The Lakefront Anchorage
The Lakefront Anchorage, formerly known as the Millennium.
I had a chance to stay there with two groups last autumn, and everyone loved their rooms, the location, the views, the service, and the food.
My groups were seasoned VIP travelers from Switzerland and Australia, and out of 200 participants, there was one complaint because a pair of pants had not been returned by the out-sourced dry cleaners in time for the groupu2019s departure.
,There are a number of decent, and a few excellent hotels in Anchorage, and you will have to give me your price range for more detailed info, but the Lakefront has so many assets for a comparably moderate price, itu2019s hard to beat.
If you are open to bed and breakfast type accommodations, both BnBs and AirBnBs give plenty of additional options.
,Hotels to avoid are the Inlet Towers and the Clarion - guests in the past four years agreed their stay there was awful.
,The Lakefront is beautifully situated on Lake Hood, with numerous small scenic flight businesses nearby, and a spectacular view of the mountains on a clear day.
Food in the restaurant is fantastic, but it is in most places in Alaska.
Aviator Hotel Anchorage
FDR covered up the death of his cousin Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy Rooseveltu2019s second sonu2026Kermit Roosevelt was a passionate outdoorsman; a man who ironically delayed his own wedding to accompany his aging father on an expedition seeking out the source of Brazilu2019s u2018River of Doubtu2019 (later renamed the Rio Roosevelt).
During that fateful trip in 1913-14 one of their party drowned, another was murdered, and Kermit stopped his father, who was suffering from malaria and a painful infection, from taking a fatal overdose of morphine.
He promised to bring him back dead or alive, but added that it would be easier if he stayed alive.
(Bear in mind Teddy Roosevelt was a man who had been shot at close range with a .
32 while campaigning, just weeks before the expedition left, and he still insisted on finishing his speech before being taken to the hospital),Kermit Roosevelt was also a gifted linguist, author, and businessman, but more than anything else he was drawn to the great adventure of combat.
He volunteered for the British Army in 1917 and was made an honorary Captain in Iraq, quickly winning a British Military Cross for gallantry.
Then when America finally entered the war in 1918 he transferred into the American Expeditionary Force as a Captain, fighting in the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France.
Unlike his three brothers he emerged from the war without any injuries, but by all accounts he was a shining credit to his family.
,Throughout his life however, Kermit felt overshadowed by other members of the Roosevelt clan.
His younger brother Quentin saw glory in France as a pilot.
Americau2019s top Ace Eddie Rickenbacker recalled:,u201cQuentin was reckless to such a degree that his commanding officer had to caution him repeatedly about the senselessness of his lack of caution.
His bravery was so notorious that we all knew he would either achieve some great spectacular success or be killed in the attemptu201d.
,It would be the latter.
And when 21-year-old Quentin was shot down behind German lines, the enemy buried him with full military honors.
He was the only U.
presidentu2019s son ever killed in combat.
Informed that Quentinu2019s remains would be returned home, Teddy Roosevelt wrote in reply:,u201cTo us it is painful and harrowing long after death to move the poor body from which the soul has fledu2026 We greatly prefer that Quentin should continue to lie on the spot where he fell in battle and where the foemen buried him.
u201d,The whole family was heartbroken yet proud of Quentin.
Kermit envied him.
,Meanwhile, Kermitu2019s older brother Ted (Theodore Jr.
) had fought in France too, winning the Distinguished Service Cross and Franceu2019s Chevalier Legion deu2019 Honneur.
Ted would later become a general in the Second World War , and at age 56, would also become the oldest man to hit the beaches at Normandy.
Then 6 weeks later he would die in his tent from a heart attack.
He was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions under fire directing troops on Utah beach.
,Archie - - Kermitu2019s other younger brother - - fought with distinction as an officer and commander in both World Wars.
Improbably, he was wounded in the same knee during both wars.
Archie earned multiple purple hearts, the Silver star with three clusters, the Bronze Star, and Franceu2019s Croix de guerre.
,Here the four of them were as children with their fatheru2026,Then there were Kermitu2019s relatives.
James, President Franklin Rooseveltu2019s oldest son and closest advisor, secretly toured the world in April 1941 assuring world leaders that the U.
S would be joining the war soon.
He also helped establish the Coordinator of Information agency which would soon become the Office of Strategic Services and then morph into the C.
A after the war (Kermitu2019s son would become a CIA officer in the Middle East).
James then became an elite Marine commando earning a Navy Cross and Silver Star for his actions in the South Pacific.
