Alaska News

Thousands of WWII-era Rommel stakes removed from Unalaska Island

Unalaska Island's legacy of World War II military junk was reduced by nearly 7 tons after local residents and contractors removed a few thousand Rommel stakes from the north side of Beaver Inlet.

Local resident Melissa Good gave a presentation on the project last month, which was funded by the U.S. Defense Department's Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program, administered locally by the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska.

Stakes were removed from Agamgik Bay, Ugadaga Bay, Uniktali Bay, and the Peace of Mind area between October 2013 and July 2014, by a crew working on weekends.

Good said the stakes that were still standing upright often had barbed wire attached. The stakes were installed during World War II, to trip up potential invaders. A land attack never came, though Japanese planes bombed Unalaska and Dutch Harbor in 1942.

The stakes are also known as screw pickets and could be quietly twisted into the ground, without any hammering that could attract enemy attention. They were originally used in Europe during World War I. The war novel, "All Quiet on the Western Front," by Erich Maria Remarque, describes German soldiers carrying the stakes on their shoulders: "The burdens are awkward and heavy."

The project focused on removing long stakes, about 4.5 feet, and shorter 2- and 3-foot stakes. The rusty old pointy metal stakes look like big corkscrews, and the longer onces weigh around 7.5 pounds.

Beaver Inlet is an undeveloped and roadless part of Unalaska Island accessible by hiking trails from town, though commercial fishing activity includes the floating seafood processor Northern Victor.

The 2,811 stakes were stacked in piles, weighing a total of 13,798 pounds, and then loaded onto Trevor Shaishnikoff's fishing boat, the Kalekata, for delivery to a metal recycler, Good said. She said hundreds more of the stakes remain on the island, and advised people to watch out while hiking and walking dogs.

Rommel stakes were also screwed into the tundra on other Aleutian Islands, including Amchitka and Adak, during World War II.

The cleanup crew consisted of Josh Good, Melissa Good, Simon Prennace, Loren St. Amand, and Ryan Herman-Heywood, plus Chilkat Environmental's Bruce Wood and Elijah Wood.

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.

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