Grampa worked on the ALCAN Highway

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.

Photo courtesy of Olive-Drab.com. Thank you very much!

Thanks to Olive-Drab.com for this pic.

Thanks to Reese-Olsen Construction for this pic.

Photo courtesy of Reese-Olsen Construction

The long, lanky and lean man on the right MIGHT be Lawrence Frame. Photo from Reese-Olsen Construction.

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)

Photo taken by First Lt. Samuel Land, 95th Engineers. Thank you for your service!

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.

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dianna
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 16:25:17

    Wow, I had no idea. It’s hard to even imagine those working conditions! We owe them a debt of gratitude, no doubt. And after it was completed, they were sent off to active duty! Unbelievable history lesson here. Thank you, Mother Goose, for this history lesson. If I ever learned this in school, it’s been long forgotten!

    Reply

  2. Mark Cramer
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 16:28:29

    Wow! An original Ice Road Trucker!

    Reply

  3. Bunn
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 18:15:59

    This has been a very interesting again!! Mother goose’s history is so much fun to read!!

    Reply

    • Natalie
      Nov 15, 2011 @ 08:00:55

      Thank you dear! It’s so bizarro talking to Dad about these things that happened in 1942 — he remembers details with amazing clarity. But does he remember that his favorite pie is butterscotch cream pie?

      Reply

  4. notquiteold
    Nov 14, 2011 @ 18:48:17

    It always makes me stop and think – these were real men with families (like yours) hoping and waiting for their safe return. You’re right – they are heroes.

    Reply

    • Natalie
      Nov 15, 2011 @ 07:59:32

      Nancy, thanks for stopping by and I went over to read your story about Mentionables which was very funny. Mother Goose has a good story to tell about mentionables as well. By the way, your illustrations are GREAT! ❤

      Reply

  5. eof737
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 04:43:44

    Remarkable story and a group of very brave men…. I can’t believe the conditions or hours they worked.

    Reply

  6. Vicky
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 02:09:22

    does anyone have any pictures of the Alcan Highway during the 50’s to the 90’s. I would love to see it. I live on mile 233 of the new Alaska Highway and I am looking for pictures of the old trutch mountain lodge that was on Alcan highway around mile 202 I believe. I would be happy seeing anything between Sikianni River and Fort Nelson if there is any. Thanks email vickywoodworth@msn.com

    Reply

  7. Owen Ose
    Dec 13, 2015 @ 20:33:08

    My name is Owen Ose and I was the youngest man on the job with the Reese & Olson Construction Company. My father John Ose being the Superintendent of Construction for the Company. My mother took and shared to the workers many of the photographs of the construction during the summer of 1943 and she and my brother are pictured in many of them. My brother has now passed and I have all the photo albums and pictures that she shared and a lot of other pictures that others shared with us.

    Reply

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