,There was also John Roosevelt, a logistics officer who earned a Bronze Star serving on the aircraft carrier USS Wasp which was lost after the landings on Guadalcanal.
And Elliot Roosevelt who, though having poor eyesight and initially classified 4F (unfit for duty), flew on over 300 reconnaissance missions and piloted 89 combat missions during the Second World War, rising to the rank of Brigadier General.
Finally, there was also Franklin Roosevelt Jr.
, a naval officer cited for bravery in action.
,Presidents Teddy and Franklin expected a lot of themselves, so naturally much was expected of their sons.
It was a close, hard-fighting family that embraced doing hard things.
Between the wars Kermit hunted extensively in the Himalayas with his brother Ted, founded and managed the Roosevelt Steamship Company, and organized a private spy network in Europe for FDR, reporting on the Fascists.
,When World War II broke out in 1939, Kermit once again volunteered for the British Army, this time negotiating a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant with the assistance of family friend and First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.
Originally, Kermit was assigned to lead a unit of British volunteers in Finland during the brutal yet forgotten u201cWinter Waru201d, but the early peace treaty in 1940 cut his mission short.
He then fought with distinction on a raid in Norway and was injured at the Battle of Narvik, then promoted to the rank of Captain.
He was next sent to North Africa, but he saw little action due to drinking problems and depression.
By May 1941 he was discharged on health grounds related to an enlarged liver and re-occurring malaria.
It was so bitterly disappointing that he fought the discharge all the way back to Churchill, who reluctantly upheld it.
,Returning to the U.
, he drank heavily to escape u201cthe bluesu201d, then shockingly disappeared.
Like his father Teddy, Kermit fought a lifelong battle against debilitating depression.
Some thought his love of soldiering was his way of beating it.
His wife Belle quickly enlisted FDRu2019s help in finding him.
,Kermit Roosevelt went missing for months.
Eventually though, the FBI found him holed up in a hotel room living with a u2018disreputableu2019 woman.
On FDRu2019s orders, and due to security considerations of the situation, agents watched over both of them for weeks before finally bringing Kermit in.
,It was April 1942 when he came home.
His wife Belle and younger brother Archie tried to get him to seek help for his problem with alcohol, but he remained uncommunicative and continued to drink heavily.
It was thus decided by his older brother Ted to have him quietly committed to a sanitarium for a year.
But then fearing uncomfortable questions and public embarrassment, President Franklin Roosevelt intervened.
,FDR commissioned Kermit as a major in the U.
Army, exiling him to a desk in Alaska.
He was based at Fort Richardson outside of Anchorage where he worked as an intelligence officer helping to develop the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG), a militia of Eskimos, Aleuts and other native groups established a year earlier.
(ATG members were largely those who couldnu2019t be drafted, ranging in age from 12 to 80 years.
),The ATGu2019s absurdly daunting mission: Patrolling and defending Alaskau2019s 34,000-mile coastline and areas around the new Alaska-Siberian air route airbases.
ATGu2019s secret mission: Protect the only commercially viable deposit of platinum in North America.
It was a relatively small area around the not-very-securely-named camp town of u201cPlatinumu201d on u201cGoodnews Bayu201d in Southwestern Alaska.
A gigantic mother lode had been discovered by an Eskimo named Walter Smith back in 1926 and by 1938 crews were digging well over 2 million cubic yards of gravel annually.
The mining that year produced almost 37,000 ounces of platinum u2013 virtually 100% of Americau2019s production.
,Platinum had been declared a strategic material and banned for non-military uses.
Itu2019s high conductivity, strength and reliability was secretly used in contact points and electrodes within communication systems, and in the spark plugs of Allied war planes.
Itu2019s elemental magic was also secretly used by the Allies in catalytically refining aviation gasoline to the worldu2019s highest octane levels.
High-octane fuel made the turbo-charged engines of Allied planes more reliable at high altitudes and helped fighter planes achieve higher speeds in battle.
Platinum was also employed in the development and use of the atomic bombs.
In a sense, platinum was an Allied secret weapon.
,Sadly, and predictably however, Kermitu2019s drinking problems spiraled out of control in Alaska.
By early 1943 he was medically discharged as unfit for duty.
He then took to traveling the country with his mistress.
When FDR heard about it, he ordered Kermit back to duty.
,By the time Kermit was forced to return to Alaska at the end of May 1943, the U.
had finally reclaimed Attu from a year-long Japanese occupation.
Then, just 4 days later on June 4th 1943, he was found dead in his room from a gunshot wound to the head.
He left no note.
After the hard-won victory in the Aleutians and with the U.
build-up in Alaska peaking, perhaps he was disappointed the fight there was nearing its end.
If that was the case though, witnesses said it wasnu2019t outwardly apparent.
,The New York Times reported the cause and location of his death as u201cunknownu201d.
Rooseveltu2019s inner-circle were told the cause of death was a u201cheart attacku201d, though those who knew him best suspected it came from a broken heart and depression.
To his comrades at Fort Richardson suicide might have been a possibility, but some privately wondered if it couldu2019ve been murder.
(Could Kermitu2019s mystery woman have been involved? Was she a security threat?),What was the truth? The scanty details of his death would remain a state secret for decades.
Even today de-classified documents only deepen the mystery with their inconsistencies, oversights, and implausibilityu2019s.
The Army had rushed to close Kermitu2019s case with no forensic or ballistic investigations, and few corroborating or follow-up testimonies.
Furthermore, the coroneru2019s report curiously stated:,u201cParents Unknownu2026 Died as a result of self-inflicted gunshot woundu2026 This information is not to be releasedu201d.
The investigation had been obstructed and now the findings were ordered to be buried.
Just 53 years old, Kermit left behind his wife of 29 years and four children.
His body was discreetly interred in a numbered plot in the cemetery at Fort Richardson outside Anchorage.
His grave wouldnu2019t even receive a simple headstone until four years after the war.
,Then it would receive a second oneu2026,But perhaps there is no mystery behind his death at all.
Kermit had been given a Rooseveltu2019s choice between what may have seemed to have been a burial alive - - potentially indefinite hospitalization - - or of maintaining the honor and integrity of a very heavy family name in a time of total war.
He was given rank and time to decide.
Then he was sent to a forgotten theatre of war at the very ends of the world.
He was sent to American Siberia.
,Regardless of who pulled the trigger Kermit Rooseveltu2019s death was not totally unexpected.
Today, his father seems to ruminate from Mount Rushmore with added meaning: Could the family have done more to save their own?
Comfort Suites Anchorage
We have the better falls at Niagara.
Here are the u201cAmerican Fallsu201d,And here are the u201cCanadian Fallsu201d,Guess which one everybody wants to go see?,Beaver Tails:,Theyu2019re better when you can actually taste them.
,This lady:,Our head of state beats theirs, hands down.
And even when ours doesnu2019t, we can rest comfortably, knowing s/he has no actual power.
,This guy:,Yes, even though he (at least in this suit) was popularized by the Coca Cola Company, he lives in Canada.
,How do I know this? If youu2019re American, and you want to write Santa, you send your letter to Anchorage, Alaska.
Anchorage???! Yeah, your kid sends it to the north pole, but you have to trick your kid, and put her envelope into another one addressed to Anchorage.
On your 6-year old.
,If youu2019re Canadian, you send it to the North Pole.
And thatu2019s in Canada, bub.
Santa even has his own postal code: HOH OHO.
(Secondly, the magnetic north pole is exclusively in Canada).
Only Canada post knows which north pole he lives at.
And theyu2019re not telling the USPS.
,We use the metric system:,Everything else is details.
My Place Hotel-Anchorage
2 situations of bad behavior, both now worth laughing at:,April 1981, Best Western Hotel, Anchorage, AK: itu2019s morning and we cabin crew have been walking across the Pacific all night (Hong Kong-Tokyo Narita-Anchorage).
Weu2019re tired, need our beauty sleep and our next flight is that same evening.
Meanwhile, thereu2019s a convention in the hotelu2014a regional meetup of female barbershop quartet singers whose organization shall remain nameless.
,We reach our floor and the hallway is choked with happy altos, sopranos, et.
in curlers, their voices lifted in intermittent song, arms filled with frilly things and beauty supplies.
Once behind my own door I am tired enough to fall in the general direction of the bed.
But a light-sleeper crew member puts a sign on her door requesting quiet.
All that does is prompt laughter and a stream of knocks on her door until she removes it.
,* * * * * * *,Autumn, 1984, Omni Hotel, Harbor Place, Baltimore (now the Radisson): itu2019s another convention and the place is packed.
We get our room keys and sidle past the crowd into an empty elevator.
One of my fellow crew members pushes the button for the 18th floor where we all would be staying.
Three kids jump in, see the 18th floor light, then look at each other.
As the door closes, one of them pushes every floor.
Every damned floor.
They are snickering.
We are ready to strangle them with the straps of our uniform purses.
,Not horrendous behavior in either circumstance.
Just furiously maddening at the time and worth a broad, wry smile now.