Memories of World War ll passed along in Tlingit

Native speakers share their stories for town's history project

Posted: Monday, March 06, 2000

When Pearl Harbor was bombed, people in Juneau feared that Alaska could be next.

``If they traveled that far, to Hawaii, there was no telling how far they'd travel,'' said H.H. Roberts. ``We were frightened and stunned.''

Roberts was a young newlywed living in Juneau when she heard the news of the attack on the radio. A complete blackout was immediately enforced throughout the area, and Roberts said she stayed up all night, watching out the second-story window of her Juneau home.

``Juneau Remembers World War II (in Tlingit),'' a community history project, will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. It is the second part of a World War II history project organized by Roberts and Kathy Kolkhorst Ruddy.

The first part focused on English speakers, and was held in September. Thursday's presentations will highlight the memories of Tlingits, those who served in the war and those who experienced the war at home in Southeast Alaska. As with the first presentation, this will include music, lunch and a jitterbug dance demonstration as well as reflections of the war years.

Kolkhorst Ruddy said the public event is an opportunity to pass a pivotal period of history on to the younger generations. The presentations will be in Tlingit and English.

``We want our children to know what happened in Southeast during the war,'' Kolkhorst Ruddy said.

Roberts said some of the veterans they asked to speak declined, saying their memories were still too vivid to get up and talk about.

``It seems like it happened yesterday,'' she said. ``They lost too many buddies.''

She added that the community of Hoonah had a very high number of men who served in World War II.

Roberts remembers the rationing and lines, travel restrictions and blackouts, and concern of imminent attack on Southeast Alaska by Japanese forces.

``We'd like to have people bring memorabilia and pictures to post,'' Roberts said.

The event starts with a prayer by Walter A. Soboleff. Two masters of ceremonies, Frank White and Frank Alby, will introduce a presentation of the colors by George Walters. Alfred McKinley Jr. will present his uncles Alfred McKinley Sr. and Sandy Johnson. Other speakers will be Ike Cropley, Ole Olson, Betty Govina, Cecilia Kunz and George Mills. Eunice Akagi will close the event with a sing-a-long of World War II-era songs.

``You don't have to be on the list to speak. You can sign up that day if you wish,'' Kolkhorst Ruddy said.

Lunch will be available, but it is important to call first so organizers know how many to prepare for. Call Roberts at 463-3234.

The event will be recorded and videotaped. The project is supported through a Juneau history grant, funded by the city through the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.

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