runways, maintenance and repair shops, storehouses, and housing units.
The three paved runways at the air station were of concrete, each 150-feet (46-meters) wide and 6,000-, 5,400-, and 5,000-feet (1,829-, 1,646-, and 1,524-meters) long, respectively. A graded strip on both sides of each runway gave a total clear width of 500-feet (152-meters). All runways were equipped with a flush-contact lighting system. Hangar space was provided by one permanent hangar and one temporary hangar. A concrete taxiway extended from the 5,000-foot (1,524 meter) runway to the hangar area. Seaplane facilities, consisting of three concrete ramps and hangar space provided in two permanent hangars, were located on Womens Bay.
The submarine base was to provide repair service for small ships and boats with a floating drydock, shops, and additional housing.
Docking facilities for large craft consisted of a cargo pier, with four deep-water approaches a tender pier, with fresh-water, gasoline, and oil lines, berthing on two sides and a marginal wharf, with a fresh-water line and a stiff-leg derrick. Thirteen piers to accommodate small boats, tugs, patrol, and similar craft were located at various places throughout the base. Service facilities for ships also included a permanent marine railway. Submarine services were also included.
Detachments of two Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons were based at the NAS. One detachment of Bolingbroke Mk. Is and IVs was here between June 1942 and February 1943 flying anti-submarine patrols. A second detachment of Kittyhawk Mk. Is and P-40Ks flew air defense sorties for this base between October 1942 and August 1943.
In June 1945, the submarine base was decommissioned and the net defense facilities on Woody Island were disestablished.
The base at Kodiak was never developed beyond the original plan. This was due mainly to the fact that many projects originally planned for Kodiak were moved farther west or were reduced as the scene of action shifted and NOB Kodiak became the center of support and administrative activities.
In October 1950, NOB and NAS Kodiak were redesignated Naval Station Kodiak. The naval station was disestablished in June 1972 and the facilities were turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard which still operates it as Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak in 2011.
Otter Point, Naval Air Facility
Naval Air Facility (NAF) Otter Point (53° 22' 39"N, 167° 53' 20"W) was on the eastern shore of Umnak Island, about 66-miles (106-kilometers) west-southwest of Naval Operating Base Dutch Harbor and 859-miles (1,382-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage. This 675 square-mile (1,748 square-kilometer) island is in the western part of the Fox Island group of the Aleutian Islands and is separated from Unalaska Island by the 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) wide body of water known as Umnak Pass. The island is 83-miles (134-kilometers) long and has a volcanic peak, Mount Vsevidof, that is 7,236-feet (2,206 meters) high.
In the Spring of 1941, the U.S. Army began construction of a secret Otter Point Army Air Field to protect the Naval facilities at Dutch Harbor. Shipments for the construction were sent to a fictitious fish cannery to protect the secrecy of the project. When completed, the airfield consisted of three 7,000-foot (2,134-meter) runways and was used by both the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) and U.S. Navy landplanes.
The first USAAF fighter aircraft. ten P-40s, landed here on 23 May 1942. However, even when completed the airstrip was unsatisfactory for heavy bombers; the runways were only 150-feet (46-meters) wide and there was scant parking space.
NAF Otter Point was commissioned on 22 October 1942 and supported 12 PBY Catalinas and six observation floatplanes. Buildings for Navy aircraft included a hangar, a squadron warehouse, and a terminal for air transport service. An additional activity connected with the Otter Point was the net-defense station at Chernofski Harbor, across Umnak Pass, on Unalaska Island. In April 1945 the facility was disestablished, and the Allied harbor entrance control post was transferred to Army jurisdiction.
Between May and September 1943, Royal Canadian Air Force Kittyhawk Mk. Is and P-40Ks operated from this airfield flying missions to Japanese-held Kiska Island.
With the capture of Attu and Kiska Islands, the need for NAF Otter Point decreased and it was decommissioned in November 1944. Naval facilities were reduced to include only a radio-beacon station and a radio station. All other activities were either disestablished or turned over to the U.S. Army by June 1945.
Point Barrow, Petroleum Reserve No. 4
This 44,200 square-mile (114,478 square-kilometer) area in northwestern Alaska was granted to the U.S. Navy in 1923 by an executive order signed by President Warren G. Harding. It extends from 67° 50'N to 70° 21'N and 150° 00'W to 161° 46W.
It was not used as a Naval facility as such but during World War II, the need for crude oil resulted in Seabees being sent to this area in August 1944 to determine the petroleum-producing potentialities. The operation during the first year consisted primarily of the surface geological work, the coring operations throughout the reserve, and the drilling of test wells. The crux of the petroleum exploration problem in the Arctic region was transportation, primarily tractor train and air. Adequate air support was essential. High priority was given to the construction of the airstrip at Barrow (71° 17' 08"N, 156° 45' 58"W) and to the planning of a second strip at Umiat (69° 22' 16"N, 152° 07' 59"W), on the Coleville River, which had been selected as the site for the first test well. During the summer of 1945, the well at Umiat was drilled to a depth of 1,816-feet (554-meters). At the same time, construction of an airstrip was begun. Extensive reconnaissance surveys were made to determine the route for a proposed pipe line from Umiat to Fairbanks, and preparations were made to shift the scene of operations to a new location following the completion of drilling operations at Umiat.
