ECU Maritime Studies researchers receive NOAA grant to explore WWII battle site near Alaska
Researchers in East Carolina University’s Program in Maritime Studies have received a $707,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research to explore a World War II battle site near Alaska.
The project, “Exploring Attu’s Underwater Battlefield and Offshore Environment,” will be led by Dominic Bush, a doctoral student in the coastal resource management program within ECU Integrated Coastal Programs, and Dr. Jason Raupp, assistant professor of maritime studies in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of History.
This interdisciplinary project will survey the seabed surrounding the Alaskan island of Attu to document underwater cultural heritage associated with the WWII battle that took place May 11-30, 1943 — the only WWII battle fought on North American soil.
“My interest in the Aleutians stems from the fact that I, myself, am part Native Aleut, as my maternal grandmother is the daughter of a full-blooded Chugach woman and a Danish sailor,” Bush said. “I’ve been aware of my Aleutian heritage my entire life but was never told much about it. As the pandemic shut down everything, I decided to completely dedicate myself to learning everything I possibly could about the main WWII conflict in the Aleutians: the Battle of Attu.”
Field research for the project will occur in the summer of 2023 and utilize advanced marine survey technologies to document the cold-water marine environment, and locate and record the remains of ships, aircraft and other military vehicles lost during the battle.
“Being both the westernmost part of North America and the largest uninhabited island in the U.S., Attu presents an exciting but logistically challenging opportunity for research,” Raupp said. “Despite the battlefield’s recent incorporation into the Aleutian Islands WWII National Monument, it remains relatively unknown to the American public and is referred to as the ‘Forgotten Battle.’”
According to Bush and Raupp, while some of the battle’s remains on the island have been documented, Attu’s underwater battlefield has been completely ignored. They said their project seeks to bring together indigenous Alaskan history experts, maritime archaeologists, marine biologists and innovators in remote sensing technology to better understand the cultural and natural landscape of the waters around Attu.
The Maritime Studies program at ECU is one of the world’s leading academic underwater archaeology programs.
About ECU Maritime Studies
East Carolina University, located in Greenville, North Carolina is home to 28,000 students and its Maritime Studies program at is one of the world’s leading academic underwater archaeology programs. A large percentage of graduates go on to get jobs in the field as archaeologists, contract archaeologists, government cultural resource managers, museum archeologists, curators, museum directors, national and state park staff, conservators, and teachers at all levels.
East Carolina University offers more than 87 bachelor’s, 68 master’s and 18 doctoral degrees to 28,000 students on its Greenville, North Carolina, campus and through an acclaimed online learning program. The university’s school of medicine consistently ranks No. 1 in North Carolina – and in the top 10% nationally – for graduating physicians who practice in-state, practice primary care and practice in rural and underserved areas. ECU boasts the largest business school enrollment and largest number of new nurses and education professionals produced by a four-year North Carolina university, in addition to the largest studio art program in the state. The university has a globally recognized academic underwater archaeology program and has a supportive relationship with the U.S. military services. Located near Atlantic coast harbors where pirates once roamed, ECU adopted the “Pirates” mascot in 1934 for its athletics program and competes in NCAA Division 1.
Dominic Bush, ECU doctoral student, Department of Coastal Studies, 808-754-2412 or email@example.com;
Dr. Jason Raupp, assistant professor, Program in Maritime Studies, 252-561-5009 or firstname.lastname@example.org;
ECU News Services, 252-328-6481 or email@example.com
Photo 1: American Landing on Attu, May 11, 1943. AP Photos. Available at https://www.osi.af.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2002276537/
Photo 2: Holtz Bay with Ship, National Archives. Available at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/166694696
Photo 3: Attu Village in 1937, Fish & Wildlife Service. Available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division under the digital ID fsa.8e01445. Available at https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/fsa.8e01445/
Photo 4: Massacre Beach, Attu, Present Day. Fish & Wildlife Service. Available at https://www.fws.gov/media/159666
Photo 5: Engineer Hill Memorial, Attu, Present Day. Fish & Wildlife Service. Available at https://alaskausfws.medium.com/refuge-and-remembrance-c8e2e96bec6c