Aleut evacuees honored at Dutch Harbor 75th anniversary ceremony
The World War II Museum in Dutch Harbor is filled with reminders of the impact the war had on the people who lived there.
More than 800 Aleuts were evacuated and sent to internment camps in Southeast because their homes became a military battleground; eighty-five would never make it back home. It’s a piece of history few people know about.
“I talked to the people and I was shocked that half of them didn’t know there was a war in Alaska,” said 91-year-old George Gordaoff.
He was evacuated from his home in Unalaska as a teenager.
“It was scary. Everything was scary because we didn’t know what was happening,” Gordaoff said.
June marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor. The Fort Richardson National Cemetery on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) held a special service to commemorate the soldiers and civilians lost in the Aleutian Campaign.
“We must never forget the Alaskan civilians who were uprooted from their homes, interned far away with inadequate food and shelter,” said Alaska National Guard Adjutant General Laurie Hummel. “Many died and survivors returned to find their homes or entire villages ransacked, looted or burned down.”
Marie Matsuno Nash’s family was one of those. Her mom is Aleut from Bristol Bay and her Japanese father was from Hawaii. They were living in Alaska when they were forced into an internment camp in Idaho.
“For a lot of us, our families didn’t want to talk about what happened to them. They didn’t’ discuss much of it. It took a long time to learn bits and pieces,” Matsuno Nash said.
She passed out paper cranes as a symbol of peace. Matsuno Nash said ceremonies like the ones on JBER help people share their stories to ensure what happened to Nash’s family and others is never forgotten.
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