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WWII Black Soldiers and the Alaska Highway

map-home-vs2It was called the Crooked Road, Pioneer Road, Oil-Can Highway, Truck Trail, Tote Road, Alcan Highway, and many more names.  In 1946 it was officially named the Alaska Highway.

In early 1942 the United States found itself at war with the Empire of Japan–World War II.  Essential for defending North America against Japan, Alaska was remote and vulnerable.  A land route to that outpost was suddenly essential.

Under orders to build that route and do it quickly, the Army Corps of Engineers  sent seven regiments, four white and three black to Alaska and Northern Canada to build a rough draft of the Alcan.

The regiments and their support units jammed sea lanes, ports and railroads. They conquered permafrost, muskeg, and mud.  From spring to fall temperatures ranged from 60 below to 90 above. The soldiers survived in tents.  Mosquitoes, gnats and no-see-ums plagued them.  They suffered from serum hepatitis, food shortages, broken bones and frostbite.  And they worked around the clock.

They bridged rivers–some small, some really big. They installed culverts and corduroyed muskeg. They crossed massive mountain ranges  from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta, Alaska–1500 miles.  And to their everlasting glory, they did it in just 8 months.

 

Ordinary Men Build A Legendary Road