On today’s date in 1942, the official dedication ceremony of the Alcan Highway was held at Soldier’s Summit, which is located at historic milepost 1061 within Kluane National Park and Reserve.
Working closely with agencies in the U.S. and Canada, U.S. Army engineers officially opened the present-day Alaska Highway as an overland military supply route passing through the Yukon on its route from the prairies of British Columbia to 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 in December 1941 and during the escalating hostility in the Pacific region.
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 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, its maintenance became a laborious effort.
The U.S. government eventually paid $147.5 million to build the highway, which 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 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.