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AK MARITIME: WWIIServiceman's RemainsRecovered from Refuge, Laid to Rest
Alaska Region, December 15, 2005
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Ian Jones, 2002.  PBY wreckage on the 2750 foot level of Kiska volcano.
Ian Jones, 2002. PBY wreckage on the 2750 foot level of Kiska volcano. - Photo Credit: n/a

The snow and ice of fog shrouded Kiska Volcano, far out in Alaska’s Aleutian chain, and hid the graves of seven Navy aviators and the PBY-5A amphibious aircraft they were shot down in for nearly 60 years.  While the war still raged in 1943, a military search team found the wreckage and buried the crewman at the site in a common grave marked “Seven U.S.N. Airman.”  Attempts to relocate the wreck after the war were thwarted by deep snows and vicious weather.  The mountain yielded no clues.  Not until 2002 when biologist Ian Jones of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada rediscovered the plane while doing research on rats in cooperation with the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.  Based on Jones’ information, military searchers were able to recover the remains of the 7 seamen in 2003.  The first aviator to be reburied was Dee Hall of Oklahoma on December 15, 2005. 

Kiska was already part of the Aleutian Islands Refuge, forerunner of the Alaska Maritime Refuge, when the Japanese invaded and occupied it and neighboring Attu Island in 1942 giving the Maritime the distinction of being the only refuge ever occupied by enemy forces.  Hall, only 18 years old, and his crew mates left Kodiak Island on June 14, 1942, to attack Japanese targets in Kiska Harbor.  Enemy anti-aircraft fire destroyed their plane and all perished just 8 days after the Japanese invasion of Kiska.  The wreckage was discovered a little more than a year later when Americans reoccupied the island after the Japanese fled.

Jones re-discovered the wreck on the 2,750 foot level of Kiska Volcano during a relatively low snow year.  He was able to get identification numbers off of plane parts and called to report the find via satellite phone from the volcano to biologist Steve Ebberts at Refuge headquarters more than 1000 miles away .   Ebberts relayed the news to the military and recovery began.  Jones has been doing research on the Refuge for years most recently on rat and auklet interactions.  Rats are another war remnant having been  introduced to Kiska by troop ships and cargo.  Since World War Two, rats  have steadily expanded their range over the 69,000 acre island threatening what may well be the world’s largest auklet colony at Sirius Point (estimates vary from 1 to 10 million birds.)  Rats are voracious predators on birds particularly burrow nesters like auklets. 


Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov



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