History of the Alcan Highway

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Military policy during World War II decreed that Blacks would not be sent to northern climes or active duty, but after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the need for an inland route to Alaska appeared vital. Manpower was scarce, and segregated troops were shipped north under the leadership of white commanders… despite protest from the U.S. Army commander in Alaska, Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, son of a Confederate general whose negative attitude toward Blacks was legendary.

The construction of the 1,522 mile long road from Dawson Creek, British Colombia, to Fairbanks, Alaska through rugged, unmapped wilderness was heralded as a near impossible engineering feat. Many likened it to the building of the Panama Canal. There was much praise for soldiers who pushed it through in just eight months and twelve days. However, Black battalions were seldom mentioned in publicity releases, despite the fact that they numbered 3,695 in troop strength of 10,670.

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