Two Journeys to
One Wondrous Life.
I had never skied in flat Nebraska, but skiing became a lifelong activity after I first encountered it in Anchorage, Alaska, during World War II.
I was with VR 5, an air transport squadron based at Sandpoint Naval Air Station on Lake Washington in Seattle. We also had bases in Anchorage and on Kodiak Island. Our mission was to transport supplies and arms to our troops based on the Aleutian Islands. Our infantry, including Heinie, my oldest brother, were stationed on Adak Island. The Japanese had occupied Attu, the island nearest to Japan, which was the only American soil they would occupy in World War II. The infantry who were preparing to storm Attu and take it back were based on Adak, just to the east of Attu. The push to drive the Japanese from Attu Island was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific, with the majority of the Japanese committing suicide. My brother, fortunately, survived.
The remoteness of the Aleutians fostered an illegal and profitable bootlegging business. At the time, only officers could have hard liquor, enlisted men could have only beer, and wine was unheard of. So some of the crew, including officers, would buy rotgut in Seattle, and the price would go higher the farther out on the chain it was purchased. One hundred dollars was the norm on Adak, where Heinie, my brother, was stationed.
When I visited Adak, I would always take Heinie and his mates really good booze. I would also eschew the comfortable enlisted quarters to stay with him and his buddies in their crowded and smelly Quonset hut, where we would party into the night. The latrine was a distance away, and the snow on the permafrost surrounding the hut was always yellow.