Mother Goose continues her history lesson with the news that Grampa Lawrence worked on the Alaska Highway in 1942. According to my dad, Grampa and his best friend Jack built cabins and eating places for the Army Corps of Engineers who were clearing the land and doing road construction on the 1,522 mile highway into the wilderness. The Alcan stretches from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Fairbanks, Alaska through mountain ranges and over crazy dangerous rivers.
Here are some ancient pictures I’ve borrowed from online sources so that you can get a feel for the conditions and the environment of Alaska in 1942.
This is what I found most notable of this amazing story: The number of U.S. soldiers who built this road through a rugged unmapped region of North America was 10,607. This was the first time that a U.S. government agency integrated white and black men — 3,695 of the soldiers were black. They worked twenty hour days, seven days a week for eight months and twelve days. An impossible task!
“According to the testimony of their commanders, these men did an exceptional job under duress. Ill housed, often living in tents with insufficient clothing and monotonous food, they worked 20 hour days through a punishing winter. Temperatures hovered at 40-below-zero for weeks at a time. A new record low of -79 was established. The majority of these troops were from the South; yet, they persevered. On the highway’s completion, many were decorated for their efforts and then sent off to active duty in Europe and the South Pacific. The veterans of the Army’s Black Corps of Engineers were members of the 93rd, 95th, 97th and 388th units.” (Quote courtesy of visi.com)
Folks, I am going to study this further. I am convinced of the great heroics of these soldiers from the 95th Regiment of the Army Corps of Engineers and want to learn more about their work on behalf of the United States of America. One of my first questions was this: why the incredible urgency to build this road after years and years of talk and bureaucracy? The answer is this: Japan had captured several islands of the Aleutian chain and had established military bases there. They also had submarines patrolling the coasts of Canada and Alaska making travel by sea very dangerous. America needed a land-based route to Fairbanks in defense of its people.
Mother Goose says “thanks” to these brave soldiers for helping to keep America safe and free.