The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

 
 

Bill Egan finally gets military discharge

Papers come 66 years after he served with Alaska Territorial Guard

 

Courtesy Valdez Gold Rush Days/Valdez Star

Gov. Bill Egan in the first-ever Gold Rush Days Parade circa 1962.

(AP) Sixty-six years after Bill Egan retired from military service, his family finally received his discharge papers.

Egan, who hailed from Valdez and later became Alaska’s first governor after statehood in 1959, served with thousands of other territorial guardsmen during WWII. Egan and his fellow territorial guardsmen weren't given papers marking the end of their service. The guardsmen served as volunteers, going back to their everyday lives when the war ended.

Egan’s son, state Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, finally got his father's papers in the mail last week, APRN and the Juneau Empire reported, long after Congress passed legislation in 2000 requiring the U.S. Secretary of Defense to issue discharges to everyone who served in the Territorial Guard.

Verdie Bowen, director of Alaska's Office of Veterans Affairs, said it has been tough tracking down every member of the guard, noting that relatives of deceased guardsmen often didn't know they had served.

Dennis Egan was shocked when he got the papers.

``I'm thinking, oh my God, I've been summoned to jury duty,'' Egan told a reporter for the Alaska Public Radio Network. ``So, I open this box, and there it is. And I just broke down.''

Bill Egan retired from military service in 1947. He went on to serve as a delegate to the constitutional convention and before he became Alaska's first governor, logging three terms.

When the territory of Alaska was attacked by Japanese forces during the war, a few thousand residents came together - serving without pay - to form the Alaska Territorial Guard.

The guard disbanded when the war ended and did not receive formal discharge papers.

Bill Egan flew planes during the war, earning a medal for surviving a kamikaze attack. Dennis Egan always thought his father's discharge papers had been lost during a 1964 earthquake.

Members of the Territorial Guard ``weren't too worried about fancy medals and crap back then,'' he said. ``And things were just overlooked.''

Dennis Egan would like to know more about his father's time in the Territorial Guard, but said he didn't talk much about it when he was alive. Bill Egan died in 1984.

Dennis Egan said receiving the papers provided an ``enormous sense of closure.''

 

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