shemya_map




SHEMYA ISLAND - 1946

A year at the tip of the Aleutian Island chain.
- THE WAY IT WAS -
                


                                      
Schurz
 

AtSea1 
We departed Seattle on the luxurious "cruise ship" S.S. Carl Shurz, a former submarine tender converted to a troop ship.  Our route was up the inner passage to Seward, AK then out the Aleutian chain to our island paradise.  The pictures, taken on one of the few days the weather permitted us to get out on deck, show the spaciousness of our accommodations.

AtSea2 
                      
Our "cruise" lasted several days.  The trip through the inner passage went rather smoothly but once we headed out into the open Bering Sea along the Aleutian chain things changed.  Rain, fog, high winds and rough seas were the order of the day, along with a lot of seasick GI's.   

EN ROUTE - OUR PORTS OF CALL

Seward2 
Seward
DutchHarbor2 
Dutch Harbor
Adak2d
Adak


DESTINATION  SHEMYA
Somewhere enroute we were advised that our destination was Shemya, a 4 mile long by 2 mile wide island at the western tip of the Aleutians that most of us had never heard of.  We soon learned that it was the home of a major US  Army Air Force base and that virtually everyone on the island performed some function in support of that base.
AirPhoto2 
Shemya - 40's aerial photo by 404th Bomb Squadron
TurningFinal2 
 B-17 turning final approach.  Islands  Iliad and Nizki in distance



B-24
B-24
B-17
  B-17
OA-10
OA-10
 P-38
P-38
During the mid 1940's the main runway at Shemya Air Base was among the longest in the world.  It was constructed initially for use by B-29's bombing Japan.  Before it's completion other bases became available closer to the target and the Shemya runway was never used for it's original intended purpose.  In the mid 40's the 404th Bomb Squadron (B-24's), the 10th Air Sea Rescue Squadron (B-17's with an underslung "Flying Dutchman" lifeboat dropped by parachute, and OA-10 Catalina's) and the 11th Fighter Squadron (P-38's) were based on the island.
P-38A1
Hangar2
P-38A2
11th Fighter Squadron hangar and P-38's

A SHEMYA TRAGEDY


HOME SWEET HOME
Home2 
Huts2 
Many of our quonset huts were recessed into the soft soil (tundra) to better withstand the extremely high winds (williwaws) that were experienced on a regular basis.  The flag in the distance, in the picture at right, flies over the island headquarters and would often be torn to shreds in a single day by the strong winds.  
Interior2A 
Interior2 
Assignments were normally four to six men per hut.  Bunk, foot lockers and clothes racks were furnished but from there you were on your own to scrounge up tables, chairs, desks, book cases or whatever else struck your fancy. Furnishing and "decorating" the hut was pretty much up to the inhabitants as long as things were kept reasonably clean and neat.  Heat was furnished by an oil fired heater in the center of the hut.

AN ISLAND OF CONTRASTING WEATHER

Sunning2

Sunning2A




Snow1  Snow2 

 

 
Wind, rain, fog and snow were common, at times all in the same day.  Temperatures were milder than anticipated, due to the the warm Japanese current flowing nearby.  On rare occasions a sunny day would coincide with a day off and one would find the troops sitting on the "front porch" enjoying the weather and discussing important issues - like the girls back home or the next beer ration.  At other times heavy snow with simultaneous strong winds would result in a "white out" that made trips to critical facilities like the mess hall and latrine a challenge.  
    The boardwalk in front of the hut at upper left was typical.  Boardwalks were laid on top of the tundra on all regularly traveled paths to keep one from sinking ankle deep into the soft, spongy soil.


AN OCCASIONAL SQUADRON ADULT BEVERAGE PARTY - COURTESY OF THE USAAF
On the scenic shore of the beautiful Bering Sea
Convention2 
The Elaborate Convention
Cookout2 
The Romantic Cookout
Game2 
The Challenging Game of Chance

GOOD FRIENDS - THESE, AND MANY OTHERS, ARE REMEMBERED FONDLY 60 YEARS LATER.
They turned an "interesting" experience into an enjoyable one.

Smitty - Okamoto - Torres

Group2 
Tekely - Watson - Hess
Forster - Watson - Hess
 
Group1 
Gagne - Tatje - Torres

Osborne
Osborne &
Duke
Philbrook
Philbrook
Kaluf
Kaluf
Dennehy
Dennehy
Tekely
Tekely 

Edwards
Edwards
1946 ALASKAN DEPARTMENT SOFTBALL CHAMPS - Rough duty but someone had to do it.

*     *     *     *     *     *


Our group left Shemya in early February 1947, on a C-54, for a "quick" flight back to the states with one scheduled refueling stop in Anchorage.   About midnight, out over the COLD Bering sea, we experienced a fire in #2 engine.  After what seemed like an eternity we were forced down at Cold Bay.  There, we R & R'd for four days hoping that an airplane would show up to enable us to continue.  Finally a C-47 appeared out of the mist and confusion to ferry us on to Anchorage.  There, another delightful four days of R & R with extremely cold temperatures.  Then, finally, another C-54 on into McChord Field, Tacoma, WA.  On that trip, for a bunch of young GI's anxious to get home, the old saying "If you have time to spare go by air" took on new meaning.

 
MORE SHEMYA-1946 PHOTOS 
  BRW  THEN
A 20 year old
Buck Sergeant

WEB SITE BY BRUCE R. WATSON, PHOENIX, AZ

Most of the pictures on this page were taken by me with a tiny camera using #127 film and developed by me in a corner of hut #52.  I hope that this, and the passing of 60 years, gives me an excuse for the marginal quality of some of the pictures.
BRW2   NOW
 A satisfied
seasoned citizen

aafwp  
aleut
11aaf