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Kodiak Alaska Military History

Puffin Island


This was the WWII site of Battery 7 of the Kodiak Harbor Defenses, an anti motor torpedo boat battery, consisting of a pair of 90 mm guns on T3 mounts, a pair on M1A1 mounts and supporting barracks, officer's quarters, administration building, searchlights, DEC bunker and battery command.

Puffin Is., site 8A, had 1952 rounds of 90mm ammunition with projectiles weighing between 42 and 49 pounds each. They had two 40mm automatic guns with 2520 rounds and four .50 caliber machine guns with 10,500 rounds.

There was a similar battery located at Spruce Cape.

This facility was completed on February 11, 1944. It had no observation stations. It was equipped with a M1 range finder, an SCR-593 (BC-728 4-channel radio receiver), and a SCR-547 radar located at a ground elevation of 45 feet with the antenna only 9 feet above ground.

Puffin Island is in the center of St. Paul Harbor about 1.25 NM offshore from Gibson Cove or Near Island. Latitude 57° 45.3' north, longitude 152° 26.0' west. It is one of two Puffin Islands in the Kodiak area, and one of four Puffin Islands in Alaska. (The other Puffin Island in the Kodiak Island Borough is off the western tip of Sitkalidak Island near Old Harbor.) Our Puffin Island is 2 NM from the boat ramp at Dog Bay.

Puffin Island is a bird nesting area protected by the Migratory Bird Act. The birds concentrate on the outer cliffs but most of the island is stained. By far the dominant bird on our visit was sea gulls. There were only two other individuals of other species seen.

The best landing is the beach on the west end (toward the airport) where the Army had a pier. There are three pilings left from the pier and they are well above the water. There is a nice sandy beach with a quick drop-off. We landed with a fiberglass skiff and could keep the engine running in the water with the bow in the sand. The sea-swell made this difficult. We were dropped off by the skiff operator, Chuck Mackey, and he fished in the area while we explored for about two hours. It would be very difficult to keep a powered skiff on the beach with even the slightest sea-swell. There was another party on the island at the same time in a solo kayak.

The book Road System Guide to Kodiak Island World War II Sites sold at Ft. Abercrombie ranger station says you might find yourself walking on unsafe roof-tops covered with soil. We didn't find any of this, but when finding yourself walking on old floors that are covered with soil they are quite springy. You can dig right through them with your hand and will find solid ground a couple of inches below the rotted floor. WARNING: There are open holes in the ground. These are obscured by the waist deep grass. There are no trails to speak of except a very narrow hard to see trail where the road was. The tall grass makes it essential that you WATCH YOUR STEP.

We found most structures mentioned on the maps. There was no trace of the supply & admin. bldg. located just below the cliff line. If there was a road up that cliff, things have changed a bit. The cliff is now a very steep climb, much too steep to walk up.

A main telephone cable from Ft. Greely passed through Puffin Island then via Cliff Point to the Chiniak and Narrow Cape areas. The cables were probably salvaged by recyclers in the early 1950's.

For the ownership of the island, see the letter at the bottom of this page.

Click on a picture to see a larger version. Photos by Curt Law, AL7LQ, and Joe Stevens, WL7AML, 1998 August 22. Text and web page design by Joe Stevens