V-J Day and its accompanying de-mobilization program made necessary a shift from the use of military personnel to employment of civilian contractors who continued exploration until 1953. This reserve is now under the control of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Port Althorp, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Althorp (58° 07' 54"N, 136° 20' 03"W) was located on northwestern Chichagof Island, a 2,049 square-mile (5,307 square-kilometer) island in the Alexander Archipelago in southeastern Alaska. The island is 75-miles (121-kilometers) long, 50-miles (80-kilometers) wide and rises to 4,000-feet (1,219-meters).
This facility was located about 88-miles (141-kilometers) north-northwest of Naval Operating Base Sitka and 519-miles (835-kilometers) east-southeast of Anchorage. It was established as a section base in July 1941 and was redesignated an NAAF in March 1943 when aviation installations consisted of a beach ramp capable of beaching five planes, and minor facilities for aircraft and engine repair. A radio transmitter facility was also completed. When the war moved west, the need for this NAAF was no longer required and it was disestablished in June 1944.
Port Armstrong, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Port Armstrong (56° 17' 45"N, 134° 39' 58"W) was located on the southern tip of Baranof Island 58-miles (94-kilometers) south-southeast of Naval Operating Base Sitka and 642-miles (1033-kilometers) southeast of Anchorage. The 1,597 square-miles (4,136 square-kilometers) Baranof Island is in the western Alexander Archipelago in southeastern Alaska. The island is 100-miles (161-kilometers) long, 30-miles (48-kilometers) wide and rises to 7,000-feet (2,134-meters).
This facility became a naval section base on 24 July 1941 and was redesignated an NAAF on 17 March 1943. Established at the site of an existing commercial oil-company station, a small seaplane base was established. Service facilities for ships included an existing wharf and two new piers all of them suitable only for smaller vessels. This NAAF was used as an emergency alternative to Naval Air Station Sitka until being decommissioned in July 1943.
Sand Bay, Fuelling and Net Station
This station was in Sand Bay (51° 59' 06"N, 176° 05' 06"W) on the southwestern coast of Great Sitkin Island. The 60 square-mile (156 square-kilometer) island is in the Andreanof Island group of the Aleutian Islands and is located about 25-miles (40-kilometers) east-northeast of Naval Operating Base Adak and 1,172-miles (1 887-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage. The island is 12-miles (19-kilometers) long and 8-miles (12.9-kilometers) wide.
Established as a Naval advance fueling station on 15 May 1943, facilities for this activity and for a net depot were constructed by the Seabees. Fuel-oil storage required twenty-two 10,000 barrel tanks, three 6,000 barrel tanks, and one 15,000 barrel tank, all of which were set in excavations with dike berms. Diesel-oil and aviation-gasoline storage was in sixteen 6,000 barrel steel tanks. Ordnance was stored in 19 magazines. Service facilities for small craft at the net depot were centered around a semi-permanent pier. Four moorings were provided at the fueling, station, where pier was furnished with eight 8-inch (20-centimeter) and eight 6-inch (15-centimeter) fuel lines and a fresh-water outlet. The station continued operations until after the war.
Sand Point, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Sand Point (55° 18' 50"N, 160° 31' 18"W) was located on the west coast of the 36,159 square-mile (93,651 square-kilometer) Popof Island in the Shumagin Islands off the southwest coast of the Alaska Peninsula about 561-miles (903-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage and 262-miles (422-kilometers) east-northeast of Naval Operating Base Dutch Harbor. The island is 10-miles (16-kilometers) long, 5-miles (8-kilometers) wide and rises to 1,550-feet (472-meters).
Sand Point was built as a section base in July 1942 but was redesignated NAAF Shumagin on 1 April 1943 but the name was later changed to NAAF Sand Point. The NAAF was built to accommodate a squadron of patrol aircraft and a few inshore patrols. The completed air facility included accommodations for 410 officers and men, storage facilities for general supplies, liquid fuels, and ordnance, seaplane parking areas and repair shops, service facilities for large and small surface craft, and a radio transmitter. Since Naval Air Facility Cold Bay, a larger facility located 90-miles (145-kilometers) to the west, was available, this NAAF was abandoned in late 1943.
A radio range station, commissioned 22 September 1943 was also established, as an aid to air navigation and a weather-observation center. This station was decommissioned on 28 April 1945.
In 2011, this facility is known as Sand Point Airfield.
Seward, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Seward (60° 07' 37"N, 149° 25' 08"W) was located in southeastern Alaska about 77-miles (124-kilometers) south-southeast of Anchorage. Seward was established as a naval reservation by executive order in 1919 and the Navy operated a low-power radio transmitter and receiver station there. On 31 July 1942, it was commissioned as a section base and became an NAAF on 1 April 1943. Facilities consisted of a seaplane hangar, a ramp and two piers. On 29 July 1943, the base was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 2011, this facility is Seward Airport.
