"Trying To Catch The Wind": Finding Alaska Territorial Guardsmen

Jul 22, 2016

Billy McCann holding his distinguished honor coin
Credit Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK

Over 6,000 Alaskans volunteered for the Alaska Territorial Guard during World War II. Over 1,000 volunteered from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The state is currently trying to track down these guardsmen to issue discharge papers so that they can receive federal veterans benefits. Many guardsmen are no longer alive. In those cases the state is trying to find their families.

This week Verdie Bowen, Alaska Director of Veterans Affairs, was in Bethel handing out discharge papers to former guardsmen. Bowen says that finding living Alaska Territorial Guard members is like "trying to catch the wind." KYUK talked with Bowen at the Bethel VFW.

Billy McCann's ATG service metal
Credit Anna Rose MacArthur / KYUK

While in Bethel, Bowen honored Billy McCann of Tununak with his Alaska Territorial Guard discharge papers. McCann also received a service metal and a distinguished honor coin. McCann joined the Alaska Territorial Guard in 1944 at 15 years old. He later served in the Alaska National Guard for more than 30 years.