Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Levi "Alusuk" Mills, Sr.

Levi "Alusuk" Mills, Sr. from Kotzebue, Alaska speaks on March 1, 1996 during the Communities of Memory public storytelling event held in Kotzebue, Alaska from February 29 to March 2, 1996. He talks about his experience in the military during World War II, including working on the airfield at Adak in the Aleutian Islands, where he saw the airplanes that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Levi expresses pride in having served his country.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2015-25-03_PT.1&2

Project: Kotzebue Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Mar 1, 1996
Narrator(s): Levi "Alusuk" Mills, Sr.
Transcriber: Denali Whiting
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
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Slideshow
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Sections

Joining the army after hearing about World War II

Working at Adak, and having second thoughts after dealing with bombings and seeing airplanes come back with holes in them

Getting a Captain's rating

B29 bombers that dropped the atomic bomb going through Adak

Despite hardship, proud of military service

Benefit of hearing about these experiences first-hand from community members

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Transcript

LEVI MILLS: (My) name is Levi Mills, Alusuk (sp?). I was born to mother named Ui -- Uiyaana (sp?). And my father’s name was Aganarauruk (sp?), but his real name was Qayaqpuk.

Well, I think I'll try to make a story short, so I’ll start with the Second World War.

It was in 1941, right before Christmas my -- my friend Mickey Thomas and I were coming home from trapline.

As we come over from Qugguk side, we were about ready to slide down to a village.

Then we stopped up on the top -- on top of the hill. There was no light. Light in the village. And we didn’t know what to do. It was disappointing.

We -- we couldn’t figure out what’s happened to the village that used to be lighted up about that time.

Then, anyway we decided to slide down and see what’s -- what the score was.

Then I -- I -- I stopped my team outside of the house and -- and somehow my wife noticed there was a dog team outside of us.

Then she came out. And I says to her, "What’s the score? Why -- why was the Kotzebue blacked out?"

She asked me if I didn’t hear what -- I said, "What?" She said the Japanese has bombed -- the place what they bombed was the Philippines.

Well, right there I think I made up my mind that I would try to help our country. So I decided to join the army and I -- I applied for -- to be -- one of the soldiers, but they -- they rejected me because I had four children already and I was 38 years old.

Then, in the spring, I went out to -- to get a load of dry wood for our drying rack so that we would dry anything that I would get.

Then after I get that wood I -- I started home after I -- I -- I got two -- two reindeer meat for our own use.

I load up the -- the dry wood on my sled and -- and then -- (break in audio)

-- gravel, moving gravel. They told us that there would be 9 million yards of dirt to be moved down at Adak.

When I got to Adak I was disgusted with myself. I says, why in the world did I -- I ever get into this -- going down to the -- where there’s a -- a fighting going on.

I took pity on myself but I -- I was there already so I took it anyway.

Whenever there’s a siren blast, my order and I we would look over the place where would -- where we would hide.

I would find my own and then I would be laying there for about 2, 3, 4 hours at a time.

When -- when -- then when the siren blast off again, I would get back onto the machine and start -- start it over and started work again.

That was down at Adak. I notice there was a planes used to take off, and then when they come back there would be a -- a full of holes.

Because I -- I would be working close to them where they would stop from flying over to front.

Some of those men would look sad, but it’s their duty to do that. To go and bomb the enemy that was Japanese. Well, I think that’s where my story ended.

So, this was the Second World War that I decided to help my people and the people that -- who are on our side.

I was given a captain's rating. And then the -- the captain’s uniform was waiting for me.

If there is -- if my body should be the victim of the bomb or something they would put a captain's uniform on me and -- and I would be buried in it. And my family would be getting their help on my -- on the money they’re supposed to get while I was buried.

I wanted to help our country. And I did.

They told us that there was some -- something that would let -- land on that landing strip.

Then we find out that -- that secret -- that secret weapon happened to be B29, one of those big bombers.

Then we find out that it was loaded with those atomic bomb.

They -- that plane that landed -- that landed on the -- on the strip went over to Japan and -- and dropped the atomic bomb onto Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I was disappointed with myself. I help our country blasting off those two -- those two cities.

So I says to one of the officers, I says, "I’m sorry. I didn’t know that our country was going to blast a whole cities and kill many people."

But they say that’s not our purpose. We were tired of being in a war and we want to stop the war so that we would save millions of soldiers, young men and young women.

When -- when you help us that way, you save lots of young men and lots of young women. But after the blast, they never mention my name.

I gave all what I have to help our country and our people. I didn’t want to see the Japanese flag over our country and -- what I intend to do, I -- I done it.

It wasn’t myself. I used to kneel down on my knees while I was working in the -- in the machine and ask God to use my hand and my body so that I would be a help to everybody that I -- I contact with.

I’m glad I’m able to tell it now.

I was born in 1903 to my parents who were very beautiful to me. My mother who loved me and rear me, but after she died I -- I went through the poorest life that a person could experience.

But I’m glad that I have help our country and be able to tell it to you people. And then I -- and someday I will write it down in a paper and -- and my -- the life that I live. And I hope that you will be able to read it sometime.

God bless you and God bless me, too. And I’m glad that I have opportunity to share this part of my life with you people and I -- I know that it'll be known by lots of people because I help our country.

My intentions were fulfilled. That’s wonderful, isn’t it? Yes. It’s wonderful.

It's quite an experience, thank God. That’s my story.

WALTER SAMPSON: Thank you, Levi. Levi it’s --

You know, not knowing what’s happened to -- to -- to our people. Especially, you know, something that’s never was recorded in history. In the past.

And it’s good to hear from your own people the experiences that you went through to commit yourself to -- to protect and to defend that freedom that we have.

And not only your -- your -- but -- but dedicated yourself as an individual so that others may prosper, as well.

And it’s something that -- that -- we’ve never heard from -- from our own. By recording on a video like this, we now will be able to see some of these stories even after we’re gone.

Your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren will be able to say, "Yes, that was my grandfather. My great-grandfather that told these stories."

And it’s good to -- to -- to listen to -- to -- to the stories of this sort from -- from your own people.