Sitka's WWII Site

 

Created By Matthew Hunter

Silver Bay Mining PaperWWII at Port Althorp and George Island Paper

         

 
 

Introduction

The United States began to rethink its western defenses as it became clear that Japan was attempting to create an empire in the Eastern Pacific.  During the 1930s, the Navy war planners updated the Orange war plan to create a strategic triangle of defenses that stretched from Panama to Hawaii to Alaska.  Navy flying boats would fly surveillance flights along this line to ensure no enemy force approached.  Sizable bases already existed in the Canal Zone and Territory of Hawaii, but there was no significant military presence in the Territory of Alaska.  The military first came to Alaska in big numbers in the late 1930s.  The first base of the territory came to Sitka in 1937. 

  View of Sitka from Mt. Verstovia

Sitka from Mt. Verstovia - July 11, 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Navy began construction of three Naval Air Stations in Alaska to meet the surveillance requirements set forth in Plan Orange.  PBY Catalina flying boats from Naval Air Stations in Sitka, Kodiak, and Dutch Harbor were to patrol the Gulf of Alaska and the length of Aleutian Islands.  A Navy seaplane base became operational in Sitka in 1937.  The Sitka base was commissioned as a full Naval Air Station on October 1st, 1939, with construction still underway.  On December 7th, 1941 the NAS Sitka was the only operational military base in the territory.

In Alaska, the Army Coast Artillery Corps took charge of defending the three Navy Air Stations and the strategic port Seward.  The (Army) Harbor Defenses of Sitka were quite extensive.  The Army constructed three modern six-inch (diameter of projectile) gun batteries, a battery with two six-inch Navy guns, and a 155mm battery surrounding the entrance to Sitka Sound.  Also the Army built two 90mm Anti Motor Torpedo Boat gun batteries for protection of the inner islands of Sitka Sound.  These large-gun batteries each required many support facilities including searchlights, base end stations (targeting stations), and radar facilities that dotted many islands in Sitka Sound and the waters to the north and south.

Today there are many signs of the WWII military presence around the city of Sitka and hidden on surrounding islands.  I have visited many of these sites and documented them on this website.  I have also attempted to map the location of these remains so others can visit them.  Most sites also have period documents and photos.

Locals have created many stories to explain remains of the WWII buildup in Sitka.  The rumor that the magazine for the six-inch gun battery (Battery 292) on the causeway was an “underground hospital” is by far the most commonly heard in Sitka today.  Other rumors of a road across Baranof Island and a secret submarine base at Starrigavin have no documentation or physical remains to back them up.  I hope that this website will help Sitkans and other interested people to find and enjoy the WWII sites in the Sitka area and to fully appreciate the story of WWII in Sitka.  Please contact me with any questions or comments or suggestions.

 

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