The Navy in Sitka




WWII era Navy related photos


Recent photos of the Navy installations



Japonski Island in Sitka Sound became a US Naval Reservation shortly after the United States purchased the Alaska from Russia.  The Navy first used the island in 1902 when it constructed a coaling station.  A radio station was added soon afterwards for commercial use as part of the Alaska Communications System (ACS).

In the 1930s, the Navy identified Sitka as an ideal location to base surveillance aircraft to patrol the Gulf of Alaska.  In 1937 the Navy established a seaplane base on Japonski Island with biplane flying boats.  In 1939, the Navy began construction of  a full Naval Air Station.  The Navy commissioned NAS Sitka on October 1st, 1939.  The early-model PBY aircraft soon gave  way to the modern PBY5A Catalina. 


1943 Easter service at NAS Sitka - The two aircraft are PBY5A Catalina flying boats.


When December 7th, 1941 came around, NAS Sitka was the only established military base in Alaska.  Construction continued, and on July 20, 1942 the Navy designated NAS Sitka a Naval Operating Base.  NOB Sitka was decommissioned on August 15th, 1944.

The Navy's presence in Sitka was not limited to the base on Japonski Island.    Highwater Island in Neva Straight was a Navy checkpoint for vessels entering Sitka Sound from the north.    Many sites were chosen around the region for fuel and bomb caches.  In the event of an attack on Sitka, the PBYs were to disperse to these caches to load weapons, refuel, and counterattack.  Navy section bases were established at Port Armstrong on southern Baranof Island and at Port Althorp in Cross Sound.  The section bases were considered part of NAS Sitka, and crews and aircraft often rotated between the stations.

In addition, there were joint Army / Navy installations.  While the Army defended the Navy base and town from attack, the Navy controlled all vessels entering and exiting Sitka Sound.  Three Signal Stations were planned in Sitka Sound: Little Biorka Island, St. Lazaria Island, and Sound Island.  These stations were manned by both Navy and Army personnel.  Navy men would use radios, flags, and lights to signal ships. The Harbor Defense Command Post (Army) / Harbor Entrance Control Post (Navy) installation on Makhnati Island was the joint Army and Navy command structure in Sitka, and allowed for the necessary cooperation between the services.  The cooperation between the Army and the Navy is evident as early as 1941, when the Navy supplied the Army with two Navy 6-inch guns and many 20mm cannon for AA defenses.


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