about shemya
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While assigned to Lowry AFB, CO as an instructor, author, and course supervisor, I received the inevitable remote duty assignment notification, this one to Shemya, AK, with a reporting date in February, 1975. As I had just a few months prior purchased a home in Aurora, CO and was in the process of settling in, I requested a two-month extension to the reporting date which placed me on Shemya in April of 1975. I  learned after arriving on Shemya in April of 1975 that Shemya had experienced a significant earthquake in February of 1975, my original reporting date! I missed out on all the excitement! Upon arriving on Shemya I assumed assigned duties (operating a PMEL out of suitcases known as the TFCU in a WWII-era shack), I soon began to wonder just exactly what was Shemya all about! Brian Garfield’s book “The Thousand Mile War” clued us in as to what had transpired in the Aleutians during WWII. This segment of WWII was pretty much kept from the American public living in the “lower 48,” and was all new information. Since then, we’ve purchased a copious amount of books relating to events in the Aleutians during WWII, including Shemya. After returning home in April of 1976, the Shemya experience was all but forgotten during the process of teaching Advanced Microwave theory and authoring in part new Digital course material (the -15 course), and assuming additional duties at the school of Metrology as a course supervisor. I retired from the USAF in April of 1982, having accepted employment with Hughes Aircraft in Aurora. In 1996 I discovered the media outlet made available via the newly established “Internet,” whereby one could provide information in the form of a “web page.” Wanting to bring this technology into the workplace, I began experimenting with web page authoring and the processes involved in making this work. What was needed was subject matter around which to build a website. Thus, the Shemya website saw its initial beginnings. After experimenting with several primitive web page authoring tools, I finally settled on using Microsoft’s “FrontPage” application…an authoring tool that relied less on hand-coding HTML language into usable web pages by introducing a WYSIWYG process. Additional features were also made available in the form of “Web Bots” that provided hit counters, page last updated code, etc., which meant that a website utilizing such features had to be hosted on a web page server that included “FrontPage Extensions,” which made the Web Bots work. A far cry from using either Microsoft Word or Notepad constructing page code! Over the ensuing years, FrontPage was dropped and replace with Microsoft’s “Expression Web,” which brought new capabilities to the process, including the ability to construct database applications. Our Veteran’s Database thus evolved into what we have today. While we concentrated more on web page content with our websites, “eye candy” began to appear on the scene. Web pages took on a new look and feel, with content in many cases giving way to these new forms of expression. We stuck with our content-based web pages…which didn’t “look” all that great when compared to the slew of new websites appearing on the scene every day. A natural progression towards cell and smart phones evolved, requiring extra attention be paid to website construction making sure the plethora of new hand-held devices could properly view our material. Thus was born the requirement to re-author all of our websites. We settled on a new authoring tool called “Xara Web Designer,” and got to work rebuilding our websites. Our Homepage and the “Agora” website was first, followed by updating our Jupiter Missile experience…to get the hang of using this new web page authoring technology. Shemya was next. We soon discovered what an enormous undertaking this process was…after 20 years of adding material from so many great contributors who found our initial website those many years ago…I knew this was going to take more than a week to accomplish! After two months of extended effort, we’re now ready to replace all our old original website files with those presenting a more modern look to the Shemya website. That is not to say we sacrificed content…as I’ve taken great pains to keep the original material intact! As I am about ready to “publish” our new Shemya pages, I think back over the decades of involvement with those WWII veterans and/or their families and friends who, upon discovering our website years ago, were savvy enough to get involved submitting their photos and experiences for inclusion on our websites! Many of them are no longer with us…having simply disappeared with no notice…to make that last great roll call with so many of their men in arms having gone before them, truly the last of the greatest generation! Each one of their passings has taken an emotional toll, having gotten to know them as close friends over the years. I salute them for their service, and for having gotten involved in this “new” technology in order to share their experiences with the rest of us. With the passage of time, a new generation of folks who’d been stationed in the Aleutians, including Shemya Island, have also been kind enough to get in touch sharing their material as well. A website is nothing without content, and to all the folks who’ve contributed material to this website I thank you immensely! We truly couldn’t have done this without your help! George L. Smith 13 Aug 2016