Shemya, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Shemya (52° 43' 23"N, 174°04' 53"E) was located on the western shore of Shemya Island in the Semichi island group of the Aleutian Islands. This 6 square-mile (16 square-kilometer) island is 4-miles (6.4-kilometers) long, 2-miles (3.2-kilometers) wide and is located 38-miles (61-kilometers) east-southeast of Naval Air Station Attu.
During the battle for Attu Island in May 1943, the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) built Shemya Army Air Field on the island and this was shared with the Navy as NAAF Shemya in June 1943. The NAAF occupied 6 acres (2.4 hectares) which supported a 12-plane PBY Catalina squadron while the USAAF’s Eleventh Air Force used the 10,000-foot (3,048-meter) runway for operations against the Japanese in the Kurile Islands. The runway was built to accommodate B-29 Superfortress attacks on Japan but they never served in Alaska.
Naval aviation facilities included a parking area for two planes and a motor-test shop, also in a winterized tent. NAAF Shemya was decommissioned in October 1945.
In 1954, the base was turned over to the Civil Aeronautics Administration (forerunner of the Federal Aviation Administration) and Northwest Airlines used it as a refueling stop on flights to Japan. In 1958, the U.S. Air Force reopened the base as Shemya Air Force Base. On 6 April 1993, Shemya AFB was renamed Eareckson Air Station and in 1995, a contractor took over operation of the air station.
Sitka, Naval Operating Base
Naval Operating Base (NOB) Sitka (57° 03' 19"N, 135° 21' 58"W) was located on Japonski Island, a small island across from the city of Sitka in the Alexander Archipelago of southeastern Alaska, located 93-miles (150-kilometers) south-southwest of Juneau and 589-miles (948-kilometers) southeast of Anchorage.
The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy had acquired Japonski Island in 1890 but it was transferred to the Navy in 1924. In 1937, it was designated an advance naval seaplane base, a Fleet Air Base in 1938 and Naval Air Station (NAS) Sitka on 12 September 1939. The station could accommodate six aircraft. On 24 January 1941, it became a section base and an NOB on 20 July 1942. The NOB was composed of NAS Sitka, a radio station, a naval section base, Marine barracks, and subordinate naval shore activities. At the air station, seaplane facilities were centered around two permanent hangars. The aerological and control tower was erected on one of these hangars, and a concrete parking area was placed to form a 170- by 1500-foot (52- by 457-meter) landplane runway between the hangars and the seaplane ramps. Three concrete-surfaced seaplane ramps were built and arresting gear added to the landplane runway to compensate for its shortness in length.
Service facilities for large craft were confined to two Navy piers of permanent construction and an additional pier leased from private owners, which supplied power, steam, fresh water, and fuel. Small-craft piers, all temporary or semi-permanent structures, were built at three locations, and finger floats were constructed to provide 15 slips for small craft. In addition, a marine railway was revised and put into working order to supplement repair facilities located in various small structures. The harbor was inadequate for naval ships and this base reverted to an NAS in March 1943. As the war moved west, the base became less useful and it was decommissioned in August 1944.
In October 1977, the U.S. Coast Guard air station located on Annette Island transferred here and as of 2011, it is still a Coast Guard Air Station at Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport.
Tanaga, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Tanaga (51° 40' 56"N, 178° 03' 04"W) was located on Tanaga Island a 209 square-mile (541 square-kilometer) island in the western Andreanof Island group of the Aleutian Islands located 58-miles (93-kilometers) west of Naval Operating Base Adak and 1,248-miles (2009-kilometers) southwest of Anchorage. The island is 25-miles (40-kilometers) long, 3- to 20-miles (4.8- to 32-kilometers) wide and rises to 6,975-feet (2,126-meters) at Tanaga Volcano on the northwestern part of the island.
This base was built as an emergency landing strip and opened in July 1943. The base consisted of a 200- by 5,000-foot (61- by 1,524-meter) runway with a pierced-plank surface and two portable lighting units. Five hardstands with revetments were also constructed and a pier and a mooring area were provided to service patrol craft., The base was disestablished in October 1945.
Yakutat, Naval Auxilliary Air Facility
Naval Auxiliary Air Facility (NAAF) Yakutat (59° 30' 32"N, 139° 39' 36"W) was located on the Gulf of Alaska in southeastern Alaska, 200-miles (323-kilometers) west-northwest of Juneau and 370-miles (595-kilometers) east-southeast of Anchorage.
The U.S. Army Air Corps (redesignated U.S. Army Air Forces on 20 June 1941) began construction of Yakutat Army Air Field in September 1940 to serve as an intermediate base for aircraft flying from the mainland U.S. to Alaska. The two runways were used by both Army and Navy landplanes.
NAAF Yakutat was originally established as a section base in July 1941 but it was redesignated a Naval Air Facility on 5 September 1942 and an NAAF on 13 February 1943. Seaplane facilities were set up to accommodate 12 scout observation planes and four PBY Catalina patrol bombers. The seaplane ramp was of standard concrete construction and there were also a warm-up apron, taxiways, and the parking area. A nose hangar of wood-truss construction was erected at the ramp. By 1944, the facility was no longer required and it was disestablished on 31 May 1944.
In 2011, this airfield is Yakutat Airport.