By Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division
While Alaska may seem far removed from the rest of the United States, the great state was an important factor during World War II. Many American military bases built on Alaskan territory were vital in protecting America’s vulnerable western coast.
Because of its location, it was believed that the nation who controlled Alaska’s Aleutian Islands during World War II would control transportation routes in the Pacific. So, in June of 1942, just six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombed the U.S. held Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and Fort Mears Army Base, and took occupation of two of the Aleutian Islands, Attu and Kiska. One year later, the United States and Canada regained control of those islands in the only battle that took place on North American soil during World War II.
There are now eight sites in Alaska designated as National Historic Landmarks because of their significance during World War II. Among those are Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base, one of the first bases that the Japanese attacked during the Aleutian campaign; Kodiak Naval Operating Base, whose ships and submarines played a critical role in the Aleutian campaign; and Sitka Naval Operating Base, the U.S. Navy’s first air station in Alaska when World War II began.
The U.S. Navy pays homage to the 49th state to join the Union by naming at least 33 ships after the cities, people, and places of Alaska. Additionally, some notable Sailors hail from “The Last Frontier.” Alaskan natives and brothers Harvey Jacobs and Mark Jacobs Jr. were posthumously awarded the Congressional Silver Medal for their service as Tlingit Code Talkers during World War II. Like the Navajo Code Talkers, they communicated using their native language to keep the enemy from intercepting any intel.
Today, the U.S. Navy still runs a few operations in Alaska. The U.S. Navy SEALs conduct cold weather training on Naval Special Warfare Center Kodiak and there is a Navy Operational Support Center in Anchorage that supports the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Learn more about Alaska’s ties to U.S. Naval History below!