How Native Americans Protected Alaska During WWII

In early June of 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor formally jolted the U.S. into World War II, the Japanese mounted another surprise bombing attack—this time, on Dutch Harbor in the remote Aleutian Islands of Alaska. In the brief ensuing invasion, Japanese naval forces occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska, the first occupation by foreign forces in the United States since the War of 1812.

After U.S. forces drove out the Japanese, it became clear to military leadership that the vast and forbidding 6,640-mile coastline of northwest Alaska needed to be patrolled for the duration of the war. Turning to the Indigenous communities for help, they soon found volunteers from local villages willing to join the newly formed Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG), also known as the “Eskimo Scouts.” (Ed. note: Many people in Arctic communities consider “Eskimo” a pejorative name steeped in racism and colonialism.)

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