Paul Worley

World War II Veteran Aleutian Islands

Paul Worley quit school at seventeen to join the army in November of 1940. Two months later, on January 27, 1941, Mr. Worley was called into the federal service. This was just shy of a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Seventeen days after Pearl Harbor, Paul Worley was sent out with the first combat unit to the Aleutian Islands. He stayed there for three and a half years.

It was during this three and a half years that Worley would be put into the very throws of survival, and the reason one needs to listen to his bravery. As one would guess, the Aleutian Islands are in the Pacific, but where they would be wrong is in assuming they are near the equator. They are actually the chain of islands off the very western part of Alaska. This chain served as a critical military axis, as both the Japanese and the Americans could easily station aircraft and send them on toward very key positions in the war. Yet, what Paul Worley would face in the next three and a half years is nothing short of horrific.

In the Aleutian Islands, the sun was seen only twice the entire time Worley was stationed there. Snow, rain, and winds reaching 100 mph was the forecast everyday. The men suffered from dysentery and jaundice, some were committed after going insane, and others decided death would be better than the life they lived. It was in these conditions Worley would remain steadfast, while building landing stripes out of steel by hand because concrete could not be laid.

The Americans eventually broke the code of the Japanese and learned of an attack on the Aleutian Islands. Mr. Worley recounts a sick feeling and being on edge for months after learning of the attack. Finally, on June 3, 1943, the Japanese attacked. After two days, the American base was about finished off.

America would then launch a counter attack that saw an incredible death toll of over 6000 men. This battle over Attu would bring many atrocities. Because of the mushy, wet terrain, the men would not be able to drive into the battle, but would need to carry all their artillery. The freezing cold water led to many deaths and amputations. It was through this battle that America would once again regain the Aleutian Islands and the ability to send plans to Russia. Mr. Worley, an engineer and machine gunner, would lose many friends in the battle.

It is in the remaining years that Mr. Worley would be commissioned to be an MP, and witness another travesty–a friend who, being hit by 17 machine gun bullets, would in turn kill 27 German officers being held in prison in California. Scheduled for a court marshal, the U.S. would soon cancel his friend’s trial on the fact that a captain had labeled him and his friend “not responsible for their actions.”

However, many years after the war, in 2002, we see the spry Mr. Worley getting his high school diploma–he was 80. He also would come to marry a woman in the town of Tuscumbia, AL, where he worked as a postman. Though engaged already to someone else, she was soon persuaded by Mr. Worley to marry him, after not receiving any letters from her fiancé–letters that Mr. Worley might have lost on his route!

It is in this fascinating interview that Mr. Worley explains a secret front, in the deathly cold of the Aleutian Islands, where America held fast, preventing a key location from falling into the hands of its enemies.

Interviewed by Kim Copeland on June 22, 2010.