Fort Richardson National Cemetery is located on the Fort Richardson Military Reservation in Anchorage, Alaska. During World War II, 39 acres of Fort Richardson were set aside for use as a temporary burial site where deceased soldiers—regardless of nationality—could be laid to rest. The first burial of a service member occurred on 10 January 1942.
Because of the Aleutian Campaign in World War II, the U.S. Army handled not just American casualties but also those of Allied and enemy forces. Thus, the Army established two sections at the post cemetery separate from those for U.S forces. The American burials occurred in a 2-acre wood-fenced plot that consisted of four sections. The Japanese and Allied burials occurred in two sections, located outside the fenced area to the east.
Under the international program for the return of war dead, most of the soldiers interred at Fort Richardson were returned to their families. There were, however, some soldiers who remained buried at Fort Richardson either because the next of kin could not be found or their families requested that they remain interred in Alaska. In December 1946, the temporary cemetery at Fort Richardson was made a permanent site.
The Allied section contains the remains of Canadian and Soviet pilots. During the Aleutian Island campaign, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) No.8 (Bomber Reconnaissance), No. 111 (Fighter), and No. 14 (Fighter) squadrons all operated out of Anchorage and other bases to support the Americans and the over 5,000 Canadians who invaded Attu and Kiska. Twelve RCAF airmen were buried at Fort Richardson's cemetery. Eleven of the Canadians are in the Allied section, and one is in Section A.
There are 14 Soviet Airmen interred in Fort Richardson National Cemetery. As part of the Lend-Lease program, several hundred Soviet pilots and 17 interpreters were stationed at Ladd Field in Fairbanks. American pilots, many of them women, would ferry American-built B-25s, A-20s, C-47s, P-38s, and other aircraft from American factories in the lower 48 states to Fairbanks. From Fairbanks, Soviet pilots would fly the planes to Nome to refuel, and then into Siberia and finally Moscow. The route was safer for the Allies than moving equipment across the Atlantic. During the missions, several Soviet personnel died, and they were buried at the post cemetery at Fort Richardson. The Soviets are buried in the Allied section.
Among the notable burials in the cemetery is that of Major Kermit Roosevelt who died while assigned to Alaska Defense Command on 4 June 1943, and was interred on 8 June 1943, in Grave 22, Section A. Kermit was the son of President Theodore Roosevelt and served in both the U.S. and British armies during World War I and II.
On August 22, 1917, Kermit was appointed an honorary captain in the British Army and saw action in the Near East before transferring to the U.S. Army. In the British Army, he served in present-day Iraq; he mastered spoken as well as written Arabic and served as a translator. Because of his courage, Kermit was awarded a Military Cross on 26 August 1918. After the war, he was active in several businesses. As war erupted once again in Europe in 1939, Roosevelt received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment. He served in Finland and Norway before returning to England and being discharged from the British army on health grounds on 2 May 1941.
Roosevelt soon returned to the United States, and through the assistance of his family, he received a commission as a major in the U.S. Army and transferred to Alaska as an intelligence officer. However, his drinking and depression soon took a toll, and he committed suicide, though official reports at the time listed the cause of death as a heart attack.
After the Aleutian Island Campaign during World War II, the Army buried the remains of a large number of Japanese soldiers at Fort Richardson. These men were buried outside the fence in the Japanese section.
In summer 1953, the Japanese government requested that the Japanese dead at Fort Richardson Post Cemetery be disinterred so that they could be cremated in Shinto and Buddhist ceremonies. Shigeru Inada, third secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, supervised the cremation ritual. After the cremation, the U.S. Army reinterred the remains on 13 July 1953. The Japanese had 18 identified and 217 unidentified soldiers buried in the cemetery.
