|Cape Chiniak, Kodiak, Alaska .. 1963|
|Images from Bob Potratz|
|Please scroll-down for the full photo collection.|
The winding gravel road from the Naval Base to Cape Chiniak was about 38 miles long.
It was reportedly built by the 151st Combat Engineers Construction Battalion in
1941-42 to service part of the harbor defenses being constructed at Chiniak, known at
that time as Ft. J.H. Smith, to protect the Kodiak Naval Station which had recently
been built. The high point of the road was the infamous 'Kalsin Bay Hill'. This was a
spot where you rounded a curve, and there below, was Kalsin Bay, perhaps 300 feet
below. The road had no guard rails at that time and was probably about the same as it
was when constructed 20 years earlier. We arrived in January of '63 when there was
considerable ice and snow on the road. This made our first trip to the Cape a very
interesting one! The day before we arrived, a Navy P2V-7 plane smashed into the side of
what was known as Old Women's Mountain when the pilot aborted a landing. He
mistakenly banked to the left. The crash killed seven people and was still smoldering
when we arrived the next day from Adak. Kind of made us wonder what we were in for
and thankful that the trip from Adak had gone smoothly!
This is a picture of one of the two 8" gun emplacements located at Chiniak. They were
part of the WWII harbor defense system of the Kodiak Naval Base and the Army
garrison known as Fort Greely. They were originally designed for use on WWI
battleships and had been in storage for quite a number of years before being installed
here. Special carriages had to be constructed for them which is what I am standing in.
The combined weight of the guns and carriage was listed at 103,000 lbs and the range
was listed as around 35,000 yards. There were two other 8" guns located across
Chiniak Bay at a place called Millers Point, about three or four miles from the town of
Kodiak. The guns were never fired at the enemy as the closest attack made by the
Japanese was at Dutch Harbor, some 500 miles to the west. The four guns were
destroyed by the Army caretakers following the war sometime in late 1948 or early
1949 according to reports. The two at Millers Point are still there and are now part of a
Kodiak Military History site. According to Joe Stevens, Kodiak military historian and
host of a large and informative website www.kadiak.org dealing with same, the gun in
the picture that was at Chiniak is now on display in front of the Bushkin River Inn at the
airport. No traces of the second gun at Chiniak existed at the site when I was
stationed there in 1963. More info on the guns, who constructed them and when, can
be found on Joe Stevens' site. Several letters in his guestbook are from WWII vets who
actually helped construct the sites and install the guns (ref letters #'d 5, 28, 29, 36 & 52).
This picture was taken in front of the large two story ready amunition bunker
which was between the two 8" gun emplacements at Cape Chiniak. It was
contructed in 1942 by members of the 43rd USN Construction Battion (CB'S).
The officer in charge was LTjg Wm. F. Blank. More inflormation on this can be
found on the website www.kadiak.org (ref. letter #5 in the guestbook section
written by Mr. Blank)
This picture was taken about a mile from our barracks as the road passed by Chiniak
Lake. The Naval Station, near the town of Kodiak, was about 38 miles away (by road)
at this point. The sign by the road informed any who managed to travel this far that
they were now entering a restricted area. The Naval Base and the town of Kodiak lay
at the foot of the mountains in the background, some 17-18 miles away across
An exploring expedition at the bottom of the cliffs, obviously done at 'low tide'. There would
have been at least six or seven feet of water covering this area at high tide! Pictured are
Chief Steinmetz and Curt Wilkens who were on the same watch section as I was.
This was an interesting rock formation along the same stretch of coastline. Only one like
it in that area. It is very similar to what are known as 'The Twelve Apostles' off the coast of
southern Australia that you will see in any Australian travel guide. Haven't seen this one in
any Kodiak travel guides!
Chief Steinmetz hugging the rocks to stay out of the water as the tide was coming back
in. We still had several hundred yards to go before we could reach a point where we could
scale the cliffs.
One of those rare clear Kodiak days. Even the wind was still, creating a mirror like suface
on Chiniak Lake.
Our boat dock by the cabin on Chiniak Lake. The cabin had been built in '61-'62, a year
before I arrived. The Chiniak 'Fleet' was in port that day.
This was the closest bunker to our barracks. It apparently was used as a communications
command post. The pictures of the Chiniak coastline were taken very near this spot as it
had a commanding view of the ocean and the surrounding area.
Another of the bunkers on top of the cliffs at the tip of The Cape. This one was only about
a half mile from the barracks.
Two photos taken on different days of the rugged coastline. It was only a coincidence that one was
taken at low tide and the other at high tide - quite a difference. These shots were taken only about 300
yards from our barracks and immediately behind us was one of the bunkers shown in one of the other
This picture was taken in August during the run of the silver or 'coho' salmon.
Don't remember the names of the two holding the stringer of fish, but the taller
was one of our cooks. Some of the salmon were smoked in a small building
behind our barracks.
Two black and white shots of the rugged Chiniak coastline taken less than a mile from our barracks.
In one or two places, it was a sheer 100' drop to the rocks below.