Dedicated to those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice.
Francis C. Allen
Francis C. Allen, U.S. Army Fire Brigade, Fort Ray, Sitka, October 13, 1941
Retired Battalion Chief Jeff Allen speaking about his grandfather at the 2015 Memorial Ceremony.
On October 13, 1941, a fire started in a dynamite and ammunition shed, near the Japonski end of the Ft. Ray causeway. The Ft. Ray U.S. Army Firefighting detail was called, responded, and were manning the fire truck when the shed and content exploded. This explosion resulted in the death of 3 firefighter service men, 1 Army officer; and 2 other service men not connected to the Fire Brigade. It also caused injuries to many other service people and civilians on the island. (see below)
Firefighters killed in this explosion, and now remembered and honored on the walls of this Alaska Fallen Firefighter Memorial.
In the 1930s, prior to the start of World War II, the United States began to rethink is western defenses as it became clear that Japan was attempting to create an empire in the Easter Pacific. Military planners at that time decided to create a strategic triangle of defenses that stretched from Panama to Hawaii, and up to Alaska. Sizeable bases already existed in Panama and Hawaii, but there was not significant military presence in the Territory of Alaska. One of the first bases built in the Territory was in Sitka in 1937. This base was named Ft. Ray, and was located on Jablonski Island. Ft. Ray along with other bases in Kodiak and Dutch Harbor were commissioned under the U.S. Navy. Security for the bases was provided by the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps. Due to its location and protection needs the Army Harbor Defenses at Sitka were quite extensive. The protective gun batteries were significant and required many support facilities, both civilian, and military. Life at Ft. Ray
On October 13, 1941, a fire started in a dynamite and ammunition shed, near the Japonski end of the Ft. Ray causeway. The Ft. Ray U.S. Army Firefighting detail was called, responded, and were manning the fire truck when the shed and content exploded. This explosion resulted in the death of 5 service men, and 1 Army officer. It also caused injuries to many other service people and civilians on the island.
The dead were: Captain Francis C. Allen, Private Ralph Kirkbride, Private Frank C. Hayton, Private Hedley C. Estabrook, Private 1cl. Albert Spurling, Private T. A. Baskin, (Marine Corps).
The injured were: Lt. Commander F. L. Robbins, USN; Stf. Sgt. A. R. Krauspe, Army; Pvt. Lestor B. Kirk, Army; Cpl. R. E. Cox, Marine; Seaman 1cl V. U. Sarvis
All of the dead were members of the Army Fire Fighting detail and were manning the fire truck which arrived at the scene of the fire shortly before the explosion. The truck, which was parked close to the shed, was a mass of twisted wreckage. Captain Allen had arrived shortly after the fire truck and died in the line of duty, as did the other men, fulfilling his alignment as Provost Marshall. Pvt. Baskin of the Marine Corps was on guard near the scene and Spurling was killed by a flying rock which fell on him more than a half mile from the explosion. The explosion was marked by a fountain of flames which shot hundreds of feet into the air. The area around the shed was a scene of utter desolation with trees blown flat onto the ground and with many uprooted and thrown far back into the woods. The explosion formed a crater 20 to 25 feet deep and 75 feet across where the shed had stood.