The pictures

1 Puffin Island map. Drawn from two others and field survey. The location of the 220 by 13 foot pier is approximate. Refer to this map for locations of the pictures below.
2 After the wood rotted away the plumbing of Barracks No. 1 is all that's left.
3 Concrete platform (roof, floor ?) supported on metal posts. Located to the right as you climb up from the beach, just before the magazine, structure No. 16. This isn't shown on some maps. This is the battery commander's post.
4 Generator house, structure No. 7
5 Recreation hall, structure No. 6
6 Distant Electrical Control (DEC) bunker, structure No. 18. Kalsin Bay and Middle Bay in the background.
7 EM Barracks, structure No. 2. Intact toilet bowl.
8 EM barracks, structure No. 1. Gun emplacement is on the ridge beyond. All the little white dots are sea gulls.
9 Manhole. Has wooden culvert exiting. Constructed from bricks. Metal rim for cover. Easily missed and stepped into. We pulled a lot of tall grass back for the picture.
10 Covered ramp leading to underground battle allowance magazine, structure No. 14.
11 The doors to the long hallway leading to the magazine are in excellent condition compared to others in the Kodiak area.
12a From the center of the underground ramp, in the triangular anteroom to the magazine, looking up the ramp to the east.
12b Same as above, looking west. Also shows the doors to the magazine room shown below.
12c Underground magazine, structure No. 14. 22 by 60 feet, 8 feet high. Had no lighting nor wiring except one receptacle just inside the doors to the ramp.
13 There are two mounts for 90 milimeter guns. These were described as "anti-PT-boat" guns. Both mounts are east of the magazine. Two more guns were on mobile mounts. The pits are concrete and about four feet deep. One hole is round with a ring of studs. The other is rectangular. The two mounts are connected underground with three conduits about three or four inches in diameter.
14 Wooden culvert outfall line. Might come from the man hole in photo 9.
15 The flat area is the site of the mess hall, structure No. 3. DEC bunker in the background.
16 The road went up this ridge between the EM barracks, structure No. 1 on the right, and the mess hall, structure No. 3 on the left. That's Barometer Mountain and the airport straight ahead. You're lined right up with runway 25, the main runway. You can see the beach we landed on to the right.
17 Joe Stevens looking for O'Rorke.
18 It's amazing to find a completely intact toilet bowl. This is the same one (almost) visible in picture 7.
19 Small arms magazine, structure No. 15. Same construction as magazine, structure No. 16, not shown.

Searchlight bunker No. 11. Lighting wiring still in place. No communications wiring found. This is very difficult to enter. It requires climbing down a steep, grassy, cliff with a fifty-foot drop-off to the surf and rocks below. The erosion around this bunker is severe. The front concrete apron is perched precariously on the rocks. See photos 21.
21 Puffin Island from the south. The searchlight bunker, structure No. 17, also shown in photo 20 above, and the DEC bunker, structure No. 18, also shown in photos 6 and 15.

Information above from the document "SUPPLEMENT ANNEXES 1 NOV 1944 to HARBOR DEFENSE PROJECT OF KODIAK 1944", field survey, topographic maps and other sources.

Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2000 13:02:58 -0900
From: cheitman (at)
Subject: Puffin Island

Mr. Stevens,

Something of interest concerning Puffin Island, is that it was owned by August Henry Heitman Jr.(my husband's Dad) until the Navy or DOD confiscated it from him during World War II against his consent (although he was given a small check as compensation, which he never cashed). He inherited the island from his aunt. There used to be a house and vegetable garden on the island because his aunt lived on it. Also, before the war, there was a 50ft. high hill on the island. The Navy blasted it down.

My husband has a copy of the original Deed to Puffin Island. A copy of the Heitman land title is also in the local museum. There are Archive records of the property in the Kodiak Court House, which states that Puffin Island belongs to August Heitman Jr. and his heirs. My husband and his family have tried over the years to have the property returned to their family, since the government took it without consent, and do to the fact that the island has not been needed by the military since the war. Letters have been written to the Federal Government attempting to locate information on when the island was confiscated. Puffin Island is part of the Heitman family's ancestry and they would like to have it returned to them. The Heitman family are the only ones who have the Deed to the property.

Thought that you would find this information interesting.

Carolyn Heitman

Later Carolyn added:
During the Russian Colonies days Puffin Island was owned by a man by the name of Constantine Maltzoff. After his death, the island was inherited by his neice, Karatina Rogers (nee Maltzoff). In 1868 August Heitman Sr. bought Puffin Island from Karatina Rogers for the amount of twenty dollars ($20). The Deed was signed and sealed on April 24, 1868 by P. Muksautoff, the Governor of the Russian Colonies in America and approved on May 23, 1868 by Alexis Petchouroff, the Russian Commissioner.

From 1917-1918 the Heitman family used Puffin Island as a potato garden, or until the potato gardens were moved to the Potato Patch area on Kodiak. The island was later used by wild foxes.

Years later, August Heitman Jr. inherited Puffin Island from his father August Heitman Sr.

In 1939, the Government (U.S. Navy) took Puffin Island over to use for defense. Buildings and a church were put up. Many Navy personnel were living on the island. Navigation aides were also installed for plane landings. Tunnels were dug all over the island and were used for ammo storage and dumps (there had been a "potato cellar" on the island previously).

After the island was taken over by the Navy, August Heitman Jr. started legal action against the U.S. Government to get the property back, but then war broke out in 1941 so there wasn't anything he could do. The Navy continued to claim the property after the war and into the 1960's.

Fort Tilden has more on 90mm AMTB batteries.