Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What Do These Things Have in Common?

My grandpa.

The Deadliest Catch TV program.

World War II.

A giant mixing bowl.

My mom is visiting us this week. Last night we were watching an episode of Deadliest Catch, a series about crab fishermen in the Bering Sea. The home port of the fleet is Dutch Harbor, Alaska, out on the Aleutian Chain.

As we were watching a scene where one of the boats was docking at Dutch Harbor, Mom said, "Dutch Harbor. Pop [that would be my Grandpa] was there when it was bombed by the Japanese."

I knew our family had an Aleutian connection, because during the Korean conflict, when my dad had been recalled into the Navy, we were stationed at Adak. I turned three years old when we lived there, so my memories of life on that barren rock in the middle of the ocean are vague at best. But I didn't remember ever knowing that Grandpa spent time on the Chain during WWII. So I encouraged her to tell me about it.

As the story goes, during the war Grandpa, a baker by trade, signed a contract with the US Navy to go to Dutch Harbor and train a group of enlisted men to be bakers. On June 3, 1942, six months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they once again attacked American soil when they delivered a 48-hour bombing raid on Dutch Harbor. Most of the bombs hit the Army barracks at Fort Mears where, on the first day, 25 GIs lost their lives and another 25 were wounded. On the second day of the attack, the Japanese bombers took out an anti-aircraft artillery emplacement, killing four sailors.

Grandpa, a civilian who never anticipated being in a war zone, frantically looked around for some sort of shelter from the bombs falling from the sky. That's when he spied his giant bakery mixing bowl. He somehow folded up his very long legs and huddled under the protection of that overturned helmet-shaped mixing bowl, where he stayed until he felt it was safe to come out.

When the 48-hours of terror were over, Grandpa packed up his bags and headed home. Since he didn't complete his contract with the Navy, he had to pay his own way back to the lower forty-eight, but, he insisted, it didn't matter what it cost him, he was going home. After arriving back in Oregon, Grandpa went to work in the ship yards for a couple years before returning to his baking trade.

On a side-note, during that two-day Japanese attack, another of Mom's relatives, a cousin (the son of Grandma's sister), was serving on board a Navy ship in the harbor. Neither Grandpa nor Mom's cousin knew, at the time, that the other one was at Dutch Harbor.

1 comment:

Janet said...

What a great story and connections. I'm so glad you have had the time with your mom and she has shared this story with you. Miss you all. Janet