VA secretary pays tribute to WWII Alaska Native militia

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald has paid tribute to those who served in the Alaska Territorial Guard during World War II.

McDonald addressed seven surviving members of the largely Alaska Native militia, thanking them during a brief ceremony Wednesday in the northwest Alaska town of Kotzebue. Event representatives say the veterans attending the ceremony came from Kotzebue and three villages.

Alaska was still 17 years away from statehood when the 6,400-member militia was formed in 1942 to defend the vast territory from the threat of Japanese invasion.

But members of the militia weren’t formally recognized by the Army at U.S. military veterans until 2004.

The unit was activated after Japan’s attack of Pearl Harbor and points along Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

The militia disbanded with little fanfare in 1947.