Recap

'Deadliest Catch' recap: Johnathan Hillstrand honors WWII hero grandfather

Retiring crab fisherman Johnathan Hillstrand set off an explosion of fireworks as a 4th of July 75-year anniversary tribute to everyone who served during World War II in the Dutch Harbor area, including his grandfather.

In the patriotic Discovery Channel special, "Deadliest Catch: A Hillstrand 4th of July," viewers learned that Hillstrand's grandfather, Ernest Shupert, known as "Shup," was part of "Castner's Cutthroats," a group of rough and ready Alaskan scouts who helped defeat the Japanese during the Aleutian Islands campaign.

As "Deadliest Catch" fans know, Dutch Harbor in Alaska is America's top fishing port but it also has a place in military history as it was bombed by the Japanese during World War II. Later, the Japanese took over two of the Aleutian Islands and the Americans had to battle to get them back.  

"It's called the forgotten war," Time Bandit captain Hillstrand told the cameras.

Historian Jeff Dickrell guided Hillstrand to some local historical sites as the skipper searched for a place to set off thousands of pounds of fireworks.  

On June 3, 1942, the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor and 25 American men were killed, Dickrell told Hillstrand as they looked at a crater from the attack.  

They also saw the mostly sunken hull of the Northwestern, a ship the Japanese bombed on June 4, 1942. Luckily, there were no Americans on the ship as they had gone into foxholes.

Fireworks fan Hillstrand vowed to do his best ever display to honor Americans who had fought.

As Hillstrand looked for the best launching pad, the historian told him how U.S. soil had been occupied when the Japanese took over the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska.

Hillstrand's grandpa Shupert was one of a small group of Alaskans hand-picked to be scouts; they island-hopped to perform reconnaissance on the Japanese.

In May 1943, the U.S. began the campaign to re-take the islands which the Japanese had occupied for almost a year.

Shupert and his group of elite scouts were launched in submarines and got out of rubber dinghies to create a diversion. They were out-manned 100 to one but tricked the enemy into thinking a division had landed. In reality, it was only about 100 Alaskan scouts.

Then 15,000 Americans came in to take back the islands and prevailed on July 28, 1943.  

Hillstrand decided to set off the fireworks on the old coastal defense post of Fort Schwatka.

He got emotional when Dickrell showed him a list of all the scouts who had served, including his grandpa.   

Although Shupert didn't die until long after the war, Hillstrand sobbed during the TV special, "We lost him when I was 13. I was too young to cry then."

He recalled, "Grandpa was great. He shot a bear out the window once….The neighbors came over and…they skinned it….It freaked me out."

All of Hillstrand's fellow "Deadliest Catch" captains wanted in on the fireworks fun and Keith Colburn smiled, "John Hillstrand is Peter Pan with a match."

Choked up Hillstrand said, "They're here to honor Shup," as the parade of boats steamed in.

"I want to do my grandpa Shup proud," he said.

A pyrotechnics expert showed Hillstrand how to hit the button to activate the fireworks.

"F--k yeah!" Hillstrand yelled as they went off with a bang.  

"I’m damn proud to be an American," he said.

Hillstrand decided to set off the fireworks on the old coastal defense post of Fort Schwatka. 

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