The Aleutian Tigers


A picture of the Aleutian Tigers at the Glenn Curtiss Museum

While at the Glenn Curtiss Museum, I was excited to see the P-40 Warhawk being restored, and talk to several volunteers involved with the extensive rebuild.

Stationed at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage in 1942, was the 11th Fighter Squadron, also known as the “Aleutian Tigers”. The Aleutian Tigers were commanded by Lt. Col. John Chennault, who was the son of Gen. Claire Chennault, the commander of the famed “Flying Tigers” in China.


P-40 Warhawk, 11th FS, 343rd FG

The 11th Fighter Squadron was one of 4 squadrons making up the 343rd Fighter Group, and were assigned the task of defending the Aleutian Islands during WWII. The 11th FS flew their final combat mission in Alaska in October of 1943. The 343rd FG remained in Alaska flying patrols until the end of the war.


Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe, PA


Jim Thorpe competing in the Stockholm Olympics, 1912

Jim Thorpe is considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern times. After winning gold in both the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, King Gustav V of Sweden said to Thorpe, “You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

Thorpe was a collegiate All-American, NFL All-Pro & charter member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame, and played baseball with three different MLB teams. He also played for a traveling professional basketball team.


Jim Thorpe Olympic statue near Jim Thorpe, PA

When in Pennsylvania for hockey, we traveled through Jim Thorpe, PA. Originally founded as Mauch Chunk, the community made a deal with Jim Thorpe’s widow in 1953. After Thorpe’s funeral in Shawnee, OK, city officials of Mauch Chunk bought his remains from his third wife, and Thorpe’s body was shipped to Pennsylvania without the rest of the family’s knowledge.


Jim Thorpe’s tomb

I had mixed feelings about the monument to Thorpe in Penn. On one hand, the tribute, if a bit dated and weather-worn, was well done and seemed sincere. On the other hand, it was hard to get past the fact that Thorpe has become a road side attraction. Of all the turn-offs I’ve taken traveling, this one was as surreal as any.


Thorpe’s football statue at the turnout/monument

Upon receiving Thorpe’s body, the communities of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk merged and were renamed Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. His tomb was built on a mound of dirt from his native Oklahoma and from the Stockholm Olympic Stadium, where he earned international fame.

In 2010, son Jack Thorpe sued in Federal Court to have his father’s remains returned to Oklahoma. After several court rulings favoring both sides, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 refused to hear the case, effectively ending the suit and leaving Thorpe’s remains in Pennsylvania. Jack Thorpe died in 2011.


Soul Shine


The Lagoon Nebula, Photo Credit: NASA, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.”
— Plato


Attu 75


Jarmin Pass, Attu Island; Photo Credit: USFWS

Long before WWII and the Japanese invasion of the two islands in the Aleutian Chain, Attu Island was part of the earliest Federally protected wildlife areas.

This year is the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Attu, and the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are both commemorating the battle with several discussions, gatherings and art displays. Unfortunately, most are being held in Anchorage, but the big city, that’s a little closer to Alaska, has its merits too.

Their website: https://www.attu75.org


Back in Alaska

I spent more time in the Lower 48 than expected, and still I wasn’t able to do several things that I wanted to. Not all was lost, by any means, and I hope I made a difference on a couple of fronts. I did get a gentle warning from a very good friend; he mentioned that it is about time that I get back to my previous, selfish lifestyle. I said I would take the comment under advisement.

At any rate, after what appears to be a long breakup here in the Far North, I’m ready to attack the J.O.B. situation, and restock the coffers.


Battle of Attu

Operation Landcrab
11 May 1943
75 years ago:


Map of the Aleutian Chain

On 7 June 1942, the Japanese Northern Army landed, unopposed, on Attu Island. The island of Kiska had been invaded the day before. Allied command for the Aleutian Campaign spent the better part of the next year preparing to repel the Japanese from the Aleutian Islands.


Attu Island with 1943 Battle descriptions

On the morning of 11 May 1943, visibility off the coast of Attu was estimated at a “ship’s length”, due to the heavy fog blanketing the island. The 7th Division’s Northern Force was to land at Beach Red, a few miles north of Holtz Bay. Beach Red was a narrow strip, maybe 100 yards long, and surrounded by 250′ walls of rock. The Japanese had no defenses nearby, because they never considered it a viable landing point.

Captain William Willoughby had 244 men in his Scout Battalion. They came up to Attu in two submarines: the Narwhal and Nautilus. They shoved off in their rubber boats with 1-1/2 days rations, landing at Beach Scarlet in Austin Cove. The air temperature was 27 degrees.

The 7th Division’s Southern Force was the largest of “Operation Landcrab”. They landed at Massacre Bay All three landings were unopposed. The beach heads were secure and all forces had made gains, but they were now stalled. The Americans could not see the Japanese up in the fog, but the Japanese could see down out of it.

The very first shot fired by American land forces was a 105 mm howitzer. The big guns had been mired on the beach. Cat tractors tried to maneuver them, but their treads broke through the muskeg, and were quickly spinning uselessly in the black muck underneath. A Japanese mortar crew was spotted on a ridge, and a howitzer was moved into position by brute strength. The howitzer fired, and the recoil of the big gun slammed the gun’s sled 18 inches into the muskeg.*


Massacre Bay, Attu Island 12 May 1943

The following day, men and equipment streamed onto the beaches. The Navy ships bombarded the ridges. The Battleship Nevada unloaded her 14″ guns onto the mountain tops above Massacre Valley. The Japanese positions were heavily entrenched, the progress for the Allied forces was slow. The Arctic conditions were brutal, and exposure-related injuries common. Travel over the island was through mud, snow, ice and the unforgiving muskeg. After two weeks of endless fighting, the Japanese were finally pushed up against Chichagof Harbor.


Japanese troops lie at the bottom of Engineer Hill after the banzai charge

With no hope of victory, and little hope of rescue, Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki led his Japanese troops in one final banzai charge. The Japanese broke through the front lines, and rear echelon troops suddenly found themselves in hand to hand combat with the Japanese. The Japanese charged Engineer Hill in an attempt to gain control of the big guns set up there. The 50th Engineers held their ground, however, and the charge failed. Almost all of the Japanese in the charge were killed, many by suicide by grenade after the charge failed. The failure of the banzai charge effectively ended the Battle for Attu.


American troops making their way across Attu

Officially, the Battle of Attu ended on 30 May 1943, but isolated Japanese troops continued to fight until early July.

549 men of the U.S. 7th Division were killed on Attu, 1148 wounded, and over 1200 suffered severe cold weather related injuries, 614 disease, 318 other casualties: accidents, drowning, self-inflicted.

The Japanese lost over 2350 men. Only 28 were taken prisoner.

The Battle of Attu, when considering numbers of troops engaged, would rank as the second most costly battle for the United States in WWII – second only to Iwo Jima.*

The Battle of Attu was the only battle of World War Two to have taken place on U.S. territory. It was also the only battle between the U.S. and Japan to have taken place in Arctic conditions.

The Japanese had assembled a massive fleet in Tokyo Bay to repel the Americans from retaking Attu. The fleet had 4 carriers, 3 battleships, 7 cruisers and 11 destroyers. The Allies captured Attu before the fleet could leave the bay.

*The Thousand Mile War by Brian Garfield


Ice Out


The Tanana River at Nenana. Photo Credit: Nenana Ice Cam

The ice went out on the Tanana River on Tuesday May 1, at 1:18 pm AST. The pot this year for the Ice Classic is $225,000. No word yet on how many winners picked the exact day and time of the ice going out. The mangled body of the iconic tripod, can be seen in the ice to the lower left of the photo.