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. The Northwestern also played a critical role in Alaska’s early development by delivering mail, mining supplies, livestock, rail lines and timber north, and taking copper and salmon to markets in the south.

But the Northwestern also had a tendency to run into trouble – quite literally – holding the record for the most groundings of any ship that has operated in Alaska.

The U.S. Navy acquired the Northwestern in the early 1940s, and used her as both power plant for Dutch Harbor and a dormitory for 280 civilians constructing a Naval base there. The Japanese attack in 1942 resulted in a 3-day fire, but the ship’s boilers were saved and it continued to supply power until a permanent station was completed a few months later.

Later, the Northwestern was hauled from Dutch Harbor to Captains Bay, and in 1946 became grounded forever. In 1992, a solid brass propeller was salvaged from the Northwestern and moved to the Unalaska Memorial Park and Cemetery, serving as a 9-foot-high memorial to those who died in the 1942 attack.

Getting There

Captains Bay Drive
Unalaska, AK 99685
Memorial Drive
Unalaska, AK 99685
  • Northwestern hull: Located at the head of Captains Bay. Can be seen as you drive toward the end of Captains Bay Road.
  • Northwestern propeller: Take Bayview Avenue toward Summer Bay Road. Turn right at Memorial Drive and then walk around Unalaska Memorial Park and Cemetery. Take your picture near the this piece of history that’s seen the waters of New York, Cuba, Panama, around Cape Horn and up to the Aleutians.
Driving Directions