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Umnak


Digital relief map of Umnak

Photograph of Fort Glenn airfield

U.S. Air Force. Via Freeman (2009)


Umnak is an island in the Aleutian island chain located just west of Unalaska.  Because lack of flat ground made construction of an airfield on Unalaska impractical, fighter cover for the important port of Dutch Harbor was provided by constructing an airfield on Umnak (Fort Glenn; 167.89W 53.38N). Because the chosen site had no decent anchorage, supplies had to be transported by lighter from a nearby cove on Unalaska.

The new field was authorized in November 1941 and construction began in earnest in February 1942. A 3000' (915 meter) airstrip was ready by 31 March. However, at this point the strip was Marston mat over arctic bog: Pilots reported that landing on the strip was like landing on a spring mattress.

The Japanese raided Dutch Harbor on 2 June 1942, during the Midway campaign. Finding the garrison much smaller than expected, Hosogaya briefly considered invading Unalaska rather than the western Aleutians. However, the presence of P-38 fighters of the 54 Fighter Squadron at Umnak came as a rude surprise. Not only did Hosogaya drop the idea of invading Dutch Harbor, he canceled the Adak landings to concentrate on Attu and Kiska.


References

Garfield (1965)

Rottman (2002)


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