We just had a big anniversary for World War II in Alaska, 70 years since the battle of Attu. I attended two different events last week to recognize World War II Remembrance Week, and one the weekend before. Each had its moments of grace.
The first event was to celebrate the building of the Alaska Highway. Three of the seven engineer regiments used to build it were African-American, and deserve part of the credit for the later integration of U.S. troops. Lots of performers and speakers gave us information about this huge accomplishment and inspiration to future generations. My favorite moment was meeting a local gentleman whose father was one of the soldiers who built the road, Pvt. J.A. Mitchell. He recommended a book and I bought it:The Black Soldiers Who Built the Alaska Highwayhttp://preview.tinyurl.com/b6y9z3f.
The second event was Alaska WWII Remembrance Day hosted by the Russian American Colony Singers (http://www.racs.us/) and the Alaska Veterans Museum (http://www.alaskaveterans.com/). The Singers and guest performers gave us great music, and the slideshow/video was a great overview of all the events in Alaska during World War II. That night, I sat next to a gentleman who filled me in on the Lend-Lease program.
The last event was a showing of the film, Red White Black and Blue, hosted by the Alaska Veterans Museum. It is a documentary directed by Tom Putnam, available on shoppbs.org http://preview.tinyurl.com/arq3n6w, about U. S. veterans who participated in the battle of Attu. The movie was stunning, but the best part was meeting a lady veteran who had been involved in cryptography (“Can’t tell you any more, top secret”) and hearing about her life in Alaska after the war.
Everywhere I go, there are people with great stories. (Like I mentioned last week in my post about being approachable.) But there are so many stories of Alaska during World War II. We had the only battle fought on American soil since the War of 1812. We had technological and humanitarian successes, and some failures. We stood strong to defend our country at a time when it seemed the world had gone crazy. There are so many great stories from this time period that I’ve decided to write about WWII in Alaska when I finish my Gold Rush books. I’ve already got a head start on research! 🙂