View Full Version : Alaskan Airfields etc

28-12-2008, 22:26
For anyone interested in this part of the world (I am looking into the Aleutian airfields of WW2)...the Alaskan Digital archives may be of interest - over 1000 images of Aeronautical inteset plus thousands of other images.

Here is the link...


23-03-2009, 21:26
That's a nice find, thanks. I was stationed on Shemya in 1968-69. There were/are 2 airfields there built during WW2. One was built for B-29s and just at its western end is a smaller field built for fighters (P-38s I believe). They're both still there, although we only used the bomber runway.

These 2 book series might interest you



You can also view John Huston's documentary "Report from the Aleutians" on line here: http://www.archive.org/details/ReportFromTheAleutians

It's in color and well worth viewing to get an idea of the miserable conditions up there.

23-03-2009, 21:34
The books look interesting - thanks for pointing them out.

I have posted a GE view of Shemya (and others) in the Overseas Airfields section/Aleutian Airfields of WW2

23-03-2009, 21:42
I have some photos from Shemya, but unfortunately, nothing specifically of the airfield, except for some shots of an RC-135 that was crashed off the end of the runway in Jan. of '69. I'll see what I can find. It's sometimes beautiful up there, but usually dangerous and often deadly due to the weather.

Peter Kirk
23-03-2009, 21:55
I made a model of a P-40 based in the Aleutians. At least I knew where they were as a result. I have seen the film before and it is an eye opener.

24-03-2009, 13:29
An "Aleutian Tiger" P-40 I'll bet. That's a really nice color scheme. The weather up there is amazing. It can be pretty nice one minute and the next minute you're in a blinding snowstorm. A 30 knot wind is just a breeze and there were days when they wouldn't allow trucks or buses out on the roads for fear of having them blown over.

24-03-2009, 23:29
Sorry to say it seems that most of the photos I did take of Shemya are in horrible shape. They look like I sprinkled them with acid before putting them away, some of the slides actually have holes in them :oops: . There are a few prints that aren't too messed up.

This is looking west from the western side of the fighter field. The 2 islands on the left of the picture are Nizki (a couple of miles away) and Alaid (about 7 or 8 miles). The highest point on either of them is 3 or 400 feet. In the distance is Attu, which is about 30 miles away and has elevations of 2500 feet or so. The Japanese occupied it in 1942 along with Agattu, which is just to the southwest of Shemya. Attu had an airfield on it that was run by the Navy or Coast Guard in the 60s. There were also supposed to be Japanese a/c wrecks there.


These 2 are of Rivet Ball, the first RC-135S. She went off the end of the runway due to severe runway ice and hydraulic problems in Jan. of 1969. There is a 40' drop to the road, which leads to the fighter field. Thankfully, there were no fatalities. She broke her back and the wreck was immediately surrounded by security troops and stripped of all classified equipment, engines, etc. The wreck was just left there until there was an environmental clean up of the airbase in the 90s, I believe. A sad end for her. Unfortunately, we lost another RC-135 together with its compliment of 19 men over the Bering Sea in June, just before I came home. That was the RC-135E Rivet Amber.



This shot gives you some idea of what the terrain was like. The island was part of the rim of a volcano. It was mostly black soil or sand covered by spongy tundra. There was a little (very little)tree in front of the headquarters building that had guy wires holding it down because of the high winds whipping across "The Rock" as we called it. As far as I could tell, that was the only tree or bush on the island. The standard joke was that there was a woman behind every tree on Shemya.


As you can imagine, going from RAF Chicksands in Bedfordshire to Shemya was quite a shock to this young Sergeant :shock:.

Peter Kirk
24-03-2009, 23:37
Not a punishment I hope :)

24-03-2009, 23:51
:D I don't think so. In the usual way that the service works, I was just "needed" more in Alaska even though I was on a 3 year tour in the UK and would have gotten my discharge from there. The guy in my training class who was the biggest screw up and continually being threatened with everything up to a Dishonorable Discharge, was finally thrown out of our unit. We thought that he would probably be shot or at least sent to Shemya or worse. We found out from him later that he was crossed trained as a maintenance troop and spent his last couple of years in the AF at Hickam AFB in Hawaii painting buildings :lol: .

25-03-2009, 09:30
Nice pictures Don - looks about as desolate as I imagined it.