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Warriors Remembered

The Alaska Veterans Memorial

Mile 147.2, George Parks Highway

by Murray Lundberg

"We dedicate this place to the remembrance of the veterans of Alaska who have served their country at home and throughout the world. We honor their heroism and dedication."

Alaska Veterans Memorial     At Mile 147.2 of the George Parks Highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks is a memorial that is beautifully designed to complement its setting, which is itself an important part of the memorial's statement. For travellers, the memorial provides both a refreshing stop along the highway, and an important insight into Alaska's history.

(Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it.)

    The memorial, the first to honor the state's veterans, was erected during the summer of 1983 and was dedicated on August 11, 1984 by Governor Bill Sheffield and other civilian and military leaders. The main part of the site consists of five 20-foot tall concrete panels, one each to represent the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, arranged in a semi-circle in a natural grove of trees. On each panel is a short history of that branch's contribution to Alaska.

    A statue of two members of the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG), carved by Canadian sculptor George Pratt, stands at the entrance to the memorial. Alaska Veterans Memorial One of the significant features of the memorial is unfortunately often missed by visitors. Although Denali (Mt. McKinley) is often shrouded in clouds, the binoculars of one of the ATG members is trained on the 20,237-foot mountain, which is only 35 miles away at that point. The summit of the mountain can be seen above the clouds in the photo to the left. A large plaque beside the statue describes the ATG.

    The memorial was made possible by legislation introduced by State Senator Charles Parr, an Army veteran from Fairbanks who recognized that Alaska was one of the few states without such a memorial. A committee comprised of representatives from each of the Armed Forces was formed, headed by the State Adjutant General. This committee chose EDAW, Inc. and Petravich & Nottingham to design the memorial, and HSE Corp. was chosen as the contractor.

    On May 30, 1999, another large plaque was added to one of the walls forming the entrance to the alcove where the main panels are set. It honors the U.S. Merchant Marine members who served during World War II. This was a result of 1988 and 1998 decisions by the federal government to grant World War II Merchant Mariners "active duty" veteran status.

Alaska Veterans Memorial     Also in 1999, two additional flagpoles were erected by a group of volunteers so that an Alaska flag now flies to the right of an American flag, and to its left flies a POW/MIA or other flag for special events.

    The memorial continues to evolve: in October 2001, the streets around it were named Medal of Honor Loop, Purple Heart Way and POW/MIA Rest Area.

    In 2010, a 240-page book about memorials to Vietnam veterans was published - it includes photos of the Alaska memorial that were contributed by Murray Lundberg. The book, Warriors Remembered, was written by Albert J. Nahas, and can be ordered directly from the author at WarriorsRemembered.com or from Amazon and other retailers.

    The inscriptions on the wing walls and panels are as follows:

Alaska National Guard Alaska Veterans Memorial
When the young Alaska National Guard was mobilized and sent to the States in 1941, the Alaska Territorial Guard was formed. It served at home with honor, distinction and without pay throughout the war. In 1949 a new Alaska National Guard was organized with many ATG veterans within its ranks. This statue is dedicated to the ATG and the proud heritage left to Guard soldiers and airmen who followed.

Army Alaska Veterans Memorial
The US Army has served Alaska since 1867, providing the first government. During the ensuing years it played a major role in the development of the state by building outposts, bases and airfields, communication systems, and roads including the Alaskan Highway. Army Forces engaged in major combat against the Japanese in the Aleutian Islands during W.W.II. Since that time, they have served Alaskans in time of triumph and tragedy while performing their assigned missions.

Air Force Alaska Veterans Memorial
The United States Air Force was established in Alaska immediately prior to the United States entry into W.W.II. During the war, the Air Force participated in the Aleutian Campaign. Following the war, the development of an extensive air defense system to protect the northern continent earned the Air Force the motto "Top Cover for America". The Air Force continues support to military forces and to provide humanitarian services to Alaskans.

