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After 75 Years, WWII Survivors Commemorate The Bombing Of Unalaska And The Unangax̂ Evacuation

Berett Wilber/KUCB

It's been 75 years since the U.S. government removed the Unangax̂ from their homes in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands, following a deadly attack by the Japanese.

Hundreds of people gathered in Unalaska last weekend to commemorate the bombing of Dutch Harbor during World War II and hear stories from survivors.

Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Local veterans and veterans stationed in the Aleutian Islands during WWII return to their seats after raising Alaska, U.S., and POW/MIA flags to begin the commemoration.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
After a long flight from Anchorage, Colonel Alex Roesch grins at his co-pilot over the tail of the Harvard Mk IV, which dates back to 1951. Two historic aircraft made the trip to Unalaska for the 75th commemoration of the bombing of Dutch Harbor.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Unalaskans listen to stories about the decision to evacuate 881 Unangax̂ from their homes after the Japanese attack. The U.S. government sent families to abandoned canneries and mining camps in southeast Alaska, where many lived without running water, plumbing, or electricity. More than ten percent of the evacuees died in the camps.
Patricia Kudrin Sharp listens during a conversation between veterans who served in the Aleutian campaign and evacuees who were removed from the Aleutians during WWII. Sharp was born in Burnett Inlet, an internment camp in Southeast Alaska, to parents who had been evacuated from Kashega.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
After sharing a slideshow of photos from prewar Unalaska, Gert Svarny speaks to WWII evacuees and veterans about her experience in a southeast Alaska internment camp. She was 12 years old when the Unangax̂ were evacuated.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Dorothy Shabolin of St. Paul Island adds some levity to a storytelling session between veterans and evacuees by breaking into the Charleston. Her energetic rendition of "Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay" met with clapping and cheers from the audience.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Frank Vaughn (left) shakes the hand of Bob Brocklehurst (right). Both men served on Attu Island during WWII — Vaughn as a radio operator and Brocklehurst as a fighter jet pilot.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Helena Schmitz is a descendant of the Hodikoff family of Attu Island. The Attuans never returned home after they were captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners during WWII. Schmitz lives in Anchorage and works as an environmental scientist for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Allan Serroll of Woods Hole, MA served on Attu Island during WWII. He remembers the baby blue foxes he and his fellow soldiers kept as pets during the war. Serroll said the foxes loved Hershey's chocolate bars, so returning to Unalaska, he came prepared.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Many WWII veterans stationed in the Aleutians remember the weather as their most formidable enemy the war. But vets didn't have to relive the Aleutian wind and rain during the 75th commemoration — at least, not all weekend.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
At a traditional luncheon hosted by the Qawalangin Tribe, June McGlashan passes out lusta: fermented seal flipper. St. Paul Islanders brought the Unangax̂ delicacy to share with evacuees, veterans, and other elders.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Joe Sasser Jr.'s hat rests on a table while Sasser eats a slice of cake during the commemoration. A veteran from Mississippi, Sasser arrived on Kiska Island one day after the Japanese abandoned it under cover of fog. He remembers his reluctance to eat the left-behind food, concerned that it was poisoned.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
A member of the Unalaska Unangax̂ Dancers has her regalia adjusted before a performance for veterans, evacuees, and dignitaries.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
In the summer of 1942, Everett LaVigne (left) was evacuated from Unalaska with his mother and sister on the SS President Fillmore, an ammunitions ship that was attacked during the bombing. His father, who was white, was allowed to stay behind. LaVigne later served in the Vietnam War and worked as an engineer for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Veteran Bob Brocklehurst said he often wondered why he didn't meet any Unangax̂ people during his time in the Aleutians. He didn't learn about the evacuation until the 75th commemoration.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB
Dorothy Shabolin (left) and Patricia Kudrin Sharp (right) return to their seats after taking pictures with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Gov. Bill Walker at the commemoration. Both women spent the early years of their childhoods in internment camps in southeast Alaska.

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