Sitka National Cemetery
Office Hours: Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed federal holidays.
Visitation Hours: Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Weekends and Holidays: Open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
This cemetery has space available to accommodate casketed and cremated remains.
From Sitka Airport cross the bridge and turn right onto Sawmill Creek Road. Travel 1 1/2 miles to the intersection of Sawmill Creek Road and Observatory Way. The cemetery is located at the intersection.
Fax all discharge documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417 and follow-up with a phone call to 1-800-535-1117.
Oversight of Sitka National Cemetery is provided by Fort Richardson National Cemetery. The cemetery is maintained under contract by Yard Chief Yard Care, Inc. All questions should be directed to Fort Richardson National Cemetery at the telephone number above.
Military Funeral Honors
Local Veterans Service Organizations provide military funeral honors upon request. Please contact the cemetery office for further information.
Cemetery policies are conspicuously posted and readily visible to the public.
Floral arrangements accompanying the casket or urn at the time of burial will be placed on the completed grave. Natural cut flowers may be placed on graves at any time of the year. They will be removed when they become unsightly or when it becomes necessary to facilitate cemetery operations such as mowing.
Artificial flowers and potted plants will be permitted on graves during periods when their presence will not interfere with grounds maintenance. As a general rule, artificial flowers and potted plants will be allowed on graves for a period extending 10 days before through 10 days after Easter Sunday and Memorial Day.
Christmas wreaths and other seasonal adornments may be placed on graves from Dec. 1 through Jan. 20. They may not be secured to headstones or markers.
Permanent plantings, statues, vigil lights, breakable objects and similar items are not permitted on the graves. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not permit adornments that are considered offensive, inconsistent with the dignity of the cemetery or considered hazardous to cemetery personnel. For example, items incorporating beads or wires may become entangled in mowers or other equipment and cause injury.
Permanent items removed from graves will be placed in an inconspicuous holding area for one month prior to disposal. Decorative items removed from graves remain the property of the donor but are under the custodianship of the cemetery. If not retrieved by the donor, they are then governed by the rules for disposal of federal property.
VA regulations 38 CFR 1.218 prohibit the carrying of firearms (either openly or concealed), explosives or other dangerous or deadly weapons while on VA property, except for official purposes, such as military funeral honors. Possession of firearms on any property under the charge and control of VA is prohibited. Offenders may be subject to a fine, removal from the premises, or arrest.
The remote Sitka National Cemetery is located half a mile east of the center of town and is dominated by the natural beauty of the mountains and waters of Sitka Bay. The only access to Sitka is by air, marine highway or weekly ferry from Seattle, Wash.
The Kiksadi Clan of the Tlingit Indians had lived in and around Sitka for centuries before the Russians or Americans set foot on the island’s rocky shore. Choosing the seaward side of the island they named Shee, the Tlingits called their settlement Shee Atika, meaning "people on the outside of Shee." The name Sitka is a contraction of the term.
The Tlingits thrived undisturbed until 1799 when the Russians arrived. It wasn’t long after the Russians first discovered the region that Alexander Baron, manager of the Russian-American Co., established a fort a few miles north of present-day Sitka. The Tlingits grew suspicious, understanding that submission to the Russians meant allegiance to the Czar and providing slave labor to the fur trade company. These suspicions turned violent in 1802 when the Tlingits finally attacked the outpost and killed nearly all the Russians and their Aleut slaves.
Two years later Baranof retaliated. For six days, the Tlingits fought gallantly, but they were out-gunned and exited silently into the night. The Russians renamed the settlement New Archangel. Russian Orthodox clergy soon took up residency and fortress-like structures systematically replaced Tlingit American clan houses.
The fur trade flourished and the Russian-American Co. became the most profitable fur trader in the world. By mid-century, however, over-hunting had diminished the number of sea otters and thereby the Russians’ interest in the new world. In 1867, the Russians sold Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million and a transfer ceremony took place in Sitka on October 18.
Although the U.S. flag first flew over Alaska in 1867, it was not until the1884 passage of the first Organic Act establishing the region as “a civil and judicial district” that Congress provided any form of government. During the 17 intervening years Alaska had been administered by the War Department, then the Treasury Department and finally by the Navy. None of these departments had any interest in local problems except the Army, which was responsible for keeping the Tlingits under control.
Gen. Jefferson C. Davis laid out the cemetery at Sitka in the late 19th century. Most of the interments were soldiers and sailors from the Marine base and Naval hospital. Subsequently, the land was loaned to the U.S. Department of the Interior as a home for indigent prospectors. From 1912 until 1921, the cemetery was practically abandoned and a dense growth of trees and underbrush grew up almost obscuring the site. In 1920, representatives of the Sitka American Legion post wrote to the Secretary of War calling attention to the neglected cemetery and asking for remedial action; they were told no funds were available. In 1921, they appealed to the Secretary of the Navy, who allocated $1,200 toward reconditioning the site.
In 1922, the Secretary of the Navy turned the issue of cemetery maintenance over to the War Department. In June 1924, upon the recommendation of the Alaska governor and the American Legion, President Calvin Coolidge signed an executive order designating the site Sitka National Cemetery. Since then, there have been several acreage modifications: in 1925, a revision of the executive order reduced the acreage from 3.98 acres to 1.19 acres; in 1957, Sheldon Jackson Junior College donated approximately one acre; a donation of 0.20 acres was made in 1959 by the Board of National Missions of the Presbyterian Church of the United States; and the Department of Interior transferred approximately two acres in the mid-1980s. Sitka National Cemetery currently encompasses 4.3 acres.
One of the more notable burials at Sitka is John Green Brady, governor of the Territory of Alaska from 1897 to 1906. Brady had come to Sitka as a Presbyterian missionary and later became commissioner and registrar of the Land Office, where he served until the president appointed him governor. He died in Sitka of a stroke on Dec. 17, 1918. In fall 1924, Brady’s wife returned to the territory and placed a large boulder over his grave.
There is a romantic legend attached to one headstone in the cemetery. During the days of military occupation, a captain and a lieutenant who were close friends both courted a Russian girl named Nadia. When Nadia indicated that she preferred the lieutenant, the captain appeared to accept his loss. Some time later both men left on a hunting trip together. After several hours, the captain staggered back to the village carrying the body of his companion. He said the lieutenant had accidentally shot himself. Subsequently, after trying again to win the heart of Nadia, the captain was found dead with a note under his body. The note explained that he had challenged the lieutenant to a duel and they used the hunting trip as an excuse. He had lost both Nadia and his best friend and no longer had the courage to live. The young lieutenant who died by the hand of his closest friend was one of the first burials at Sitka National Cemetery.
The cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 7, 2012.
Monuments and Memorials
Sitka has two cannons that serve as memorials to those interred at the cemetery.
Medal of Honor Recipients
Staff Sergeant Archie Van Winkle (Korea) U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced). Sudong, Korea, Nov. 2, 1950. SSgt Van Winkle's ashes were scattered and a memorial headstone was placed at the top of the hill in the historical part of the cemetery.
James Green Brady, Governor of the Territory of Alaska from 1897 to 1906. He came to Sitka as a Presbyterian minister, but later became commissioner and ex-officio registrar of the Land Office in 1884. He was interred in Section R, Plot 4 in December 1918. The monument at his grave bears the inscription: "A life ruled by faith in God and Man."
Charles William Paddock, Olympic Medallist - two Gold and two Silver Medals from the 1920, '24 and '28 Olympics - nicknamed "The World's Fastest Human." This U.S. Marine Corps Captain died at the age of 42 in a 1943 military plane crash near Sitka. He was interred in Section Q, Plot 7 on July 26, 1943.