When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Charles Bradley enlisted in the army. An avid skier and mountaineer with a degree in geology, he quickly found himself among the first members of the new 10th Mountain Division, the only unit of the U.S. Army established to train men in mountain combat. Soon, Bradley was training candidates for a potential ground assault on Japan and in a new theater for mountain warfare: the magnificent but potentially life-threatening Aleutian Islands.
Bradley's military career kept him from the front lines of the war, but he and his companions had their own battles with loneliness and fatigue, with Aleutian weather and terrain, and with the military brass. The Axis powers were real enough, but the immediate enemy was the environment. It was Bradley's job, now on assignment with the North Pacific Combat School, to help teach his trainees the skills of survival and mobility under conditions that included rugged terrain, glaciers, fierce winds, heavy rains and snow storms, and the threat of avalanches.
Each story of confrontation with that rugged environment is balanced by one of discovery and awe. The Aleutians could be dangerous, but they were also an unspoiled realm for adventure and fascination. Soldier Bradley also grew as an artist; his interest in the natural history and geography of the islands is reflected in his paintings of what he saw near his posts, first at Unalaska and later at Adak. It is also reflected in his honest, insightful prose, Bradley is a writer with his own voice, his own clear way of conveying how recruits struggle or how ravens play.
Aleutian Echoes is one man's carefully observed, sometimes wry memoir of natural wonders and unnatural challenges.
"The book is a delight to look at as well as to read . . . a remarkable war memoir
in many respects. [Bradley's] photographs capture both the human side of military
service and the haunting beauty of the Aleutians in ways words cannot."
—Wisconsin Academy Review
"Well-written and wonderfully illustrated. . . . The tales of training on the Aleutians
mix an appreciation for the beauty of these wild islands with the tension and misery
of preparing for war in dangerous mountains, boggy tundra, and in weather that conspired
to keep troops wet and cold. . . . The book's color photos jar us into remembering
the WWII generation as young and vital when they saved our world."
—The Western Library
"Aleutian Echoes has wit, sparkle, and insight. It shows depth and maturity. Above all, it is written
by someone with a sense of perspective. . . . [Bradley] found his own distinctive
way to cope with the gravity of the war--and his responsibility for the lives of the
men he trained--by combining his lifelong interest in the outdoors with his artistic
talent. Thus Aleutian Echoes tells the story of his experiences, balancing military training with personal observation--
expressed beautifully in writing and through his art--about a unique aspect of Alaska's
involvement in World War II."
"Bradley has combined his expertise in geology with his photographer's eye and a soldier's
memory to create a small gem of World War II remembrance."
—Pacific Northwest Quarterly