The bow of the sunken SS Northwestern points to the sky in Captains Bay, a fifty-foot-high symbol of Alaska’s role in World War II. The Northwestern had a fascinating history even before Japanese warplanes bombed her on June 4, 1942. After transporting passengers, troops and bananas on the East Coast, she logged more than thirty years in northern waters, carrying passengers between Southeast Alaska and Seattle.
When the United States military left Unalaska Island at the end of World War II, it also left behind buildings and equipment that would become war relics and reminders of the area’s importance during the Aleutian campaign, often called the “Forgotten War.” The buildings have deteriorated over the years and some have been torn down. But historical plaques marking the location of seven World War II points of interest were erected in 2007 to ensure they won’t be forgotten. Can you find them all?
In the 1940's more than 100 buildings peppered the hillside here, making up U.S. Army Base Fort Schwatka and Battery 402. This coastal outpost was considered cutting edge for its time. The Battery’s position high on Ulakta Head gave lookouts a strategic view and its 8-inch, 21-ton guns boasted a range of 22 miles.
The striking Holy Ascension Russian Orthodox Church – with its red-shingled roofs and green onion domes – has become an integral part of the Unalaska skyline over the last century. It is both an oddity (architecturally different than anything else in the Aleutians) and a symbol of Russian influence on Aleut culture and religion.
Captain James Cook saw much of Alaska’s coastline during his troubled third voyage in search of a Northwest Passage. Prince William Sound, Prince of Wales Island, Norton Sound, and Bristol Bay are just some of the places he named during his travels. English Bay, on the eastern side of Unalaska Island, references the two landings Cook and crew made there in 1778 (just months before his death in the Hawaiian Islands).
If your travel group includes a WWII enthusiast, a wildlife devotee, a birder, and a kid who enjoys rolling around on the tundra, Bunker Hill is the perfect spot. Plus, it has the best photo ops, with a 360-degree view of the entire area: Captains Bay, Amaknak Island, Unalaska Bay and Iliuliuk Harbor.