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Legislature Unanimously Agrees to Name Elmendorf AFB Fish Hatchery in Honor of WWII POW Bill Hernandez

JUNEAU – The Alaska Legislature has unanimously passed, and transmitted to Governor Sean Parnell for his signature, a bill naming the state’s new sport fish hatchery on Elmendorf AFB to honor long-time fish hatchery and fish-rearing pioneer William Jack (Bill) Hernandez. Hernandez, who was held by the Japanese for three years during WWII as a civilian POW, worked in fish hatchery, rearing and habitat projects at Ft. Richardson and Elmendorf AFB for 28 years. Hernandez passed away in 2003 at age 83.  Originally sponsored by Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, HB 274 puts Hernandez’s name on a new fish hatchery that is currently under construction and is expected to be completed in May 2011.

“After his confinement during the war, Bill Hernandez came to Alaska and, over several decades, was more responsible than any other single person for the development of the hatchery programs on Elmendorf and Ft. Richardson,” Dyson said. “I am deeply gratified that all members of the Legislature have agreed to recognize Mr. Hernandez for his contributions to the fisheries of the Upper Cook Inlet.”

Hernandez was a WWII civilian POW, having been captured by the Japanese at the fall of Wake Island in December 1941, where he was building fortifications for the USMC. He was held for the next three years at various POW camps in China. In 1947, Hernandez enlisted in the US Army, and in 1956 he was posted at Ft. Richardson, where he served as a fish and wildlife conservation NCO. Over the next 28 years, he worked with various federal and state agencies to develop and build hatchery programs, stocking local streams with Rainbow Trout, and Chinook and Coho Salmon.

CSSB 274 (RES) passed the Senate unanimously on March 12, and was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives on March 31. The bill was transmitted to the Governor on April 5.

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