Alaska Refuge to Honor WWII Battle Hero
Seventy years ago, an act of military heroism helped pinned-down U.S. forces rout the Japanese from a remote Aleutian Island and end a fierce American land battle of World War II. To clear a mountain pass, Pvt. Joseph P. Martinez charged into enemy fire at the bloody Battle of Attu, on the frigid, westernmost point of North America; he was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor. Next month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will honor the Colorado soldier’s sacrifice by installing a plaque on Attu, part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
The Attu installation will add one more task to the crowded schedule of Service and refuge scientists aboard the research ship Tiglax (pronounced TEKH-lah, Aleut for eagle), which left Homer May 18 for the Alaska Peninsula and beyond. En route, staff will conduct seabird counts and surveys of bird colonies; deploy bird data- recording devices for later retrieval; monitor an island’s recovery after a volcanic eruption; and post biologists and supplies on far-flung, normally uninhabited refuge islands for three months of seabird monitoring.
On Attu, refuge biologists and archeologists will also assess environmental threats from wartime debris, chemical contaminants and unexploded ordnance. They will set guidelines for disposing of remains that threaten human safety and island wildlife such as salmon, sea lions and seabirds, including two rare species: Evermann’s rock ptarmigan and Aleutian cackling geese.
Alaska Maritime Refuge war sites are part of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument created in 2008 by President George W. Bush.