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Unalaskans Suspect Coast Guard Crew Of Tagging World War II Bunker

Apr 17, 2017

Dmitri Dane of Unalaska photographed the graffitied bunker in March. U.S. Coast Guard officials say they can't confirm whether crew members of the cutter Morgenthau are responsible.
Credit Dmitri Dane/Aleutian Islands Photography

#722LIFE. MORGENTHUGS.

That statement has been splashed across the side of a World War II bunker in Unalaska, leaving some residents outraged on social media.

On a rare sunny day in March, Dmitri Dane hiked up the back side of Mount Ballyhoo, where military structures from World War II still look out over the Bering Sea.

"It’s amazing," said Dane. "You can see the mountain range, you can see Hog Island, and the bunkers are on the very edge of the cliff.”

As a landscape photographer, Dane said it’s one of the best views in Unalaska. But as he walked out to the bunker on the farthest bluff, he came across something not so beautiful.

“I was very surprised to see the bunker at the very end had a lot of graffiti on there," he said.

Tagging isn’t unusual on the island, even for historic structures like bunkers and barracks. But these big black letters were spray-painted on the outside of the bunker -- not hidden inside like most graffiti. 

Dane snapped a photo of the tag, posted it on Facebook, and watched as the comments poured in.

“I got a lot of angry people," he said. "Not at me, but a lot of them were angry toward the supposed people who wrote it on there.”

No one’s really sure who tagged the bunker, but the graffiti provides some clues.

“It felt like a punch in the gut when you see it has a U.S. Coast Guard tag on it," said Carlin Enlow, director of the Unalaska Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She saw the photo online and drew the same conclusion as a lot of commenters -- that the bunker was defaced by crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau, designated number 722.

For years, the cutter has stopped in Unalaska on patrol in the Bering Sea, protecting marine resources and helping with search and rescue.

For Enlow, that mission makes the tag even harder to stomach.

“It’s a group of people who are supposed to serve and protect us," she said. "All these questions come to mind. Obviously, why? Why would you do that?”

The Morgenthau’s commanding officer looked into the matter after KUCB requested comment. The extent of the Coast Guard’s investigation is unclear, but officials say there’s “no information available" to confirm if crew members are responsible.

In the past, the landowning company has given Coast Guard crews permission to paint the names and numbers of their vessels on blast shields decorating the side of Mount Ballyhoo, where the military stashed munitions during the war.

Ounalashka Corporation CEO Chris Salts said the native corporation has always had a good relationship with the Coast Guard, and he’s not up in arms over this new piece of graffiti. But he said the corporation will pay to have the bunker cleaned this summer to preserve the area’s historical integrity.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard announced Monday that the Morgenthau is being decommissioned after nearly 50 years of service. The State Department is taking control of the cutter and may grant it to a friendly foreign government under the Foreign Assistance Act.

Officials say other vessels will take over the Morgenthau’s mission in the Bering Sea.