Stern of USS Abner Reed located off Kiska, Alaska

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Stern of USS Abner Reed located off Kiska, Alaska

The Aleutian campaign has always been interesting to me, if only because it's such a beautiful part of the world to see on vacation, but has to be the worst place I can think of to fight.  Attu island in particular always fascinated me because it's the one place arguably part of the US (Alaska wasn't admitted as a state until 1959) which was invaded and the people taken captive.

In fact, as Wiki states:

At the time, Attu’s population consisted of 45 native Aleuts and two white Americans, Charles Foster Jones (1879-1942), a radio technician, originally from St. Paris, Ohio, and his wife Etta (1879-1965), a schoolteacher, originally from Vineland, New Jersey. The village consisted of several houses around Chichagof Harbor. The 42 Attu inhabitants who survived the Japanese invasion were taken to a prison camp near OtaruHokkaidō. Sixteen of them died while they were imprisoned. Mr. Jones, 63, was killed by the Japanese forces almost immediately after the invasion. Ms. Jones, 63, was subsequently taken to the Bund Hotel, which housed Australian prisoners of war from the 1942 Battle of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, in YokohamaJapan. Sometime later, Ms. Jones and the Australian prisoners were taken to the Yokohama Yacht Club and kept there from 1942 to 1944 and then the Totsuka prisoner of war camp from 1944 to 1945 in Japan before their release in August 1945. Mrs. Jones died in December 1965 at age 86 in Bradenton, Florida.

Nonetheless, part of the response to this invasion was the USS Abner Reed:

Seventy-five years ago this week, 19-year-old Seaman 2nd Class Daryl Weathers was aboard the USS Abner Read in the bay off the Aleutian Islands, patrolling for Japanese submarines when an explosion – likely an enemy mine – ripped apart the destroyer.

Weathers, now 94, told the story from his home near Los Angeles and remembered it happening in the early morning hours, about 2 a.m., while he was operating a radar. He recalled it took a few minutes before the back half of the boat, where men were inside sleeping, detached and sank.

That day — Aug. 18, 1943 — 71 sailors died, 70 of whom were lost at sea. Some sailors were trapped in their sleeping compartments and others fell victim to the ice-cold water, where it was impossible to survive longer than a few minutes, Weathers said.

“We recovered a few men and lost a lot,” he said Wednesday. “I was up on the bridge standing radar watch. Otherwise, my bunk was right down there, 10 feet from where the ship broke off, so I probably wouldn’t have survived that explosion.”

Now, 75 years later, the location of their underwater grave is finally known. A group of researchers seeking to document the little-known World War II campaign that took place in the Alaskan region found a 75-foot section of the USS Abner Read on July 17. It was 290 feet deep near the island of Kiska.

Although long, this military film (essentially propaganda by the legendary John Houston) gives a great look at what this campaign and region were like:

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.