My Turn: WWII memories valuable, available

Posted: Thursday, November 08, 2001

As we try to mentally prepare ourselves and our children for what our president calls a new kind of war, it's helpful to go back to the last time war appeared on our doorstep here in Alaska World War II.

I was privileged to work with Harriet H. Roberts on the project "Juneau Remembers World War II" in 1999, where about three dozen residents spoke about their experiences here during the last time of homeland invasion. (While President Bush said in his speech that the last time American soil had been physically attacked was Pearl Harbor, his fact checkers somehow missed the invasion at Kiska and Attu in our Aleutian chain.)

As we approach Veterans Day, let us consult with those still among us who experienced this "old" war the blackouts, the expectation of bombings, the restrictions on boating due to the floating mines, the waves of enlistments, the rationing, the victory gardens, the internment of Japanese, the defense bonds, the troops at Duck Creek Army Camp, and the deaths of soldiers and sailors.

We should ask our children to think what it would be like to live in a blackout with all the windows covered with tar paper. They should know what it was like when people bonded together in the face of the common enemy then Germany and Japan.

Thanks to KATH-TV, "Juneau Remembers World War II" has excellent quality digital tape and video tape of the many memories that were expressed. Here are just a few:

Tom Stewart (who served with the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division) tells about the explosion at the ammunition storage at Sitka; Ike Cropley recalls the sacrifice of his brother; Betty Harris remembers having to go into the cave at Cope Park (Evergreen Bowl) when the air raid sirens would go off; Anne Keener relives experiences at Excursion Inlet (she served a Christmas dinner to German prisoners of war there).

Some others: Dean and Edna Williams, Nora Dauenhauer, Jim Ruotsala (who was 7 when the bombs fell at Pearl Harbor), Al McKinley, Frank Alby, Walter and Stella Soboleff, Dick Garrison, Cecilia Kunz, Amos Wallace, Bill Dapcevich, Eunice Akagi, John Dapcevich, Fumi Matsumoto (talking about her father's service with Merrill's Marauders).

I hope that we will seek out these people as we prepare for the future, consult with them, thank them for enduring, and thank those that served in the military for defending us.

The nature of fear has not changed. Then as now, we have the ability to problem solve ways to protect ourselves and our families from new threats. The mental preparation for this task is just as important, if not more so, than the physical preparation we undertake especially where, as here, we may have better planned for conventional and nuclear attack than for biological attack.

Because of the CBJ history grant, these five hours of local memories in "Juneau Remembers World War II" are available (either in digital or conventional video) for copying at cost through the Juneau-Douglas City Museum at 114 West 4th St., phone 586-3572. Tapes soon will be available for checkout at the Alaska State Library.


Kathryn Kolkhorst Ruddy is a lawyer in private practice in Juneau.

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