Umnak Island

Back in 2000, The IAAAF organized a trip to Umnak Island to explore the site of what was Fort Glenn Army Airbase, one of the two military stations on the Island.  It was also home to Cape Air Force Base.  Fort Glenn was decommissioned in 1950 and in 1987 was designated on the National Register of Historic Landmarks as “the most comprehensive and intact World War II base in the Aleutian Islands”.

Runways at Fort Glenn.


Planning map of Fort Glenn.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, General Henry H. Arnold authorized plans to construct landing strips to aid in the defenses of the Pacific—all under the guise of “Blair Fish Packing Company” in an effort to keep the construction top secret from both local civilians and Japanese forces.  New bases were planned for the air defenses of the Aleutians Islands and Dutch Harbor.  Construction on Fort Glenn began in January 1942 and was completed in April.  Otter Point Naval Air Facility was constructed adjacent to the Army Airbase.  The base included Quonset huts, hangars, munitions storage, auxiliary fields, and four paved runways. The runways were constructed using pierced steel planking (PSP) or Marston matting, which could be laid down quickly over compressed gravel or in the case of Umnak Island, volcanic ash.  Base defenses also included a 6-inch naval gun, nine 155mm guns, and two-gun 60inch naval gun battery was located at Mutton Cove.
The fighter and bomber planes stationed at Fort Glenn provided aerial defense for neighboring Dutch Harbor in addition to blocking advances to the mainland from the Japanese.  When the Japanese did invade, the troops at Fort Glenn numbered nearly 4,000 and were able to provide cover during the attack on Dutch Harbor on June 3rd and 4th, 1942.  It also served as the initial forward base from which they would launch air attacks on Japanese installations at Attu and Kiska. 

11th Fighter Squadron at Fort Glenn.

By 1942, improved and revised plans provided a larger garrison of more than 10,500 officers and enlisted men, medical detachment, and civilian construction employees at Fort Glenn.  It had essentially replaced the air bases located on Adak and Amchitka Islands, which were farther to the west. 
After the war, it became a refueling stop for transient aircraft and Military Air Transport service flights.  By 1946, it was manned only by a skeleton crew.  It was formally decommissioned in 1950 and turned over to Bureau of Land Management.  Many of the original army structures still remain standing today in various states of deterioration.  
Below are a select few photographs, in private collection of Pete Haggland, depicting the exploratory trip to Umnak Island.  

National Park Service 
Abandoned and little known Alaskan Air Fields
 “The Forgotten War” Book series by Stan Cohen, 1981. *Visit our museum store for a copy!

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