Remnants of War

Yakutat, like several other towns and cities along the Alaskan Coast was fortified during World War II to prevent occupation by the Japanese. Many remains of this military station are still there to be found by those willing to poke about a bit.

A six inch gun emplacement
A six inch gun emplacement from World War II at Cannon Beach, Yakutat

Some of the remnants are well known about town. The long ocean beach in front of the town is called Cannon Beach for an obvious reason, two six inch gun emplacements are still present in the trees behind the beach, guns included.

The barrels have been torched off to deactivate these military weapons, but they are still there. There were additional gun emplacements on the point protecting the settlement and harbor, but these guns were removed with only the emplacements remaining.

Remains of an LVT-4 Water Buffalo armored vehicle
Remains of an LVT-4 Water Buffalo armored vehicle at Cannon Beach

A surprising relic is also well known, a WWII era LVT-4 amtrac, or at least what is left of one. This armored vehicle apparently has a history after the war, someone attempted to use it as a civilian vehicle, understandable in a land of swamps, lakes, rivers and few roads. It too was eventually abandoned in the woods and is now a fixture beside a picnic area at Cannon Beach.

The airport now handling Alaska Airlines flights was constructed as a military field, a place for patrol aircraft and transports shuttling men and supplies to bases further north. A massive WWII era hangar still stands to one side of the main ramp, used as winter storage for local aircraft and boats.

A significant radio relay and listening station was located at Ocean Point, where Yakutat Bay meets the open ocean. The site has been cleared and much of the trash and some toxic waste such as diesel fuel left in decaying storage tanks cleared away and cleaned up. The roads and bridges built by the military to service this installation now used and maintianed to access the area.

Yakutat Lodge, once a WWII seaplane base with the seaplane ramp visible in the water at the far left

Some sites are little known, even to locals… Yakutat Lodge, our home for a few days, was once a seaplane base for patrol aircraft operating along the Alaskan Coast. Here PBY’s could be pulled from the water and serviced. Remains of the seaplane ramp can be seen beside the dock we used each day to go fishing. A cleared loop road in the woods that once served as hanger and maintenance area is now occupied by a few homes.

Other sites are scattered across the area… Barracks, munition storage, rifle ranges, housing, all of the facilities of a large military base. Some are still used, many lie nearly forgotten in the woods. The war did much to shape the modern town of Yakutat.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

2 thoughts on “Remnants of War”

  1. It seems bad policy for the government to not clean up its installations once they are no longer useful.
    Another example are the massive abandoned hangars and old steel plank runway at Barrow, just eyesores rotting away.
    There should be a budget item for site restoration when the government builds, much as mines are supposed to restore the sites.

    1. Well? The government did clean them up, if a bit late. Before visiting I had located an online military report of all the sites from the 70’s when the sites were all located and evaluated for remining risks. Much of the cleanup did get done.

      As for the hangar? It is valued and well used by local residents. Same for some of the other remnants… Roads, bridges, runways, harbor facilities, these form the basis of much of Yakutat’s modern infrastructure.

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