How to Get to Kodiak – The Military Transports
How to Get to Kodiak (Part Two): The Military Transports
(A Short Photo Essay of Kodiak and its Military Transports)
World War II changed Alaska forever. Thousands of troops built and manned coastal fortifications (including many large facilities around Kodiak Island). Parts of Alaska were bombed and invaded, the only U. S. soil to suffer invasion in the entire conflict. This declassified War Department photo shows Marines practice landing on Alaskan beaches in preparation for retaking Attu and Kiska. This short photo essay shows a few of the transport ships used to bring personnel to and from Kodiak during its military years, 1940s through the 1950s.
World War II:
The SS North Coast is underway in Puget Sound (before being commandeered for military transport service) in this publicity postcard. The original steamship company may have been the Northland Transportation Co.
The USAT (United States Army Transport ship) North Coast at Erskine Dock. The North Coast, obviously not in military garb, was apparently leased at this time to bring soldiers to help build and staff the new base at Kodiak. This ship is listed as one of the first large vessels to dock at the new long pier at the Navy Base, so this photo must have been taken before the dock was completed in 1941. This shot was from a packet of two-inch mini-photos sold to tourists and soldiers in the early 1940s.
The USAT North Coast at Erskine Dock (from down the channel, and probably taken the same day as the photo above). This photo by Helsel gives Kodiak a nice, important seaport feel, reflecting the fact that Kodiak was becoming a major military hub in the North Pacific in the early 1940s, even before the outbreak of World War II.
A member of the U. S. Coast Guard stands sentry duty along the Alaska coast in this War Department photograph. Many of the ships used to transport troops and supplies in the early days of the war were requisitioned from commercial firms such as the Alaska Steamship Company (see section on the SS Yukon, below).
The Alaska Steamship SS Yukon, in happier days. She broke apart in 1946 (next photo) while still in the service of the War Department.
This rare photo shows the SS Yukon, after running aground in a blizzard in the early morning of February 3, 1946. The surf ripped away most of her stern. There were over 500 people aboard, and a total of eleven were lost when the ship broke apart and later as they attempted to launch lifeboats in heavy seas. The ship was still in military garb, with gun turrets still in place, and was under charter to the U. S. government at the time. (From the J. O. Lund collection)
Postwar Military Transportation:
The USNS Funston, Troop Carrier, regularly transported troops to and from Kodiak military installations from the War years to the late 1950s.
Here is the ship’s data. This detail, and the previous photo, are from an old post card which was produced for the use of the military personnel who sailed on her.
This rare color photo of the USNS Funston coming into port at the Kodiak Navy Base is from the collection of Bob Railsback, taken in 1957.
Robert Railsback served as second in command at the Kodiak Navy Base in 1957-1958. He and his family arrived and departed Kodiak aboard the USNS Funston, as did hundreds of other military personnel through the years. Here he is in his office at the Kodiak base. (Courtesy Railsback collection)
The reminiscences of Bob Railsback about his time in Kodiak (and including some of his great slides as well) will be the subject of a future article. If you served in Kodiak during the 1940s through the 1970s (the approximate dates of my historical articles) please contact me at the e-mail address below.
Written by Timothy Smith, web author. See the About Me page for more information. Always feel free to send me comments, suggestions or corrected information about this article or any of the articles on this site. (Write to: Tanignak@aol.com) This article and website is © 2005 Timothy L. Smith, Tanignak Productions, 14282 Tuolumne Court, Fontana, California, 92336 (909) 428 3472. Images unless otherwise listed are from the collection of Rev. Norman L. Smith or the Timothy L. Smith collection. This material may be used for non-commercial purposes, with attribution. Please email me with any specific requests. You are welcome to link to this site.
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