In July 1964, a group of 18 Japanese citizens visited the Fort Richardson cemetery. Included in the group were three religious leaders, the Reverends Hoin Yamada, Ken Adachi, and Cyoin Hashimoto. Hashimoto, chairman of the Japanese Buddhist Cultural Association, presided over a special ceremony at the gravesite, with prayers, singing, and meditation. One of the pilgrims who attended was Kuneo Sato, one of the 27 survivors of the battle for Attu Island. Holy water, wreaths and flowers from Japan were placed on the American graves, and the group placed a tall, four-sided wooden monument on the Japanese burial plot. In May 1981, a group of Japanese civilians in Anchorage had a new monument made in Japan and sent to Alaska, to replace the then-dilapidated original. The monument was replaced again in 2002 and will continue to be replaced in the future according to Japanese custom.
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Staff Sergeant James Leroy Bondsteel, U.S. Army, Company A, 2d Battalion, 2d Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Staff Sergeant Bondsteel distinguished himself while serving as a platoon sergeant, near the village of Lang Sau, An Loc Province, Republic of Vietnam, on 24 May 1969. Company A was directed to assist a friendly unit which was endangered by intense fire from a North Vietnamese Battalion located in a heavily fortified base camp.
Staff Sergeant Bondsteel quickly organized the men of his platoon into effective combat teams and spearheaded the attack by destroying four enemy occupied bunkers. He then raced some 200 meters under heavy enemy fire to reach an adjoining platoon which had begun to falter. After rallying this unit and assisting their wounded, SSG Bondsteel returned to his own sector with critically needed munitions. Without pausing he moved to the forefront and destroyed four enemy occupied bunkers and a machine gun which had threatened his advancing platoon. Although painfully wounded by an enemy grenade, SSG Bondsteel refused medical attention and continued his assault by neutralizing two more enemy bunkers nearby. He continued to rally his men and led them through the entrenched enemy until his company was relieved. His exemplary leadership and great personal courage throughout the four-hour battle ensured the success of his own and nearby units, and resulted in the saving of numerous lives of his fellow soldiers.
He died on 9 April 1987, and is buried Section H, Grave 19.
Charles Foster Jones – the only civilian killed by the Japanese Army in North America during World War II
Born 1 May 1879, he was the doctor's son; his mother died when he was just four months old.
He always wanted to travel. He attended Puget Sound University, but he took off for Chilkoot Pass when the Klondike Gold Strike hit. He wrote articles for his hometown newspaper and described his adventures, but never his fortune.
Passing through Tanana, Charles went to the post office where he met Etta, a trained nurse, and teacher and they were married 1 April 1923. With sled dogs, they mushed to a cabin for a honeymoon. Over the years, they went from one remote community to the next, where Etta taught and provided medical services while Charles was always a handyman. Charles and Etta moved to the Island of Attu in 1941.
Again, Etta was teacher and nurse, and Charles was the school repairman and band music teacher, but he also provided daily weather reports to the region, including to the military. Just days after the failed campaigns at Midway and Dutch Harbor, on 7 June 1942, as the Japanese approached the island, Charles sent one final report, that the "Japanese are here," and then he destroyed the radio. The Japanese took all 42 members of the village captive. The Japanese tried to force him to repair the radio, but he refused, and they executed him with a shot to the head. The Japanese brought his wife, Etta, to his body, where the invaders tried to make her believe he committed suicide and then cut his head off in front of her.
Mr. Jones was buried without a coffin by the islanders with only a small bottle placed at the head to mark his grave. All remaining imprisoned inhabitants were sent to Japan as prisoners of war.
The Japanese kept Etta with Australian nurses that were captured in Papua New Guinea.
The Imperial Japanese Forces sent the remaining Attu Islanders to a different location, where 40% died from disease and malnutrition.
At the end of the war, the U.S. Army sought Jones' body to return him to his family. However, Etta wanted him to stay in Alaska because he loved it so much. Since he died while performing duties for the U.S. military, he was accorded special military honors and placed in the Ft Richardson National Cemetary.
He is in Plot A, Row 1, Grave 2, with many other veterans who died while in service to our nation. His marker does not bear a rank.