After the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands in 1942, the urgency of the war effort necessitated Black involvement, despite efforts to maintain segregation in the nation’s military. Over the next three years, Black soldiers demonstrated valor on and off the battlefield, despite being targets of derision and racism. Many of the soldiers who participated in the construction of the Alaska Highway assisted in the Aleutian Campaign, the bloodiest setting of the war’s North American theatre.
The conflict in the Aleutians was devastating for the Indigenous Unangax̂ people, who were removed from their ancestral homelands in a measure the US military justified as necessary to conduct the war. For the Black troops who served in the Aleutians, however, the campaign was an opportunity to demonstrate their centrality to the war effort and bolster their claims to full and equal citizenship.