Navy Alaska Veterans Memorial
The United States Navy has maintained a presence in Alaska since 1867. The Bering Sea Patrols protected commerce in Alaska's waters while elsewhere the Navy helped develop Alaska's resources. Navigational and communication facilities to help sea commerce were built. The major naval bases constructed immediately prior to the United States entry in W.W.II contributed to the development of Alaska. During W.W.II the Navy had a leading role in the Aleutian campaign. The Navy continues to provide security in the waters adjacent to Alaska and contribute to the economic and scientific development of the state.

Marine Corps Alaska Veterans Memorial
The Marine Corps has served in Alaska since 1867 when marine detachments provided security on board Navy ships in the Bering Sea. In 1892, a Marine Corps barracks was established at Sitka, the first of several such barracks in Alaska. During W.W.II, the marines at Dutch Harbor played a significant role in repelling Japanese air attacks. Since that time, the Marine Corps has continued to provide military and humanitarian support in Alaska, maintaining security at U.S. Naval installations and assisting in civic programs.

Coast Guard Alaska Veterans Memorial
Coast Guard service began when the cutter Shubrick led a 6 vessel expedition coastwise to Bering Straits in 1865. A permanent presence was founded upon arrival of the first U.S. official, a Coast Guardsmen in Sitka on Aug. 12, 1867, 2 months before the U.S. accepted ownership. The duties and services of the Coast Guard include the Search & Rescue - aids to navigation - law enforcement - marine safety. The Coast Guard will continue to serve Alaskans in times of peace, war, and natural disasters.

Merchant Marine Alaska Veterans Memorial
The United States Merchant Marine helped defend Alaska during the World War II campaign to recapture the Aleutians. Their ships transported troops, cargo and fuel on the long distance Alaska shuttle. Since 1775, the Merchant Marine have provided vital sea transport for the U.S. Armed Forces. Merchant seamen risked their lives to keep the life-line of soldiers and supplies unbroken, ably fighting alongside U.S. Naval Armed Guards to contest submarine, surface and air attack.

Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.
There are two displays recognizing Medal recipients with Alaska connections. The plaques on the boulders describe their heroic actions.

Alaska Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
  • James L. Bondsteel earned his medal in Vietnam. While living in Alaska after leaving the Army, he was killed in a motor vehicle accident on the Knik River bridge on the Glenn Highway. The bridge was named the Bondsteel Bridge of Honor in 2002. He is buried in the Ft. Richardson National Cemetery in Anchorage. Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo is named in his honor. The Military Operations in Urban Terrain site and live-fire range area at Ft. Greely, Alaska is also named for Sgt. Bondsteel.
  • Alaska Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
  • Joseph P. Martinez is the only recipient to earn a medal for actions on Alaska soil. He perished during his heroic mission on the Island of Attu in the WWII Aleutian campaign.
  • Alaska Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
  • Archie Van Winkle was born and raised in Juneau, the only Alaskan born recipient. A World War II veteran, he earned his medal in Korea.
  • Alaska Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
  • Drew Dix earned his medal in Vietnam and moved to Alaska after retiring from the Army. He is currently the only living recipient in Alaska and as of 2002, is the state's Homeland Security Director.

  •     Outside the Visitors' Center adjacent to the memorial are several interpretive signs that describe the role of the military in the Bering Sea during the Civil War, and Alaska's World War II and Cold War military history. One of the other panels describes the 1954 rescue of the survivors of a plane crash, by Alaskan bush pilot Cliff Hudson. The C-47 broke up in mid-air enroute from Fairbanks to Anchorage, falling on Kesugi Ridge about 14 miles from the memorial. Ten crew members and passengers were killed, while six others survived. Those still living in 1998, and families of the victims, climbed the ridge and located the site of the wreckage, which had not been disturbed since the rescue. The family members paid for a monument honoring the victims and survivors, and established a fund for the perpetual maintenance of it. The monument, of which two views are seen below, was dedicated in July 1998.

    Alaska Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
    Alaska Congressional Medal of Honor recipient

        In 2006, another monument was erected, honoring the crew members of a TB-29 Superfortress that crashed southeast of Talkeetna on November 15, 1957, killing 6 of the 10 crew members. Click here for much more information, including photos and video, of that crash and related events.

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    All photos are ©2003-2013 by Murray Lundberg