Carl Geffe from Kiana, Alaska speaks on February 29, 1996 during the Communities of Memory public storytelling event held at the NANA Museum in Kotzebue, Alaska from February 29 to March 2, 1996. He talks about World War II, his experience in the Alaska National Guard, starting a guard unit in Kiana, and celebrating the end of World War II.
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Childhood memories of World War II when living in Kiana
Helping the Alaska Territorial Guard when he was a boy
Joining the National Guard, and starting the National Guard in Kiana
End of World War II and men returning to the village
Stories the men shared from their World War II experiences
Men talking with each other about their World War II experiences
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CARL GEFFE: -- but since there’s nobody from Kiana I thought maybe I’d say something. My name is Carl Geffe. Ivivik, my Eskimo name. I was born and raised at Kiana.
And I been moving around quite a bit but I’m really fortunate to be here tonight. Now we’re gonna -- I’m gonna try to go back.
Listening to all these stories, you know, it bring memories way back to when I was little boy. I was born 1933 and I believe back around 1940 that’s when the war started I think but I can’t say for sure. But I -- I -- I could remember my mom saying something about it because my brother Eugene Geffe,
he passed away not too long ago, he was drafted in the army and I could remember when mama was crying all the time because she was afraid of what might happen to her -- to her -- to her son.
‘Cause when the war broke out and we hear that they were -- that they bombed Pearl Harbor, those were very scary days. I could remember. I was just very small boy.
But we were always told to be careful even if we’re playing out daytime. We gotta be careful if we hear airplane we gotta dig in the snow and hide right away. You know, it was -- it was very scary -- scary days in those times.
The way that we were being -- how -- how we were being told about, about the war. And -- I remember when -- when they were tell -- telling us about being all covered up night time. My stepdad, when he build a fire he would find a big rocks and he’d put them on the stove.
On the woodstove. Because when they tell us to -- that blackout that we were talking about, you know, lights out and everything in our home. That heat would come from that rock for long time.
They -- they’d tell us to be careful on that blackout for so many hours during the night before we’d go to bed. ‘Cause we can’t even have fire nighttime ‘cause they’d see the smoke coming out of that -- of that stove -- stovepipe.
And those were really tough -- tough days because we got no -- we got no other way of keeping the house warm otherwise -- but staying in our beds and trying to stay warm.
And I remember one night -- it was in December. It was -- it was dark. And we had no lights or anything in our home, it was just blackout. We had no kinda light in our home and we hear two planes go by.
Two planes go by just following the river down towards Noorvik, down that area -- down towards that area. I remember that, real plain.
And from what I hear -- from what I hear my stepdad and mom saying that they were Japs. They were flying around all over after they bomb Pearl Harbor.
And as I -- as I grew older and -- and lived in that -- that kind of a -- that kind of life, I think it kind of brought a fear to my mind in some way of being alert as I grew older of how -- how I learn that we had enemies that were killing.
And I already had something that I really experienced real bad what mom told me that in 1933 before I was born that our dad was assassinated.
That they killed him. And she -- and -- and then the war started and then fear -- fear got into me in those days. But I had to outgrow it.
Then when the ATG's (Alaska Territorial Guard) formed that -- in those days -- in those -- in those years when the ATG's were -- were active. I was very small but I -- I remember when I used to try to help them with their ammunition because I wanna do something. I wanna do something to try to -- to try to help.
I was very small. I heard about Muktuk Marston and I always wanted to see him. And one day when I was -- I believe when I was about sixteen years old I was -- we were at -- across Kiana in the sandbar. We were fishing and the plane landed and they said Muk -- Muktuk Marston is here.
I -- I wanted to go to him so I went to him and I start watching him. Then I heard him said something about -- who wanted to -- who wanted to join National Guards.
Boy, I took that chance right there. I went over to him and I volunteered. I said I want to join the National Guards. I was sixteen.
‘Cause I already had two brothers serving in the army. And I was the last one. So they -- they got me and Roger Atoruk.
