I enjoyed Scott Banks’s article on the Aleutian Islands very much (“Empire of the Winds,” April/May 2003), but I’m sorry there was no mention of Shemya. Shemya is a small island (only two miles by four) 40 miles east of Attu. As the saying went, I spent a decade there one year. In the 196Os Shemya was occupied by the Air Force and a few of us from the Army, along with a couple of Navy types. I was a Russian linguist in those days, and my unclassified job title was “voice intercept operator.” Since Shemya was less than 500 miles from the Kamchatka Peninsula, you can probably figure out what I was doing.
Shemya had no trees and no port to speak of. We flew to Attu for our R&R. If memory serves, there were about 200 men on the island. During World War II it had been populated with families, and those of us who followed them two decades later fixed up one of their old abandoned homes as a clubhouse where we could hang out, away from the barracks.
A tour on Shemya lasted 50 weeks, and we had little to do except play cards, watch movies, and wander along the coastline.