Captain Johnathan of the F/V Time Bandit decided it was time to honor his grandfather, and the WWII Dutch Harbor war heroes, in the most patriotic way that he knew: with 30,000 pounds of fireworks!
In the Discovery Channel special entitled, “A Hillstrand 4th of July,” This very special Deadliest Catch episode focused on the World War II Dutch Harbor heroes that defeated the Japanese during the Aleutian Islands campaign. Captain Hillstrand’s grandfather, Ernest Shupert, better known as “Shupe,” was part of the group of war heroes known as “Castner’s Cutthroats.”
Dutch Harbor is where the Deadliest Catch boats start each season, before setting off for crab, but according to historian Jeff Dickrell, on June 3, 1942, the harbor was bombed and 25 American men were killed. Dickrell told the soon-to-be-retiring captain that this is the “forgotten war.”
Like Hawaii, Alaska was only a territory, and not officially a state until 1959. Like Pearl Harbor, Dutch Harbor was the only other American site that was bombed by the Japanese. While Pearl Harbor is remembered, Dutch Harbor has been forgotten. Captain Johnathan Hillstrand wants to make sure that these men are acknowledged, and properly honored.
Dickrell showed the television cameras, and Hillstrand the hull of the Northwestern, which was submerged into the water. Although bombed on June 4, 1942, thankfully, no American lives were lost. They were hiding in foxholes, protected from the bombing.
The group of Alaskan Scouts, including Shupe, were instrumental in overcoming the Japanese on May 1943, and captured back the islands that the Japanese had taken the previous year. According to Fox, 15,000 Americans “came in to take back the islands.”
The Alaskans cleverly fooled the enemy into believing that an entire division of soldiers were rushing into the beach, by launching submarines and dinghies. The 15,000 Alaskans eventually overcame the Japanese on July 28, 1943, spending more than two months battling for the Aleutian Islands.
After careful thought, John chose historical site, Fort Schwatka, just 800 miles west of Anchorage as the perfect place to honor the Alaskan Scouts. This was the epicenter in the Aleutian Islands, for those who fought the Japanese and protected America. This is where the men were to finally be honored.
The elated and emotional Captain Johnathan was like a kid, with the help of a pyrotechnics expert, he blew up the fireworks, creating the fitting tribute as spectacular as possible.
Captain Keith Colburn said it best when he described the F/V Time Bandit captain to a childhood character.
“John Hillstrand is Peter Pan with a match.”
Like Johnathan, Captain Keith is proud to finally acknowledge these forgotten men, and finally honor those lives that were lost, as well as those who defended America.
“Our grandfathers defended this country. These guys have been forgotten, and we need to remember that.”
Did you know about this part of American history? What do you think of Captain Johnathan’s tribute to his grandfather Shupe, and the Castner’s Cutthroats?
[Featured Image by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR]