Alaska’s neglected heritage: National Guard, 19 February 1971



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Updated 2021-02-19 Fifty years later, can you help support naming the JBER Bryant Field Alaska Army National Guard Maintenance Hangar 6 to be the SFC Herbert Alex Alaska Army National Guard Maintenance Hangar? SFC Herbert Alex, a Dena’ina Athabascan, was the grandson of the last Traditional Chief of the Native Village of Eklutna. His and two other lives were lost on February 19, 1971 while on a flight from Whitehorse, YT, to Fort Richardson, AK

Please help by signing the petition,

Updated 2011-11-21, The Internet Archive has a copy of one of the oral histories about this event,

Forty Fifty years ago on February 19, 1971, an Alaska Army National Guard aircraft crashed at the 14,880 foot level of Mt. Sanford, 200 miles east of Anchorage in the Wrangell Mountains. The aircraft was an Army U8-D and was to be the first multi-engine aircraft for the Alaska Army Guard. It was on a ferry flight to Ft Richardson, Alaska from Fresno, California when it crashed. The crew was MAJ [Major] Steve W. Henault, US Army; LTC [Lieutenant Colonel] LTC William Caldwell (Bill), AKARNG; and SFC [Sergeant First Class] Herbert Alex (Herb), AKARNG. All died in the crash. One rescuer also succumbed in the attempt.

Very little was published in coeval accounts (see Many current National Guard members are unaware of these events in Alaska aviation history. The Alaska Army National Guard was the first in the nation to begin an aviation component. The plane was coming from the Army. It had been stationed in Panama and re-fitted and overhauled in California.

U-8D plane, similar to that ferried to AKARNG.

En route to AK the U8-D [See] developed engine problems, declared an emergency, and landed in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The Army in Fresno was still responsible for repairs to return the U8-D to airworthy condition. However, on the repair flight to Whitehorse with the U-8 engine, the DC-3 itself lost an engine and landed at Ft Lewis, Washington.

Finally, when word was received at Ft Richardson that the U8-D was nearing airworthiness, Henault, Caldwell, and Alex flew to Whitehorse to continue the ferry mission. After a few delays, all was OK and they launched February 19 from Whitehorse to Kulis ANGB [Air National Guard Base], Anchorage.

MAJ Henault [ ] was the Pilot in Command/Instructor Pilot conducting a multi-engine plane transition as well as qualifying LTC Caldwell in the U-8. Caldwell was only a single engine qualified pilot at that time. Henault was not in the Guard but Active Duty US ARMY stationed at Ft Richardson. SFC Alex was the first aviation mechanic for AKARNG.

The evening of February 19 was the annual Adjutant General’s Ball at the Elmendorf AFB Officers Club. A radio call came in from LTC Caldwell asking that his wife be contacted and advised that they would be running a little late. Could she please lay out his dress blues for attendance at the annual AG’s Ball.

This was the last known contact with the U8-D, approximately five minutes prior to impact.

A search was launched on Saturday. Ordinarily the flight would have been through Northway. A check of all local airports along the route had been conducted with negative results. On Sunday, an Air Force C-130 located the wreckage on Mt Sanford.

Rescue and recovery attempts were made but due to continuous poor weather, the mission was greatly delayed. Weather in Anchorage dropped to double digits below zero that following week of Fur Rendezvous. Ray Genet, the Talkeetna mountain climber, Mt McKinley’s first guide, and Rex Post, a Pan American World Airways captain on leave, also a mountaineer, were dropped off from an Army helicopter at the 15,500 foot level in an attempt to reach the wreckage.

Genet had been on the mountain about a week before the weather broke, allowing him access to the aircraft. He had holed up in an emergency snow cave within about 400 yards of the aircraft. Post got altitude sickness and died on the mountain. []. Genet had frostbitten hands from the recovery effort. He died in 1979 while descending Mount Everest. []

Later, the US Army, the AKARNG, and the families decided that if all the remains could not be recovered, they would all rest in place on the mountain. They remain so today. “Whiskey Charley” is in the left seat, Herb is in the seat behind the P/CP [pilot/co-pilot] seats and Steve lies about 100 feet below the severed right wing.

A real tragedy and great loss to the AKARNG, Caldwell and Alex were very dedicated soldiers. The Nome, AK Armory was later dedicated to LTC Caldwell for his time and service as the Commander of the 1st Scout BN [Scout Battalion].

Alex was the grandson and son of Eklutna traditional leaders and his children also served in the AKARNG. In the mid-1980s, there was an effort to dedicate the AKARNG Aviation Hanger at Ft Richardson (Bryant Airfield) to SFC Alex, but nothing came of it.

The 20 ft air traffic control tower was built in 1961. It is Building 4800. The State Historic Preservation Officer lists the tower as site AK-ANC-01095
Today, the 50 year-old air traffic control tower at the airfield is about to be modified and its distinctive pattern (the last such tower in Alaska) obliterated. Alaska National Guard heritage, which is also Alaska heritage, is little known outside of the living participants’ memory. And, of course, so much of our National Guard history is oral, not written, such as the Alaska Territorial Guard of 70 years ago. We’ve never had trained scholars to gather and analyze the oral histories. The documents and structures of this heritage are not kept, much less preserved for current and future Alaskans and NG to learn from.

It would be nice if the 40th anniversary of this loss could be remembered by the state and would stimulate further interest and professional research.

2021 February 19–It’s been 50 years. Please help by signing the petition,


My thanks to David J Mock, John Spalding, and other Alaska veterans and to the family of Herbert Alex (sister Julia Cooper and daughter Eleanor Wilde, also a NG veteran) for their first-hand accounts which went into this post.

This was originally posted at

additional information–
Mrs Elizabeth L.J. Alex
ARMY AIR CREWS: Fixed Wing Aviation Crewmembers Line of Duty Deaths
A University Engaged With its Community The Search for Dena’ina …
The Complete 1957 Gustavus/Juneau Plane Crash Story by Rita Wilson,

2011–Just this past week, the DMVA issued a call for information about Bryant Army Air Field,

Connotea references on alcohol, abuse, and prohibition


The issue of whether increased #prohibition would “cure” the Alaska #alcohol problem was in the news in 2005 (and 2015 and ….). [See earlier posts here,]

The claim was and is that banning alcohol–its sale and possession–would prevent misuse and violence. There is a concomitant argument that peoples “new” to alcohol haven’t learned how to “handle” it, unlike Old World peoples. There is also the argument that Asians or (Alaska) Natives are biologically unable to “hold” their liquor.

Many Alaska communities and authorities argued and argue that only banning alcohol will work. Bethel, Alaska is again arguing the issue.

I decided in 2005 to see what evidence exists for that statement/belief.

The evidence is alcohol abuse is far more complex. Prohibition works only to a point. The Old World has rising rates of binge drinking. People with flush toilets are violent when drunk.

Banning bread making is a desperate measure; people deserve better better decisions. Continue reading

Twenty-Year Summary of Surveillance for Human Hantavirus, USA


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Hard to believe it has been that long ago [see also camai-start-here] when a new killer emerged among NM and the Pueblos. No one knew at first what it was and how to avoid the mystery illness which seemed to target young Native people. We couldn’t wait for the “outside experts” but needed to rely on the Pueblos’ own experts to begin to combat the disease and rumors. It was frightening.

The Navajo Medicine Men society was an immense help in uncovering the ecology of this disease. [Dr Jim Cheek worked with them. See this paper and the People Magazine article at the time,

This is only the third time this century that there has been a year-round supply of the nuts. Says Dr. James Cheek of the Indian Health Service: “I believe the elders and medicine men might have been much closer than any of us to the cause of the disease.”

BTW, before an official name sin nombre was assigned, the CDC did receive suggestions and concerns from the Pueblos about the suggested names which inadvertently used Pueblo sacred site names or other names which were used by folks other than CDC researchers. Sin nombre was a good choice.

Twenty-Year Summary of Surveillance for Human Hantavirus Infections, United States — B. Knust and P. E. Rollin

In 1993, an outbreak of severe respiratory illness in the Four Corners region of the United States (defined by the shared borders between the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah) made national headlines. The subsequent discovery of a new disease, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) (1), its etiologic agent, Sin Nombre virus (SNV) (2), and its rodent reservoir, the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) (3), were among the most prominent findings in a flood of new revelations about hantaviruses in the Americas.

Important–Rural Criteria for Subsistence


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I have a feed on this site which comes from another site I set up about rural criteria for subsistence in Alaska. Comments to the federal board are needed before 1 Nov 2013

You can subscribe to posts at

I can’t figure out how to post at both nlogs, so i must direct you to the site. Sorry.

Alaska Native Ph.D.s from Dr. Jessica Bissett Perea


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Dr Perea’s paper has a listing of Alaska Native Ph.D.s which complements the existing list previously mentioned American Indian and Alaska Native Ph.D.s in the US– How many? Who are they?

Her paper has just been posted at Academia,

Jessica Bissett Perea 2013 “A Tribalography of Alaska Native Presence in Academia.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 37 (3) pp. 3-27. Invited essay for special issue “Reducing Barriers to Native American Student Success in Higher Education: Challenges and Best Practices,” ed. Robert Keith Collins.

Alaska native men and Women with Earned Research Doctorates

Alaska native men and Women with Earned Research Doctorates

Table1 continued

Note to FullTextReports followers — Grab It When You See It!

Our friends Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy over at Full Text Reports have a handy reminder today: …some of the papers and reports posted on are freely available online for just a limited time before they disappear behind a paywall (or go away entirely). If you see something you suspect might be useful to you (or a colleague) in the future, download it the day you see it because it may not be accessible later without a subscription (or it may have been moved or taken offline). — Note to FullTextReports followers Grab It When You See It!, Full Text Reports (April 17, 2013). Just another reason to remember that libraries should be collecting, not pointing. (See: When we depend on pointing instead of collecting.) (By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed: the left hand navigation pane here at FGI has a feed of the latest reports listed at Full Text Reports!)

Utility of an alternative bicycle commute route of lower proximity to motorised traffic in decreasing exposure to ultra-fine particles, respiratory symptoms and airway inflammation — a structured exposure experiment

Background: Bicycle commuting in an urban environment of high air pollution is known as a potential health risk, especially for susceptible individuals. While risk management strategies aimed to reduce motorised traffic emissions exposure have been suggested, limited studies have assessed the utility of such strategies in real-world circumstances.Objectives: The potential of lowering exposure to ultrafine particles (UFP; < 0.1 mum) during bicycle commuting by reducing proximity to motorised traffic was investigated with real-time air pollution and intermittent acute inflammatory measurements in healthy individuals using their typical, and an alternative, bicycle commute route. Methods: Thirty-five healthy adults (mean +/- SD: age = 39 +/- 11 yr; 29% female) completed two return trips, one each of their typical route (HIGH) and a pre-determined alternative route of lower proximity to motorised traffic (LOW; determined by the proportion of on-road cycle paths). Particle number concentration (PNC) and diameter (PD) were monitored in-commute in real-time. Acute inflammatory indices of respiratory symptom incidence, lung function and spontaneous sputum (for inflammatory cell analyses) were collected immediately pre-commute, and one and three hours post-commute. Results: In LOW, compared to HIGH, there was a significant decrease in mean PNC (1.91 x e4 +/-
0.93 x e4 ppcc vs. 2.95 x e4 +/- 1.50 x e4 ppcc; p <= 0.001), the incidence of in-commute offensive odour detection (42 vs. 56%; p = 0.019), and the incidence of dust and soot observation (33 vs. 47%; p = 0.038) and nasopharyngeal irritation (31 vs. 41%; p = 0.007). There were no significant differences between LOW and HIGH in the commute distance and duration (12.8 +/- 7.1 vs. 12.0 +/- 6.9 km and 44 +/- 17 vs. 42 +/- 17 min, respectively), or indices of acute airway inflammation. Conclusions: Exposure to PNC (and the incidence of offensive odour and nasopharyngeal irritation) can be significantly lowered when utilising a route of reduced proximity to motorised traffic whilst bicycle commuting (without significantly affecting commute distance or duration), which may bring important benefits for both healthy and susceptible individuals.

On-line Library to close (Connotea)


Connotea,’s social bookmarking site, is closing on March 12th, 2013. We would like to thank you for your patience with and support for the site.

This was a very useful resource. I’m not sure there is an alternative. Google Reader no longer allows anyone to share their recommended readings (the Reader here was grandmothered in).

I’ll have to figure a way to export the materials collected.

American Indian and Alaska Native Ph.D.s in the US– How many? Who are they?


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Jeannie Greene, documentary producer (Heartbeat Alaska) raised an interesting topic— that there were only 45 Natives who hold Ph.D.s in the US.

That seems awfully low. Can you help add more names? Below are folks I have found, using AISES and SACNAS. Amazingly, I’m lucky enough to know many of the names and people, some personally.

Alaska Native– 2012-09-15, 2012-dec-24, 2013-03-03 now 25! 57+ check at

Dr. George Charles (Yup’ik)
Dr. Patricia Cochran (AN)
Dr. Walkie Charles (Yup’ik)
Dr. Denise Dillard (AN)
Dr Alisha Drabek (Alutiiq-Sugpiaq)
Dr Phyllis Fast (Koyukon Athabascan)
Dr. Dolly Garza (AN)
Dr. Sara Hicks (AN)
Dr. Sven Hakaanson (Alutiiq-Sugpiaq)
Dr. Theresa John (Yup’ik)
Dr. April Lakonten Councillor (Alutiiq-Sugpiaq)
Dr. Beth Leonard (AN)
Dr. Jordan Lewis (AN)
Dr. Dorothy Pender (AN)
Dr. Elizabeth Parent (AN)
Dr. Gordon Pullar (Alutiiq-Sugpiaq)
Dr. Catherine Swan Reimer (Iñupiaq)
Dr. Thomas Michael Swensen (Alutiiq-Sugpiaq)
Dr. Roy Roehl (AN)
Dr. Bernice B. Tetpon (AN)
Dr. Lisa Rey Thomas (Tlingit)
Dr. Kamilla Venner (AN)
Dr. Steven Verney (AN)
Dr. Tony Vaska (Yup’ik)
Dr. Maria Williams (Tlingit)
Dr. Rosita Worl (Tlingit)

2014-10-22 I have another table, from 2001, made by Cecil Thomas and donated to this topic by Dr. Anne S. Waters, J.D., Ph.D. The pdf version is here, Native PhDs, 2001, collected by Cecil Thomas Eventually duplicates will be corrected. I’m sure there is a more definitive version at the National Science Foundation but that is not accessible. My apologies to those who have not yet been recognized. Spreadsheet version–

Continue reading

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.