On today’s date in 1942, the official dedication ceremony of the Alcan Highway, later renamed the Alaska Highway, was held at Soldier’s Summit, which is located at historic milepost #1061.
Working closely with agencies in the U.S. and Canada, U.S. Army engineers officially opened the Alaska Highway as an overland military supply route that passed through the Yukon on its route from the prairies of British Columbia to the central Alaska. The roadway was more than 2,400 kilometres long and offered Canadians as well as Americans a new route for the transportation of goods on the Pacific coast. It also provided a sense of security following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which took place in December 1941, and escalating hostility in the Pacific region.
CONNECTING THE ALASKA TERRITORY
The idea to connect the U.S. with its Alaskan territory was discussed since the 1920s; however, it wasn’t until the Second World War until a route was studied in earnest. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt decided the highway should be built, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King agreed—if Canada didn’t have to fund the highway’s construction or maintenance during the war.
The US Army Corp of Engineers began construction in early 1942, and while the road was completed, it became a laborious effort to maintain. The U.S. government eventually paid $147.5 million to build the highway. The highway officially opened to the public in 1948.
As of 2012, the highway is officially 2,232 kilometres long. The difference in distance is due to the constant reconstruction of the highway, which has been rerouted and seen several of its sections straightened in the 75 years since the first phase of construction was completed.
1992 SILVER MEDALLION
In 1992, the Anchorage Mint struck a one-ounce .999 per cent silver medallion to mark the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway.