By Corporals Allan Merritt and Tom Love

YANK Field Correspondents

AN ALASKA ARMY BASE—The “Fighting” 4th Infantry finally went back to the States after just about everybody had given up hope of ever seeing the place again.

The first units of the famed regiment arrived in Alaska in June 1940, the month France was falling. After an almost endless period of clearing ground, unloading ships, putting up Quonset huts, digging in gun positions and performing other drudgery essential to the defense of Alaska, the 4th finally met the Japanese who had caused all their trouble in the first place. The 1st Battalion took a decisive role in the bloody battle of Attu.

4th infantry attu

America soldiers mortar Japanese positions on Attu.

At Attu the men of the 4th proved the value of their tough Alaskan training. They suffered few casualties from exposure and were not bothered by the “immersion foot” that took such a terrific toll among the troops comparatively recently up from the States. “GI Sourdoughs,” the men of the 4th called themselves.

When the Japanese threatened the important outpost of Nome in 1942, the entire 2nd Battalion of the 4th Infantry, together with equipment and attached units, was transferred by air transport. It took practically every civilian and military plane in Alaska, including some old Ford Trimotors, to get them up there, in the largest movement of troops and equipment by air up to that time. Old timers say it was also the most hectic.

The 3rd Battalion, which stayed at Fort Richardson, participated in cold-weather experimental tests that have contributed to the advanced type of equipment furnished American Arctic troops today.

Members of the 4th are now in the States, enjoying the civilization they worked and fought for in Alaska those three long years. If they go overseas again, they prefer some nice warm tropical land. But no islands, please.

For More on the War in Alaska Check Out:

Thousand-Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians

Ghosts in the Fog: The Untold Story of Alaska’s WWII Invasion

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