A First-Hand Account of
World War II Actions
in the Aleutian Islands

 
In 1986, I interviewed my grandfather, James Vernon Cravens (Jack Cravens), regarding his Army service during World War II from 1941 - 1944. "Papaw" served in the Aleutian Islands (Alaska). I recorded our interview on audio, and transcribed this interview years later, then researched the places and people he talked about, adding lots of historical notes and maps into the transcription, to further explain the things he talked about.

The resulting 32-page document is, if I do say so myself, a fascinating, very personal account of a small-town Kentucky boy serving in a horrific location in WWII. The account is not sugar-coated -- my grandfather talks about people and actions, including his own, in ways that I sometimes found very uncomfortable. His account strips away much of the romance that has been added to the stories of those who served during WWII, the so-called "Greatest Generation" -- not everything they did was heroic, nor something to be proud of, during World War II. He also throws in an urban legend that I didn't have the heart, nor the guts, to tell him wasn't true (I was 20 at the time of this interview).

Among the many things mentioned in this transcript:

Among the stories told by my grandfather in this interview:

My document includes online and print resources that proved most helpful in putting together the historical and cultural side notes of my document.

Only after his death did I view the pictures he took at the time, and discovered that his platoon was integrated (at least 1/3 of the other soldiers in the group pictures are black). He never mentioned this in the interview. I wish he had, because I certainly would have asked him about this -- how he felt about it, how others felt about it, if it changed his views about race, etc.

Those who served with Jack Cravens, my grandfather, include:

If you believed you served with him, please contact me for more information.

Special thanks to Grant Ichikawa and other members of the Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) of Washington, D.C., for their help with this document. I wrote JAVA to try to find out the name of a Japanese American "captain" that my grandfather said went on reconnaissance missions for the US Army in the Aleutian islands. My grandfather said: "He was a 30 year old, 'bout 30, 'tween 25 and 30 year old, full fledged Japanese colonel. And he saved us a lot of problems... he was educated in California... he saved thousands of lives. And helped us take them islands." Mr. Ichikawa pointed out that the highest rank a Japanese American could reach in the US Army at that time was 2nd Lieutenant, and another member, Harry Akune, provided a list of men who were stationed in the Aleutians during WWII. I've included all of this information in my document; however, as my grandfather died in 1991, it is impossible for me to check with him to see if any of the names provided by Mr. Ichikawa were who he was talking about.

I have this transcription, completed in 2002, in PDF format, and am willing to consider sending it to anyone who provides me with the following info:

contact me for more information.


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