'Eskimo Scouts' protected U.S. from invasion

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mike Tubbs
  • 58th Airlift Squadron
The Alaska Territorial Guard or "Eskimo Scouts" were organized in 1942 as a U.S. Army Reserve component to patrol more than 5,200 miles of Alaska's shoreline. The force was assembled in response to the Japanese attacks on Hawaii and Alaskan soil in 1941. 

Maj. Marvin "Muktuk" Marston and Maj. Carl Scheibner recruited 6,389 men and women, mostly Alaskan Natives, to train and defend their towns and villages in case of invasion from the Japanese forces during World War II. However, one historical account states that there were as many as 20,000 natives in the ATG during World War II in reconnaissance or support activities. Made up of mostly men, their ages ranged from 12 to 80. Nearly all of the personnel in the Alaska Territorial Guard were unpaid volunteers. 

The Alaska Territorial Guard played a defensive role, serving in at least two major strategic efforts for the Allied Powers in World War II. They protected the only source of the strategic metal platinum in the Western Hemisphere against Japanese attack and they secured the land around the vital Lend-Lease air route between the United States and Russia. This lifeline provided Russia with essential military aircraft and was crucial to Russian survival during Adolf Hitler's Operation Barbarossa. 

Some other notable activities of the Alaska Territorial Guard include: transport of equipment and supplies, construction of airstrips and support facilities for other military agencies, coastal and inland scouting patrols, distribution of emergency food and ammo containers for the Navy, land and sea rescue and enemy combat. They earned commendations for shooting down Japanese air balloons carrying bombs, eavesdropping on radio transmissions and the rescue of downed airmen. 

In 2004, the Army acknowledged the patriotism of the Alaska Territorial Guard members as veterans and made them eligible for veteran's benefits. In April 2008, 50 Alaska Territorial Guard soldiers that were never officially discharged from the Army finally received their discharge papers. 

The contributions and sacrifices of the Alaska Territorial Guard during World War II have ensured the liberty of our nation and our allies. Their service and sacrifice is especially appreciated considering the mistreatment their ancestors received by the government they later served.