Ben Huff Atomic Island
NOV. 5, 2021 - JAN. 29, 2022
About This Exhibition
Atomic Island is a portrait of an abandoned WWII and Cold War Naval outpost on the Aleutian island of Adak. Archival and contemporary pictures weave together a complex story of the westernmost front against communism and the people who live among the remnants of past military ambitions.
Part of the Alaska State Museum Solo Artist Exhibition Series 2020–2023
Photographer Ben Huff gave a lecture at the Alaska State Museum on November 5, 2021. The lecture was recorded for later broadcast by KTOO 360TV.
On June 3, 1942, Japanese planes bombed Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Three days later, Japanese troops seized the farthest west Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska. The theater of World War II had moved into the North Pacific and the Bering Sea.
In August of the same year, thousands of American Army soldiers landed at Kulluk Bay on Adak, an island halfway out the Aleutian chain, seven hundred miles east of Attu, making it the westernmost front of the US military on American soil.
By August of 1943, after intense fighting by air and sea, American and Canadian battalions regained control of the Aleutians. The battles displaced hundreds of Unangax people, and thousands of Japanese and hundreds of American soldiers were killed. After three years, the Aleutian campaign, known as the Forgotten War, was over.
After WWII, the base in Adak remained as a strategic front in the Cold War. The Aleutians would become a significant symbol in the fight against communism with nuclear testing on Amchitka Island and surveillance of Soviet submarines. Adak, at its height, supported a Navy operation of 6,000 soldiers and their families.
In 1997, with the Cold War over and advances in technology supplanting geographic proximity, the Navy abandoned the Island.
Today, fewer than one hundred people call Adak home.