Roger Atoruk and I, he got us two to form the National Guards at Kiana. Then we went to Nome. NCOI school -- NCOIC school at Nome (NCOIC = non-commissioned officer in charge, term used in the air force).
And boy, that was the hardest time in my life when I had to leave my mom. Stay away for thirty days. But that was a start in what I was doing for my country.
I could still remember back in those days when I used to be afraid. You know, when -- during that -- during that war.
And then we formed that -- we started the National Guards at Kiana. Roger Atoruk and I. We were NCOIC’s.
And those were very happy days when we started to try to get those young boys to start marching. Like you heard these other stories earlier how -- how -- how we’d command them to turn right and left and about face and they were all over -- all over.
Roger and I would get together and sit down and said I don’t know if we’ll ever get these guys to march in one direction. It was hard.
And I could remember that one person, Raymond Stony was the one that couldn’t catch on to anything. And later on in the years when I talk to Raymond about that he’d laugh. He said yup, he said he just didn’t care.
But those were -- those were times how we -- how we, you know -- how we served our country in a way. I was in National Guards for twelve years. And then when I landed at the hospital for tuber -- tuberculosis I had to get out.
But I’ll go back. I -- I missed something that I needed to stay about the end of the war. When the war -- when the war stopped, mama had a little radio. She’s always listening to radio in the house ‘cause she was really afraid of what might happen to her son.
I was playing outdoors and there was people, they were fishing across Kiana in the sandbar in the summer time. That was in July.
And all of the sudden I hear mama start throwing pans and stuff all over the house and hollering war is over! War is over! She came out and she was throwing stuff all over. And then I looked at her and I said what? War is over! She said the war stopped. So I start hollering and the people across the river heard us then they start hollering and everybody start hollering. And I think that was one happy time that I -- my mama -- that I -- I could hear my mama was saying that -- that when the war was over.
And then, you know I’d -- I’d -- I’d -- I’d forget stuff for a while, don’t know what’s going on. And then come and remember a few things again. But I remembered when Gene came back home and there was a reunion, you know. And the other men -- other men came back home that was serving.
But I remembered one guy from Noorvik. He -- he didn’t -- he -- he was killed in action. Patterson. I don’t know his first name. (speaking in Inupiaq to ask a question to someone in the audience).
UNKNOWN PERSON: Jimmy. CARL GEFFE: Jimmy Patterson.
That was a very sad time, you know. To -- to know that one of the men from our area didn’t -- didn’t make it home because he was killed in the war. And that was a real war. That was really war that -- that we had to go through in our young days.
And I -- I thank you fellas for letting me -- letting me share this short time. Taikuu.
WALTER SAMPSON: Thank you, Carl. Go ahead.
CYNTHEA AINSWORTH: Did the fellows who came back have some stories that they shared with you? The fellas that came back from Europe?
CARL GEFFE: Yeah, I -- I remembered my brother telling mom -- mom wanted to know lots. Where were you when -- when this happened? And he said that he was at Whittier. I don’t know where that is but he -- that’s where he was stationed.
And he said that -- it was something that he said that he wouldn’t want to experience again. How they -- how they -- how -- how when they attacked Pearl Harbor, when the war -- when they had that -- that happen that time that -- but I believe that he would’ve told more but I believe it was something that he didn’t wanna let mama know exactly you know, how -- how he -- how he was so -- how he -- how he took it when they had the war. When they -- when the war was going on.
CYNTHEA AINSWORTH: Did the men who came back s -- talk to one another about their experiences from World War II?
CARL GEFFE: I believe they did. I remembered Clifton Jackson and Tommy Baldwin and my brother Eugene, Sammy Jackson, you know, they’d all get together and they’d share. But in happy, happy ways of you know, how -- how they -- how they’re glad that they came back.
And they -- they shared, you know. But it wasn’t something that -- something like sad times, you know. Just always happy times that they shared. Okay.
CYNTHEA AINSWORTH: Thank you. CARL GEFFE: Okay, thank you. WALTER SAMPSON: Thank you, Carl. CARL GEFFE: Uh-huh.