Title card for slide show "Alcan Highway. Phil Neal, 1942-45". 1992.
...three. This is December 31st, 1992. I’m Captain Phillip S. Neal, US Army Corps of Engineers, retired. The slides you are about to see were taken by me during my tour of duty with Northern Service Command from August 1942 until May 1945. My first assignment was with the 341st Engineers General Service Regiment as platoon commander on the initial construction of the pioneer road on the Alcan Highway. When my regiment was reassigned back to the States in July of 1943, I was reassigned to the US Engineering Department on administration of the civilian contractors building the permanent, all-weather road. This included assignments in Ft. St. John, Ft. Nelson, and Dawson Creek, British Columbia. My final assignment was as assistant service command ordnance officer at Northwest Service Command Headquarters in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Yukon Archives. Phillip Neal fonds, 93/9 #1, PHO 437
Fortunately, this assignment provided me with the opportunity to take these slides covering both the Alcan Highway and the Canol oil project. Our tour starts in Edmonton, Alberta, through which passed all the men and material for use on the Alcan Highway as far north as Watson Lake as well as the Canol project. Our military bases in Alaska could only be supplied by sea or air. After Pearl Harbor, when the Japs moved into the Aleutian Islands, it became readily apparent there was a necessity for an overland route to Alaska. The major obstacles were the 1600 miles of wilderness, rivers, and mountains that had to be traversed. In March 1942, an agreement was reached with the Canadian government to build the highway. We were given free access and permission to use native materials. There were no supplies or native labour available. It all had to be shipped up from the States. Seven regiments totaling approximately 11,000 men were assigned the task of building the pioneer road from the end of steel in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, 1600 miles through the wilderness up and across the continental divide into Fairbanks, Alaska. Civilian contractors then came in and built the all-weather road. The route was chosen to give service to a string of small Canadian air bases stretching from Edmonton, Alberta, to Fairbanks, Alaska. There were only 4 points of entry into that vast wilderness, railroads into Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Fairbanks, Alaska, plus a road in from Valdez, Alaska.
My outfit was the 341st Engineers General Service regiment. They arrived in Dawson Creek end of April of 1942; I did not arrive until August. Their first mission was to build the pioneer road to Ft. Nelson, 265 miles north from Ft. St. John through basically uninhabited wilderness. Work started with the aerial survey, then survey parties on horseback to flag the route, followed by troops with heavy caterpillar earth-moving equipment. Actually, my outfit, working 20 hours a day in the long summer daylight hours, opened the road into Ft. Nelson in the incredibly short time of 56 days. Major problems were swamp-like areas called muskegs, river and stream crossings and mosquitoes, not necessarily in that order. And now, let’s get on with the show.