U.S. Army Engineers Open The Alcan Highway

On November 21, 1942, U.S. Army engineers, working closely with their Canadian counterparts, completed an emergency war measure with the opening of the Alcan Highway, an overland military supply route to the Territory of Alaska.

Passing through the Yukon, the more than 1,500-mile roadway connected Dawson Creek, British Columbia with Fairbanks, Alaska and provided Americans and Canadians with an increased sense of security at a time of hostile Japanese activities during World War II.

By June of the following year the Army Signal Corps also completed an aerial version of the Alcan Highway. The Army's weekly publication Yank cited the new 2,000 mile long radio-telephone line, which helped link Washington, D.C. to Alaska, as the longest communication system of its type in the world.

In the 1780s, Russian fur traders became the first European settlers of this land across the Bering Strait from Siberia. Russian influence on native Alaskans is explored in the Library of Congress exhibition In the Beginning Was the Word: The Russian Church and Native Alaskan Cultures.

The Alaska Highway (also known as the Alaskan Highway, Alaska-Canadian Highway, or ALCAN Highway) was constructed during World War II and connects the contiguous U.S. to Alaska through Canada. It runs from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, Alaska, via Whitehorse, Yukon. Completed in 1943, it was 2,237 km or 1,390 mi long, but is becoming shorter due to rerouting. The historic end of the highway is near milepost 1422, where it meets the Richardson Highway in Delta Junction, Alaska, about 160 km (99 mi) southeast of Fairbanks. Mileposts on the Richardson Highway are numbered from Valdez, Alaska. The Alaska Highway is popularly (but unofficially) considered part of the Pan-American Highway, which extends south to Argentina.

There it was, an immense mountain of ice, moving forward at the rate of about forty feet per day. It looked as if the immense waves of an angry ocean had suddenly become frozen and were waiting for the warm rays of the sun to restore them to life again. At intervals immense pieces would break off and fall into the water, accompanied with a rumbling noise like that of distant thunder. The glacier extends from shore to shore, a distance of four miles, and lifts its pinnacles four hundred feet above the muddy river. It was my fortune to see one of the tallest of these break off and plunge into the river. When it struck, the spray was thrown far above the highest point of the glacier. The roar that accompanied the fall was terrific.”

— Edward S. Parkinson, Wonderland, Chapter 5: Alaska, page 197. "California as I Saw It": First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900